Hothouse Earth

SOURCE: Arius Hopman ( SUBHEAD: Earth may be radically different simply because of the way we powered our lives for a few centuries. By Robert Kunzig on 15 October 2011 for National Geographic - ( Image above: Photograph by Ira Block for original article.

Earth has been through this before Not the same planetary fever exactly; it was a different world the last time, around 56 million years ago. The Atlantic Ocean had not fully opened, and animals, including perhaps our primate ancestors, could walk from Asia through Europe and across Greenland to North America. They wouldn't have encountered a speck of ice; even before the events we're talking about, Earth was already much warmer than it is today. But as the Paleocene epoch gave way to the Eocene, it was about to get much warmer still—rapidly, radically warmer.

The cause was a massive and geologically sudden release of carbon. Just how much carbon was injected into the atmosphere during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, or PETM, as scientists now call the fever period, is uncertain. But they estimate it was roughly the amount that would be injected today if human beings burned through all the Earth's reserves of coal, oil, and natural gas. The PETM lasted more than 150,000 years, until the excess carbon was reabsorbed. It brought on drought, floods, insect plagues, and a few extinctions. Life on Earth survived—indeed, it prospered—but it was drastically different. Today the evolutionary consequences of that distant carbon spike are all around us; in fact they include us. Now we ourselves are repeating the experiment.

The PETM "is a model for what we're staring at—a model for what we're doing by playing with the atmosphere," says Philip Gingerich, a vertebrate paleontologist at the University of Michigan. "It's the idea of triggering something that runs away from you and takes a hundred thousand years to reequilibrate."

Gingerich and other paleontologists discovered the profound evolutionary change at the end of the Paleocene long before its cause was traced to carbon. For 40 years now Gingerich has been hunting fossils from the period in the Bighorn Basin, a hundred-mile-long arid plateau just east of Yellowstone National Park in northern Wyoming. Mostly he digs into the flanks of a long, narrow mesa called Polecat Bench, which juts into the northern edge of the basin. Polecat has become his second home: He owns a small farmhouse within sight of it.

One summer afternoon Gingerich and I drove in his sky blue '78 Suburban up a dirt track to the top of the bench and on out to its southern tip, which affords a fine view of the irrigated fields and scattered oil wells that surround it. During the recent ice ages, he explained, Polecat Bench was the bed of the Shoshone River, which paved it with cobbles. At some point the river shifted east and began cutting its way down through the softer and more ancient sediments that fill the Bighorn Basin. Meanwhile the Clark's Fork of the Yellowstone River was doing the same to the west. Polecat Bench now stands between the two rivers, rising 500 feet above their valleys. Over the millennia its flanks have been sculpted by winter wind and summer gully washers into rugged badlands, exposing a layer cake of sediments. Sediments from the PETM are exposed right at the very southern tip of the bench.

It is here that Gingerich has documented a great mammalian explosion. Halfway down the slope a band of red sediment, about a hundred feet thick, wraps around the folds and gullies, vivid as the stripe on a candy cane. In that band Gingerich discovered fossils of the oldest odd-toed hoofed mammals, even-toed hoofed mammals, and true primates: in other words, the first members of the orders that now include, respectively, horses, cows, and humans. Similar fossils have since been found in Asia and Europe. They appear everywhere, and as if out of nowhere. Nine million years after an asteroid slammed into the Yucatán Peninsula, setting off a cataclysm that most scientists now believe wiped out the dinosaurs, the Earth seems to have undergone another shock to the system.

During the first two decades that Gingerich labored to document the Paleocene-Eocene transition, most scientists saw it simply as a time when one set of fossils gave way to another. That perception started to change in 1991, when two oceanographers, James Kennett and Lowell Stott, analyzed carbon isotopes—different forms of the carbon atom—in a sediment core extracted from the Atlantic seafloor near Antarctica. Right at the Paleocene-Eocene boundary a dramatic shift in the ratio of isotopes in fossils of minuscule organisms called foraminifera (forams for short) indicated that an immense amount of "fresh" carbon had flooded into the ocean in as little as a few centuries. It would have spread into the atmosphere too, and there, as carbon dioxide, it would have trapped solar heat and warmed the planet. Oxygen isotopes in the forams indicated that the whole ocean had warmed, from the surface right down to the bottom mud, where most of the forams lived.

In the early 1990s the same signs of a planetary convulsion began turning up on Polecat Bench. Two young scientists, Paul Koch of the Carnegie Institution and James Zachos, then at the University of Michigan, collected half-inch clumps of carbonate-rich soil from each of the sediment layers. They also collected teeth of a primitive mammal called Phenacodus. When Koch and Zachos analyzed the carbon isotope ratios in the soil and the tooth enamel, they found the same carbon spike seen in the forams. It was becoming clear that the PETM had been a global warming episode that had affected not just obscure sea organisms but also big, charismatic land animals. And scientists saw that they could use the carbon spike—the telltale stamp of a global greenhouse gas release—to identify the PETM in rocks all over the world.

Where did all the carbon come from? We know the source of the excess carbon now pouring into the atmosphere: us. But there were no humans around 56 million years ago, much less cars and power plants. Many sources have been suggested for the PETM carbon spike, and given the amount of carbon, it likely came from more than one. At the end of the Paleocene, Europe and Greenland were pulling apart and opening the North Atlantic, resulting in massive volcanic eruptions that could have cooked carbon dioxide out of organic sediments on the seafloor, though probably not fast enough to explain the isotope spikes. Wildfires might have burned through Paleocene peat deposits, although so far soot from such fires has not turned up in sediment cores. A giant comet smashing into carbonate rocks also could have released a lot of carbon very quickly, but as yet there is no direct evidence of such an impact.

The oldest and still the most popular hypothesis is that much of the carbon came from large deposits of methane hydrate, a peculiar, icelike compound that consists of water molecules forming a cage around a single molecule of methane. Hydrates are stable only in a narrow band of cold temperatures and high pressures; large deposits of them are found today under the Arctic tundra and under the seafloor, on the slopes that link the continental shelves to the deep abyssal plains. At the PETM an initial warming from somewhere—perhaps the volcanoes, perhaps slight fluctuations in Earth's orbit that exposed parts of it to more sunlight—might have melted hydrates and allowed methane molecules to slip from their cages and bubble into the atmosphere.

The hypothesis is alarming. Methane in the atmosphere warms the Earth over 20 times more per molecule than carbon dioxide does, then after a decade or two, it oxidizes to CO2 and keeps on warming for a long time. Many scientists think just that kind of scenario might occur today: The warming caused by the burning of fossil fuels could trigger a runaway release of methane from the deep sea and the frozen north.

Koch and Zachos concluded from their data that the PETM had lifted the annual average temperature in the Bighorn Basin by around nine degrees Fahrenheit. That's more than the warming there since the last ice age. It's also a bit more than what climate models predict there for the 21st century—but not more than what they forecast for the centuries to come if humans keep burning fossil fuels. Models also predict severe disruptions in the world's rainfall patterns, even in this century, especially in subtropical regions like the American Southwest. But how to test the models? "You can't wait 100 or 200 years to see what happened," says Swedish geologist Birger Schmitz, who has spent a decade studying PETM rocks in the Spanish Pyrenees. "That's what makes the PETM story so interesting. You have the end result. You can see what did happen."

What happened in the Bighorn was a wholesale rearrangement of life. Scott Wing, a paleobotanist at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, has been collecting fossil leaves in the Bighorn for 36 summers—more leaves than he'll ever have time to examine as thoroughly as he'd like. Every year at summer's end, as he unpacks box after box of fossils, he tells himself that next year he'll be reasonable and stay in Washington, D.C., to catch up on his cataloging. But come July he's back digging again, hoping, as he puts it, "that lightning will strike."

A few years ago it did. "I looked for about ten years for a fossil deposit like this," Wing said. We were sitting on a hillside 15 miles south of Highway 16 between Ten Sleep and Worland, west of the Bighorn Mountains, hammering at rocks from a trench dug by Wing's assistants. On distant slopes you could see the neat horizontal stripes of red, interspersed with gray and yellow, that identify that earth as dating from the PETM. Down in the hollow a pump jack seesawed out of earshot; from the top of the hill you could see half a dozen more. In the intermittent silences of our conversation, the only sound was the music of the hammers—muffled thuds, distant resonating pings as from a tuning fork, and crunching as the rocks gave way. When you tapped one persistently enough, it yielded along the plane separating two layers of mud, and sometimes that exposed, like the cream in an Oreo, a leaf preserved so perfectly that with Wing's loupe you could see trails eaten into it by insects 56 million years ago.

