2004 Issues #1 to #16
Seventeenth Issue 10 January 2005
B M GM FMM S LT N L P
Twenty-eighth Issue 11 April 2005
Buy this essay and others in Jim's new book Being Sovereign.
The Indomitus Report
22 August 2005
"But the other Eris is the elder daughter of dark Nyx by the son of Cronus, and she is far kinder to men. She stirs up even the shiftless to toil; for a man grows eager to work when he considers his neighbor, a rich man who hastens to plough and plant and put his house in good order; and neighbour vies with neighbour as he hurries after wealth. This Eris is wholesome for men."
The Roman Republic and Empire were brutal, useless, horrid things which cost humanity an enormous amount of talent and knowledge. The murder of Archimedes by a Roman soldier sent to fetch him after the sack of Syracusa alone set mankind back nearly two thousand years with the subsequent loss of his Palimpsest and its key insights on infintesimals and infinite series which formed the basis of calculus. As a result of the destruction by Romans of the libraries of the Etruscans, Carthaginians, and Alexandrians, the major works of the epic cycle of the Trojan War are now lost. One particular work, the Kypria is known today only in fragments.
Although the stories relating to the first nine years of the Trojan war are lost with the balance of the Kypria, we do have the story of the war's inception. It takes place owing to an incident at the wedding of the parents of one of the major figures in the story, Achilles - whose deeds are chronicled in one of the surviving complete works of the epic cycle, Homer's Iliad.
There are strange relationships between gods and time. Prophecy is one of the results of this odd relationship between divinity and time. Odd stories whereby a war is started because of the Judgement of Paris, a contemporary of Achilles, resulting from an apple tossed into the wedding celebration of Thetis and Peleus - the parents of Achilles - is another. Then again, the Greeks may simply have inherited a confused mythology. Since we don't have all of the Kypria, we'll probably never know.
The story as we have it is that Thetis was a Nereid, something of a sea goddess. She was courted by both Zeus and Poseidon, but the Titan Prometheus made a prophecy that if Thetis were wed by a god, their offspring would overthrow Zeus. Thus, Zeus decreed that she must marry a mortal. Peleus, king of the Myrmidons, was chosen to be the lucky mortal.
Peleus features in divers legends about the Caledonian Boar, Antigone, and the wise centaur Chiron. Among other tragic events, his wife Antigone hangs herself after being told that Peleus is going to marry a daughter of Acastus by Astydameia, the wife of Acastus who has fallen in love with Peleus, but whom Peleus has scorned because, well, he's married to this dame Antigone. As a result of these events, Peleus sacks the city where Astydameia lives, dismembers her, and marches his army between the parts of her body.
So, Zeus arranged the marriage of Thetis to Peleus which took place amidst much feasting and celebration on Mount Pelion. Among other things, the wedding celebration was also a celebration of sustaining the order of things with Zeus in the best chair, dodging another prophecy of doom. All the deities were invited, with one noteworthy exception. Eris, the goddess of discord, was not invited to this wedding celebration owing to her notorious spitefulness and tendency to sow discord.
Having been slighted by Zeus's failure to invite her, Eris hatched a plan. She would make Zeus regret his choice by sowing even more discord to avenge herself for being snubbed. So, she went to Hephaestus, the Greek god of manufacturing, and had him craft an apple of pure gold inscribed with the legend "to the fairest." If you have the font "symbol," you should see the Greek characters here: kallisth.
What happens when a gold apple with the inscription "to the fairest" is tossed into a dinner party of the gods? Well, three goddesses were known for being fair of face. These were Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite. Each of them felt certain the apple was for her. According to legend, they asked Zeus to render judgement on this matter. Zeus, however, did not get the best chair by taking stupid choices, so he delegated the chore of this tough choice to Paris.
Paris was just this guy, son of Priam, the king of Troy. Some legends give him the name Alexander. Being a mortal, he was immediately set upon by the goddesses who sought to bribe him to get the prized apple. Hera offered him political power, saying he would become ruler of all of Europe and Asia (which, incidentally, another Alexander about 900 years after the fall of Troy would accomplish). Athena offered him skill in battle, wisdom, and the abilities of all the greatest warriors. Aphrodite offered the true love of the most beautiful woman in the world.
To understand the poor judgement of Paris, one should be aware that at his birth, an oracle foretold that he would be the downfall of Troy. So, his parents sent him off to Mount Ida, where he married a nymph named Oenone. Her father was Cebren, a river-god, from whom Paris kidnapped her. Yeah, the boy had a habit of kidnapping women. She and Paris had a child, Corythus.
Meanwhile, the most beautiful woman in the world was Helen. Her legendary beauty brought many suitors who wanted to marry her. Odysseus could see endless strife if her suitors chose to fight after she chose a husband, so he made them all promise to defend the marriage between Helen and whomever she chose from among the suitors. It turns out she chose Menelaus, the brother of Agamemnon, who was busy consolidating much of Greece under his rule. Agamemnon, in turn, was using the good offices of a great hero named Achilles. Achilles was leading a group of, well, ant-men named the Myrmidons, whose leadership he had presumably inherited from his father Peleus.
And yet, at the wedding celebration of Achilles's parents Peleus and Thetis, Zeus appointed Paris to choose the fairest of the goddesses. Well, the hound dog chose Aphrodite who made Helen fall in love with Paris who stuck with his pattern and kidnapped Helen from Sparta and absconded with her to Troy. A thousand Greek ships were launched, Troy was invested, Odysseus created a hollow horse, various Gods were furious about the whole thing, Paris shot a poisoned arrow at the weak point on Achilles, who died, the Greeks bearing gifts left a gift horse into whose mouth the Trojans failed to look, and Odysseus was punished for defeating the Trojans by being lost at sea for a decade.
All of which recounts an ancient Greek legend which Doug Casey had in mind in 1980 or 1981 when he invited "a few friends I knew would be good company," as well as "all kinds of people from all over the world who I didn't know at all but wanted to get to know. The entire impetus, the very essence of Eris was, and always has been, to give people who don't know each other - but who probably should know each other - an opportunity to meet, exchange ideas and, yes, bring a bit of discord into each other's lives." Naturally, in keeping with the tradition that Eris was also the goddess of confusion, Doug explained in his opening comments that he wasn't certain whether this episode was the 25th or the 26th year of the event.
First up at this year's show was Larry Abraham. We've seen Larry speak before at various Blanchard shows in New Orleans. Larry's topic was, "The Death of the New World Order...It's Now Official." Some of his comments are embodied on his web page by the same topic.
Larry's presentation included some comments on Antonio Gramschi, an Italian political prisoner who wrote about founding a New World Order. Gramschi was convinced that all political institutions derive from cultural ones, and encouraged socialists and other scum to take up posts at universities and elsewhere in the culture-developing institutions, so that ultimately political power would be theirs. It seems to have been an effective approach, since we now have Republicans demanding more government control over everything and otherwise promoting socialist ideas as their own.
