A Titanium Ball falls from a Failed Satellite Launch atop a Soyuz-2 Rocket and Plummets through Man’s Roof

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 31st, 2011

Week in Review

Man escapes death from being struck with by a piece of living history (see Man Miraculously Saves His Life As Satellite Fragment Crashes Into His House by Jesus Diaz posted 12/25/2011 on Gizmodo).

Andrei Krivorukov got a wonderful Christmas gift: his very own life. He saved it after a titanium ball from a Russian communication satellite crashed right into his house, escaping death by just a few feet.

The Russian satellite was a Meridian, which is used for civilian and military communications. It was destroyed when a Soyuz-2 rocket exploded in midair, just a few minutes after its launch from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome—a Russian spaceport, located 500 miles north of Moscow…

It’s a weird accident not only because of this Christmas miracle: the Soyuz has an excellent track record. It’s a tried-and-true vehicle with hundreds of successful missions since the 1960s, when it was designed by OKB-1 and manufactured at State Aviation Plant No. 1 in Samara, Russia. Its first flight was in 1966. The variant that launched today only has had one failure and one partial failure.

The Soyuz is tried and true.  From the days of putting the first man into space to shuttling people and supplies to the orbiting International Space Station.  It’s a true workhorse of the space program.  And the only one.  For the American Space Shuttle Program is now retired.  And it was shorter lived, more costly and suffered more failures than the Soyuz.  Never being able to live up to its initial design.  Not only to make space travel cheap but profitable.  Something it never did.  Being one of the most costly space systems of all time.

Yes, the Shuttle could retrieve satellites from space.  Something the Soyuz couldn’t do.  But it came at a cost.  And by cost I mean a big, heaping price tag.  It would have been cheaper and more cost effective to have continued with disposable booster systems.  Like the Soviets did.  And the Russians still are.  Sending new satellites in orbit to replace broken ones instead of trying to fix them.

Yes, the Shuttle was a magnificent piece of engineering.  But here we are.  Over 40 years have passed since Neil Armstrong first stepped onto the moon and we are still locked in Earth’s orbit.  One wonders where we might have gone had we not poured so much money into Space Shuttle.

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The Iranians threaten to hold the World’s Economy to Ransom by Sealing the Strait of Hormuz

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 31st, 2011

Week in Review

Iran is flexing their muscles in the Persian Gulf region.  Because America helped give them the elbow room to flex their muscles (see Iran to test-fire missiles escalating Strait of Hormuz tensions with US by Adrian Blomfield posted 12/30/2011 on The Telegraph).

Iran will escalate tensions in the Persian Gulf on Saturday by test-firing a barrage of long-range missiles just days after it threatened to hold the world’s economy to ransom by sealing the Strait of Hormuz, a vital energy waterway…

A ten-day naval exercise will culminate in a grandiose display of the Iranian regime’s ballistic arsenal. Senior navy officers boasted that ground-to-sea, surface-to-surface and surface-to-air missiles, some of which could theoretically be fitted with nuclear warheads, would be tested in the Gulf of Oman at the southern end of the Persian Gulf…

With the situation fast deteriorating, the United States announced on Thursday night that it had completed a deal to sell Saudi Arabia 84 F-15SA fighter jets.

Although the aircraft will not be delivered until 2015, the sale will be seen as evidence of Washington’s determination to shore up its Gulf allies, which are increasingly fretful about Iran’s growing military swagger.

Iran hates Israel.  And America.  They support Hezbollah and Hamas who both wish the destruction of Israel.  Our Gulf allies are worried about the rise of Iran in the area.  Even the ones who aren’t all that fond of Israel.  For an Israel they can tolerate.  But an ascendant Iran they cannot.

Al Qaeda funding for 9/11 came from the Wahhabi region of Saudi Arabia.  The Saudis, however, were reluctant to suppress this funding during the subsequent War on Terror.  For the Saudi royal family was right next to the Americans on the Wahhabi list of things they hate with a white hot burning passion.  If they cracked down on the Wahhabi they could very well start a civil war.  So their reluctance is understandable.  But with the American invasion of Iraq and the prospect of an American failure and an Iranian win, the Saudis quickly changed their minds.  And risked the civil war to prevent the worse evil.  An ascendant Iran.  And put a serious dent into al Qaeda funding.  The good friend and ally that the Saudis are.  Just like Hosni Mubarak was in Egypt.

When the American president told Hosni Mubarak that he had to leave power this did not go over well with our Saudi friends.  And rightly so.  Egypt, like them, helped to maintain peace in the region.  And they were united in their opposition to Iran.  The Saudis didn’t see an Arab Spring.  They saw an Islamist Spring.  With an ascendant Iran.  First the border between Egypt and Hamas-controlled Gaza was thrown open.  And then the Islamist parties showed well in their recent elections.  Good for Iran.  But not good for the United States or its allies in the region.  Hence the sale of the F-15s to the Saudis.

Now Iran is working on a nuclear capability.  The U.S. pulled out of Iraq for what some say were political reasons to shore up the president’s base in the coming 2012 election.  And now the Iranians are holding maneuvers and testing missiles that all can be put to use to “hold the world’s economy to ransom by sealing the Strait of Hormuz.”

American troops will probably then have to return to the Gulf.  And this time it will be blood for oil.  To prevent the second Great Depression.  Which it will be if the Iranians shut off that oil to the world’s economy.

Let’s hope America’s next president does a better job when it comes to foreign policy and American security.

