On the Fourth Manned Mission the Chinese Dock to their soon to be Space Station

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 17th, 2012

Week in Review

There are two space stations.  One international.  And one Chinese (see Shenzhou-9 docks with Tiangong-1 by Jonathan Amos posted 6/18/2012 on BBC News).

China’s Shenzhou-9 capsule, with its crew of three, has docked with the Tiangong-1 space lab…

It is China’s fourth manned mission and another opportunity to see how far the Asian nation has developed its space technology…

The lab is a prototype for the type of modules the nation hopes to join in orbit later this decade to form a permanently manned space station.

At about 60 tonnes in mass, this proposed station would be considerably smaller than the 400-tonne international platform operated by the US, Russia, Europe, Canada and Japan, but its mere presence in the sky would nonetheless represent a remarkable achievement.

Remarkable indeed.  But what does it mean?  No room at the International Space Station for the Chinese?  Or do the Chinese just want to conduct their experiments in secret?  And if so, why?  Or is it just national pride?  To show that Chinese technology is among the best in the world?  Whatever the reason one thing is for sure.  It’s getting crowded in space. 

Space programs are expensive.  That’s why we cancelled the last Apollo moon missions.  And the Space Shuttle program.  We joined the International Space Station to share resources.  And costs.  Will the Chinese, too, suffer budget shortfalls and have to scale back their space program?  Or will they give up buying U.S. bonds to plug their budget holes?

There’s a woman onboard this mission.  Which is almost as remarkable as is this space achievement.  For they may discriminate against women in the womb.  But if they make it out of the womb a woman clearly has the same opportunities a man has.  Considering a lot of astronauts/cosmonauts are old ex-fighter pilots with combat experience (in the early days of manned space flight, at least) it says a lot that a young woman was on the 4th manned mission.  Then again, the communists are progressives.

Let’s hope that the Chinese come to space like everyone else.  In peace.



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NASA’s Voyager 1 is approaching the Edge of our Universe

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 17th, 2012

Week in Review

NASA launched Voyager 1 in 1977 when Jimmy Carter was president.  It’s been flying in space for some 35 years.  It’s still flying.  And it’s still communicating to us.  Even though it’s a long way from home (see Voyager 1 Spaceship to Break Out of Solar System, Into Outer Space by NILS KONGSHAUG posted 6/15/2012 on ABC News).

Fifty-five years after humans first escaped the bounds of Earth and launched a satellite into orbit, we are about to cross another frontier…

That frontier is the farthest reach of the solar winds, the particles that shoot from the sun at a million miles an hour, giving us the northern lights as they bend around Earth’s magnetic field.

At some distance from our sun the solar winds will be overwhelmed by the interstellar winds that blow among the stars.

That boundary, the very edge of the solar system, is called the “heliopause.” No spacecraft has ever reached it, and scientists don’t know exactly how far away it is. But last month the number of cosmic rays hitting Voyager 1 started to shoot up…

And in a mere 40,000 years, Voyager 1 will approach another star. Another sun.

It’s hard to imagine what 40,000 years is.  For us to look forward to that time would be like a Neanderthal looking forward to our time.  If another intelligent life on a planet orbiting that sun examines that spacecraft 40,000 years from now it may be like us looking at a curious Neanderthal relic we unearthed today.  Or perhaps something will enter our galaxy that has traveled 40,000 years to get here by a civilization long gone from this universe.

The universe is a big place.  We may not be alone in it.  But for all practical purposes we are.  For it would take incredible propulsion systems to accelerate us fast enough to get anywhere and back before we died on the trip.  Or we need advances in medical science that can extend the life expectancy of man to about 80,000 years.

Just food for thought the next time there’s talk about UFOs in our skies.



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Greeks must now pay for their own Medications because the National Health Care System is Broke

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 17th, 2012

Week in Review

As businesses wait with fear and trepidation for Obamacare to go into full effect we should consider what this will mean for the country at large.  More government benefits.  More government spending.  And higher taxation to pay for it.  Then we should look around the world for an example of large government spending and generous benefits.  To see if we can get an idea of how well something like a national health care system will work.  Let’s just pick a country at random.  Like this one (see Greek crisis hits hard at the pharmacy by Michael Birnbaum posted 6/13/2012 on The Washington Post).