It isn't at all clear to us that the losses in France and Holland for the proposed EU constitution are going to result in any bureau-rats or politicians in Brussels looking for other work. Rather, it seems likely that these votes will be worked around, or ignored, by those who seek to centralize all power. Similarly, the abject failure UN Peacekeepers to do anything remotely like keeping the peace in Rwanda did not result in the UN being broken up back in 1994.
Larry is certainly right in thinking that the UN is a horrid agency which ought to be eliminated. Its leaders are personally and directly responsible for the behavior of the UN peace keepers who have been exchanging food aid for sex with very young children in Africa. However, again, there doesn't seem to be any evidence that the UN leadership are going to be held accountable. John Bolton's appointment as UN ambassador from the USA appears to signal the Bush Administration's commitment to reforming the UN, which seems unlikely to go any better than, say, their implementation of the unconstitutional USAPATRIOT act.
One of the more interesting comments Larry made was about Kissinger's trip to China. Roughly 1970, it seems that Kissinger informed Mao and Chou en Lai that the military of China was preparing for a coup d'etat. Presumably, the prospective military replacements for the brutal Mao and company had contacted Western agencies about support for their bid to undo decades of cruel repression and massacres. Of course, as a result of Kissinger spilling these beans, the coup leaders were liquidated. And Nixon went to China.
It would appear that Larry is a Nixon enthusiast. What he sees in the man who bankrupted the railroads, reduced the efficiency of the postal service by moving from trains to trucks to gain the support of the Teamsters Union, implemented wage and price controls, closed the gold window, praised NASA, approved the killer space shuttle program, and abandoned Vietnam, while mercilessly lying to the American people about Watergate is something of a mystery. Each to his taste.
One of the more interesting audience questions that arose after Larry's speech was about a book Confessions of an Economic Hit Man. The book details the life of John Perkins (who has also written a rather odd book about shape shifting) who says he went around the world for the IMF and NSA encouraging all sorts of countries to borrow billions for the benefit of major American contractors who would then go in and build "infrastructure" for the benefit of the elite of those countries, saddling their people with enormous debt. Much of what Perkins says about this technique for empire building is consistent with other information we have. His interview with Amy Goodman indicates a view that Panama president Omar Torrijos was asssasinated by CIA operatives or "jackals" as Perkins calls them. Larry hadn't read the book, and, to his credit, indicated that he thought the questioner's description made it sound interesting enough that he wanted to learn more.
So we came to Marty Zupan. Marty is the president of the Institute for Humane Studies (IHS) and was formerly editor of Reason. Her talk on college students and where their heads are was unsurprising. College students aren't especially interested in freedom, much as the rest of society. Efforts by IHS to interest college newspaper editors in freedom-related issues were initially unsuccessful, but, after relating various anecdotes, Marty presented convincing ideas that IHS has now some insight in how to connect to and relate to students whose ideas on fair trials, keeping and bearing arms, taxes, and regulating businesses are closely aligned with the Marxists who teach in many positions throughout major universities. In short, her talk was tremendously depressing.
One of Marty's comments was, "We live in the most prosperous time and place in the history of mankind, but the vast majority of students have no idea where this prosperity comes from, and they doubt that it's legitimate." She then described a photo of a student with the legend "Capitalism Kills" on a helmet, yet the student is holding a cell phone. The juxtaposition of the symbol of successful entrepreneurial capitalism - the cell phone - with this ridiculous slogan brought quite a reaction from the audience. Unfortunately, there was much more in this vein.
Dr. Ron Paul spoke on his trials and tribulations in the USA Congress. It seems that Congress is constantly voting for things that are actually unconstitutional, with Ron often enough the lone dissenting vote.
One of his comments which seemed quite noteworthy was an episode with the Republican "theme team." Apparently these guys were quite taken with Machiavelli's ideas on government power. So, not quite Stalin style, yet, but not really consistent with the government of a free people.
It should not reflect negatively on Ron, and it is certainly not intended with disrespect that we note that we don't really expect much good will ever come from Congress. Our thoughts in an earlier issue regarding legislatures certainly still apply. Legislatura delenda est. Even if every member of Congress emulated Ron's voting pattern, precisely, we'd still be better off with no Congress. But, if one were going to engage in wishful thinking, there are few things less likely to occur than Ron's voting behavior becoming stylish.
Aubrey de Grey was a very engaging speaker, incredibly talented, and very knowledgeable. He put the argument for fighting age-related diseases and aging itself in very stark terms. Basically, one has to decide whether it is worth working to prevent 100,000 deaths every day.
The figure 100,000 deaths every day seems very high. So, I e-mailed Aubrey, who is really a very fine fellow, to ask whether the figure was really that high, and he wrote back. Indeed, 150,000 people die every day altogether, and 100,000 or so (plus or minus 15%) die of causes that young people essentially never die of. So, 36.5 million people die every year of age-related conditions.
Now, there are two major schools of thought about human beings. The levellers, socialists, communists, environmentalists, rather a great many politicians, and many bureau-rats seem to think that human beings are a bad idea, that there are far too many of them, and the world would be better off with fewer. It has been reported that Ted Turner has expressed the view that the world would be a better place with 90% of the human race gone. Generally, these people are down on life, on humans, and on reproduction, but rarely seem to volunteer to start the process with themselves.
The other school of thought is that human beings are great, a really brilliant idea, good for the economy, and that more people means more productivity, more innovation, more products, more services, and a better life for everyone concerned. Julian Simon and other leading thinkers of this school have shown really impressive facts and figures to support their view which on the whole is life affirming, healthful, and wholesome.
It's pretty clear that Aubrey Jasper de Grey is of the "more is better" school of thought. What's more, he makes a convincing argument that while ghastly, aging is not in fact inevitable. Rather, there should be reasonable methods available fairly soon, perhaps in the next forty years, that would make it possible to add 30 robust years of living to the life span of 55 year old people. Which is sort of sad for Aubrey and many others in the Eris audience, but still pretty cool in the long run.
One of the charts Aubrey presented was wrong. It said that the goal of powered flight was prehistoric, but the first powered flight was in 1903. That's mistaken. The first flight was in 1783, with the brothers Montgolfier. The first powered flight was in the middle of the 19th Century. In 1852, Henri Giffard flew an airship that was driven by a three-horsepower steam engine. About fifty years later, the Wright brothers had an engine that was both powerful and lightweight so that heavier than air craft could be powered. About four and half decades later, the sound barrier was broken in a military jet, followed two decades later by the advent of supersonic passenger aircraft. His point, however, that technological advances following up on a major breakthrough happen closer and closer together in time is quite correct.
Which means, he says, that if once we have a rejuvenation treatment that brings 30 more good years of robust living to 55 year olds, then we should be able within those 30 years, to develop treatments for yet another 30 years, so that lifespans in excess of a thousand years become realistic. Moreover, those who would likely live to be 150 are probably only about ten years older than those who would likely live to be 1,000 years old. What's more, these people are probably alive today.
