Letters 11-23-2015

Cheering From Petoskey While red-eyed rats boil fanatically up from the ancient sewers of Paris to feast on pools of French blood, at the G20 meeting the farcical pied piper of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue thrusts a bony finger at the president of the Russian Federation and yells: “liberté, égalité, fraternité, Clinton, Kerry--Obamaism!”

The Other Mothers And Fathers Regarding the very nice recent article on “The First Lady of Yoga,” I have taken many classes with Sandy Carden, and I consider her to be a great teacher. However, I feel the article is remiss to not even give acknowledgement to other very important yoga influences in northern Michigan...

Drop The Blue Angels The last time I went to the National Cherry Festival, I picked the wrong day. The Blue Angels were forcing everyone to duck and cover from the earsplitting cacophony overhead...

Real Advice For The Sick In the Nov. 16 article “Flu Fighters,” author Kristi Kates fails to mention the most basic tool in our arsenal during Influenza season... the flu vaccine! I understand you might be afraid of being the victim of Jenny McCarthyism, but the science is there...

Keeping Traverse City in the Dark Our environment is our greatest asset. It sustains our lives; it drives our economy. We ignore it at our peril. Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council (NMEAC) has submitted letters of concern to both the city commission and planning commission regarding the proposed 9-story buildings on Pine Street. We have requested an independent environmental assessment with clear answers before a land use permit is granted...

All About Them Another cartoon by Jen Sorensen that brings out the truth! Most of her cartoons are too slanted in a Socialist manner, but when she gets it correct, she hits the nail on the target! “Arizona is the first state to put a 12-month lifetime limit on welfare benefits.” That quote is in the opening panel... 

Unfair To County Employees It appears that the commissioners of Grand Traverse County will seek to remedy a shortfall in the 2016 budget by instituting cuts in expenditures, the most notable the reduction of contributions to various insurance benefits in place for county employees. As one example, the county’s contributions to health insurance premiums will decrease from ten to six percent in 2016. What this means, of course, is that if a county employee wishes to maintain coverage at the current level next year, the employee will have to come up with the difference...

Up, Not Out I would like to congratulate the Traverse City Planning Commission on their decision to approve the River West development. Traverse City will either grow up or grow out. For countless reasons, up is better than out. Or do we enjoy such things as traffic congestion and replacing wooded hillsides with hideous spectacles like the one behind Tom’s West Bay. At least that one is on the edge of town as opposed to in the formerly beautiful rolling meadows of Acme Township...

Lessons In Winning War I am saddened to hear the response of so many of legislators tasked with keeping our country safe. I listen and wonder if they know what “winning” this kind of conflict requires or even means? Did we win in Korea? Did we win in Vietnam? Are we winning in Afghanistan? How is Israel winning against the Palestinians? Will they “take out” Hezbollah...

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Rare Earths

A.T. Jakeway - September 20th, 2011  
Our technological vulnerability

Remember this poem from your school days? “For the want of a nail, a shoe was lost/ For the want of a shoe, a horse was lost/ For the want of a horse, a rider was lost/ For the want of a rider, a message was lost/ For the want of a message, a battle was lost/ For the want of a battle, a country was lost/ For the want of a nail.”

This situation has been repeated again and again and is still happening.

In World War II with the German steel factories turning out weapons for the Nazi forces, an insurance specialist was called in by the Allies to identify the weak link in the German military production. The simple solution was this: German steel manufacturing demanded sulfuric acid. The source was a single plant in southern Germany and the acid was produced in ceramic vats. All that was needed was for a spy saboteur to take a hammer to the acid vats and break them. This was done and German steel production was set back for months until new ceramic vats could be made.

During the Vietnam War when the primary infantry weapon was the M16 rifle, the ammunition was produced in one factory in East Alton, Illinois. As the story goes, one day a carpenter moved an electrician’s cable. Carpenters weren’t supposed to touch electricians’ stuff, and there was a strike that shut down the production of the M16 ammunition. In a short time the troops in Vietnam were running out of ammunition, and the government had to see that a couple more factories were contracted to make more ammunition, even after the strike ended, all because of a minor labor dispute.

I learned that only one company in the country made brushes for electric motors, If they went out of production that would stop all companies from building electric motors.


Today, because of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, a key ingredient for U.S. auto production is no longer available. It is pigment for the paint used in auto production. That is the weak link.

More sinister is this one: five state-of-the art foundries were built in Spain for the man ufacture of windmills to generate electricity.

You may have seen some of those massive constructions. They are as tall as 300 feet, like a 30-story building, but the key part is the generator that makes the electricity. It’s a small unit, but the construction of the generators requires rare earth.

Rare earths are mineral substances that are hard to find with names like Yttrium, Praseodymium, Samerium, Europium, Erbium and Promethium. Many are used for the construction of lasers (Dysprosium, Holmium, Erbium, Ytterbium, etc.). Need a nuclear battery? Then you’ll need the rare earth Promethium to build one. Aerospace aluminum, rare earth magnets, vanadium steel and many other technologically-advanced materials and products all rely on rare earths (ie., Scandium Dysprosium, Erbium).

In the case of Spain’s windmill generators, the one mine in America that produced the rare earth needed for a key part was closed because a Chinese source was more plentiful. Ah, but the Chinese also build windmills and they have announced that they are curtailing export of the essential rare earths. As a result, the five Spanish foundries are closed down, and China is on the way to cornering the world windmill production.


The United States did something similar to Germans in the days of the Hindenberg and other lighter-than-air ships of the 1930s. The U.S. is the world’s source for helium and would not sell it to the technologically-advanced Germans, so they were forced to substitute flammable hydrogen for their dirigibles. Result: poof! The fiery crash of the Hindenberg at Lakehurst, New Jersey in 1937 was the death knell for airships. That was in spite of a flawless record of the Graf Zeppelin in making more than 70 trips from Germany to South America.

The future of an industry -- even of a country -- can depend on a single vulnerable element, even if it is as simple as a horseshoe nail. For the want of a nail.

Visit the web site www.hu.mtu.edu/ ~hlsachs where you can listen to two stories, read a third, read reviews, and fi nd links to the publishers of my books.

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