From road-builders to priests to military suppliers, most walks of life have been affected by the government’s desperate bid to stanch the drain of euros from its coffers. Now health care is on the line, with pharmacists who are owed millions of euros by the government insurance system demanding in recent weeks that their clients pay the full sticker price for medicine. With unemployment at 22 percent and loans almost nonexistent, many people are doing without their drugs…

Under ordinary circumstances, the state health insurance system paid her pharmacist directly. Now pharmacists, fed up by delayed payments that they worry may never come, have told their customers that they need to pay cash and try their own luck at getting reimbursement from their health insurance.

Nothing is free in life.  Not even free health care.  Because government doesn’t make life-saving drugs.  Pharmaceutical companies who specialize in making life-saving drugs make life-saving drugs.  But even for them they are not free.  For they have to pay employees to make these drugs.  And they have to buy the chemicals to make these drugs.  And their chemical suppliers have their own employees to pay.  All of these costs are passed down the purchasing pipeline.  Right to the pharmacists.  Who must buy these drugs before they can sell them.  And when the government stops paying their bills someone has to pay them.  Or these pharmacists will just go out of business.  Because they’re not independently wealthy.  They run a pharmacy for living.  And simply can’t afford to buy drugs and give them away for free.

But pharmacists say they have little choice. Their suppliers, wary of extending credit in euros only to be repaid in weaker drachmas if the country gets booted out of the currency union, are demanding cash before they make shipments. And, though the pharmacies are receiving some reimbursements from the government, they are owed $188 million by the main government health insurance program, said Konstantinos Lourantos, president of the Pharmaceutical Association of Athens.

Doing anything on credit in Greece is risky business.  Because it’s not that certain if anyone will be able to pay their bills.  What makes this worse in Greece is who is paying most of the bills.

In Greece, where much of the private sector was sustained on public-sector spending, many business owners have found themselves to be unwitting creditors of the government, as payments have languished for months while their own credit has dried up, forcing them to scale back their businesses. That has made Greece’s recession, now in its fifth year, even harder to escape.

Everything has a cost.  Nothing is truly free.  Even when government provides it.  And the more the government provides the higher the taxes it takes to fund this government spending.  Relying on government spending, though, is risky.  Because tax revenue goes up and down with the economy.  During a recession there are fewer people working to pay income and payroll taxes.  And fewer people buying things to pay sales and value-added taxes.  Business revenues are down so businesses pay fewer income taxes.  During a deep recession tax revenue can fall far below the level needed to meet all government spending obligations.  Like reimbursing pharmacies.  And what do governments do during budget short-falls?  They borrow.  And Greece has.

Greece has borrowed so much that they are now a very poor credit risk.  They just owe so much money that a lot of lenders have grown doubtful that they will ever get their money back.  Which drives up borrowing costs.  Increasing the amount of interest they pay on their outstanding debt.  And as the recession lingers on tax revenues keep falling.  While the interest on the debt keeps rising.  Leaving less and less of those borrowed funds available to pay their massive government spending obligations.  And this is where Greece is.  They can’t pay their obligations without borrowing.  But they have borrowed so much that when they take on massive amounts of new debt much of it just goes to paying the interest on the old debt.  Which means they have to borrow ever more.  Increasing their interest payments on the debt ever more.  And leaving less and less for that massive government spending.

This is where debt crises come from.  Governments spending too much.  In fact it is safe to say that no government ever had a debt crisis from spending too little.  We can learn a lot from the Greeks.  In fact, we already have.  Most of Western Civilization goes back to Athens.  But we can also learn what NOT to do from the Greeks.  And a good place to start would be to repeal Obamacare.  For it’s this kind of spending that got Greece into trouble in the first place.