The figures are actually quite staggering. Eleven year olds have the lowest rate of mortality. They've survived infancy, of course, so they have a working immune system, and are not subject to all the difficulties of being totally dependent on adults, and have survived the various childhood illnesses that still take life expectancy for everyone younger than five down rather a lot. Moreover, they have not yet reached the age where they are frequently subjected to death from violence. They are too young to be drafted, the military doesn't recruit drummer boys to send into combat these days, and they don't drive except on farms, so eleven-year-olds have a lot going for them. They don't die all that much from accidents, and they have no death from aging. So, if we had the same mortality rate that eleven year olds have, and if we kept that rate forever, we'd live about a thousand years on average. Some scientists have argued from actuarial data (e.g., Michael Fossel, in his book Reversing Human Aging which got a lot of things wrong) that if we get rid of all age-related sources of death we could potentially have lifespans of around 1,700 years. As Aubrey says, "Once we cure aging we will be much more risk-averse than 11-year-olds, anyway."
And, of course, we'll have all that time, a thousand years, in which to develop even better strategies for greater longevity still. So, when do we get the first set of vital break throughs? Aubrey says about 25 years. Which, sadly, puts him in his late sixties, so he may be past the point where a thousand year lifespan is within his reach, but edge cases are often the most interesting. People under 30 could see considerable longevity, and those now under 20 are very likely candidates for those thousand year lifespans.
More on the specifics of Aubrey's grand strategy for life extension under longevity, below.
The first afternoon session was with Henry Gifford, who spoke on "Building Science." His interest in construction methods combined with his native intelligence produced a very interesting talk on how various companies do things wrong, and how government regulations to enforce building codes are byzantine, arcane, and unworkable. Many people got involved in excellent conversations during lunch, and, happily, we were among those sort. So, we missed some of his presentation. You can read a bit about Henry in the New Yorker (a cookie-rich environment).
Henry points out that people who design and build buildings often don't know the first thing about calculating how much heating or air conditioning system they need. So, perhaps they put in five or ten times as much equipment, and the budget is ruined. Or, they put in not enough of the right equipment, and people are always uncomfortable. Henry showed worksheets on how to actually calculate air flow and heat balances. He suggests that if you are having a home or building built, ask to see the worksheets. If the contractor or architect doesn't have them, you may need to get someone on the job who can provide them.
His review on the New York City building code was very amusing. Like much of the humor one encounters, "you had to be there." Clearly, the government is incompetent to set building standards. Governments setting building codes presumably have more to do with the corrupt allocation of contracts, graft, greed, and general viciousness than anything else. Given the byzantine tome that constitutes New York's building code, and the apparent inability of anyone to understand it (or even sell an index for the thing - it doesn't come with an index) its function must be presumed to serve as an impediment. It is big enough to impede a door from closing, so it might be published as a door stop. But, it is probably published as a tool for beating bribes out of property owners, who presumably won't be able to build or often renovate without paying off a building inspector.
The next afternoon speaker was Dr. Thomas Boyd, who talked on "The Crisis of Intellectual Capital." It was a fascinating speech, about the efforts he's made around the world to provide training and education, and to bring the best and brightest to the USA. Naturally, as we were to moderate the very next panel, it was not entirely easy to concentrate. Dr. Boyd was a replacement speaker for Gary Hudson, whose talk on space tourism we had really wanted to hear, and, sadly, we've not found a link to Dr. Boyd anywhere.
If there were a common theme to be found at Eris this year, it was the theme of unsatisfactory government. Dr. Boyd mentioned several times that the process for getting permission to bring students from abroad to the USA has become arcane and bizarre. Whether this situation represents an immediate crisis, or one on its way, it is clear that without scientists, engineers, technicians, and entrepreneurs, the development of new products and services cannot happen inside the USA. Since American students seem to be largely disinterested in science, engineering, or technology, foreign students had been picking up the slack. But, now the government, paranoid and increasingly unrealistic about everything since the crisis of 11 September 2001, is refusing to grant student visas to very large numbers of students, on the grounds that the students won't go home when they get their degrees.
But, a sensible education policy would encourage students to come and learn and stay. The "brain drain" problem which plagued high tax European countries and brought huge numbers of innovators to the USA in the middle decades of the Twentieth Century is not a problem to which the USA is immunized. A similar brain drain in the USA would subject its economy to stagnation.
The next presentation was by Jim Davidson, Sandy Sandfort, and Dr. Rigoberto Stewart. Our panel was on new free zone projects. We had hoped to see Ken Royce at this year's Eris, and we were unable to finance the travels of Meaghan Walker Champion and her husband, which would have added two more voices to the discussion. However, we made do with what we had.
Jim gave an overview of the ideas of new free zone projects. These may also be called new country projects, though that ambition sometimes scares away investors, frightens local populations, and inspires enmity from various politicians. Jim's opening quote was from the Toffler's 1993 masterpiece War and Anti-War in which they quote prospective secretary of state Warren Christopher who laments that 5,000 countries may result if ethnic populations aren't forced to live together. In addition to the 113 countries (some of them large empires) found in the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, the world now includes about a hundred other countries including 198 UN recognized countries, dozens of countries and autonomous regions seeking UN recognition, and many, many more.
There are about six hundred native sovereignties in North America, hundreds more in South America, two thousand ethnic populations in Africa, and thousands more in Asia. Many of these groups want their own countries, and want greater autonomy within the countries that presently "represent" them in the UN. Some groups are smart enough not to want UN recognition.
As well, there are about a thousand free trade zones in the world, as tracked by the World Export Processing Zone Association or WEPZA. These are not always very large or well developed, but their existence is testimony to the failure of government intervention policies. Free trade zones exist because government policies of taxation, regulation, and control simply don't work. Since politicians and bureau-rats are incapable of admitting that they are wrong and that their policies are stupid and counter-productive, they only admit to the need for zones where their policies don't apply. Businesses often gravitate to these zones to make the most of exemptions as they are available.
It sounds like free trade zones are sort of ghettos for free market enthusiasts. But, what glorious ghettos! Dubai is a leader in this area, with the Jebel Ali Free Zone. With its very free market oriented trade policies, Dubai now has one of the largest cargo ports in the world and the largest cargo airport in the world. They also have among the lowest costs. Taking a container off a ship in Dubai cost $160 in Summer 2001; the same trick cost $1600 in Djibouti that same season, and Djibouti's port authority was talking about raising its fee. Dubai also has some really innovative real estate developments along its shore, and the single most expensive hotel in the world. It is also a candidate site for the next building to be the tallest in the world.
Sandy gave an overview of his idea that Panama would make a good location for a commercial space port. It has extensive experience with large and economically successful free trade zones. It has a substantial amount of ocean cargo traffic with its canal, and a sea level canal wide enough for much larger vessels has been proposed. Panama also has experience as a ship registry, and might be quite competent to register space-faring vessels in the same way it now registers sea-faring vessels. It also has a substantial airbase with a suitable long runway that might be converted to space tourism uses. We review Sandy's proposals further under Space Frontier below.