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The Free Market Economy gives us Great Televisions while Obamacare will give us Poor Health Care

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 31st, 2011

Week in Review

The free market economy is giving us tremendous value in televisions.  Pity there are no market forces in our health care (see TV Prices Fall, Squeezing Most Makers and Sellers by ANDREW MARTIN, New York Times, posted 12/27/2011 on Yahoo! Finance).

Televisions have become so inexpensive that the profits have largely been squeezed out of them, a result of a huge increase in manufacturing capacity that has led to an oversupply and continued downward pressure on prices from low-cost manufacturers and online retailers…

To help reduce costs, manufacturers invested heavily in sophisticated new factories or retrofitted old ones that were capable of cranking out more televisions at lower cost. The problem is that the factories became operational about the time the recession hit, creating a glut of televisions and forcing prices down.

This is an excellent example of the role of prices in the free market economy.  Before the Great Recession these televisions were in high demand.  Prices were high.  So suppliers rushed to bring more to market.  With more features and better quality to outsell their competition.  As they did prices fell.  And kept falling.  Because supply grew so great that it surpassed demand.  So these televisions are now selling near cost.  Giving consumers incredible value.

These are market forces.  Providing state of the art quality at incredibly low prices.  Something government just can’t do.  And yet some are asking that government take over our health care system.  If they do, if Obamacare isn’t repealed, our health care won’t be anything like state of the art televisions.  It’ll just consume so much of our GDP that state of the art television will be unaffordable no matter how cheap they are.  Because there are no free market forces in state-run anything.

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Scotland’s Pollution exceeds European Air Pollution Targets

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 31st, 2011

Week in Review

Fine single malt isn’t the only thing Scotland is making these days (see City pollution ‘at danger levels’ in Scotland posted 12/26/2011 on the BBC News Scotland).

Dr Dan Barlow, head of policy at WWF Scotland, said: “It is totally unacceptable that Scotland has breached European air pollution targets for the second year in a row…

“This situation is a direct result of the failure of successive governments to produce a sensible strategy that adequately addresses air pollution and climate emissions from road traffic.”

The Scottish government said it had set out a vision to make the country’s roads as efficient as possible in its Infrastructure Investment Plan, while work was also under way to develop low carbon vehicle technology, promote “active travel choices” and encourage a shift towards public transport.

Perhaps the Scots know that all that global warming nonsense coming out of the University East Anglia was just that.  Nonsense.  And that it was just a way for big governments everywhere to strangle industrial economies.  By increasing the cost of business with low-carbon regulations.  And taxing them with carbon fees.  Which, incidentally, just also happens to help plug those nasty budget deficits that are all the rage in Europe these days.

Air pollution?  You know, about a hundred years ago their cities were thick with smoke and soot from steam engines burning coal.  And here we are.  Still alive.  And the glaciers are still there.  If the pollution from the Industrial Revolution didn’t kill us it’s likely no pollution can.  Besides, if the pollution was so bad would their single malt scotch still be so good?

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High Sin Taxes on Alcohol causes Death and Blindness from Drinking Fake Vodka

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 31st, 2011

Week in Review

Britain’s tax policy on alcohol is killing poor people (see Fake vodka warning issued by council trading standard teams posted 12/30/2011 on BBC News UK).

Fake vodka recently seized had high levels of methanol, which can cause blindness, and industrial solvents…

The Local Government Association in England and Wales said fake vodka could cause death…

Mr Bettison went on: “Everyone wants a bargain, especially at this time of year, but surely the potential health risks far outweigh any financial savings. Purchasing it also does nothing to help legitimate businesses stay afloat.

Buying ‘bargain’ alcohol is not fair to legitimate businesses because legitimate businesses have to charge all those sin taxes that their customers ultimately have to pay.

Sin taxes punish the poor.  Either by leaving them poorer.  Or by killing them when they drink a ‘bargain’ vodka brand they can more readily afford.

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England is Raising Taxes on Alcohol to pay for out of control NHS Costs

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 31st, 2011

Week in Review

Sin is great.  For government.  Because they get to tax it (see David Cameron plans minimum alcohol price in England by Robert Winnett, and Rowena Mason posted 12/27/2011 on The Telegraph).

The Prime Minister has ordered officials to develop a scheme in England to stop the sale of alcohol at below 40p to 50p a unit in shops and supermarkets.

Ministers could copy Scottish proposals, which would ban the sale of alcohol below 45p a unit, or bring in a more sophisticated system of taxes based on the number of alcohol units contained in the drink.

Both options would cost drinkers an estimated extra £700 million a year, with any extra tax revenue potentially going to the NHS…

A recent official study found that setting a minimum price of 30p per unit would prevent 300 deaths a year, 40p about 1,000 deaths, and 50p more than 2,000 premature deaths…

Figures published earlier this month showed that twice as many people were being treated in hospital because of alcohol misuse compared with 10 years ago.

Alcohol is linked to more than one million admissions to hospital each year, about 13,000 new cases of cancer and one in four deaths of people aged 15 to 24.

This is the problem when other people pay for your health care.  Your personal life becomes other people’s business.  Because they’re paying your way.  With higher taxes.  In this case, higher sin taxes.

If this is all about the cost then they should look at this from a more pragmatic point of view.  And cut taxes.  For according to their studies this will kill thousands of people prematurely.  Before they can become a burden on the National Health Service (NHS).

Of course, they won’t.  Because it’s not about preventing deaths or keeping people out of hospital.  It’s about the tax revenue.  And out of control NHS costs.  Which no amount of sobriety can fix.

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