Your Odds of Dying or getting Seriously Injured Skiing/Snowboarding are about the same as Dying in a Mass Shooting

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 24th, 2013

Week in Review

The first time I skied on a mountain I was pretty nervous.  I had only just begun to ski.  I was still snow plowing my way down the slopes.  But my friends were going to a great ski resort.  I didn’t want to miss out on a good time.  When we arrived and bought our lift tickets there was a newspaper clipping taped to the window.  Earlier that week a girl fell out of a chairlift and died.  Making me even more nervous.

It was cold.  Very cold.  The sun was melting the snow a little in the day.  And it froze at night.  Except when we got there.  The clouds never broke when we were there.  So the slopes were sheer hard ice all day long.  As I snow-plowed back and forth across the mountain I slid sideways down the fall line.  As I stopped to rest an advanced skier stopped by me.  He remarked how bad the conditions were.  The slopes were littered with death cookies.  Frozen chunks of ice that didn’t move when a ski hit them.  Making me even more nervous.  On the next day the winds were so bad they closed part of the mountain.  Because the mid-station served that side of the mountain I couldn’t get off there.  Something I didn’t know until after getting on the lift.  I had to take the lift to the top of the mountain.  Where you could take some runs down that kept you off the closed side of the mountain.  Making for a very long and tiring snow-plow down.  Suffering the early stages of frostbite, aching muscles and some bruising from some falls and collisions I left the mountain that day and made it home alive.  Despite a few close calls.

When you’re young you do stupid things.  And take risks.  Like skiing on a mountain when you’re barely a beginner.  Skiing is dangerous.  People die skiing every year.  Including kids (see First picture of tragic 13-year-old schoolgirl who died in ski lift accident on school trip to Italy as friends pay tribute to ‘bubbly and popular’ teenager by Hannah Roberts posted 2/24/2013 on the Daily Mail).

Tragedy had struck on the first lift of the day, moments after the teenager had put on her skis.

According to newly-emerged details, the schoolgirl slid from the chair after accidentally sitting in the wrong seat of the four-man chairlift.

Investigators told the La Stampa newspaper: ‘She didn’t end up sitting in her assigned seat, perhaps as a joke or because she lost her balance. In any case she ended up sitting in the arms of a school friend.

‘Because of this the safety bar didnt go all the way down, so at the first tremour of the lift, she slid and fell’.

The schoolgirl’s injuries were compounded by the fact that she fell not onto fresh snow but onto a stream in which there lay several rocks, it has now emerged.

A terrible tragedy.  What makes it so tragic is that it seemed so harmless.  Just goofing around on a chairlift.  But how quickly things changed from silly fun to horrific tragedy.  Anyone who has ever skied probably did a lot of stupid things that only dumb luck kept them from hurting themselves.  Or killing themselves.  According to the National Ski Areas Association about 42 people die on average skiing and snowboarding each year in the U.S.  With another 45 suffering paralysis, serious head and other serious injuries.  But we don’t hear a lot about this horrific toll of death and suffering.

According to the Washington Post approximately 84 people died in mass shootings in the U.S. in 2012.  Including the great tragedy in the theater in Aurora, Colorado.  And the great tragedy at the school in Newtown, Connecticut.  The media does not stop talking about these 84 deaths.  And neither do the liberal Democrats pushing for gun control.  Who want nothing less than a total ban on guns.  Even if it saves only one life.  Yet not one of them is calling for a total ban on skiing and snowboarding.  Which will save more than one life.  In fact, we know the number of lives such a ban would save.  It would save about 42 people on average a year.  (As well as preventing another 45 from suffering paralysis, serious head and other serious injuries.)  Which is more than one.  Yet there is no such push for a skiing and snowboarding ban.  Why?  Young people do most of the skiing and snowboarding.  And liberal Democrats don’t want to piss them off by taking away something the vast majority of them enjoy and do responsibly.  While giving no such courtesy to gun owners.  The vast majority of which are responsible.

Why the double standard?  If they don’t care about the loss of life on the slopes then they can’t care about the loss of life from these mass shootings.  Meaning that they want to take away those guns for some other reason.