Dr. Stewart gave an overview of the Limón REAL project. For eight million dollars, he is able to turn the Limón province of Costa Rica into an enormous free trade zone. He and his associates have developed a detailed plan which includes free trade; no taxes; no unnecessary regulations; no official currency; no state run enterprises; private ports, airports and roads; no victimless crimes; private justice; private protection services; freedom to choose regime (presumably between Costa Rica and Limón); no antitrust laws; and no public debt. The changes would be accomplished with a change of status to autonomy, but not separation from Costa Rica as a whole.
We provide further details on Dr. Stewart's current proposals below under New Country Developments.
The final scheduled session for Thursday was with Peyton Quinn. His presentation was on the topic of adrenal stress conditioning. He makes the very valid point that has appeared in much other literature that under adrenal stress, an entire different set of personality traits and behaviors arises. When adrenaline surges into one's blood from those very useful glands over the kidneys, an enormous amount of metabolic and physiological changes take place. The body does not perform the same way under those conditions.
So, of course, if you aren't prepared to deal with those changes, if you don't know what your body and mind are capable of under the conditions of adrenal stress, if you've never experienced the tunnel vision, the auditory exclusion, the rapid mental reaction time, or the seeming disobedience of limbs and muscles, Peyton suggests you prepare. Once you know how your mind and body behave under adrenal stress, you can condition yourself to react appropriately, and build reflexes for your adrenalized state that may serve you well in emergencies. The worst thing to do is come to an emergency never having been adrenalized.
Peyton runs a company called Rocky Mountain Combat Applications Training, or RMCAT He offers training to people from all walks of life in how to handle fear, terror, and adrenal stress.
After supper, Dennis Wingo gave an unscheduled presentation on making profits on the space frontier. Dennis is an old friend from the space movement that we'd not seen in person since about 1989. In those sixteen years, Dennis has been involved in many successful space ventures, including some that he started working on back in the 1980s, such as the SEDSat for Students for the Exploration and Development of Space at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, and other projects. He flew the first Macintosh as an experiment controller - NASA insisted it wouldn't be able to work after launch, but it did.
One of the themes of Dennis's work has been using off-the-shelf hardware and software to perform activities in space. Doing so has been directly against the assertions and expectations of officials from the Air Force and from NASA, but has worked nevertheless. It is the use of these non-specialized components for space activities that has allowed Dennis and others like him to bring costs way down. Naturally, that gores the oxen of those who corruptly allocate contracts and their disgusting contractor companies.
Dennis has been working for several years with Walt Anderson. Walt is one of the telecommunications superstars who made hundreds of millions in the 1980s and 1990s. Walt's first company, Mid-Atlantic Telecomm, was founded around the time of the 1984 break-up of AT&T. After building it up with good prices and excellent customer service, Walt sold it to Frontier, which he helped operate and build into another great telecomm company which, as we recall, was sold to Global Crossing. Walt was able to sell much of his holdings of the latter company near the peak, and cashed out a very wealthy man. Naturally, the vicious thugs in the government see Walt's ability to produce wealth through jealous eyes, and their envy has put him in jail awaiting trial on tax fraud.
Meanwhile, during the first part of this century, Walt asked Dennis what might be done to make a lot of money in the space business. Dennis pointed out that there were a lot of telecomm satellites launched in the 1997 to 2002 time frame, which are now in geostationary orbit. These satellites are going to need to be replaced after ten years, in the 2007 to 2012 timeframe in many cases. However, technology has been developed to replace what these satellites lack - continuous station-keeping fuel - without having to replace the entire satellite.
Therein lies the tale of Orbital Recovery Systems, the company Dennis represents. Orbital Recovery has a proprietary technology that should launch in a few months time which has the ability to dock with an existing geostationary satellite. The Orbital Recovery craft then takes over the station-keeping function with its own supply of fuel. Since the recovery vehicle is launched as a secondary payload, it is able to extend the lifespan of a telecomm satellite for about a third of the cost of replacing it. Thus, the company is able to make money offering life extension for telecomm satellites.
The market Dennis has identified is several tens of billions of dollars for replacing spacecraft in geosynchronous (or Clarke after author and innovator Arthur C. Clarke who first conceived of the usefulness of this orbit in 1945) orbit. Capturing just ten percent of this market would be worth three or four billion dollars in revenues. We expect to have more details on Dennis's presentation and other ideas for our next issue.
That was the end for Thursday. It was a really exciting day full of interesting presentations, hallway conversations, and meals. In our next issue, we'll try to do similar justice to Friday's sessions.
Free Market Money
"The whole difference of approach between the dominant 'Keynesian' school and the view underlying the present exposition rests in the last resort on the position taken with regard to the phenomenon of rigid prices and wages. Keynes was largely led to his views by his belief that the increasing rigidity of wages was an unalterable fact which had to be accepted and the effect of which could be mitigated only by accommodating the rate of money expenditure to the given rate of wages. I have maintained ever since that such an adaptation of the quantity of money to the rigidity of some prices and particularly wages would greatly extend the range of such rigidities and must, therefore, in the long run, entirely destroy the functioning of the market.
"All inflation is so very dangerous precisely because many people, including many economists, regard a mild inflation as harmless and even beneficial. ... Not only has inflation allowed the ordinary errors of judgement to accumulate which are normally promptly eliminated and will now all have to be liquidated at the ssame time. It will in addition have caused misdirection of production and drawn labour and other resources into activities which could be maintained only if the additional investment financed by the increase in the quantity of money could be maintained."
Refined: An Analysis of the Theory and Practice
of Concurrent Currencies, 3rd Edition, 1990
Here, then, is the key advantage of competition in currency. With a monopoly, the monetary authorities have the power to temporarily eliminate much unemployment now, even at the cost of even more unemployment later. Without a monopoly, a given monetary authority in competition with others must perish in the face of failing to keep their currency dear.
It remains possible in such a competitive environment for an individual or company to maintain a high price for their services or products. However, they can only do so in consequence of a loss of sales volume.
The key advantage of a competitive currency environment is the absence of monetary inflation, because the inflating currency must fail to compete in the marketplace of currencies. The absence of inflation means that the misallocations of resources which always attend on inflation are ended. In other words, those who invest foolishly in education or training to do some outmoded job, or who form cartels (unions) to force the acceptance of their outmoded services or products, are unable to compete. They would keep the price of their labor high only at the risk of losing volume.
How do these misallocations hamper an economy based on an inflating fiat currency? The extent of the cost to economic development is so extreme, its measurement may require an investment of years of time - something that only a non-inflationary economy could afford. Every investment is misallocated in the face of an inflating currency, for nobody has the ability to predict from one moment to the next nor from one week to the next what inflation will do to their money, what losses to their store of value they must make up, what mania they must sound out early to gain the upper hand, and what interest rates will do to them. Only those in monetary authority have the ability to accurately measure inflation - and they clearly have no willingness to share accurate data on this topic. Only those in monetary authority have the ability to guess in advance what interest rates would be.