Wing knew immediately when he'd found his first deposit of leaves from the PETM. "Many of the plants I had never seen," he said. The fossils he'd already collected showed that before and after the warming the basin was covered with a dense forest of birch, sycamore, dawn redwoods, palm trees, and evergreens that resembled magnolias. The ground would have been squishy underfoot, in places as swampy as the Atchafalaya or the Okefenokee are today. The Bighorn in both the Paleocene and the Eocene was like northern Florida is now.

But at the height of the PETM, Wing has found, the landscape morphed into something completely different. It became more seasonally dry and open, like the dry tropical forests of Central America. As the planet warmed, new plant species migrated rapidly into the basin from as far south as the Gulf Coast, a latitudinal distance of nearly a thousand miles. Many were beans—not garden-variety ones, but trees of the same family, similar to modern mimosas. And most had been riddled by bugs.

Of the hundreds of fossil leaves examined by Wing and his colleague Ellen Currano, of Miami University in Ohio, nearly six in ten have holes or curving channels chewed into them by insects. Maybe the heat had revved up the bugs' metabolism, causing them to eat more and reproduce more. Or maybe the extra carbon dioxide had directly affected the plants; when CO2 is injected into modern greenhouses, the plants grow more, but their protein content is lower, making their leaves less nutritious. The same may have happened in the hothouse world of the PETM—maybe the insects had to eat so much foliage just to fill up.

Yet the bug-chewed PETM leaves were also much smaller than those of their Paleocene ancestors, because, Wing said, rainfall had dropped by around 40 percent. (When water gets scarcer, plants cut down on water loss by shrinking their leaves.) The drop in rainfall also gave the soil a chance to dry out every year and the iron in it to oxidize and turn rust red. These seasonally dry soils became the broad bands that now stripe the hillsides. Then, at the height of the PETM, the red beds disappeared—not because the climate got wetter overall, Wing said, but because the rains became more concentrated, like monsoons. The rivers in the basin constantly jumped their banks and flooded the countryside, washing away soil before it could deepen.

In the eastern Pyrenees, Birger Schmitz has found more dramatic evidence of catastrophic flooding during the PETM. He and colleague Victoriano Pujalte, from the University of the Basque Country in Bilbao, Spain, identified the trademark carbon spike at the base of a rock formation that, though now high in the mountains, probably lay on a coastal plain back then. A field of boulders had been washed out of the budding mountains and tossed onto a vast floodplain that the scientists believe extended over thousands of square miles. Some boulders were two feet across and could have been put there only by exceptionally violent water. Deposited over centuries by channel-jumping rivers, they're like fossil imprints of the energy in the hothouse atmosphere.

While bean trees were blooming in the Bighorn Basin, Apectodinium was blooming all over the ocean. The species is an extinct form of dinoflagellate—a group of single-celled plankton, some of which today give rise to toxic blooms known as red tides. All dinoflagellates have two flagella that they whip around to propel themselves through the water, a distinctive maneuver that Henk Brinkhuis, of Utrecht University in the Netherlands, demonstrated for me one day by folding one arm through his legs, the other around his slightly protruding belly, and flapping both. In the winter Apectodinium cells would retreat into hard cysts that sank to the seafloor. The following spring a flap on each cyst would fly open like a trapdoor—Brinkhuis stuck a finger in his cheek and made a cork-popping sound. The cell would then crawl out and ascend to the sea surface, leaving the empty cyst behind for Brinkhuis and his colleague Appy Sluijs to recognize in sediment samples 56 million years later—its open flap the only clue to a space-alien-like life history. In Brinkhuis's office there is a poster that reads, "Everything I know I learned from Star Trek."

Before the PETM, Brinkhuis and Sluijs find Apectodinium only in the subtropics. But in PETM sediments they find it all over the world—confirmation that the ocean was heating up everywhere. In the Paleocene the summer water temperature in the Arctic Ocean was already around 64 degrees Fahrenheit; during the PETM it shot up to around 74. Swimming there would have been like swimming today on the mid-Atlantic seaboard, which, judging from a New Jersey sediment core that Brinkhuis and Sluijs have also analyzed, would have been like the Caribbean. Today the water at the deep seafloor is just above freezing; in the PETM it was in the 60s.

As the ocean absorbed the carbon dioxide that was warming the planet, the water also became acidified, just as it will over the next century as CO2 levels rise again. This is borne out in some deep-sea sediments, where the PETM is as obvious as the stripes in the Bighorn Basin. In 2003 Sluijs went along on an expedition led by James Zachos to the Walvis Ridge, a submarine mountain range in the South Atlantic. They extracted sediment cores from a range of depths on the flanks of the ridge, and in each case as soon as they opened the core on deck, they could see the PETM layer immediately. "It just stands out amazingly," Sluijs says. "It's just red clay."

The clay stood out because of what it lacked: the white ooze of calcium carbonate that brightens the sediments above and below the PETM. During the PETM the acidified ocean had dissolved the calcium carbonate away. At this point one might expect a simple morality tale: Acidified ocean wipes out myriad life-forms, dissolving the shells of corals, clams, and forams—the scenario many scientists now envision for the 21st century. But the PETM is more puzzling than that. Although coral reefs in the Tethys Ocean, a Mediterranean Sea forerunner that cut through the Middle East, seem to have suffered badly, the single documented mass extinction at the PETM is an unexpected one: It struck as many as half the species of forams that lived in the bottom mud. They were cosmopolitan species, adapted to a wide range of conditions, and they should have been able to handle whatever the PETM threw at them.

Given the degree of acidification of the ocean, Zachos and his colleagues have estimated that an initial burst of around three trillion metric tons of carbon flooded the atmosphere, then another trillion and a half leaked out more gradually. The total of 4.5 trillion tons is close to the total carbon now estimated to be locked up in fossil fuel deposits; the initial burst corresponds to about three centuries' worth of human-caused emissions at the current rate. Though the data aren't conclusive, most scientists assume the PETM release was slower, taking thousands of years.

However fast the carbon was released, it would have taken far longer for geologic processes to remove it. As the carbonates on the seafloor dissolved, counteracting the acidification, the ocean was able to absorb more CO2, and within a few centuries or millennia of the sudden release, the atmospheric CO2 peak had passed. Meanwhile CO2 was also dissolving into rain droplets, which leached calcium from rocks on land and washed it to the sea, where it combined with carbonate ions to make more calcium carbonate. The process, called weathering, happens all the time, but it happened faster during the PETM, because the climate was hotter and the rain more acidic. Gradually the rain scrubbed the added CO2 from the atmosphere, and eventually it wound up in limestone at the bottom of the sea. The climate slowly returned to its previous state. "It's just like with fossil fuels today," Zachos says. "We're taking what took millions of years to accumulate and releasing it in a geologic instant. Eventually the system will stick it back into rock, but that will take hundreds of thousands of years."

Matt Huber, a climate modeler at Purdue University who has spent most of his career trying to understand the PETM, has also tried to forecast what might happen if humans choose to burn off all the fossil fuel deposits. Huber uses a climate model, developed by the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado, that is one of the least sensitive to carbon dioxide. The results he gets are still infernal. In what he calls his "reasonable best guess at a bad scenario" (his worst case is the "global-burn scenario"), regions where half the human population now lives become almost unbearable. In much of China, India, southern Europe, and the United States, summer temperatures would average well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, night and day, year after year.

Climate scientists don't often talk about such grim long-term forecasts, Huber says, in part because skeptics, exaggerating scientific uncertainties, are always accusing them of alarmism. "We've basically been trying to edit ourselves," Huber says. "Whenever we see something really bad, we tend to hold off. The middle ground is actually much worse than people think.

"If we continue down this road, there really is no uncertainty. We're headed for the Eocene. And we know what that's like."

In the PETM the heat drove tropical species toward the Poles, and animal and plant species from all continents could cross land bridges and blend together. Hoofed running animals, the ancestors of horses and deer, showed up in the Bighorn. A little bit later, perhaps as the climate got wetter again and the forest canopy began to close over the more open land that had favored the runners, the first true primates showed up.

Humans, along with every other primate living today, are descended from a PETM primate—just as perissodactyls such as horses, tapirs, and rhinos are descended from another PETM ancestor, and artiodactyl ruminants such as deer, cows, and sheep from still another. The species that appeared suddenly in the Bighorn may have migrated from Asia, where fossil specimens that are slightly older than the Bighorn's have been found. Those species in turn must have had ancestors deeper in the Paleocene. But so far there are no Paleocene fossils a paleontologist would look at and call a primate or a horse—and it is not, Gingerich told me, for lack of looking.

