More Delicious Finely Textured Beef, Please

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 1st, 2012

Week in Review

There’s a lot of talk today about ‘pink slime’.  That hamburger filler made by less choice parts of the cow.  And treated with ammonia hydroxide gas.  To make it healthier for human consumption.  McDonald’s stopped using it about a year ago.  But they still use it in our public schools.  Because it’s perfectly okay to feed to our kids.  To help prove this point one of the plants that make this stuff invited some state governors to look at the process (see “Pink slime” producer allows tour of plant to bolster image by Andrew Stern posted 3/30/2012 on Reuters).

First, a conveyer belt brought in scraps left over from a plant next door that produces steaks, roasts and other cuts of meat. The scraps were heated to around 100 degrees Fahrenheit to facilitate separation of the fat, then dumped into a huge meat grinder to pull out fat, cartilage, bone and connective tissue.

A centrifuge spinning 3,000 times a minute continued the separation process. Inside a third machine the material was treated with ammonia hydroxide gas to eliminate bacteria.

The treated bits of meat were moved into large roller-presses inside drums up to 14 feet tall, which flattened the meat and froze it down to 15 degrees, which lightened its color. The meat was pried out of the drums, then put in a grinder that churned out 60-pound bricks that were packaged individually for shipment…

Meat producers have predicted hamburger prices will rise as the spring grilling season begins because they will no longer be able to use the cheap filler to mix with the higher quality cuts of beef.

Mmm.  Just like Mom made.  I mean, just what’s so bad about this?  It’s not like they’re leaving the fat, cartilage, bone and connective tissue in the product.  And what fine cooking doesn’t include a centrifuge?  And ammonia hydroxide gas?  I’m sure Mom had that in her spice rack.  Right next to the fennel.

That should clear things up.  Delicious food.  The way it should be.  Shaped like a brick.  Yum.  The next thing you know people everywhere will be saying, “More finely textured beef, please.”

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According to a New Study only when Women Satisfy their Sexual Desires can they Earn Higher Wages

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 1st, 2012

Week in Review

Apparently women need sex just as much as men say they do.  At least according to a new study showing a direct link between a woman’s earnings potential with the amount of sex she is able to have.  That is, birth control pills have been responsible for closing the income gap between men and women (see Birth-control pill access contributed to women’s wage increases, study says by Elizabeth Flock posted 3/30/2012 on The Washington Post).

New research has found that the early availability of the birth control pill is responsible for about a third of women’s wage increases relative to men since the 1960’s, Live Science reports…

“As the pill provided younger women the expectation of greater control over childbearing, women invested more in their human capital and careers,” study researcher and University of Michigan economist Martha Bailey said in a statement, according to Live Science.

Using data from a longitudinal study of women, Bailey and her colleagues found that there was a crucial difference for women who lived in states where women could get the pill without parental permission at age 18, and states where the age was 21.

Women in early-access states, researchers said, no longer had to choose at 18 between investing in their career or investing in a husband. They could do both, without the fear of pregnancy…

By the 1980s and 90s, the women who had early access to the pill were making 8 percent more each year than those who didn’t, according to the study.

And they say men have too much sex on the mind.  So the only thing that had been holding women back all these years from higher earnings was their out of control sex drive?  Interesting.  A sex drive that was so intense that before birth control pills the only choice a woman had was to get married and start having babies to satisfy her burning sexual desires.  But the birth control pill freed her from that.  Now she could do both.  Have a career.  And satiate that all but insatiable sexual appetite of hers.  By having lots of sex.  Without the “fear of pregnancy.”  At least, according to this study.

Really?  By that logic then only men who were getting regular sex have ever earned a decent living.  Funny, as I’ve worked with a lot of men who weren’t getting any.  Nerds.  Geeks.  The beautiful only on the inside.  The short, balding fat guys.  These guys weren’t tearing it up every weekend.  No.  They played video games.  Read comic books.  Went to topless bars.  Or watched Internet porn.  The kinds of things that make women say, “Eew.”  The same women these guys hoped to date.  But never did.  So, no, these guys weren’t getting any.  Yet they were making a pretty decent living.

