The President’s Green Initiative would have Worked Better if China didn’t build Better Solar Panels for Less

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 28th, 2012

Week in Review

President Obama loaned a half billion dollars to Solyndra to create jobs of the future.  Solyndra filed bankruptcy shortly thereafter.  And they are not the only green investment to go belly up.  But the president hasn’t given up on his green energy.  Especially solar power.  Despite China (see Rays of hope for solar firms by Wang Jun and Chen Jia posted 10/26/2012 on China Daily USA).

China’s solar-panel industry has been rocked by recent US duties on its exports to combat alleged dumping and the specter of similar action by European authorities.

At least one company sees the standoff as an opportunity, however…

In the industry’s trade tussle with the United States, Zhou believes, weaker companies will suffer most, and some may fail…

CSG PVTech, a subsidiary of Shenzhen-listed CSG Holding Co, makes panels and modules studded with photovoltaic, or PV, cells that draw on the sun’s rays to produce electricity. Zhou said his confidence in the company is backed by recognition its products have received abroad.

For example, German solar-industry publisher Photon, which tests PV cells and related equipment, since 2010 has ranked CSG-made modules containing monocrystalline-silicon cells among the top three in the world and polycrystalline-silicon modules among the top 10…

Although he oversees both European and US operations for CSG PVTech, it’s clear where Zhou’s focus resides…

“California is a bigger market than Germany,” he said, pointing out that the US state meets the two key requirements – lots of sunshine and a huge demand for electricity.

Jack Pryor, CEO of Access Solar Inc, a Palm Springs installer of panels in homes, said his company is currently outfitting over 110 new townhouses in California with CSG PV panels…

By working with installers like Access Solar, Zhou plans to turn CSG’s focus in the US from business-to-business to business-to-customer, in hopes of making the Chinese company a household name.

He admits, however, that like many Chinese enterprises, a limited understanding of marketing is a hurdle.

“We sell products, but we don’t understand how to sell service,” he said. “As a result, our value chain is too short.”

Zhou aims to sell both.

So not only can the Chinese make solar panels far cheaper than the Americans they make quality stuff.  In fact they make one product that is in the top three in the world.  And another that is in the top 10.  Inexpensive and high quality?  Hard to compete against that.  But it even gets worse for those jobs of the future.  American installers are partnering with China.  And China is working on providing excellent service in addition to low prices and high quality.

So it looks like the president’s green initiative will help create those jobs of the future after all…in China.  But they’re trying to stop that by slapping anti-dumping duties on them.  Of course, that just raises the cost of saving the planet.  Discouraging people from installing solar panels on their houses because of these higher costs.  So the president’s green initiative is basically a lose-lose.  No jobs of the future.  And discouraging people from trying to save the planet.  Oh, and the president’s war on coal is raising the cost of electric power.  So the president’s policies are a triple loser.

Solar power.  It was going to pull America out of the Great Recession by creating jobs of the future.  Instead we get bankruptcies of government subsidized firms.  And higher unemployment than there was four years ago.  Is it me or is solar power not the panacea that the president said it was?

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Can we trust Obamacare when the NHS loses 1.8 Million Confidential Patient Records in a Single Year?

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 28th, 2012

Week in Review

One of the ways Obamacare is supposed to reduce costs is by digitizing our medical records.  So any of our doctors can pull them up from anywhere.  So that every doctor will always have the most up to date file on us.  The problem is, it just may not be our doctors accessing our records from anywhere.  So some are asking if we should trust the government to protect our confidential information.  For they can look across the Atlantic and see that trusting the government with our confidential information was not a wise thing to do (see NHS lost track of 1.8m patient records in a year with sensitive information found in public bin and for sale on the internet by Jack Doyle posted 10/28/2012 on the Daily Mail).

The NHS lost track of 1.8million confidential patient records in a single year, the Daily Mail can reveal.

In worrying lapses in data security, sensitive paper records have been dumped in public bins and electronic records found for sale on an internet auction site.

The worst cases include details of terminally ill patients being faxed to the wrong number, and patient records being stolen and posted on to the internet.

The total is the equivalent of nearly 5,000 records going missing every day. But the real figure is likely to be much higher because in some incidents it was not known exactly how many records were lost…

The Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham, has levied fines totalling nearly £1million on NHS bodies in the last six months…

Trespassers gained access to the site and copies of records – which dated from the 1950s – were posted on the internet…

The worst breach involved a CD containing 1.6million patient records, including personal details, belonging to Eastern and Coastal Kent PCT. The CD was lost when a filing cabinet went missing during an office move.

The trust was not fined, but signed an undertaking with the ICO not to repeat the error.

The worst breach of patient privacy is punished by a promise not to do that again?  Well, problem solved.  For promises are serious things.  I mean, who has ever broken a promise?