During the PETM itself a strange thing happened to some mammals: They got dwarfish. Horses in the Bighorn shrank to the size of Siamese cats; as the carbon ebbed from the atmosphere, they grew larger again. It's not clear whether it was the heat or the CO2 itself that shrank them. But the lesson, says Gingerich, is that animals can evolve fast in a changing environment. When he first drove into the Bighorn four decades ago, it was precisely to learn where horses and primates came from. He now thinks that they and artiodactyls came from the PETM—that those three orders of modern mammals acquired their distinctive characteristics right then, in a burst of evolution driven by the burst of carbon into the atmosphere.

After 56 million years primates, then the size of mice or rabbits, are directing the show. They have tamed other descendants of the PETM—horses, cows, pigs, sheep—and spread with them around the planet. They have moved beyond agriculture to a mode of living that, while infinitely varied, is almost invariably powered by fossil fuels. As Gingerich and I bounced in his Suburban along the top of Polecat Bench, through the tall grass of deserted pastures, we saw pump jacks nodding slowly back and forth, bringing oil from the Cretaceous period to the surface, as they do throughout the Bighorn. To the east, in the Powder River Basin, giant shovels scratch at Paleocene coal seams that keep the lights on in one of every five houses in the U.S.

Fossil fuel burning has released more than 300 billion tons of carbon since the 18th century—probably less than a tenth of what's still in the ground or of what was released at the PETM. That episode doesn't tell us what will happen to life on Earth if we choose to burn the rest. (Global emissions set another record last year.) Maybe there will be a burst of evolutionary innovation like the one that gave rise to our primate ancestors; maybe this time, with all the other pressures on species, there will be mass extinctions. The PETM merely puts the choice in long perspective. Tens of millions of years from now, whatever becomes of humanity, the whole pattern of life on Earth may be radically different from what it would otherwise have been—simply because of the way we powered our lives for a few centuries.

See also: Ea O Ka Aina: Is methane situation that bad? 12/15/11 Ea O Ka Aina: Permafrost Melt Accelerating 12/13/11 Ea O Ka Aina: Extinction Event? 2/7/11 Ea O Ka Aina: Arctic seabed methane unstable 3/3/10


Reverse Globalization

SUBHEAD: Recent and past interviews with David Holgren, a cofounder of the permaculture movement.  

By Karen Rybold-Chin on 17 Alril 2012 for the Nation - 

Image above: Detroit, unexpectedly, leads the way into sustainable urban farming. From (

 In this video from The Nation and On The Earth Productions, ecologist David Holmgren traces the path of permaculture from its roots in the 1970s to its potential, in the future, to reshape how humans interact with the planet. He explains how its premise—working with nature rather than against it—will help us adapt to and survive in a resource-scarce world.

Video above: 2012 interview with David Holgren with the Nation. From (

The following three part interview was conducted in 2005, well before the financial crisis in 2008.

Video above: 2005 Interview with David Holmgren - Part 1. From (

Video above: 2005 Interview with David Holmgren - Part 2. From (

Video above: Interview with David Holmgren - Part 3. From (


Urgent Call to Halt Smart Meters

SOURCE: Ken Taylor ( SUBHEAD: There is not a "smart" device on the grid that is protected from some sort of Trojan Horse. By David Chalk on 12 April 2012 for Forbidden Knowledge - ( Image above: Cargo cranes as Trojan Horses on the Smart Grid. Mashup by Juan Wilson. The vulnerability of the energy industry's new wireless smart grid will inevitably lead to lights out for everyone, according to leading cyber expert David Chalk. In an online interview for an upcoming documentary film entitled 'Take Back Your Power' (, Chalk says the entire power grid will be at risk to being taken down by cyber attack, and if installations continue it's only a matter of time. “Unless we wake up and realize what we're doing, there is 100% certainty of total catastrophic failure of the entire power infrastructure within 3 years” “We're in a state of crisis,” said Chalk. “The front door is open and there is no lock to be had. There is not a power meter or device on the grid that is protected from hacking - if not already infected - with some sort of trojan horse that can cause the grid to be shut down or completely annihilated.” “One of the most amazing things that has happened to mankind in the last 100 years is the Internet. It's given us possibility beyond our wildest imagination. But we also know the vulnerabilities that exist inside of it. And then we have the backbone, the power grid that powers our nations. Those two are coming together. And it's the smart meter on your home or business that's now allowing that connectivity.” Chalk also issued a challenge to governments, media and technology producers to show him one piece of digital technology that is hack-proof. “The computer companies that are involved, the manufacturers that are involved, bring forward a technology and I will show you that it's penetrable,” said Chalk. “I'll do it on national TV, I'll do it anywhere. But I can guarantee you 100% that there is nothing out there today – nothing – that can't be penetrated.” Chalk's strong words come amidst increasing reports of the smart grid's fatal insecurities, even from the governments and energy companies who are forcing their hand with the smart program. “Every endpoint [meter] is a new potential threat vector,” according to Doug Powell, manager, SMI Security, Privacy & Safety, for Canadian utility BC Hydro. And in an interview with, former CIA Director James Woolsey was also highly critical of energy policy makers, whose plans received multi-billion dollar funding as part of the Economic Stimulus Act of 2008. “The so-called 'smart grid' that is as vulnerable as what we've got now is not smart at all,” said Woolsey. “It's a really, really stupid grid.” But there's more. In an audit released in January, the US Inspector General Gregory Friedman was also highly critical. “Without a formal risk assessment and associated mitigation strategy, threats and weaknesses may go unidentified and expose the ... systems to an unacceptable level of risk,” Friedman wrote. Energy officials knew of these weaknesses but approved plans for the projects anyway, auditors said. “The initial weaknesses had not always been fully addressed, and did not include a number of security practices commonly recommended for federal government and industry systems.” And security is not the only technologically-based obstacle faced by smart grid proponents. In March, alarm bells were rung following current CIA Director David Patraeus' confirmation that governments will use wireless smart appliances to spy on citizens. “Items of interest will be located, identified, monitored, and remotely controlled through technologies such as radio-frequency identification, sensor networks, tiny embedded servers, and energy harvesters,” Patraeus said at a meeting of In-Q-Tel, the CIA's venture capital firm. He added that this will prompt a rethink of “our notions of identity and secrecy.” With strong criticism to the smart grid now coming from many directions, energy corporations and governments now have the challenge to explain to an increasingly unapproving public why they continue to fast-track smart grid installations. Citizen groups and organizations throughout the US, Canada and Europe have launched legal actions to stop the installation of smart meters. They cite issues such as cost increases, health risks, privacy concerns, grid vulnerability and the lack of democratic process. In Chalk's home province of British Columbia, Citizens for Safe Technology ( and the BC Coalition to Stop Smart Meters are leading a growing challenge. Options for opting out of the smart metering program have been announced in markets including California, Maine, Vermont, Louisiana, Michigan, Connecticut, Quebec, the UK and the Netherlands. In the US, several regions including the counties of Santa Cruz and Marin are enforcing outright moratoriums. “Unless we wake up and realize what we're doing, there is 100% certainty of total catastrophic failure of the entire power infrastructure within 3 years,” said Chalk. “This could actually be worse than a nuclear war, because it would happen everywhere. How governments and utilities are blindly merging the power grid with the Internet, and effectively without any protection, is insanity at its finest.” Video above: Cyber expert on massive vulnerability of Smart Frid. From ( and ( Note: The full video interview with David Chalk can be seen on The feature film documentary 'Take Back Your Power', which critically examines the smart grid program, will be released online this spring. Ea O Ka Aina: How to avoid Smart Meters on Kauai 4/15/12 Ea O Ka Aina: Refuse to Opt In! 4/16/12 Ea O Ka Aina: Smart Meter Surveillance 4/8/12 .

Refuse to Opt In!

SOURCE: Jonathan Jay ( SUBHEAD: Charging us a fee to us for opting to protect our own health and safety is not okay. By Joshua Hart on 10 April 2012 for Stop Smart Meters - ( Image above: Stop Smart Meters! disrupts FCC chair’s talk in Silicon Valley. From (

The following is written for customers of PG&E in Northern California, but it is also applicable to customers of other utilities around the US and internationally who are unjustifiably charging steep penalties simply to retain one’s analog utility meter.