So, at stake in this contest between fiat national currencies and competitive, free enterprise, free market money is the essential matter of whether there would be a privileged class of wealthy and powerful, self-selected to rule and reign, or whether there would be a widespread freedom to seek, gain, and hold wealth. On the one hand we have fixed markets, corrupt practices, graft, greed, authoritarianism, control, and the most disgusting displays of power-mongering. On the other hand we have free markets, free enterprise practices, soundness, ambition, libertarianism, freedom, and the absence of centralized power to abuse.
With free market money we have the opportunity to be masters of our own destinies. Without it, we are necessarily subjects, either in control presently or out of control until some time near at hand. The choice is up to the individual to choose what money he would accept, to choose what money she would tender. The consequences of those choices are much greater than most people realize.
We'll continue our focus on Denationalisation next week.
Here's how the stocks we presently suggest in this area look of late (Monday 22 August 2005):
Our exploration companies are a mixed bag. Really, that's to be expected, given that the exploration side of this business is highly speculative. We don't currently suggest any selling, since strength in metals prices this Fall should give you much better prices if you are contemplating a sale. However, we remain watchful of the under performers in this sector.
Almaden is off slightly, but remains strong. Their drill results from Caballo Blanco ("White Horse") were very impressive (214 meters of .7 grams/tonne gold within which 108 meters graded 1.14 g/t within which 40 meters graded 2.35 g/t), and they've closed a private placement of 500,000 shares at $1.75/share for the Elk project which showed a drill hole of 2.18 ounces of gold per ton (74.38 grams/tonne) over half a meter. They've also optioned their Santa Isabela property to Japan Oil, Gas, and Metals National Corporation. AMM.to touched C$1.90 earlier this month, and is back down with lower gold prices. Since we strongly suspect gold will surge this Fall, the current price of Almaden is a buying opportunity. Suggestion: Go get more.
We've been following Free Gold for a year, and it has been very disappointing. Earlier this month they touched C$0.18 which was still down subtantially from our first suggestion at C$0.28. We expect to hear about the 10,000 foot diamond drilling program at Union Bay this month. If you took our suggestion and have a position in Free Gold, we regret it hasn't done well. Suggestion: Hold on for further news from the drill program, but we aren't chucking more money at this outfit. For one thing, their non-brokered private placement was C$0.17 in June - subject to regulatory approval of which we've heard nothing, but that's a cap on the share price unless tremendous drill results follow.
Luzon changed management very recently, so it seems wise to give these new folks a chance to show progress. We first suggested Luzon at C$0.29 back in November. Purely on a technical analysis (seeing horsey shapes in the clouds) there is a convincing end of trend signal for the recent bottom. Meanwhile, on 4 August 2005, Luzon released (see their web site) a detailed technical report on the Amayapampa property in Bolivia that they've optioned from Vista. It shows 661,000 ounces of measured and indicated and 59,000 ounces of inferred resource to be mined open pit and processed with gravity/carbon-in-leach. They figure to recovery 83.81% for a total proven and probable of 423,000 ounces. They figure 35,500 ounces a year production, cash cost per ounce of $176, and an after-tax IRR of 39.8% at $425/ounce. We'll keep you posted on other news and developments.
Pinnacle did very well after releasing their news a few days ago about their major financing from Zijin Mining Group. We first mentioned Pinnacle at a price of C$0.63, and they are up to C$1.10 now. In addition to the news on Zijin, they've released a report on surface sampling and trenching to further extend the Perseverance gold, silver, and zinc zone by 800 meters along strike.
Western Prospector is also doing well. We'll keep an eye on their stock for you. No news since our last issue.
The companies with a buy and hold strategy aren't doing well. The exception would be Regalito which is certainly enjoying the recent strong copper prices and the compelling data on their large discovery. We'll keep an eye on the others, but we suggest you hold at least until we get a good sense of how high gold is going this Fall.
The actual mining companies are doing better. Apex continues to ride high. Newmont is back up from its depths, and should continue to recover with higher gold prices this Fall. Northgate seemed to bottom in May and is recovering as well. Tan Range continues to do very well for us, and is nearing a double. We reiterate Doug Casey's standing order to sell half on a double to recover capital.
Free Market Money
Gold had a nice run up over $447/ounce earlier this month. It seems to be consolidating around $437 this morning in London. Readers of Doug Casey's fabulous and legendary International Speculator were warned to expect the shopping season of low metals and mining stock prices to end early this year. The past 30 days has certainly looked like the start of a staircase upward for gold.
Friend Bob of Bob's Gold Price Column informs us that Iran has announced that trading will start on the Tehran Oil Exchange (TOE) next year with barrels priced in EU euros rather than USA dollars - dollars may become less useful, or Iran may become the next invasion target. (We'd guess both.)
Silver ran up over $7.20 in early August, and struggled to hold $7.10 a week later. It is just below $7 now. A look at a five year chart for silver shows a spike in early 2004 which has subsequently damped out. Indeed, there is a strong similarity to a damping function in the shape of the subsequent chart. Silver is, if anything, more seasonal than gold, and we are nearing the end of the Summer slow season.
Copper hit a new all-time high last week at $1.745, lost ground and has recovered a bit to $1.7195 currently. Warehouse stocks continue to rise. Copper at $1.80/pound might come along this Fall. Will this eight-year cycle last ten years? Or is the dollar done for?
We ran our copper penny review on 13 August 2005 and found a 14% premium for the metal content of pre-1982 pennies over face value. Get the kids to start sorting. Or, try a centrifuge technique - the older pennies are substantially heavier than the new zinc-only ones.
U3O8 is up again to $29.85/pound.
The three stocks we've suggested in this sector are PVH, GBH, and MCG. Prices from Tuesday 26 July 2005.
The good news: GBH has recovered most of its loss from the end of July. More good news, the anticipated dividend (return of capital) distribution has come off. The dividend payment was 0.001091 grams of gold per share, which at 1 August 2005 prices was about $0.015 or a penny and a half per share. If another comparable dividend (0.001 g/share) is provided in Fourth Quarter, the current price is about 20.6 times earnings, reasonable for a technology stock.
PVH came off quite a bit lower when someone accepted the support bid of .013 grams/share, but has since rebounded to .028. MCG holds steady at .82 g/share last sale, which represents a TGC share price of 164 grams or about $2300 at recent gold price.
The Gold Casino, which is the underlying investment for MCG is holding well to its share price, with last sale at 104.49 grams (~$1470).
"It is just, I think, a travesty. It's like you build your house...somebody builds a house next to you and tells you to get out of your house. Like, what the hell...after we've made that big investment and everything. We're going to fight that issue because it is just fundamentally unfair."
We have utterly no sympathy for Elon Musk. His SpaceX company has become a defense contractor. Naturally, they are a new and small defense contractor, so they are now being treated badly by DoD and Lockheed-Martin. Aww, da poor widdle piglet got crushed when da big fat pig rolled over, and now poor piglet can't get to the trough to swill gravy from the taxpayers. Izzum sad?