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Japan is Restarting their Nuclear Reactors to avoid Rolling Outages and High Electric Bills

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 17th, 2012

Week in Review

Japan is facing the economic reality of energy in the modern economy.  And is restarting their nuclear reactors (see Japan approves 2 reactor restarts, more seen ahead by Linda Sieg and Kiyoshi Takenaka posted 6/16/2012 on Reuters).

Japan on Saturday approved the resumption of nuclear power operations at two reactors despite mass public opposition, the first to come back on line after they were all shut down following the Fukushima crisis…

The decision, despite public concerns over safety after the big earthquake and tsunami crippled the Fukushima plant, could open the door to more restarts among Japan’s 50 nuclear power reactors…

The push to restart the two Ohi reactors, before a potential summer power crunch, also underscores the premier’s eagerness to win backing from businesses worried about high electricity costs that could push factories offshore…

Nuclear power supplied almost 30 percent of electricity needs before the March 2011 disaster, which triggered meltdowns at Fukushima, spewing radiation and forcing mass evacuations…

Like it or not the modern economy runs on energy.  And the clean energy the environmentalists so like that powers the Toyota Prius has to be generated from something.  They hate coal and oil.  They’re against building dams.  Which only leaves natural gas and nuclear as only viable options.  Japan is not a country rich in fossil fuels.  So they turned to nuclear power for 30% of their electric generation mix.  There have been some bumps along the way but Japan is still there.  They even survived the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl. 

Public trust in regulators was tattered by evidence that cosy ties with utilities were a key reason Fukushima operator Tokyo Electric Power Co was unprepared for the tsunami, and subsequent signs that relations remain far too snug…

“We can no longer go back to a life that depends on candles,” ruling party heavyweight Yoshito Sengoku said in an interview with the Sankei newspaper this week.

The Nuclear and Industry Safety Agency, the current watchdog, has approved stress tests for Shikoku Electric Power Co Inc’s 890-megawatt No.3 reactor in Ikata, southern Japan. Next on the list for possible approval are two Hokkaido Electric Power reactors in Tomari, northern Japan and Hokuriku Electric’s two in Shika, western Japan.

The Fukushima plant survived an earthquake measuring 9.0 on the Richter scale.  An earthquake that was so powerful that it moved the earth.  The New York Times reported “NASA scientists calculated that the redistribution of mass by the earthquake might have shortened the day by a couple of millionths of a second and tilted the Earth’s axis slightly.”  The earth may have moved.  But the Fukushima plant did not.  And probably would have emerged unscathed had it not been for the tsunami that followed.  Which submerged the electrical distribution equipment that powered the cooling pumps.  And because this distribution equipment was not rated to operate submerged in water it failed.  Causing the Fukushima disaster.

Fault nuclear power all you want but the plant survived most of the worst the earth could throw at it.  It only failed when the ocean moved inland.  It withstood the powerful force of that wave (it swept some buildings away whole).  But not the effect of water entering the electrical gear.  Highly conductive saltwater.  Which just shorted out the works.  And stopped everything electrical from working.  Making it even impossible for the backup generators to power the cooling pumps.

Note how much power they will connect to the grid by connecting one reactor.  The No.3 reactor in Ikata can produce 890-megawatt.  Let’s compare that to wind power.  In Texas on the Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center they have 421 windmills on nearly 47,000 acres with a nameplate rating of 735.5 MW of installed capacity.  With a capacity factor of 20-40% for wind power on the high end that reduces the actual power to 294.2 MW.  And that’s only when the wind is blowing.  The capacity factor for nuclear power is 60-100+%.  At the LOW end the No.3 reactor in Ikata will put 534 MW onto the grid.  In short nuclear power blows wind power away.  And you don’t need 47,000 acres to build a nuclear power plant.  Which is good because Japan doesn’t have land to spare being one of the most congested nations in the world. 

How can Japan not restart their reactors?  There are just no better alternatives.  Unless they want to suffer through rolling blackouts during the summer, pay higher electric bills and lose businesses seeking cheaper power.  Which is the alternative.