As PG&E’s arbitrary May 1st deadline for ‘opting out’ of having a smart meter on your home approaches, we’re starting to get a lot of questions from people, asking what to do. That PG&E certified letter is sitting there on your desk, in the pile of tax papers, and you’ve heard a lot of different opinions about how to best protect yourself from all the documented dangers and violations of smart meters. Should you send back the form, essentially agreeing to pay hundreds- even thousands of dollars to PG&E over the coming years? Should you do nothing, refusing to pay opt out fees but also continuing to refuse access to the utility? Or should you just give up and let them install a smart meter, obeying the authorities despite the overwhelming evidence pointing toward a serious risk to our privacy, health, and safety?

Well it probably doesn’t come as any surprise that we would not recommend allowing a smart meter on your home, under any circumstance. But what are the risks and advantages of the other two options? What if you already have a smart meter installed and want it removed? What if you live in an apartment building with 100 meters on the other side of the wall? The answers are not simple. There is just no one sound bite that covers it. The legal, political, and social contexts surrounding this heated issue are constantly in flux. That doesn’t mean that you can’t adhere to some basic principles and defend your rights against the utility bullies.

As we are not lawyers we cannot offer you legal advice. But what we can do is to tell you what our plan is, being faced with the unreasonable choice of paying hundreds in fees or accepting a smart meter.

Here’s what we’re planning to do:

• Ignore their illegal opt out notice.

Send the utility a certified letter informing them that they do not have permission to install a telecommunications device on our property.

Secure our meters, change the locks, lock our gate, and post no trespassing utility signs. Tell any installer to leave immediately and call police if they do not comply.

Refuse to pay any extra charges that might show up on our bill.

• Those in apartment buildings are organizing with other tenants, often getting the support of building managers/ owners (pdf). Organize a meeting and get a speaker.

Some people- for various reasons- are not up for a fight with their utility. If the only way to keep an analog meter on your home is by going along and paying PG&E’s extortion fee- then by all means pay the fee. Do not agree to having a smart meter on your home under any circumstances. We are telling you these devices are dangerous. Keep your distance! Plus, we imagine that obtaining any compensation for damages in the future will be far more difficult if you have agreed to a smart meter installation.

If you are worried about the cost, allowing a smart meter is far more expensive in the end, when you consider meter power consumption (adding about $3 or more onto the average monthly bill), inaccurate and inflated bills, risk of fire, and health damages from microwave radiation. Paying ten bucks a month is actually a bargain, when you consider the horrific alternative. This program should never have been approved by regulators in the first place. The smart grid is bad energy policy that is hurting people in the wallets, hurting health, and hurting the environment they’re pretending to save. That is why we need to protest, and refuse the fees, together.

It’s critical to understand your rights and the utility company’s rights. The one huge mistake we see people making again and again is deferring to the utility to tell them what their rights are. Do not call up the utility company to ask them what your rights are against the utility company. They will lie to you- their call center operators are trained to do so. If you want to know what your rights are, read the letter of the law or consult a lawyer.

Here’s what the California State Utility Code says:

Code 328.2(b) states: “No customer should have to pay separate fees for utilizing services that protect public or customer safety.”

Code 453. (b) states: “No public utility shall prejudice, disadvantage, or require different rates or deposit amounts from a person because of medical condition

So, we’ve established that CA utilities may not charge people more based on medical condition or to protect safety. Being sickened by and sensitive to microwave radiation is a documented medical condition. Microwave radiation emitted by smart meters is a Class 2B carcinogen (pdf). The fire and electrical safety risks of smart meters have been well documented. Any fee charged to anyone who prefers an analog meter is therefore illegal.

Here’s what the US Federal Energy Act of 2005 says:

Title Xll, Subtitle E, Section 1252, (a), (14), (C) states: “Each electric utility subject to subparagraph (A) shall provide each customer requesting a time-based rate with a time-based meter capable of enabling the utility and customer to offer and receive such rate, respectively.

It’s pretty clear at this point that smart meters are not mandatory. (Please post the legislation that makes them mandatory if you dispute this) Despite all the lies, the fabrications, and the bluster, the truth remains that smart meters were only legislated by Congress to be offered to people, not forced upon them. We repeat. There is no mandate. Opt out programs make the false assumption that there is some “requirement” that supersedes the contractual relationship between a utility and a property owner. This is simply not the case. There is a difference between utility company policy and the law. The latter always trumps the former and you can bet that the utilities seek to blur the line in the public mind, whenever and wherever possible.

Given questions about the legality of PG&E’s opt out program, we’re going to stand our ground, lock up our meters, send the utility letters of no consent, and refuse to pay any fees. If you are a lawyer, we’d like to hear from you.

Like any defiant act, there are risks. We cannot predict how the unruly animal known as our modern utility industry will react to this–certainly the law doesn’t seem to matter much to them. It is possible that they will attempt collection of unpaid opt out fees, or even shut off our power. That won’t go down well in court. And it certainly won’t go down well in the court of public opinion. We’re stocking up on candles and hedging our bets.

When this dispute ends up in a court of law, we will be in a much stronger position for not consenting to either the smart meter installation or the opt out fees. Make sure to document everything in writing via certified mail- we know many people who only communicate with the utility this way, to preserve a record. If you have suffered an injury or loss from the smart grid, lodge a formal complaint.

While possible, it is hard to imagine the utility shutting off power to thousands of people or entire towns. The public backlash from that kind of bullying would make the December shut off of twenty or so families in Santa Cruz County look like a picnic. Using such bullying tactics could risk the monopoly over power delivery and profits that these utilities hold so dear. There is just so much that people are willing to take before they demand change and choice.

Each of us has to make our own decision. Is it worse to have to pay thousands of dollars during your lifetime in protection racket fees? Or is it worse to risk a possible brief interruption of service during a historic showdown between thousands of ratepayers and the utility?

The moral of the story is that you should be confident in defying the utility, as part of a mass movement of ratepayers. Utilities failed to seek adequate permission for their failing smart grid plans. They are the ones who are desperately trying to make you believe you have no rights. They are the ones who are attempting to bluff their way through a debacle of their own making.

It’s time we called their bluff.

Sign the petition to demand an end to opt out fees

Sign the petition promising to refuse to pay

• Joshua Hart is the Director of Stop Smart Meters! See also: Ea O Ka Aina: How to avoid Smart Meters on Kauai 4/15/12 Ea O Ka Aina: Urgent call to halt Smart Meters 4/16/12 Ea O Ka Aina: Smart Meter Surveillance 4/8/12 .

How to avoid KIUC Smart Meters

SUBHEAD: KIUC has once again clouded the picture offering to defer installation for those who want no Smart Meter. By Juan Wilson on 15 April 2012 for Island Breath - ( Image above: Satire of PG&E Smart Meter initiative. From ( This past week the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative (in name only) put out a press release by Maile Moriguchi that was titled "KIUC Smart Meter Installation Process" (see below). In short it lists the"advantages" of installing the Smart Meters and what customers should expect on the day the meters are installed. It also describes the "offer" to defer installing a Smart Meter for now while KIUC considers what to do about those that opt out. The press release details:
KIUC is offering a deferred installation option for members who do not want an advanced meter installed. If the member decides to defer installation, they do so with the understanding that they will not be receiving the benefits of the smart meter and that KIUC has agreed to defer installation while continuing to analyze the impacts that are caused by members who decide not to receive an advanced meter and how to address those impacts. Members who would like to be placed on the deferred installation list may contact KIUC at 246-4300 to request a deferred installation request form. This deferral program does not reflect a final determination by KIUC regarding advanced meter installations and KIUC may decide to obtain cost recovery for the costs and impacts caused from those members who decide not to receive an advanced meter.
To Opt Out of a Smart Meter To opt out KIUC customers are instructed to phone KIUC to obtain a form that must be filled out and verified. They instruct customers to phone them to receive the form. The text of the form is below. The "official" PDF of the file can be found on this obscure KIUC page ( at this link: ( If for some reason the file is not available online at the KIUC site, I have stored a copy on the Island Breath server (
The the form reads as follows:
Advanced Meter Installation Deferral Form (Use separate form for each account)
As a member of Kaua'i Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC), I am aware of my opportunity to defer installation of an advanced meter (Smart Meter) at my home or place of business; and by deferring installation, I do so with the understanding that I will not be receiving the benefits of an advanced meter. I understand that, KIUC has agreed to defer the installation at this time while it continues to analyze the impacts that are caused by member who decide not to receive an advanced meter and how to address those impacts. The deferral program does not reflect a final determination by KIUC regarding advanced meter installations and KIUC may decide to obtain cost recovery for the costs and impacts caused from those members who decide no, to receive an advanced meter (_) I wish to defer installation of advanced metering at my home/business. (_) I would like to talk with a KIUC representative about the advanced meter installation prior or to making a decision on whether to defer instalation on. Contact number Member name (printed): Member signature: Date: Account Number: Physical Address of Service: Submit by mail: Kaua'i Island Utility Cooperative Advanced Meter Deferral Form 4463 Pahe'e Street, Suite1 Lihu`e, HI 96766‑2000 Submit by email: Submit by fax: (808) 246‑4315