Women can do, and have done, what these guys have done.  Not have sex.  And still have productive careers.  So I’m not buying that degrading conclusion that women are slaves to their sexual desires.  And can only earn a decent living when they can have on-demand sex.  Perhaps a more reasonable explanation for the shrinking of the earning disparity is this.  Women began earning more when they were forced to work longer before starting their families.  Because of the high cost of raising a family.  And were forced back to work soon after having children because of the need for two incomes to raise a family.  It fits the data.  For LBJ’s Great Society increased taxes greatly in the Seventies.  And the inflation of the Seventies made everything cost more.  Making paychecks not buy as much as they once did.  Hence the need for two incomes to raise a family.  Which has kept women in the workforce longer than they wished.  To afford the families they wanted to raise.  And because they worked longer they began to earn more.

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The Private Sector is Investing in Natural Gas because there’s a Real Market for it unlike Solar and Wind

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 1st, 2012

Week in Review

The environmentalists have finally got something they wanted.  Private businesses choosing a cleaner fuel because they want to.  Not because they were forced to.  Or because they were bribed to.  But because these greedy little bastards can make more money by going green.  They hate the profit motive.  But at least these profits come with a cleaner environment.  You’d think they’d be happy.  But, of course, they’re not.  Because for this cleaner world they’d have to accept something they just hate too much (see Natural-Gas Vehicles Will Run Best Without Subsidies by the Editors posted 3/29/2012 on Bloomberg).

Few areas of American governance have been as incoherent in recent decades as energy policy, which is saying something. But lately, we keep seeing reasons for optimism.

Almost miraculously, the U.S. is both reducing its greenhouse-gas emissions and becoming increasingly energy independent. As Bloomberg News recently reported, the share of U.S. energy demand met by domestic sources increased to 81 percent through the first 10 months of 2011 — the highest level in 20 years — and emissions are expected to decline 12 percent by 2020.

A major factor in both trends is increased use of natural gas, a cleaner-burning fossil fuel now being extracted in abundance across the country. Hydraulic fracturing, a new production technology also known as fracking, has helped push prices for the fuel to a decade low, and has created plenty of jobs in the process…

Natural gas has many advantages — which is exactly why the industry doesn’t need more government help.

Proponents of federal aid argue that the costs of switching to natural gas on a large scale are prohibitive for trucking companies and consumers. But as Bloomberg News has reported, trucking companies are already buying more long-haul natural-gas trucks simply because the fuel is so cheap. Annual savings over diesel can add up to $20,000 for a single truck — so a company can recoup the extra cost of the new technology in about two years…

To meet increased demand, companies are building infrastructure on their own: Clean Energy Fuels Corp., which provides natural gas fuel for transportation, plans to build 70 liquefied natural-gas stations by the end of the year. General Electric Co. and Chesapeake Energy Corp. have formed an alliance to help make compressed natural gas available at more filling stations. Honda plans to install fueling stations at some of its dealerships. Fleets of taxis, trucks and buses across the country are using the fuel in growing numbers.

In other words, market forces are working. It’s not yet clear what will be the most efficient means to get natural gas to power vehicles — many options are on the table — but the private sector is the best place to experiment. Billions of dollars in government subsidies will only further distort the energy sector, threaten to create another industry reliant on Washington’s largesse and drive up prices by artificially boosting demand.

No trucking firms are buying any electric long-haul trucks and installing recharging stations across the country.  For that would be too costly.  And waste too much time.  But time is money for a trucker.  They don’t have time to wait for a battery to recharge every time they need to’re-fuel’.  That’s why they stick to fossil fuels.  Even the change to a cleaner and cheaper fuel is still a change to fossil fuel.  Because there’s no other fuel source outside of science fiction that can do what fossil fuels can do.

Because there is a market for natural gas-powered trucks the private sector is providing the infrastructure for it.  Without any ‘Solyndra’ subsidies or loan guarantees.  There’s money to make so private capital is flowing to where it needs to be to make this a reality.  Without any help from the government.  The way it should be in a free market economy.