The NHS is taxpayer funded.  So how does that work?  The government fining the government?  Do they reduce the amount of money they spend on health care services?  Does the government then reimburse the NHS Trust?  Or does it simply let more people go without health care?

This is the problem when government provides services.  And the oversight.  The government provides oversight on themselves.  They set the standards.  And they measure if they meet those standards.  Which probably explains why they fix problems with promises.

So is it any wonder that they’ve lost over a million confidential patient records?  No.  Will it be any wonder when Obamacare loses over a million confidential patient records?  Probably not.  Because bureaucrats are bureaucrats.  So digitizing our medical records is probably not a good idea.  For that matter, neither is Obamacare.  Based on the real world example provided by the NHS.

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Regulators had Many Chances to prevent Meningitis Outbreak caused by Compounder NECC

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 28th, 2012

Week in Review

Compounding is basically making small batches of custom medicines.  A pharmaceutical company may mass produce a pill that a few patients may be allergic to the hard pill coating or want it in a liquid form.  So the compounder makes these custom medicines.  So these are small labs producing small batches of medicine.  Where the small volume of medicine allow a very high level of attention to detail during the production process.  Including many safeguards and precautions.  The problems at NECC happened when they were no longer making small batches in a small lab.  Their problems started when they started acting like a large pharmaceutical company while still using production procedures of a small lab (see Insight: Red flags ignored for years at firm in meningitis crisis by Toni Clarke and Sharon Begley posted 10/26/2012 on Reuters).

A cracked vial here, a missing label there. The complaints coming into New England Compounding Center, the firm at the heart of the deadly U.S. meningitis outbreak, were piling up…

…More than 300 people who received a tainted steroid sold by NECC that was used to treat back pain have been infected with fungal meningitis and 25 have died.

Interviews with former NECC employees and its customers, and a review of internal documents and newly-released state records, paint a picture of a company whose rapid growth was marred almost since its inception by breaches of regulations governing compounding practices. They also show how regulators failed to punish the company despite repeated violations of the rules…

NECC was formed in 1998 by Cadden and his in-laws, the Conigliaro family, with a $5,000 investment, state records show.

So regulators knew about violations for a decade or so and yet never closed them down.  In fact, after numerous violations NECC asked for some leniency in the regulator’s final action.  Which they got.  Because it’s in the power of a state regulator to do that.  For that’s the power of a state bureaucrat.

It was not long before Cadden sought to expand into other states. He found a receptive audience among pain clinics that enjoyed the cost savings NECC offered – in one case, the company told a client it could save $4,500 a year if it purchased a particular steroid through NECC. It also sold to hospitals who were turning to compounders to fill the gaps caused by worsening shortages of prescription drugs from traditional manufacturers.

Nearly 1,200 drug shortages, from chemotherapies to painkillers, were reported between 2001 and mid-2011, with some of the biggest increases seen in the latter half of that decade, according to the Government Accountability Office. Many of the supply disruptions stemmed from manufacturers’ quality control problems and the waning profitability of certain medicines.

NECC thrived on the demand. By the time the company surrendered its license on October 3, NECC was supplying hundreds of hospitals across the country, according to a list of customers released by the FDA…

NECC has stopped operating and faces an array of federal and state investigations, not to mention the prospect of civil suits for liability. Its owners could face criminal charges.

The pharmaceutical industry is a highly regulated industry.  Which adds regulatory compliance costs.  Lawyers often sue pharmaceutical companies.  Because sometimes pills make it through the FDA approval process and yet still hurt people.  Which also adds further costs.  And despite the high cost of medicine pharmaceutical companies can have pressures on profits.  Causing them to drop certain medicines.  Leading to shortages.  And opening the door to compounders.  Who operated under lower overhead costs.  Allowing them to offer scarce medicines at low prices.

So that’s the background to this unfortunate crisis.  Regulators may have created the environment that encouraged the rapid growth of NECC.  And regulators failed to prevent this unfortunate crisis by going easy on NECC despite a record of violations.  What ultimately shut down NECC?  When their drugs started killing people.  For even if no one took any action against them and allowed them to stay in business no one would buy any of their drugs.  Because they were unsafe.  Which is a powerful incentive NOT to sell drugs that kill people.  Not to mention avoiding civil suits and criminal charges.

NECC probably meant no harm.  Nor did the regulators that let them do harm.  But they operated for about a decade until the market shut them down.  Civil and criminal action may follow.  But that is after the fact.  The government didn’t protect the people until after people started dying.  Something the market would have done anyway without the help of government.  So is more regulation going to help make our medicine safer?  Or will it only further increase the costs of the pharmaceutical companies.  Leading to more medicine shortages?  And perhaps setting the stage for another NECC?