Important Reminder
There is no deadline date for submitting the form on the KIUC website that we have found. We recommend submitting the form before May, when the installation roll-out begins. Our Recommendation It is our opinion that not submitting the official PDF form (or an exact printed replica) by the means described on the form will result in you getting a Smart Meter installed on your home. There are two major problems with the form as it is.
  1. It is only addressed to"Members" of the cooperative. It should be addressed to "Customers". This is not only because KIUC is not truly a cooperative, but because those customers, who are not members (such as myself), probably have more independent rights on this issue than the members. For example, non-members are not restricted from buying energy from other providers than KIUC.
  2. The form does not have a check box for those that never want a Smart Meter installed on their home. The sneaky use of the term "defer" installation comes with the qualification: "The deferral program does not reflect a final determination by KIUC regarding advanced meter installations"
None the less, get the official opt-out form. Fill it out and check the box specifying "I wish to defer installation of advanced metering at my home/business." Add to that a notation of your own to the effect that "I wish to have no installation of advanced metering at my home/business. If and when I choose such a metering system I'll let you know." We agree with Adam's suggestion below that any effort you make to halt an installation of a Smart Meter on you home should be documented and sent also to the PUC, County Council and Mayor. Other Recommendations There are other strategies that are being proposed at this time: Adam Asquith ( Adam suggests not checking the "defer" box and only qualifying you want "no installation". His case is that checking the box legally may bind you to a later installation. Our opinion is that "no check" will be processed as "no form" by those handling the box for "OFFICIAL USE ONLY - VERIFICATION OF MEMBER/ACCOUNT INFORMATION". Adam also suggests that you send your modified form rejecting a Smart Meter installation to the Hawaii PUC, the Kauai County Council, the mayor of Kauai. That way if your request is not granted you will have documentation that that was your intent. Jonathan Jay ( Jonathan strongly urges you NOT to sign it as is. If you agree to a deferred install­ment, 'defer' is the mod­i­fier, 'install­ment' is the mod­i­fied. What kind of install­ment? A deferred one. Do you want to agree to an installment? By sign­ing the doc­u­ment, you are also agree­ing to the rest of the para­graph — which says A) this is not the end of the story, and B) they can bill you, and fine you for not tak­ing the new meter. That you never asked for.

If instead what you want is to reject the ʻSmart Meterʻ instal­la­tion, using the same for­mat as KIUC, P2P has crafted you this rejec­tion form: (

Ea O Ka Aina: Urgent call to halt Smart Meters 4/16/12 Ea O Ka Aina: Refuse to Opt In! 4/16/12 Ea O Ka Aina: Smart Meter Surveillance 4/8/12 .

A poem for my granddaughter

SUBHEAD: On the occasion of her birth early this morning and far away in New Paltz NY.  

By Juan Wilson on 14 April 2012 for Island Breath - 

 [Author's note: This poem was written on 2/15/12 for the occasion of my son's and daughter-in-law's baby shower in anticipation of their baby's birth. Their daughter, Magnolia De La Casa Kondrat-Wilson, was born early this morning in New Paltz, New York.]

Image above: From photo of my son John Wilson with his daughter Magnolia taken by her mother, Katy Kondrat.  

When Magnolia De La Casa landed on Earth
Those before her had coiled, shuddered and sighed.
She had no name then, and she wasn't really a "she" -
But she was free.

A spark, a wriggle and then what would be her was embedded.
And she stuck, and in doing so became them, and became herself.
 More complicated every moment, to the tune of her own heart, and that of the womb.

The Womb World is now everything and everywhere.
 Pulse – blood, juices, enzymes, hormones -
Motions – vibrations, bounces, squeezing -
Sounds – gurgling, laughing, crying, farts -
Sights – a web of veins in the glow, a shadow of a hand in the sun -
 It seems like forever.

Magnolia – an ancient tough genus, older than the bees, hums her tune.
The Womb World is a warm comforter on a long winter night.
But outside seems funny and exciting. They rub the womb's outside.
I kick back and elbow them. I can hear them talking to me now.

 There is more than one of them out there.
 Inside is a slowly collapsing universe imploding on itself -
My aerial acrobatics are reduced to squirms and twists.

Hey! Something's up. There's some rush.
Waves are rolling through the casa.
Leading somewhere?
 My face is pressed to the floor.
It's too tight in here.
These convulsions are new!
 I don't want to wake up, but the dream – It's getting scary.

There is only one way out.
The NOISE, the LIGHT, the AIR -
Oh my God!
I'm on my own – but in their arms.


Nuclear silos for the 1%

SUBHEAD: Super-Rich plan to survive apocalypse in underground luxury silos. What a place to be buried.  

By Khadeeja Safdar on 11 April 2012 for Huffington Post - 

Image above: Lowest floors of silo condominium as well as common spaces, exercise spaces and utility areas. From original article.
Most people have too much on their plates to worry about what will happen when the world ends.
But then there are those who have too much money not to.

Four buyers have already spent about $7 million on luxurious doomsday-safe condos built in a Cold War-era missile shaft below a Kansas prairie, according to the AFP. The cylindrical underground building not only includes condo space, but its developer is also adding an indoor farm, pool, movie theater, a stockpile of five years worth of dry food, and space for a medical center and school, the AFP reports.

Image above: Plan of one of one of seven individual condo residential floors. Hope that elevator and air filtration system keep working. From original article.

Its inhabitants should be well protected. The condo building, which extends 174 feet underground, hosts concrete walls that are nine feet thick, according to The Daily Mail. The shape of a silo, Forbes adds, also makes it an even more ideal hiding place.

Although the world survived the Y2K fear of 1999, the shelter buyers may be preparing for another predicted apocalypse that is fast approaching. For believers of the Mayan calendar, about eight months remain before the world is supposed to end.

Image above: Perspective rendering of windowless kitchen, dining, den area of condo. Note obligatory synthetic granite tops, stainless steel appliances and flush-overlay wood cabinets. From original article.

But fancy doomsday shelters aren't the only luxurious toys the super-rich have been investing in recently. Some have built emergency rooms in their own homes that cost up to $1 million. While others have bought submarines to reach the deepest place in the ocean.


Let's hear it for higher gas prices

SUBHEAD: More expensive gas would encourage positive changes in the U.S. economy making us less vulnerable to oil price shocks.  

By Megan Quinn Bachman on 9 April 2012 for - 

Image above: Some gas stations in the Toledo area are displaying prices ranging from $3.91 to $4.09 on 4/14.
From (
Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe. — U.S. Secretary of Energy-designate Steven Chu, 2008
Of course we don’t want the price of gasoline to go up, we want it to go down. — U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, 2012
Gas prices are on the rise again, which means the “man on the street” will complain to local news reporters about greedy oil companies and foreign cartels, and energy-illiterate pundits and politicians will cry for domestic drilling with wild abandon.

But is gasoline, now approaching $4 per gallon in Ohio, really expensive?

Consider that a barrel of West Texas Intermediate crude oil, trading for around $100 per barrel in March 2012, is equivalent to 10,000 hours of human labor. The work of one person over their lifetime (about 45 years of manual labor) can be done by just four barrels of oil, which costs $400 today. That’s not a bad deal compared to the annual salary, healthcare costs and pension that an employee would receive over 45 years.

Gasoline—and all our fossil energy—has been absurdly cheap over the last two centuries. Even today, fossil fuels are relatively inexpensive for the power they deliver to consumers, companies and governments. Oil’s cheapness has given us economic growth, industrialization and consumerism. And it’s also given us overpopulation, overconsumption, toxic pollution, the depletion of soil, water and rare earth metals, and habitat destruction and its corollary, species extinction.