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Scottish Woman with Swine Flu airlifted to an English Hospital 250 Miles Away

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 24th, 2013

Week in Review

The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) has been suffering from the costs of an aging population.  People are living longer into retirement thanks to extensive medical care.  While fewer people are entering the workforce to pay the taxes that pay for that extensive medical care.  Resulting in longer wait times.  Shortages of doctors and nurses.  Rationing.  And the closing of hospitals.  Or transferring specialties to centrally located hospitals to achieve some economies of scale (see Scottish flu victim airlifted to Leicester hospital posted 2/24/2013 on BBC News South Scotland).

A Scottish woman is in intensive care at a specialist hospital in Leicester after contracting a suspected form of swine flu.

Jennifer Scott was transferred by helicopter from Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary after she was diagnosed with a serious “flu-type illness”…

A spokeswoman for University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust said the patient had been flown to Glenfield as it was one of a limited number of hospitals in the UK that had specialist equipment required for her case.

Note that they transferred this Scottish woman to an English hospital.  Where one of the limited hospitals with specialist equipment was located.  But this wasn’t just a stone’s throw over Hadrian’s Wall.  Dumfries, Scotland, and Leicester, England, are about 250 miles apart.  Boston and New York City are just a little closer to each other.  Can you imagine a patient coming down with swine flu in Boston having to be airlifted to New York City?  To a hospital with the appropriate specialist equipment?  Of course not.  But, then again, you haven’t lived under the fully implemented Obamacare yet.

There’s a reason why they had to airlift this woman some 250 miles.  The cost of national health care just doesn’t permit building hospitals like Glenfield Hospital in all of their cities.  The U.S. has an aging population, too.  And will follow the NHS example to cut costs under Obamacare.  Where there will be an ongoing effort to do more with less.  Which will lead to moving specialties to fewer hospitals.  For what is a few hours of travel compared to the cost savings?

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A Weak Currency may Boost Exports but it will Raise all Prices Businesses and Consumers Pay

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 24th, 2013

Week in Review

China created a booming economy thanks to a healthy export market.  In part because of their cheap labor.  An in part by keeping their currency weak.  For when you buy goods from China you first have to exchange your currency for theirs.  If your currency is stronger than theirs is you will get a lot more of theirs in exchange for yours.  Allowing you to buy a lot more Chinese goods with your stronger currency.  This is why China likes to have a weak currency.  And takes actions to keep it artificially weak.  Something her trading partners don’t like.  For their weaker currency tends to make the net flow of goods in international trade with China flowing from China to everyone else.  Thus giving China a healthy export market.  At the expense of everyone else’s export market.

But China is a developing economy.  Things change when you become an advanced economy.  Because you don’t have impoverished masses filling your factories manufacturing goods for export.  You have a thriving middle class.  With a high standard of living.  With good jobs giving them disposable income.  And few of them work in the export economy.  So despite all the talk about unfair trade practices of China most people in an advanced economy don’t worry that much about trade deficits.  For they’re buying a lot of imported goods.  From smartphones to coffee beans.  And a weak currency makes these items more expensive.

So there are two sides to the value of your currency.  If you have impoverished masses filling factories to build export goods a weak currency is good.  It lets the state sell more of those export goods.  In an export-dominated economy.  And provides a lot of low-paid factory jobs.  If you have a thriving middle class a strong currency is good.  For it lets the people buy a lot of stuff.  Creating a lot of better paying non-factory jobs.  In a non-export-dominated economy.  Basically the difference between free market capitalism.  And mercantilism (see Is the World on the Brink of a Currency War? by Michael Sivy posted 2/21/2013 on Time).

Currency wars – and trade wars generally – have their origins in a 17th and 18th century economic theory known as mercantilism. The idea was that a country’s wealth comes from selling more than it buys. A colonial empire could achieve this positive balance of trade by acquiring cheap raw materials from its colonies and then ensuring that it exported more finished goods than it imported. This was usually accomplished with tariffs that made imports very expensive.