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The British foil al Qaeda Plot in Britain following al Qaeda’s Defeat in the War on Terror

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 28th, 2012

Week in Review

If you’ve been paying attention to the US presidential campaign you probably have heard that President Obama killed Osama bin Laden.  And defeated al Qaeda.  This was May 2, 2011.  Which is why the Benghazi attack took this administration by surprise.  And why they were reluctant at one time to call it a terrorist attack.  For with the killing of bin Laden the War on Terror was over.  Was this just an isolated incident?  Or was al Qaeda keeping busy even with the death of Osama bin Laden?  As it turns out, yes.  In fact, it was business as usual for some in the immediate months following bin Laden’s death (see ‘Terror suspect trio plotted to massacre crowds using a car fitted with knives and detonating eight suicide bombs in attack bigger than July 7’ by Chris Greenwood posted 10/22/2012 on the Daily Mail).

Three British Muslims were accused yesterday of plotting a suicide bomb attack designed to wreak more devastation than the July 7 attacks.

The Al Qaeda-inspired trio masterminded a conspiracy to detonate eight home-made rucksack devices, a court was told.

They bragged how the attacks would have caused ‘mass deaths’ in crowded areas. One of the men was secretly recorded saying the 2005 London attacks had ‘gone a bit wrong’ because the killers forgot to put nails in their bombs.

They also discussed mass poisoning and fixing blades to the wheels of a vehicle before driving it into a crowd of people, and boasted their plot would be ‘another 9/11’.

The trio raised thousands of pounds to fund the plot by posing as street collectors for the humanitarian charity Muslim Aid, the jury was told. Two of the men are alleged to have travelled to Pakistan to attend a terrorist camp and received training with explosives, weapons and poisons. They are said to have recorded ‘martyrdom videos’ explaining their actions which were to be released to the media after their deaths…

Two of the men – unemployed graduate Irfan Naseer, 31, and former security guard Irfan Khalid, 27 – are accused of twice travelling to terrorist camps in Pakistan. They spent 15 months learning how to make bombs, use weapons and create poisons ‘for the sole purpose’ of bringing their knowledge to Britain and using it, the court heard.

When they returned in July 2011, they teamed up with Ashik Ali, 27, whose ground-floor flat was transformed into a safe house to experiment with explosive chemicals. The court heard Naseer was recorded agreeing with another man that July 7 had ‘gone a bit wrong’ because the bombers did not use nails.

Naseer, a heavily-built man known as ‘Chubbs’, used knowledge from his pharmacy degree to mix the chemicals. He bought an instant cold pack, in the mistaken belief it contained ammonium nitrate.

The men were recorded talking about training with AK-47 assault rifles and grenades as well as firing a rocket launcher and the vehicle blade plot, which was in the Al Qaeda magazine, Inspire…

The terrorist cell was allegedly inspired by internet videos and the writings of Osama Bin Laden and US-born Yemeni extremist Anwar Al-Awlaki, who was killed in a drone strike 12 days after the suspects were arrested.

These men were in Pakistan when President Obama killed Osama bin Laden.  So they must have known of his death.  And the end of the War on Terror.  Yet they returned to England and continued their planning and preparations.  Lucky for the British that they didn’t let their guard down.  For it appears radical British Muslims in Britain didn’t get the memo that the War on Terror was over.  Which is why the British pulled their people out of Benghazi as the radical Islamists were increasing their attacks against Western targets.

The world is still not a safe place.  Al Qaeda is not defeated.  And the War on Terror continues on.  Where some of the Islamists are still trying to inflict another 9/11 on the West.  And this after the death of bin Laden.  Which explains the rise of Islamist violence in Benghazi.  And the death of four Americans.  Casualties in a war that the Americans had declared victory in that the other side never acknowledged.

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Moving from Capitalism towards Socialism in America and Life in the Former Soviet Union

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 28th, 2012

Week in Review

Clearly President Obama is trying to move the country away from laissez faire capitalism.  And towards something where the government has a much larger role in our lives.  Such as Obamacare.  More government into our lives.  The question is where does it end?  For it is a slippery slope.  In Europe there was capitalism before there was social democracy.  A transition from capitalism towards socialism without a revolution.   Does a social democracy end in socialism?  Which is a real concern as America is moving ever closer to the European social democracy.  For someone who lived in a full-blown socialist state, this trend isn’t a good one (see If You Had Actually Grown Up In A Soviet Country, This Is What You Would Have Experienced by Rob Wile posted 10/22/2012 on Business Insider).

“I grew up in a socialist country. And I have seen what that does to people. There is no hope, no freedom. No pride in achievement.

“And that’s what I see happening here.”

So begins an ad that’s been airing in the run-up to November elections, narrated and paid for by Thomas Peterffy, in support of Republican candidates.

Peterrfy, the CEO of Interactive Brokers, came to America in 1965 to escape Communist Hungary.

He fears a world where, if we’re not careful, “people will lose interest in really working hard and creating jobs. I think this is a very slippery slope.