Solutions that make petroleum less expensive not only make that long list of consequences worse, they delay our inevitable transition away from finite, fast-depleting underground fuels. If we delay the transition, then we will have a larger, more developed global population that’s used to a high-energy lifestyle by the time the shortages hit and rationing kicks in. In short, low oil prices now mean more people, corporations and nations fighting over fewer resources later.

So why don’t politicians call for more expensive energy to curtail use? That would be a more rational response for a world on the brink of energy scarcity. If households find out their income source would soon be drastically reduced, wouldn’t it make sense if they stopped their spending spree and started to save?

Instead, we drain our bank account of accumulated fossil capital at ever-faster rates. Between 2001 and 2011, the world consumed about 260 billion barrels of crude oil. That amount represents about 20 percent of all crude oil ever consumed. Demand and population, especially in China and India, are growing exponentially. If China and India’s oil consumption continues at present rates, they would gobble up all of the available net exports of oil in the world in just 19 years, leaving none for any other importing country, according to petroleum geologist Jeffrey Brown.

U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu added an enlightened sentiment to the energy conversation in 2008 when he suggested that the U.S. should try to increase gasoline prices to the level in most European nations, which is roughly double that of the U.S. In January 2012, a German motorist paid an average $8.19 per gallon to fill up, compared to the $3.58 per gallon paid at an American pump, according to figures from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Chu’s announced goal in 2008 was right on target. With much higher domestic prices, solutions like use of mass transit, smaller vehicles and smart growth happen naturally. America would be less dependent upon oil because new housing construction would take place within walking distance of shops and workplaces. New passenger rail lines would connect distant destinations.

Wind, solar and other sources of renewable energy would get a boost. Relocation of agricultural production in and near cities would save energy and money and improve food security. Thus, when an even more serious oil crunch comes, American households and communities would be better adapted to survive as fuel costs would be a smaller percentage of total living expenses.

But Chu recently told reporters that he changed his mind since 2008 and that he has actually worked over the last three years to reduce oil prices. This may be political maneuvering ahead of the November presidential election. Or it may be that Chu thinks Americans are too dumb to understand that in the long run they would be better off with higher fuel prices.

It would be refreshing if a few politicians and pundits talked about (without retraction) how high oil prices would secure America’s fossil fuel-free future, and if at least a few Americans told the media how happy high prices made them for the sake of their country.

Last year oil companies cried that ending their government subsidies was un-American and would raise gasoline prices. The truth is that more expensive gasoline would encourage positive changes in the U.S. economy making Americans more self-reliant, less vulnerable to oil price shocks and shortages and more resilient in the face of future economic downturns or Middle East turmoil. That sounds pretty American to me.  


America bullies Koreans

SOURCE: Koohan Paik (
SUBHEAD: US complicit in current abuse of Jeju islanders as well as massacre of 30,000 residents 64 years ago.  

By Ann Wright on 4 April 2012 for Op-Ed News -

Image above: Jeju island "rebels" awaiting execution in May 1948 for pushing Korean unification. From (
President Obama, like President Bush, has a penchant for identifying areas of the world for America's special attention. In the 2002 State of the Union message, Bush used the phrase "Axis of Evil" to signal where America's military might was to be focused in the next years. Afghans, Iraqis and Iranians know that bad things happen for areas of the world singled out for America's special attention.

On the peninsula where North Korea, Bush's other "Axis of Evil" country is located, Obama has declared the Asia-Pacific region as its special area of interest for the next decade and bad things are already happening.

Last week President Obama met in "democratic" South Korea to discuss "non-democratic" North Korea. Yet, while Obama was in South Korea, some very undemocratic actions were perpetrated on behalf of America's Pacific military strategy by members of the South Korean government toward South Korean citizens, and even American citizens.

These citizen activists have been protesting America's Missile Defense System and a provocative new naval base in South Korea for ships carrying the American Aegis missile that brings the American missile system very close to America's latest "enemy" -- China.

As governments and militaries are wont to do, just because they can, they choose beautiful areas in which to locate their bases -- and Jeju Island is no exception. Designated as a world heritage site with six unique biospheres, including endangered species of marine life and the world famous women free divers who harvest marine life, it is a tropical volcanic island, also known, ironically, as the Island of Peace.

 Despite its special natural beauty, Gureombi, the unique 1.2 kilometer-long basalt volcanic rock formed by lava flowing into the sea and rocks rising from the seabed, at the village of Gangjeong was selected to be blown up in order to build the naval base.

South Korean Activists Attempt to Stop Naval Base Construction
For five years, South Korean activists have been protesting the designation of Guroembi as the site of the new naval base. The South Korean police and military actions against their own citizens have gotten progressively heavy-handed and brutal. Hundreds have been arrested over the years including many Catholic priests and nuns who travel on peace flights from the mainland.

Last week, police broke arms of activists who had locked arms inside PCV pipes, beat up activists and threw them from kayaks.Today, on April 3 in Gangjeong, the citizen struggle against the construction of the base continued.

Nine Presbyterian pastors were arrested for breaking through the fence at the construction site in the early morning. The tent set up by 80 Catholic priests and nuns for their mass was demolished by police. A candlelight vigil was held in Jeju city on the 64th anniversary of the April 3 massacre in which 30,000 Jeju Island citizens were killed. Pastors are still engaged in a sit-in at the gate of the naval base site.

International Activists Deported from South Korea
As the South Korean government gets more fearful of the international publicity of their actions, they are deporting international activists and denying entry to South Korea to other activists.

Two weeks ago, three members of Veterans for Peace, Elliot Adams, Tarak Kauff and Mike Hastie were put back on airplanes that had brought them to South Korea. Kauff, who served in South Korea with the US Army, said, "I served in the Second Infantry Division in Korea defending the people from North Korea, I come back again to defend the people and now I am pushed off into a no-man's land."

Japanese activist Ryuji Yagi was denied entry on March 31. UK Trident Plowshares activist Angie Zelter was deported after being on Jeju Island for several days.

US Complicit in Massacre of 30,000 Jeju Island residents in past
The South Korean police crackdown on dissent against construction of the naval base on Jeju, which has never had a military base before, reminds residents of the island of the notorious government crackdown on dissent in 1948 when the South Korean military was sent by the US installed leader of the new country of South Korea, right-wing Syngman Rhee, to Jeju island to squash islanders who were demanding the reunification of Korea and who were objecting to the partition of Korea. In one year, the Seoul government's military and national police hunted down and murdered over 30,000 persons, nearly 15 percent of the island's population.

The U.S. was the occupying power during the systematic murder program, now known as the April 3 Massacre, and did nothing to stop the massacre. In 2005, Roh Moo-hyun, then South Korea's president, finally apologized for the South Korean government's massacre of the people of Jeju Island and designated Jeju as an "Island of World Peace."

Today, people of Jeju Island remember vividly America's complicity 64 years ago in the April 3, 1948 massacre as they again challenge U.S. latest military strategy of the Missile Defense System which is resulting in another massacre -- that of the natural wonders on their island.  

Boycott Samsung- Contractor that is Destroying the World Heritage Site
An International boycott campaign is developing against Samsung, the giant corporate conglomerate that is one of the major contractors destroying the Jeju ecosystems in order to build the naval base. An international call to pressure the London Summer Olympics to drop Samsung as a sponsor of the Olympic Games may become a major component of the boycott action. .

Navy Next-War-Itis

SOURCE: Koohan Paik (
SUBHEAD: A world in which stealth battleships attack from near shore under the cover of daylight.  

By David Sharp on 12 April 2012 in the Star Advertiser -  

Image above: Rendering of two-thirds of all Zumwalt class destroyers in a near shore battle. From article below.

[IB Editor's note: before publishing this article we poked around a little and found a quite contrary view of the glowing PR in the Star Advertiser piece extolling the forward looking technology of the Zumwalt Class Destroyer to be stationed in the Pacific. That does not necessarily mean in Hawaii. If it is to support littoral combat in Indochina they will likely be closer to their target - namely the navel base we are building in Jeju, South Korea or our expansion in Guam. If the Zumwalt represents the future it is a future that will surely and quickly be abandoned. Way too expensive and high-tech for its own good - just more boondoggle for General Dynamics Corp. See articles that follow.]

An enormous, expensive and technology-laden warship that some Navy leaders once tried to kill because of its cost is now viewed as an important part of the Obama administration's Asia-Pacific strategy, with advanced capabilities that the Navy's top officer says represent the Navy's future.

The stealthy, guided-missile Zumwalt that's taking shape at Bath Iron Works is the biggest destroyer ever built for the U.S. Navy.