This situation with the Vandenberg launch site for the Falcon points up the need for a location offshore and beyond the control of the nasties in the military-industrial complex. Musk's idea of Kwajalein is terrible. Kwaj is incredibly bad logistically and has a terrible corrosion environment. (Keep in mind that Hawai'i Airlines had the top rip off one of its 737 aircraft because of the increased corrosion flying from Pacific island airports. Imagine what the same environment is going to do to launch vehicles. And Hawai'i, where everything is incredibly expensive has comparatively good logistics. Kwaj is much further away from everything.)
On the other hand, Panama is a good location. It is mainland, has plenty of access to shipping, near the Equator, good polar and easterly launch trajectories. Much less problem with corrosion than island or ship-based launches. Plus, Panama has a reputation for international trade and commerce, large successful free trade zones, and since 1925 they have run an open ship registry without restrictions concerning nationality or residence - now the largest ship registry in the world. They use the dollar as their currency, with some coins paying homage to the old "balboa" currency. Decent banking laws, a positive business environment, limited regulatory interference, and all Panamanian schoolchildren learn English.
Oh, sure, you can get that stuff in the USA, to some extent, but you also have this military industrial complex "Army of the Twelve Monkeys" on your back. Which means that if you aren't part of the defense contractor community, you aren't supposed to be launching passengers into space.
Sandy writes, "Panama is ideally suited to become the world leader in the private development of space technology, products, and services. In five to ten years, Panama could have thousands of new high-tech jobs, millions of space tourist dollars, and the world's largest merchant fleet of private spacecraft 'sailing' under its flag. Some of the factors that make this so are Panama's location, geography, infrastructure, free zone legislation, labor force, and its century-long experience with vessel registry and transportation.
Sadly, the one questioner at Eris who seemed to be interested in the free zone project complained, "Talk about pie in the sky. You have no money...." and more in that vein.
NASA delenda est.
SpaceDev was at $1.50 before trading on Monday 22 August 2005. It is exactly where it was when we first suggested it.
"I am continually amazed by how much easier the job of getting to orbit is today than even a few years ago. Software, avionics, and manufacturing have all improved measurably. This means that the number of people required to design a launch system is continually declining, and since manpower is the single highest cost of any development, this is good news. Very good news, in fact."
Some months back, I proposed to invite Burt Rutan to the Eris Society conference. Unfortunately, I've lost touch with him. So, being enthusiastic about space tourism, I invited Gary Hudson who was to speak on privatizing space exploration. Worse luck, he couldn't attend after all. So, I thought to review some of his ideas as they've found their way to various web sites.
My first encounter with the name Gary Hudson was in a magazine in early 1981. The magazine was L5 News which was the starry-eyed publication of the dreamers at the L5 Society. L5 had arisen out of the enthusiasm for space migration inspired by Dr. Gerry O'Neill's important 1974 book The High Frontier: Human Colonies in Space. L5 was founded in 1975 led initially by H. Keith Henson, a fellow longevity enthusiast and science fiction fan, and his wife Carolyn Henson. Inevitably, all discussions involving the L5 society digressed at some point to explain the name, which is one of the five libration points found by LaGrange in his solution three-body problem in two dimensions.
Gary's name came up in an article about a little known company, Space Services Incorporated of America, founded by a little known Houston real estate and oil millionaire named David Hannah, Jr. David had hired Gary to build and launch a vehicle dubbed "the Percheron" for its workhorse function of hauling cargo to orbit. David himself had been inspired by a Smithsonian magazine article he read on a coast-to-coast plane trip. The magazine was handed to him by the guy sitting next to him in first class, and contained an article by Gerard K. O'Neill about exploring and settling the space frontier, based on his book. Among economic motives, O'Neill suggested that solving the energy crisis with solar power satellites might prove to be the space equivalent of the then-raging offshore oil industry.
David was a visionary, who saw things clearly. He realized that space transportation was the key bottle-neck to space activities. And, he also saw that the government was not the right agency for reducing cost. Rather, a competitive and commercial space transportation industry was needed to innovate and reduce the cost to Earth orbit, which was the key to getting lots of cargo and many people out on the frontier, making money and accomplishing things.
To get started, David founded Space Services with the idea of building cheap launch vehicles and launching satellites. He shied away from the idea of launching people, viewing that as a later and potentially more complex step. So, he began to look for new launch vehicle ideas. One man with really great ideas at the time was Gary Hudson, and together they decided to build Percheron.
The story of the Percheron is a fascinating tale of engineering and business, of visionaries pursuing the next best thing to their ultimate dreams, and ultimately, of compromising to the point where failure resulted. It is probably a tale that ought to be told in a book-length treatment. Briefly, David latched onto the idea of launching from Matagorda Island on the Texas Gulf Coast, on some land one of his friends and subsequent investors Toddie Lee Wynne (of the Fina oil and gas company) owned. In spite of the logistical nightmare of operating on this island, with limited infrastructure and no bridge to reach it, the team gamely pressed on. In retrospect, it seems likely that the logistical difficulties drove a certain decision to hand-pump the compressor for the liquid oxygen after the main pump broke. That choice in turn drove a decision to leave liquid oxygen in the fuel tank overnight, given the impossibility of keeping to the test schedule if the oxidizer were dumped. And the cold liquid oxygen combined with the very humid Gulf Coast climate in August 1981 combined to freeze up some critical components.
As the accident investigation team put together by Space Services after the fact concluded, the frozen components prevented oxygen flow during the engine firing test, which resulted in the kerosene igniting in atmospheric oxygen. The kerosene fire then melted the ice on the oxygen line, releasing liquid oxygen into the flames which propagated an explosion. Percheron went up to an apogee of a few hundred feet, and that was the end of the project.
It turns out that Percheron was a pretty good design for a low cost test launch vehicle. It was not, however, the vehicle Gary really wanted to build. Rather, Gary wanted to build single stage to orbit vehicles based on the concepts of Phil Bono, Charles Tharratt, Ed Gomersall, and Max Hunter as well as his own numerous innovations. So, he founded Pacific American Launch Systems with this idea in mind. David went on to hire Deke Slayton and, some years later, me. Deke's team committed Space Services to the ultimately dead-end approach of using refurbished solid rocket ICBMs for not-especially-cheap and not-really-commercial access to space.
Pacific American developed many interesting concept vehicle designs, and by 1989 managed to convince the Citizens Advisory Council on National Space Policy - a group put together by authors Robert Heinlein, Larry Niven, and Jerry Pournelle with some West Coast technical experts - that single stage to orbit was probably feasible and deserved a critical engineering review. High Frontier, Inc., a DC-based lobbying group for the strategic defense initiative helped push for the detailed analysis. The Aerospace Corporation, a sort of civilian analysis division of the USA air force, was tasked with the study and, to everyone's delight, baselined information from an earlier "Phoenix SSX" study that they had dismissed out of hand in 1986. By August 1989, the Strategic Defense Initiative Office was ready to go ahead with a single stage to orbit vehicle development program.