“It seems like people don’t learn from the past…”

We turned to “Steeltown, USSR,” a book-length work of reportage from current Princeton University History Professor Stephen Kotkin, to see what life under socialism is really like.

Published in 1991, the book is Kotkin’s account of his trips to the Russian city of Magnitogorsk in the late-80s, on the eve of the fall of Communism, and his interviews with the city’s residents.

If you follow the above link you can see what it was like to live in a socialist country.  In the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).  Here are some excerpts:

“This apartment, I waited 18 years for it. During that time, we lived four in one room. No one remembered what color the walls were. You couldn’t see them, they were so covered with our belongings stacked up to the ceiling. I worked and struggled and endured all manner of humiliation for eighteen years for this pathetic, unexceptional new apartment. It makes me sad and angry to think about it. How much evil has accumulated! I have so much on my soul!”

“If you work hard, they demand from you. You have to get up in front of everyone and make speeches; they give you medals with pompous names. So it’s best to stay quiet, not attract attention to yourself. Once in a while, you work like a bull; the remainder of the time, you rest.”

“No one makes a move until we see where the power lies. As soon as it is clear, we all quickly take that side. We’re completely dependent on them. Food, clothes, apartments, furniture, day care, summer camp, vacations — everything is allocated by them according to their lists, with which they rule over our lives. Everyone has something to lose. It might seem you have nothing, but they take something away, and you have even less.”

“A handful of Magnitogorsk youth were fortunate enough to gain acceptance to university in Sverdlovsk, the ‘capital’ of the Urals, or even to Moscow University. Yet even this select group often found itself back in Magnitogorsk upon graduation, unable (in some cases unwilling) to secure the necessary official permission to remain in the larger city.”

“For every 100 Magnitogorsk families, there were 96 radio receivers, 99 TV sets, 39 tape recorders, 34 photo cameras, 92 refrigerators, 70 washing machines and five cars.”

Sugar, meat, butter and sausages had to be rationed — they could only be purchased using coupons distributed at residences in accord with the number of people in the household.

Fewer than 50 percent of Magnitogorsk residents enjoyed their own self-contained apartments without living with the rest of their relatives. You had to qualify for new housing by having less than 9 square meters per person. And you couldn’t move.

“There were approximately 30,000 cars for the city’s 438,000 residents (135,000 households). Only 22,000 were privately owned… the wait to purchase a car was more than 10 years.”

“There was only ‘children’s’ shoes, ‘women’s’ boots or ‘men’s’ coats…Discounts or markdowns were not permitted, even if goods were not selling. There were no seasonal sales.”

“An individual established himself or herself in the community not by purchasing a home in a particular neighborhood but by landing a job in a favored shop. ‘The shop or work unit is an entire social milieu,’ one official explained. ‘It’s not a job, but a life.’ In short, the steel plant was not relaly a ‘business’; rather, it was an industrial welfare agency.”

“At home we get together with friends, sit around the talbe. All we do is talk about our problems, and insufficienceis, endlessly, until someone bangs the table and shouts, ‘Enough. No more about that.’ But what else can we discuss?”

This is where you end up when you move away from capitalism and towards socialism.  A grey and dreary life.  Long waiting lists for apartments and cars.  Where hard work is only rewarded with more hard work.  So workers strive to do the minimum.  You live in fear of the authorities because everything you have in life is dependent on how they felt towards you.  If you were quiet and suffered your privations quietly you experienced no new privations.  If you complained you suffered more privations.  The state allowed few to go to college.  And those that did rarely saw an improvement in their lives.  They rationed your food.  And forced you to live with your relatives in tiny apartments.  Everyone wore the same shoes, boots and coats.  And few found any enjoyment in life.

So should Americans be worried about sliding towards socialism?  Well, soon our health care will be dependent on some bureaucrat’s whim under Obamacare.  Student loans are now provided by the government.  More people are dependent on the government for their food than ever before.  And their housing.  The government is subsidizing green companies that can’t compete in the market place.  To provide ‘high-paying’ jobs in companies that often go bankrupt.  So a lot of what is happening typically doesn’t happen in laissez faire capitalism.  These are things that are closer to socialism than capitalism.

These expansions in the welfare state come courtesy of class warfare.  The government’s relentless attacks on those who don’t need government benefits.  Accusing them for not paying their fair share in taxes.  Creating anger in lower-income people.  And agitation.  To support further transfers of wealth.  All the elements of a worker revolution.  But without the actual revolution.  Because they’re doing it at the ballot box.

Life is better under capitalism.  Which is why athletes from behind the Iron Curtain left their socialist paradise whenever they could.  Ballet stars.  Even military jet pilots who flew their planes to freedom.  Unless Americans want a country like the country these people fled we probably should do something about our slide on that slippery slope.

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