The low-to-the-water warship will feature a wave-piercing hull, composite deckhouse, electric drive propulsion, advanced sonar, missiles, and powerful guns that fire rocket-propelled warheads as far as 100 miles. It's also longer and heavier than existing destroyers — but will have half the crew because of automated systems.

"With its stealth, incredibly capable sonar system, strike capability and lower manning requirements — this is our future," concluded Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chief of naval operations, who gave the warship his endorsement on a visit last week to Bath Iron Works, where the ships are being built.

It wasn't always this way.

The General Accounting Office expressed concerns that the Navy was trying to incorporate too much new technology. Some Navy officials pointed out that it's less capable than existing destroyers when it comes to missile defense, and a defense analyst warned that it would be vulnerable while operating close to shore for fire support.

Even its "tumblehome" hull was criticized as potentially unstable in certain situations.

The 600-foot-long ships are so big that the General Dynamics-owned shipyard spent $40 million to construct a 106-foot-tall building to assemble the giant hull segments.

And then there's the cost, roughly $3.8 billion apiece, according to the Navy's latest proposed budget.

Including research and development, the cost grows to $7 billion apiece, said Winslow Wheeler, director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Center for Defense Information in Washington.

Because of cost, the originally envisioned 32 ships dipped to 24 and then seven. Eventually, program was truncated to just three. The first, the Zumwalt, will be christened next year and delivered to the Navy in 2014.

But Greenert told reporters that the ship fits perfectly into the new emphasis on bolstering the U.S. military presence in the Pacific in response to Asia's growing economic importance and China's rise as a military power.

Greenert didn't go into detail on how the new ship could be used. But the Defense Department has expressed concerns that China is modernizing its Navy with a near-term goal of stopping or delaying U.S. intervention in a conflict involving Taiwan. China considers the self-governing island a renegade province.

Defense officials also see a potential flashpoint in the South China Sea, where China's territorial claims overlap with those of other countries including Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia.

The Zumwalt's new technology will allow the warship to deter and defeat aggression and to maintain operations in areas where an enemy seeks to deny access, both on the open ocean and in operations closer to shore, the Navy says.

Jay Korman, industry analyst with The Avascent Group, said the warship uses so much new technology that it's viewed by the Navy as a "silver bullet" answer to threats. The only problem is the cost.

"They were looking to introduce so many new technologies at once, and the cost ballooned," he said. "I don't think people have changed their minds that it's a capable ship. It's just too expensive."

Unlike another new ship entering the Navy's arsenal — the small and speedy "littoral combat ship" — the Zumwalt will be heavily armored and armed.

The Zumwalt's 155 mm deck guns (sporting depleted uranium rounds) were built to pound the shore with guided projectiles to pave the way for the Marines to arrive in landing craft, and they're far more cost-effective in certain situations than cruise missiles, said Eric Wertheim, author of the "Naval Institute's Guide to Combat Fleets of the World."

The smaller crew also represents a substantial cost savings, he added.

Down the road, the ship could one day be equipped with an electromagnetic railgun, a powerful weapon that uses a magnetic field and electric current to fire a projectile at several times the speed of sound.

Production will stop after three ships, and the Navy will go back to building tried-and-true Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, 510-foot-long ships featuring a versatile Aegis radar system that's being modified for ballistic missile defense. Even with modifications, the ships will cost far less than the Zumwalt-class ships.

For Bath's 5,400 workers, the Zumwalt has been both exciting and challenging, with a new design and new construction techniques. In the coming months, workers will take delivery of the composite deck house and helicopter hangar, which are being built at the Huntington Ingalls shipyard in Mississippi. Those will be placed on the Bath-built hull.

"If anybody can do it and do it successfully, then I'm confident that's us," said Jay Wadleigh, vice president of Local S6 of the Machinists Union in Bath.

Dead Aim or Dead End?  

By Staff on 9 April 2012 for Defense Industry Daily -  

The prime missions of the new DDG-1000 Zumwalt Class destroyer are to provide naval gunfire support, and next-generation air defense, in near-shore areas where other large ships hesitate to tread. There has even been talk of using it as an anchor for action groups of stealthy Littoral Combat Ships and submarines, owing to its design for very low radar, infrared, and acoustic signatures. The estimated 14,500t (battlecruiser size) Zumwalt Class will be fully multi-role, however, with undersea warfare, anti-ship, and long-range attack roles.

That makes the DDG-1000 suitable for another role – as a “hidden ace card,” using its overall stealth to create uncertainty for enemy forces. At over $3 billion per ship for construction alone, however, the program faced significant obstacles if it wanted to avoid fulfilling former Secretary of the Navy Donald Winter’s fears for the fleet.

From the outset, DID has noted that the Zumwalt Class might face the same fate as the ultra-sophisticated, ultra-expensive SSN-21 Seawolf Class submarines. That appears to have come true, with news of the program’s truncation to just 3 ships. Meanwhile, production continues. DID’s FOCUS Article for the DDG-1000 program covers the new ships’ capabilities and technologies, key controversies, associated contracts and costs, and related background resources:
Displaying 254 of 26,496 words (about 67 pages)

Navy sinks Zumwalt class... Kinda  

By Stephen Harper on 10 October 2012 for Jesus can Suck my Cock -  

In three words: "Build more Burkes" is how the American navy is going to save time and money. The Arleigh Burke-class destroyers are going into full production yet again with a new flight of improved vessels instead of the American Navy going the costly, flashy, high tech route with the hyped up Zumwalt Class (pictured) destroyer. Calling the Zuwalt class a "Destroyer" is also a pretty loose use of the classification system of warships as well. Concider this: the Zuwalt class is 40% larger than an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer which it was designed to replace.

And the Burke class is double the dimensions of a WWII era destroyer. The military needs to come up with a new classification for this ship, like "Heavy Destroyer" or "Enhanced Destroyer" or "Modern Destroyer"... or even "Enhanced Modern Heavy Destroyer".

We'll call it EMHD for short. Seriously though, the Zuwalt Class weighs in at 14,564 tons. The Burke class at 8,315 - 10,000 tons (for the new ones). The Fletcher class (a destroyer used everywhere in WWII) weighed 2,500 tons - fully loaded. A Iowa class battleship used in WWII tipped the scales at 52,000 tons on average.

With all this considered, a single Zuwalt class is closer today in terms of weight and firepower to a fucking WWII era battleship then a destroyer! While the $4 billion ships have been hailed as the most technologically-advanced, ever, there are valid questions about their financing and their current real world utility.

 This seems to make for a sound logical decision as well. What would you want with 10 billion of you're tax dollars: 2 Zumwalt Class destroyers without a clear cut mission, or 5 time tested and proved Arleigh Burke class destroyers? Well, the answer is clear. What was once a proposed 32-ship fleet of Zuwalts was reduced to a mere handful, seven.

Now the USS Zumwalt, USS Michael Monsoor, and one un-named but planned ship are the only vessels to be launched. The stability of the Zuwalt's hull design in heavy seas has been a matter of controversy due to it's new Tumblehome styled hull. Also the inshore naval bombardment of the Advanced Gun System fitted on the Zuwalt is of a concern also.

But to play Devil's advocate for a second, the Zuwalt's are bad-ass looking, futuristic death machines. Consider that the Zuwalt's radar signature are comparable to a fishing boat, and sound levels are compared to a (top of the line) Los Angeles-class submarine.

It also will feature a brand new radar system which is rumored to be the envy of navy's everywhere. It also has a brand new Advanced Gun System which fires 155mm rounds, when firing a missile isn't warranted.

Also automation will reduce crew size on these ships down to 140 personal - verses 275 (on average) on the Burke destroyers. But the Zuwalt has its supporters. The senators from Maine and Mississippi, where the ships are being built are all for the project getting the green light. And so is Pentagon acquisition chief John Young, who is a former Navy man.


Formula One or Freedom in Bahrain

SUBHEAD: "Our government is brutal and run by a greedy family, who cares only about power and money, not its people." By Dave Zirin on 9 April 2012 for The Nation - ( Image above: Aerial view of the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix track scheduled for race on 22 April 2012. From (

On April 22, the royal family of Bahrain is determined to stage its annual Formula 1 Grand Prix race. This might not sound like scintillating news, but whether the event goes off as planned is a question with major ramifications for the royal Khalifa family, as well as for the democracy movement in the gulf kingdom. It will also be viewed closely by the US State Department and human rights organizations across the globe. From a renowned prisoner on a two-month hunger strike to a British billionaire fascist sympathizer, the sides have been sharply drawn.