SDIO let four study contracts to spend about $12 million on evaluating various options. To nobody's surprise, these went to McDonnell-Douglas, Rockwell, General Dynamics, and Boeing - your standard mode military industrial complex defense contractors. Again, to nobody's surprise, McDonnell-Douglas responded within the expected parameters SDIO was believed to be seeking (vertical take-off and landing) and won the phase two contract for $60 million to build an "X" subscale demonstrator and design a "Y" prototype vehicle. In Summer 1993, the Delta Clipper Experimental or DC-X began to fly.
It had to have been embarrassing to NASA to see a large scale (though not full-scale) demonstrator designed, built, and operated for a budget of tens of millions of dollars. And, indeed, NASA proceeded to exert enormous political pressure in DC to force the program to be re-assigned to NASA. The change from Republican to Democrat administrations in 1993 was probably significant in the success NASA had in misleading others in the government to this course of action. In any event, NASA got its filthy hands on DC-X, flew the vehicle to destruction, and then, again to no-one's surprise, "competed" the follow-on prototype development, ignored the McDonnell-Douglas proposal, baselined a Lockheed design, and ultimately cancelled the development program. Doing so certainly prevented any vehicle development program from being completed prior to the Columbia disaster. There are still NASA managers who were involved in those decisions who should lose their jobs, and won't.
However, as a result of the successes of the DC-X, it became possible once again to gain private sector financing for launch vehicle development. Several individuals stepped up and one in particular made available several million dollars for the Hudson-McKinney Expermental (HMX) company to develop their Rotary Rocket system. So, Gary spent the last half of the 1990s working out of the Bay Area and Mojave building working prototype Rotary Rocket test vehicles. Several of these flew in various configurations and for various tests, including an awesome demonstration of a powered landing under the rotors of their vehicle.
Unfortunately, money ran out. And, lamentably, this loss of funding happened well before the Columbia disaster once again focused attention on the out-moded shuttle fleet and the rather obvious fact that NASA cannot be trusted to develop and operate a replacement system.
All of the above is a sort of history primer focused on Gary's career as I know it. I gather that HMX is now involved in some study contracts and is otherwise pursuing life as a NASA contractor. Their solution to fly the X-37 on refurbished and slightly upgraded Titan II rockets (which have been stored with loving care in hangars by the Air Force) was unjustly and illegally terminated by NASA. The only surprise for me, here, is that NASA continues to attract talented people like Gary who propose real solutions and then, repeatedly, watch NASA get away with its corrupt and disgusting practices.
Some day, I hope to get Gary's thoughts on privatizing space exploration, perhaps for a future issue.
NASA delenda est.
New Country Developments
"We were not able to secure funds. With the funds, autonomy would have been only a few months away. We went to Plan B."
We previously discussed, briefly, the Limón REAL project. One of the obvious questions to ask is, why the Limón province of Costa Rica. In his presentation, Rigo answered this question.
Limón is poor owing to horrid government monopolies in telecommunications, power, health, petroleum, and insurance. It is also poor due to existing barriers to trade, excessive regulations, heavy taxes, and official policies of discrimination. Limón is ethnically diverse, with black, Chinese, and mestizo populations, for whom English and other languages are often preferred, and official policies favor European ethnicity and native Spanish language skills. Poverty is not always a good reason for autonomy, but in the case of Limón it is not poverty derived from any lack of eagerness to work, nor is it poverty derived from popular enthusiasm for socialism or other mystic branches of economics. Rather, it is poverty arising from government oppression - the main reason countries seek independence.
The other reason to choose Limón is its great potential. It has a background of immigration and entrepreneurship, its location is coastal, it has good geography, and it would likely be suitable for banking, healthcare, education, and tourism, among other potentials to evaluate and develop. Probably the best reason is that the people of the region, the Limonenses, seek autonomy. Their individual endeavors and enterprises will eventually succeed.
Plan B, which is where the project is now, consists of three features: The Limón Center for Economic Development (CELIDE) has been established, is financed by local business, and does the groundwork to prepare Limón for autonomy. CELIDE lays this groundwork by sending speakers like Rigo to talks in high schools, universities, at trade unions, and other venues. They also publish articles and brochures. Most important, they discuss ideas for development of the region. So, in this way, CELIDE is a region-focused libertarian think tank, a sort of Costa Rica version of the Cato Institute.
To be candid, Rigo gave a list of some of the projects that CELIDE has developed, along with cost estimates. These include a free trade project for $35,000; a railroad for Limonenses for a mere $50,000; something called Braulio Carrillo which, regrettably, I didn't understand, for $80,000; Limón: Garden of the Americas for $80,000 (presumably an eco-tourism project of some sort); The Creole Project for $75,000; Economics classes in High Schools for $100,000; and a local Masters in Law, Economics and Environment degree program for $100,000. These projects all focus on laying groundwork, and accomplishing useful objectives, while bringing more Limonenses into the fold. Obviously, they aren't an autonomous free zone, but they have the attendant advantage of not costing eight million dollars.
One of the interesting, and sort of distressing possibilities that Rigo mentioned was that the government of Costa Rica itself may become a significant part of the Limón REAL project. His second to last slide said that the government "may do" the project. Which, presumably, would be possible at least in part thanks to the success of the Movimiento Libertario in gaining political power and providing visibility to free market economics.
"20 years is a suspiciously long time to find nothing out."
Aubrey de Grey has a wealth of middle names. The J is for Jasper, and the others bear learning. You'll be hearing more about Aubrey in future issues of this report. He is one of the most committed longevity enthusiasts we've met, and has developed an entirely new approach to longevity treatment. Below we quote extensively from his presentation at Eris.
To understand his approach, you have to first understand the enemy. The enemy of everyone alive is aging. Aging, in a small nutshell - say an acorn shell - arises because "metabolism (the hugely complex network of homeostatic processes that keep us alive) eventually causes pathology (the hugely complex network of anti-homeostatic processes that kill us)." The two traditional approaches to this situation have been gerontology, which generally attempts to understand metabolism and interdict those metabolic factors that cause damage; and geriatrics which generally attempts to mitigate the damage caused by the various anti-homeostatic processes of aging before they become totally pathological and kill again. A gerontologist would be someone who studies how metabolism causes aging and tries to limit those effects. A geriatrician would be someone who studies how aging causes pathology and tries to extend the patient's ability to tolerate age-related disorders.
In the shell of a somewhat larger nut, let's say a walnut, aging results from the fact that "metabolism ongoingly causes damage, whereas damage only eventually causes pathology." This fact presents a third useful approach which is to actually repair the damage. Aubrey takes the bold step of claiming that damage repair, the engineer's solution to aging, is the only way to gain meaningfully longer lifespans soon. Since everyone reading this report needs a strategy that extends their lifespan by several decades soon, so they can survive until some strategy extends their lifespan by several centuries.