This is everything the Obama administration could ask for.  Less fuel emissions.  Less dependence on foreign oil.  And they don’t have to use the power of government to make anyone adopt this technology.  There’s no downside.  Except, of course, the environmentalists.  Who hate hydraulic fracturing.  AKA fracking.  (And basically any fossil fuel in general.)  They say it contaminates the ground water.  So they don’t want it.  Just as they don’t want oil.  Or coal.  Or nuclear.  Or hydroelectric power.  Which basically leaves out every way to generate electricity except solar and wind.  Which can’t come close to producing the amount of electricity the other sources of electricity-generation can.  Which will be a big problem for the environmentalists.  Who want everyone to drive an emissions-free electric car.  Cars that will be very difficult to charge if the environmentalists don’t let us produce any electricity.  And the only things that’ll let us do this are the fossil fuels.  Or hydroelectric power.

There’s no pleasing some people.  Unless we all go back to the horse and buggy days.  Maybe that would make the environmentalists happy.  Having the air thick with horse manure.  With our streets covered in horse poop, pee and swarms of flies.  Maybe that would make them happy.  As it would all be natural.  Then again, this may be a problem with PETA.  Who would rather have the pollution if the alternative meant violating animal rights.  Which we would be violating if we enslaved horses to work for us.

You know who’s not having silly debates like this?  Brazil.  Russia.  India.  China.  And South Africa.  The BRICS emerging economies.  And the reason why they’re emerging and we’re wallowing in recession is that they don’t let their environmentalists sit at the big table with the grownups. 

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Chevys and Jeeps appear to be Catching on Fire while being Driven

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 1st, 2012

Week in Review

More cars are catching on fire.  What these car companies need is more government help.  Active government intervention to help make their cars safer.  Like we know GM and Chrysler cars will now be.  Thanks to the caring and profit-less motives of our kind and loving government.  So exactly whose cars are catching on fire (see Fires in Chevrolet Cruzes, Jeep Wranglers spark probe by feds by Jerry Hirsch posted 4/1/2012 on the Los Angeles Times)?

Federal safety regulators have launched an investigation into the cause of fires in the Chevrolet Cruze, General Motors’ bestselling passenger car.

According to complaints made with the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, there have been at least two incidents in which the small sedan has caught fire while being driven.  GM said it is researching warranty claims involving fires for at least 19 Cruzes…

The NHTSA launched the Cruze probe only two months after closing a similar investigation into fires that broke out following safety tests of the Chevrolet Volt, GM’s plug-in hybrid vehicle.  GM fixed the problem by adding structural reinforcement that better protects the Volt’s battery pack from punctures or a coolant leak in a severe side crash…

In one incident, a driver said they had a 2011 Cruze Eco – a model with a special factory-installed set of options that increases the sedan’s fuel economy – with about 11,000 miles on the odometer.

The driver complained of a slight smoke smell while driving and brought the vehicle to a stop.  A flame appeared out of the hood and the car was completely engulfed within five minutes. It was only after the first flames appeared that a warning light appeared on the dashboard…

The agency also has received eight reports alleging fires originating in the engine compartment of the 2010 model year Jeep Wrangler vehicles.

Seven of the 8 complainants allege the fire or symptoms of the impending fire began while driving.

Oh.  The cars are from the companies the government bailed out.  The ones with the caring and profit-less motives of our kind and loving government.

These numbers of cars catching fire are almost statistically insignificant.  Unless, of course, it was your car catching on fire.  And you were driving it at the time.  It doesn’t change anything statistically.  But it does change the significance of it.

I guess this is what we should expect now that the government has taken an active part in these companies since bailing them out of bankruptcy.  This may have nothing to do with these fires.  Though it is interesting that so far there haven’t been any Fords catching on fire.  And if you recall, the government didn’t bail out Ford.  So their management is still government-free.

If it’s not the government’s fault there’s still one thing you can say, though.  The government hasn’t made these cars safer than the ones built by the companies that didn’t receive any bailout help.  At least based on the cars that are catching on fire.  So government doesn’t automatically make things better.  While there’s even a case to be made that they make things worse.  Again, based on the cars catching fire.

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Study finds Ugly Guys and Beautiful Women discriminated against in Getting Job Interviews

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 1st, 2012

Week in Review

Here’s an interesting study.  One to give you pause the next time you don’t get called for a job interview (see Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful posted 3/31/2012 on The Economist).