Such an approach couldn’t work in the modern world. Countries don’t get cheap raw materials from colonies anymore. They have to buy them – especially oil – on the open market. So while currency devaluation makes exports cheaper for foreign buyers, it also makes essential imports more expensive. For Europe in particular, which imports so much of its energy, devaluation isn’t necessarily a plus…

The Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing – buying bonds to swell the money supply – is aimed principally at stimulating domestic demand. European advocates of a cheaper euro currency, meanwhile, are hoping to make national debt easier to finance, not trying to pump up exports. In fact, the continent’s greatest exporter, Germany, is the country least amenable to currency devaluation…

So forget all the talk of a currency war. What’s going on has nothing to do with trade and everything to do with debt and growth and inflation. If the global economy is in danger of reliving the past, it will not be a repeat of the 1930s. Rather, it will be a repeat of the 1970s, when the Federal Reserve expanded the money supply to offset the economic slowdown caused by the oil crisis – and ended up encouraging double-digit inflation.

The double-digit inflation of the Seventies really devalued the currency.  Raised prices.  Greatly limiting the amount of stuff people could buy.  Even though printing money then didn’t work these nations believe it will work now.  Because it will make their exports cheaper for foreigners to buy.  Despite making everything more expensive inside their own country.

But there is another reason they love to print money.  It lets them spend more.  And it makes old debt easier to pay off.  We call it monetizing the debt.  For example, if a nation has a GDP of $1 million and a debt of $500,000 that debt is huge.  It’s 50% of GDP.  But if we turn on the printing presses and devalue the currency to one tenth of its original value that GDP is now $10 million ($1 million divided by 1/10).  Making that outstanding debt only 5% of GDP.  And a whole lot easier to repay.  But what is one person’s debt is another person’s retirement savings.  So not only does inflation increase prices it destroys our retirement savings.  And all this just so we can boost the small sliver of our economy we call exports.

If this is so bad on so many levels why do governments print money then?  For one simple reason.  To get people to vote for them.  Because all the people see is the free stuff the politicians are giving them.  The damage it causes comes later.  And they can always blame that on Republicans.  Who refuse to raise tax rates on rich people to make them pay their fair share.

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Boeing’s Problems with Lithium-Ion Batteries illustrates the problem of the All-Electric Car

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 24th, 2013

Week in Review

The greatest cost of all airlines is fuel.  Airplanes that burn less fuel make airlines more money.  And help airlines go from losing money to making a profit.  Aircraft are complex machines.  Full of high-tech stuff.  But one of the best ways to burn less fuel is not all that high-tech.  You just make planes lighter.  One of the ways of doing that, though, is very high-tech.  The new lithium-ion battery.  Which packs a whole lot of energy in a tiny package.  Allowing Boeing to make their Dreamliner just a little bit lighter.  Allowing it to burn less fuel (see Japan Finds Swelling in Second Boeing 787 Battery by Mari Saito, REUTERS, posted 2/19/2013 on the New York Times).

Cells in a second lithium-ion battery on a Boeing Co 787 Dreamliner forced to make an emergency landing in Japan last month showed slight swelling, a Japan Transport Safety Board (JTSB) official said on Tuesday.

The jet, flown by All Nippon Airways Co, was forced to make the landing after its main battery failed…

The U.S. Federal Aviation Authority grounded all 50 Boeing Dreamliners in commercial service on January 16 after the incidents with the two Japanese owned 787 jets.

The groundings have cost airlines tens of millions of dollars, with no solution yet in sight.

Boeing rival Airbus said last week it had abandoned plans to use lithium-ion batteries in its next passenger jet, the A350, in favor of traditional nickel-cadmium batteries.

Lighter and more powerful than conventional batteries, lithium-ion power packs have been in consumer products such as phones and laptops for years but are relatively new in industrial applications, including back-up batteries for electrical systems in jets.

As it turns out it can be a little risky packing a whole lot of energy into tiny packages.  It may make batteries lighter.  But it’s like putting a tiger in a box.  If it isn’t a good box it’s not going to restrain that tiger.  And that’s what sort of has been happening with lithium-ion batteries.  People who bought discount replacement cell phone batteries saw those cheap knockoffs burst into flames.