For the Bahraini royals, staging the Formula 1 race is a chance to show the people that normalcy has returned following last year’s massive pro-democracy protests. In 2011, the race was cancelled to the rage of the royals. Now, the royal family is hoping that the sixty people slaughtered by Bahraini and Saudi forces, as well as the thousands arrested and tortured, can be forgotten in the roar of the engines.

For those protesting in the name of expanded political and personal freedoms, the return of the F1 racing series as a slap in the face, given all they’ve suffered in the last year and continue to suffer today. Now the protest movement and human rights organizations are calling upon Bernie Ecclestone, the CEO of Formula 1 Grand Prix, to cancel the race.

Maryam al-Khawaja, head of the foreign relations office at the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, said:

The government promised changes last year but no changes have taken place because there is no incentive to make them. And tortures are still taking place. The government want the message to go out that it is business as usual. But today armored vehicles went into residential areas for the first time since last year’s martial law ended in June. I have heard reports of protesters being thrown from rooftops and others having legs broken. That it is why Formula One should make a stand and call this race off.

At a mass anti-F1 rally, Ali Mohammed commented to the AP, “We don’t want Formula [1] in our country. They are killing us every day with tear gas. They have no respect for human rights or democracy. Why would we keep silent? No one will enjoy the F1 in Bahrain with cries for freedom from the inside and outside of the race.”

Then there is prominent activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who has been on hunger strike for more than fifty days. Calls for his immediate release have merged with calls for the F1 cancellation. Protesters are described as holding al-Khawaja’s picture in one hand, and a “no to F1” sign in the other.

1996 F1 champion Damon Hill of the UK, who is now a commentator for Sky News also expressed his concern, saying, “It would be a bad state of affairs, and bad for Formula One, to be seen to be enforcing martial law in order to hold the race. That is not what this sport should be about. Looking at it today you’d have to say that [the race] could be creating more problems than it’s solving.”

One might think that all of this would pose a moral and ethical quandary for 81-year-old Formula 1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone. One would be wrong. The multi-billionaire Ecclestone, the fourth richest man in England, has done little more than roll his eyes. In February, when hundreds were arrested and tortured for protesting on the anniversary of the 2011 uprising, he was asked if the F1 race would be pulled. He said, “I expected there was going to be a big uprising today, with the anniversary. But I think what happened, apparently, was that here were a lot of kids having a go at the police. I don’t think it’s anything serious at all.”

In March, Ecclestone said of the plans for Bahrain, “It’s business as usual. I don’t think the people who are trying to demonstrate a little bit are going to use anything to do with F1. If they did they would be a little bit silly…. The good thing about Bahrain is it seems more democratic there than most places. People are allowed to speak when they want, they can protest if they want to.” There is no word as to what color the sky is in Ecclestone’s world or if at the conclusion of this interview, he released the hounds.

Not to shock anyone, but this 81-year-old British billionaire has in the past expressed sympathy for Adolf Hitler, and by “past” I mean 2009. During an interview in July of that year, Ecclestone said, “Apart from the fact that Hitler got taken away and persuaded to do things that I have no idea whether he wanted to do or not, he was in the way that he could command a lot of people able to get things done…. If you have a look at a democracy it hasn’t done a lot of good for many countries—including this one.”

This is an ugly twisted old brute, but say this for him: at least he commented when asked about Bahrain. That’s far more that we can say for President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. As Joshua Colangelo-Bryan, a consultant to Human Rights Watch, wrote, “President Obama…loses his voice when it comes to Bahrain.” This isn’t just oversight or happenstance. Bahrain happily houses the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, and has pledged to do so for another fifty years. It appears that this favor has bought silence and that’s exactly why we need to be loud. The call has gone out form inside of Bahrain to call upon Formula 1 to cancel this race. We should do our part.

Formula One Power Struggle By AP Staff on 5 April 2012 for the Washington Examiner - ( Image above: A child carried past a wall with protest poster depicting Bahrain's King Hamad in a F1 race car, and calling for a boycott of this year's grand prix. From original article. A year after an anti-government revolt forced Bahrain's rulers to cancel the kingdom's coveted Formula One race, the grand prix is again smack in the middle of a power struggle.

Protesters aiming to break the Sunni regime's grip on power have stepped up their campaign against the event — holding rallies across the island, plastering anti-Formula One posters on walls and criticizing the F1 chief and race drivers on social media websites.

The country's leadership is determined to stage the April 22 race as it seeks to show signs of stability nearly 14 months after the country's Shiite majority began a sustained uprising seeking a greater voice in the kingdom's affairs of the kingdom, which is home to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet.

But opposition supporters are equally determined to spoil the party and instead draw attention to their grievances.

"We don't want Formula One in our country," Ali Mohammed said during a recent rally against the Bahrain GP in the capital, Manama. "They are killing us every day with tear gas. They have no respect for human rights or democracy. Why would we keep silent?"

"No one will enjoy the F1 in Bahrain with cries for freedom from the inside and outside of the race," he added.

Human rights groups also have criticized the decision of the world racing body to reinstate the Bahrain race this year. Bahrain's Shiite majority is demanding more rights and opportunities, equal to the Sunni minority that rules Bahrain.

Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa owns the rights to grand prix and serves as commander of the armed forces. Although the F1 race is the island's premier international event, many Bahrainis see it as a vanity project of the rulers, who are behind the crackdown on dissent.

The race was canceled last year after the authorities imposed martial law and launched a punishing crackdown on dissent. At least 50 people have been killed and hundreds have been tried on anti-state charges in a special security court, including more than 100 athletes, coaches and sports officials. Dozens of those have been sentenced to prison terms, including a prominent human rights activist who is serving a life sentence for his role in the uprising.

The activist, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, has been on hunger strike for more than 50 days. Opposition supporters rally every day for his release, often carrying al-Khawaja's picture along with posters calling for the cancellation of the F1 race.

Human rights organizations have warned Bahraini authorities that al-Khawaja may die and appealed to those involved in the race to stay away.

"It is impossible to imagine that the Bahrain Grand Prix will go ahead if Abdulhadi al-Khawaja dies on hunger strike in prison," said Mary Lawlor, the Executive Director of Ireland-based rights organization Front Line Defenders. "The Bahraini authorities clearly want to present an image of business as usual but their seeming indifference to the plight of Abdulhadi risks tragic consequences."

In February, an opposition group that has been the driving force of the yearlong uprising warned the F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone against staging the Bahrain race "at a time when children are being killed in the streets." The grand prix's return to the Gulf kingdom will "imprint it with the image of death and human rights violations," the group said.

Race organizers, however, remain committed to staging next month's Bahrain GP, which has a worldwide TV audience of around 100 million in 187 countries. The annual race has been Bahrain's most profitable international event since 2004, when it became the first Arab country to stage the Grand Prix.

Last month, F1 world champions Sebastian Vettel and Michael Schumacher backed the decision to go ahead with the Bahrain GP despite opposition and almost daily street confrontations between security forces and opposition supporters.

Ecclestone also has dismissed the continued unrest and the opposition to the race saying "it's all nonsense," after lunching with the Bahrain International Circuit executives in London last week.

"Of course the race is going to happen. No worries at all," Ecclestone said.

Racing officials in the Gulf kingdom were glowing after Ecclestone's endorsement. The circuit's chief executive, Sheik Salman bin Isa Al-Khalifa, told The Associated Press that the F1 was a force of good, and that it will boost the country's battered economy and help the deeply divided communities of Shiites and Sunnis move toward reconciliation.

Many Bahrainis agree that the race will at least bring some sense of normality back to the U.S.-allied island nation that has been the Gulf's oasis of openness and modernity before Dubai became the region's boomtown.

"I would like very much to see the Formula One happening in Bahrain, not because I love the sport but because it will help the business," said Farooq Mohammed, a shop assistant in Manama's gold and jewelry market.

Raed Ali, an 18-year-old high school student said he admired the rulers for supporting the race.

"I love the F1 and I really want to go this year," Ali said. "It's become a national sport that our leaders love very much."

Protesters, meanwhile, urged international teams and auto racing fans not to reward the Gulf nation with their presence amid the Arab Spring's longest-running street clashes.

"Whoever will come to Bahrain for the F1 is not welcome," said Fatima Mohammed, a 19-year-old protester, who's been filming tear gas engulfed clashes between riot police and protesters. "Our government is brutal and run by a greedy family, who cares only about power and money, not its people."