Bradley Ruffle at Ben-Gurion University and Ze’ev Shtudiner at Ariel University Centre looked at what happens when job hunters include photos with their curricula vitae, as is the norm in much of Europe and Asia. The pair sent fictional applications to over 2,500 real-life vacancies. For each job, they sent two very similar résumés, one with a photo, one without. Subjects had previously been graded for their attractiveness.

For men, the results were as expected. Hunks were more likely to be called for an interview if they included a photo. Ugly men were better off not including one. However, for women this was reversed. Attractive females were less likely to be offered an interview if they included a mugshot. When applying directly to a company (rather than through an agency) an attractive woman would need to send out 11 CVs on average before getting an interview; an equally qualified plain one just seven.

Fascinating.  Handsome men get interviews more often than beautiful women.  So what’s the common link that made this happen?  What, or who, discriminates against ugly guys AND beautiful women?  Are handsome men smarter than ugly guys as well as beautiful women?  No, I don’t think so.  For history is strewn with ugly guys that were brilliant.  Abraham Lincoln was a brilliant man.  Yet even he thought he was an ugly man.  Estée Lauder was a beautiful woman as well as a brilliant entrepreneur.  So, no, that theory appears not to hold much water.  So what could the source of this discrimination be?

So the cause of the discrimination must lie elsewhere. Human resources departments tend to be staffed mostly by women. Indeed, in the Israeli study, 93% of those tasked with selecting whom to invite for an interview were female. The researchers’ unavoidable—and unpalatable—conclusion is that old-fashioned jealousy led the women to discriminate against pretty candidates.

Ah, mystery solved.  It’s just old-fashioned jealousy.   Woman wanted to make things easier in the hiring process for the handsome man.  And more difficult for the beautiful woman.  For whatever reason.  Though we can guess.

Women may help men they are attracted to.  And they may not want to bring attractive women into the workplace.  Seeing them as competition.  Either for those handsome men.  Or in career advancement.  What G.L. Staines, T.E. Jayaratne, and C. Tavris called the queen bee syndrome.   Where a woman enjoys her advancement in the company.  But wants to be the only woman to advance in the company. 

Whatever the reason what is really interesting is that it’s women discriminating against women.  Something I’m sure the feminists probably never saw coming.  And something you’d love to hear them explain.  For only men were supposed to act this way.  And it turns our women can be just as human as men are.  Unfair decisions and all.

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Poor Quality Standards uncovered in the NHS a Glimpse into Obamacare?

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 1st, 2012

Week in Review

Do you want to know what Obamacare will be like when they fully implement it?  Yes?  Well, then, I give you the UK’s National Health Service (NHS).  Only it won’t be as good as the NHS.  For the United States has far more patients than the UK does.  But even with fewer patients than the US the NHS bureaucracy is still cold, detached and, at times, deadly (see Health regulator ‘gagged own staff against speaking of failures’ by Rebecca Smith posted 3/30/2012 on The Telegraph).

The Care Quality Commission has been criticised for failing to act on concerns of residents being abused by care home staff and reducing the number of inspections to focus on registering organisations instead, a report said.

One of the key ways that poor standards of care in residential homes and hospitals come to light is through staff blowing the whistle yet the CQC shut down a dedicated hotline, the Public Accounts Committee said.

At the same time the CQC gagged its own staff when they tried to raise concerns about the Commission’s work, it said.

One board member told MPs she had tired [sic]to speak publicly about her concerns over the way the CQC was run but had been “ostracised and vilified”.

The report did not name the board member but it is understood to be Kay Sheldon, a psychiatrist, who gave private evidence to the Mid-Staffordshire Inquiry, into dozens of deaths of patients amid appalling standards of care.

Whistleblower hotline?  Gag orders?  Ostracized?  Vilified?  Patient deaths?  Appalling standards?  These are not the things they led us to believe would happen under Obamacare.  But they have them in the NHS.  Which is full of excellent doctors, nurses and caregivers.  So we can expect them in Obamacare.  And far more of them.  Because Obamacare will have far more patients than the NHS.  And it’s not because ‘bad’ people are sneaking into a national health care system.  It’s just the nature of a great bureaucratic beast.  That must spread diminishing limited resources to an expanding and aging patient base.  That turns health care into a game of numbers.  Accounting entries.  Even in the area of quality control.