Aubrey then abandons the metaphor of the nutshell, and moves straight to houses. You have a house, the roof is leaking, so water gets in on rainy days. The rainwater causes ceilings to collapse, wood to rot, staircases to collapse, and may support all sorts of parasites that make things even worse. The gerontologist solution is to plant some tall trees that should eventually mitigate the rainfall problem, given enough time. The geriatrician addresses some of the effects of rainwater by patching ceilings, re-building staircases, or exterminating insects. The engineer goes up on the roof and patches that, so no further damage results - until the roof needs patching again, of course.
So, then Aubrey turns to the aging problem itself. What are the processes equivalent to the roof leaking? The processes are related to respiration, which leads to oxidation; carbohydrate metabolism which leads to glycation; and cell turnover which involves mutations, telomere shortening, dysregulation, and stem cell depletion. The specific deadly effects are cell loss and atrophy; nuclear mutations and epimutations; mitochondrial DNA mutations; senescent cells; protein crosslinks; extracellular junk; and lysosomal junk. Which is certainly a rich assortment of jargon.
Briefly, then, cell loss and atrophy refers to cells failing to perform, potentially because they aren't able to divide or for other reasons. Nuclear mutations are mutations which occur within the cell nucleus, therefore affecting the DNA of cell chromosomes. Mitochondrial DNA also mutates - the mitochondria are special organelles within each cell that function outside the nucleus. Cell senescence is a key process involved in metabolic response to cancer; we've discussed it in past issues with terms like apoptosis. However, cell senescence of, say, islets of Langerhans cells in your pancreas would result in diabetes. Protein crosslinks prevent certain cell outputs, such as hormones, from functioning properly, or even occurring. Extracellular junk may result in conditions like Alzheimer's disease. And lysosomal junk, junk within the cell, causes other problems.
Then we come to Aubrey's contention that these seven things are all we have to fix. He points out that Brody in 1955 identified age-related disorders arising from cell loss and atrophy; Alzheimer in 1907 identified problems with extracellular junk; Monnier and Cerami in 1981 identified problems with extracellular crosslinks; Hayflick in 1965 identified problems with cell senescence; Harman in 1972 found mitochondrial mutations at the root of some age-related disorders; Strehler in 1959 or before found lysosomal junk causing problems; and Szilar in 1959 as well as Cutler in 1982 found nuclear mutations or epimutations causing trouble. The last of these major contributors to age-related dysfunction was found in 1982, now more than two decades ago, which is a long time not to have found anything else.
Even if there are other processes, perhaps masked by these seven processes, the good news is that much may be gained by fixing these seven things. So, can anything be done about any of these seven? Well, Aubrey proposes tactics for mitigating all seven.
Cell loss or atrophy is reversible, or its effects mitigated by exercise, cell therapy, and growth factors. Extracellular junk is handled by phagocytosis which involves immune stimulation. Extracellular crosslinks are handled by AGE-breaking molecules or enzymes. Cell senescence is handled by ablation of these senescent cells. Mitochondrial mutations are handled by the allotropic expression of thirteen particular proteins. Lysosomal junk is handled by transgenic microbial hydrolases. Nuclear mutations and epimutations are handled by deleting the gene that provides for telomerase extension, combined with periodic stem cell reseeding.
Are these tactics definitely working now? No. They are not yet working in all cases. Some of them may prove to be unworkable, and would then have to be replaced with some other workable tactic for the particular difficulty. However, the strategy seems sound: identify the specific difficulties which produce aging, fix those things with tactics that target each specific problem, and address cross-links where one fix (eliminating telomerase expression, e.g.) may exacerbate another problem area (cell senescence) by mitigating or breaking the cross-link (with stem cell reseeding, e.g.). In other words, engineer a solution to extending lifespan.
Aubrey then addresses some of the basic difficulties with careers in bio-gerontology to the effect that scientists end up not experimenting or pursuing career-risky ventures do to a morass of political and cultural entanglements. He seems to have a pretty good handle on why things like funding through political processes fails to promote an engineering approach to fighting aging. Delightfully, he proposes a solution.
He's organized a Methuselah Mouse Foundation with a prize by the same name. The idea is to encourage research into life extension on mice. Mice are inexpensive, so lots of research has been done and is being done on them. They are short-lived, so the effects on their longevity would be noticed quickly. Also, they are furry, so the public should take notice. His objective is Robust Mouse Rejuvenation which consists of taking a two-year-old mouse and applying some treatment protocol such that the mouse lives three more years. Since the expected value for a two-year-old mouse is that it would die in one more year, the rejuvenation protocol would presumably have to address several, if not all, of the seven deadly things which cause age-related disorders.
The Methuselah Mouse Prize web site offers ways for you to become involved in the funding for the prize, so you can make a difference in your own longevity.
During our long absence from publication, some interesting developments have cropped up. One of these was in the area of nanotechnology. Carbon nano-tube ribbons of substantial dimensions are now being manufactured, thanks to some breakthroughs at the University of Texas at Dallas. The new technique produces large transparent sheets of carbon nanotubes at high speed, which should allow them to be used in commercial devices from heated windows to flexible television screens or smart paper. Chemist Ray Baughman says of his team's breakthrough, "Rarely is a processing advance so elegantly simple that rapid commercialization seems possible."
Legislatura delenda est.
Integrated Pharmaceuticals was $0.90 when we checked in on it Monday 22 August 2005 before the opening bell. It opened at $0.87 and last traded at $0.90 on Monday, down seventeen cents from when we first started following it.
Dendreon was trading at $5.55 after the close Monday 22 August. It is up $0.23 since we suggested it.
Elan Corp, PLC, was at $8.09 in after hours trading on Monday 22 August. That's up eighty-six cents from our suggestion.
Publication Note: Jim fell into a sort of fugue state after the Eris Society conference and was unable to complete this issue for over two weeks. He's better now, and plans to catch up with the 15th and 29th issues this week.
Gratuitous example of bizarre legislation: As of 26 March 2003 both Texas and Massachusetts were considering similar bills in their legislatures to ban the possession, sale, or use of technologies that would "conceal from a communications service provider the existence or place of origin or destination of any communication." Among other things, doing so would prevent encrypted web traffic used for securing credit card and other financial transactions, ban firewall hardware and software using network address translation, and other technologies. Maryland, Delaware, Michigan, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wyoming all passed similar laws in 2000 to 2003 which is now law. Oregon, South Carolina, Georgia, Colorado, and Arkansas are all contemplating similar idiocy. Thanks to Edward W. Felten for bringing this to our attention at his freedom-to-tinker.com site. We're not linking to his specific pages on the subject because he's passed the duty of following this issue on to the Electronic Frontier Foundation. And their page on the topic has not been updated since April 2003. The obvious comment to make on these laws is that the legislators who conceived and passed them have no idea what consequences pertain, did so almost entirely out of a desire for campaign contributions from people associated with the Motion Picture Association of America, and nobody anywhere bothers to obey these laws.
Copyright © 2005 Free West Trust, All Rights Reserved.