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Hiring Prospects Improving despite no one Hiring Anyone unless they Absolutely have To

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 17th, 2012

Week in Review

The economy is horrible.  And it has been horrible for the last three and a half years.  Despite the Recovery Summer.  And all the reporting of an economic recovery that has never materialized yet other than in the wishful thinking of government planners and their economic advisors whispering sweet-nothings in their ears.  Telling them more Keynesian economic policies can fix the previous Keynesian economic policies that have failed to do anything but make things worse.  Despite everything they have done the past three and a half years no one is hiring yet (see Around world, companies loath to add jobs: survey by Nick Zieminski posted 6/12/2012 on Reuters).

Hiring prospects have improved slightly in the United States and other major economies but companies are only adding workers when they have to, according to a survey by Manpower Group (MAN.N), the global employment services giant.

Manpower in a quarterly survey describes a vicious circle in which stronger consumer spending is being reined in by weak hiring, and vice versa. Spooked by Europe’s ongoing debt crisis and a slowdown in China, hiring managers in large economies are reluctant to invest in staff until they see a rebound in demand for their goods and services.

“Companies are in tune with their demand and surroundings,” Manpower Chief Executive Jeff Joerres said. “Hiring has been put into only-if-necessary mode. They can spring back, but there were too many times in the last 36 months when they thought it was safe to go in the water and only found out it wasn’t…”

Its poll of 18,000 U.S. hiring managers follows two months of disappointing U.S. jobs growth. The U.S. economy added just 69,000 jobs last month, less than half what was expected, and the unemployment rate ticked back up to 8.2 percent.

Two months of disappointing U.S. job growth?  Try three and a half years.  The official unemployment number (U3) was under 8% for only a short part of President Obama’s first year in office.  It was below 8% when he promised that if we passed his stimulus plan it would never go above 8%.  For the year or so after Congress passed his stimulus plan the official unemployment rate (U3) flirted with 10%.  Which if you’re keeping score is above 8%.  The U6 unemployment rate (which counts the underemployed and those who gave up looking for work) has been north of 16% for about 2 years of his administration.  Again, if you’re keeping score, that’s above 8%.  And closer to Great Depression unemployment.  The U6 rate is still north of 14%.  So, no, it hasn’t been 2 months of disappointing job growth.  It’s been three and a half years of disappointment in the Obama economic recovery.  Or lack thereof.

This is why no one is hiring unless they absolutely have to.  Because no one has any faith in the economy.  And everyone is expecting things to get worse when Obamacare goes into full effect.  At 2,000+ plus pages and a lot of ‘as the secretary directs’ included in that law leaves business owners with nothing but apprehension.  They have no idea how to plan with these kinds of unpredictable variables.  These are just not days to be hiring employees if you’re a business owner. 

This is part of the reason the employment picture is so horrible in America.  The other reason is the anti-business Keynesian economic policies of the Obama administration.  Which lead to high taxes, high spending and high debt.  Which has killed job creation in America.  And throughout the Keynesian world.  Because Keynesian policies do not favor business.  They favor activist, interventionist, tax and spend government.  Who intervene actively in the private sector to raise money via taxes to spend in the public sector.  And yet the government’s economists are always surprised by the poor economic data their Keynesian policies produce.  Which begs the question if they are so blind to the obvious should they really be advising the government?



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Unable to Create Jobs the Obama Administration offers Citizenships to Rich Foreigners who Can

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 17th, 2012

Week in Review

Unable to understand how the economy works the Obama administration maintains policies that restrict economic activity.  And removes incentives to create jobs.  Their Keynesian economic policies have been such an abject failure that after three and a half years of trying they’re asking rich foreigners to create the jobs they cannot.  By selling citizenship (see Citizenship for sale: Foreign investors flock to U.S. by James O’Toole, CNNMoney, posted 6/11/2012 on Yahoo! Finance).

The State Department expects to issue over 6,000 “investor visas” in the current fiscal year, which would be an all-time record. Other countries, meanwhile, are following the U.S.’s lead, keen to spur growth in lean economic times.