The CQC has been ‘struggling for some time’, the report said, and the Department of Health is ‘only now’ starting to take action…

The CQC was formed in 2009 under a Labour government led by Gordon Brown, taking over regulation of healthcare, social care and mental health services.

Reports from the Health Select Committee, the Department of Health and the National Audit Office have all been critical of the Commission.

The PAC report said it has been ‘poorly governed and led’ and ‘we have serious concerns about the leadership, governance and culture of the Commission’.

Cynthia Bower, chief executive of the Care Quality Commission, resigned last month from the £195,000 a year post as a review by the Department of Health found widespread failures including a lack of evidence it protected patients, it was too reactive and inspectors missed neglect of care home residents.

Lady Barbara Young who was chairman when the organisation was set up in 2009, left after the Basildon hospital scandal in which dozens of patients were thought to have died despite the hospital receiving a ‘good’ rating from the Commission.

Government does not make things better.  No matter how ‘smarter’ government bureaucrats are than everyone else.  For that’s the belief of politicians and government bureaucrats.  That the world would be a better place if these ‘smart’ people took control.  And that includes health care.  So they can give large salaries (based on the current exchange rate that £195,000 comes to $312,195 US) to their likeminded friends.  Who can put all of their enlightened ideas into practice.  And what happens after they start running things?  Continued patient neglect.  And more patient deaths.  Despite all of their good intentions.

Mrs Hodge said: “The CQC completed less than half its target number of inspections. That is a serious failure that lets down patients and users of care services who rely on the CQC to protect them from poor or unsafe care.”

The Commission now has to register all 10,000 GP practices in England by April next year and the process has been simplified to an online application form in which partners will declare if they meet 16 pre-set standards including cleanliness, medicines management, patient consent, complaints and record keeping.

In pilots a quarter of GPs said they did not meet all the standards.

The report said: “We are concerned, however, that the Commission will simply be a ‘postbox’ for self-certified applications and that the process will not be sufficiently robust to give the public meaningful assurance that registered GP practices are meeting the essential standards.”

Bureaucrats love paperwork.  The more the merrier.  Put it online and they’re in paperwork nirvana.  Because they never have to leave their offices.  They never have to work late.  They never have to travel to these disgusting health care facilities (where they neglect patients and cause many to die).   Out of sight out of mind.  Ergo their system works.  Thanks to the honor system.  And as long as bad care providers identify themselves to the regulators so the regulators can quickly and efficiently complete paperwork addressing the situation.  And then file it electronically.  Confidant that they did everything they could to increase the quality of patient care.  And then they go home.  Trusting that the other bureaucrats in the system will take the appropriate action.  Thus improving the quality of health care.  Efficiently.  And cost effectively.  Leaving more money available for those large salaries they so enjoy.

“But it is also important to keep this in perspective. The main responsibility for ensuring care standards are met lies with front line staff and hospital boards. We must be realistic about what the regulator can do – its role is to act as a backstop when they fail in this task.

“The Commission had a troubled beginning, exacerbated by a lack of clarity about its role and a failure to provide the resources needed for it to meet the enormous and complex task it was given. Politicians must bear some of the responsibility for this – it is no good preaching the virtues of light touch regulation, and then blaming the regulator for not taking a more interventionist approach when problems emerge.

But there is a problem relying on the frontline staff when they follow orders from on high.  Their health-care-providing hands are tied.  They can only do what some bureaucrat in a far distant office allows them to do.  They’re doing the best they can in a broken system.  But when care or treatment is denied based on cost accounting performed in some office that never sees a patient their patients will suffer neglect.  And some will die.  In part from the refusal to give them life-saving treatment.  And in part due to the apathy people will feel when the quality of their care doesn’t matter as much as their meeting cost-reduction targets.  When they see patients suffer and die because they can’t do anything for them.  Because their requested treatment was denied.  It’ll harden the best of people.  Making their patients just numbers.  And not people.

And this will be the world of Obamacare.  For the NHS is full of great people.  Yet even they can’t prevent the ill effects of a bad system.

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