“Our goal is certainly job creation, and that’s what this program is all about,” said Bill Wright, a spokesman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. “At the same time, it’s allowing somebody from a foreign country to come and invest in our nation.”

Under the government’s EB-5 Immigrant Investor program, foreign investors can get conditional visas that allow them and their families to live, work and attend school in the U.S. To qualify for the visa, they must invest at least $1 million in a new or recently created business, or $500,000 for businesses in rural or high-unemployment areas.

The investment must be demonstrated to have created or preserved at least 10 full-time jobs for U.S. workers within two years. Assuming this condition is met, investors and their families graduate to permanent resident status, and can apply for full citizenship three years later…

Of the roughly 12,000 immigrants who’ve arrived on the EB-5 investor visa, just 39% have earned permanent residency, according to USCIS data…

So I guess this means the Obama administration is throwing up their hands and crying “uncle.”  They don’t know how to create jobs.  So they’re offering citizenship to those who do.

Small business owners (the number one job creator in the country) start out their business for far less than $1 million.  These people know how to create jobs.  And they would.  If it weren’t for the anti-business policies of the Obama administration.  The regulatory compliance costs are so great that it discourages these engines of job creations from going into business.  Or expanding their businesses.  And the big thing hanging over them like the Sword of Damocles is Obamacare.  They are so unsure of what will happen when that sword falls that they are not hiring anyone unless they absolutely have to.

Creating jobs is easy.  It’s like a dog having puppies.  You don’t have to do anything.  But you can’t fight against it.  If you reduce the regulatory compliance burden for these job creators that’s all you have to do.  And they will create jobs.  Lots of them.  And they’ll create far more than the 46,800 (12,00 X 0.39 X 10) jobs these rich immigrants have made.  

In the U.S., the immigrant investor program has been responsible for at least 46,810 jobs and more than $2.3 billion in investments since its inception in 1990, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

That’s a small fraction of overall foreign investment in the U.S., but it comes at no cost to the government. Were the EB-5 program to meet its 10,000-visa quota, it would contribute more than $4.4 billion to GDP and create or preserve nearly 75,000 jobs annually, according to a 2010 report prepared for the government by consulting firm ICF International.

That’s funny.  Nearly 75,000 jobs annually?  If I divide the proudly stated number of jobs created (46,810) by the number of years the program has been in effect (about 21 years) that comes to a whopping 2,230 jobs they created per year by selling citizenship to rich people.  Which is a lot less than 75,000.  And it’s not going to help much when Solyndra alone lost almost half that amount when it went bankrupt.  When you add in all the other lost jobs from the failed green job initiatives these new jobs won’t even replace those lost in green energy alone.  Let alone those unemployed suffering in an employment climate with a double digit unemployment rate (the U-6 unemployment that counts those underemployed and those who gave up looking for work is currently about 14.8%).

Ah, yes, what about those preserved jobs?  It’s just a number they pull out of the air.  There is no measurement for it.  Unless the vast majority of these jobs for citizenship (97%) where from these rich foreigners practicing ‘vulture capitalism’ (i.e., private equity).  Because that is something you can measure.  Such as when Bain Capital saved Toys R Us.  However many people were working at Toys R Us at the time who had a job had their job saved by Bain Capital.  Still, this didn’t happen in the first 21 years of the program.  For the number of created and preserved jobs is still only 2,230 jobs per year.

These rich people the Obama administration is turning to for help may create jobs.  In fact, immigrants coming to the land of opportunity created many jobs.  In America.  Where people were free.  And government was limited.  Where you could work hard and enjoy the proceeds from your labors.  Which is why they came.  But it’s not quite like that anymore.  Entrepreneurs are not as free as they were when they built this great nation.  Perhaps that explains why this program has only a 39% success ratio so far.  Even foreign millionaires have trouble creating jobs in America these days.  Why?  Because the current tax and regulatory climate is just not conducive to creating jobs.  No matter how much money you start with.



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