Lithium-ion batteries have a tendency to burst into flames if they are overcharged.  This is the risk of using concentrated energy.  It’s why they grounded the entire fleet of Boeing Dreamliners.  And it’s why the all-electric car is not practical.  The one battery that gives it a useful range can be a little temperamental.  Like a tiger in a box.

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The UAW and Public Sector Unions devastate Three Michigan Cities

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 24th, 2013

Week in Review

It’s not been a good year for Detroit.  Well, it’s been more than a year.  It’s been a few bad years.  Actually, it’s been a great many bad years.  Since 1970.  When Ford Motor Company Chairman Henry Ford II joined with other business leaders to form Detroit Renaissance.  To revitalize the City of Detroit.  And some 42 years later, the City of Detroit is still struggling (see Detroit’s Misery Can Be Its Turning Point by Micheline Maynard posted 2/23/2013 on Forbes).

Detroit boosters were dealt a one-two blow this week by the kind of outsiders they have come to resent.

First, a state review panel declared that a financial emergency existed in the city, making it likely that Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder will appoint an emergency financial manager with sweeping powers.

Then, Forbes weighed in by declaring Detroit the nation’s most miserable city, based on a series of criteria that include crime, unemployment, foreclosures and home value…

Although General Motors is based in Detroit, and Chrysler recently opened an office there, the automobile industry is not going to provide the vast numbers of jobs the city needs to become solvent.

And there lies the problem for Detroit.  A city that grew big and rich off of the automobile industry saw a steady exodus and a declining tax base when the automobile industry declined.  Live by the automobile.  Die by the automobile.  And it’s just not Detroit.  A couple of other Michigan cities broke into the top 10 of Forbes’ America’s Most Miserable Cities 2013.

#7 Warren, Mich.

Troy and Farmington Hills are part of the government-defined Warren metro division. Like Detroit, the Warren metro has seen home prices collapse–off 53% the past five years.

#2 Flint, Mich.

Flint has been demolishing homes as the city shrinks with residents leaving in search of jobs. Only Detroit has a higher net out-migration rate. Flint ranks third worst for violent crime, behind Detroit and Memphis.

#1 Detroit, Mich.

Violent crime in the Detroit metro was down 5% in 2011, but it remains the highest in the country with 1,052 violent crimes per 100,000 people, according to the FBI. Home prices were off 35% the past 3 years, which is the biggest drop in the U.S.

If you seek a pleasant peninsula* you’d do better looking for one where the UAW isn’t dominant.  Perhaps Florida.  For the UAW is a city killer based on these Michigan cities.  (*The official state motto of Michigan is “If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you.”)

The Big Three dominated these cities.  Where fat pay and benefit packages were passed on to consumers in overpriced vehicles.  The Big Three’s monopoly on car sales allowed them to make fat profits.  And pay enormous amounts of taxes to the cities that had the factories that assembled their cars.  City coffers were so flush with cash city governments grew.  And city workers enjoyed fat pay and benefit packages.  This was the high water mark of the UAW.  Just after public sector unions had joined them on the gravy train.  But then something happened that devastated the UAW.  Consumers got choice.  They no longer had to buy overpriced ‘rust buckets’ the Big Three was putting out during the Seventies.  For the Japanese gave them choice.

And so began the great decline of the Big Three.  Quality and value did them in.  It’s what the people wanted.  While the UAW wanted consumers to pay more and get less.  So they could continue to enjoy their fat pay and benefit packages.  As the jobs went away so do did the taxes.  The cities bloated with all those government workers with their fat pay and benefit packages tried to maintain the size of their governments even while the tax base was declining.  Reducing other government services as they had little money left over after paying those fat pay and benefit packages.

With fewer and fewer jobs available people left these cities.  Empty houses dotted the horizon.  And housing prices fell.  With the tax base continuing to decline.  Poverty rates rose.  As did city services for the impoverished.  Leaving even less for other city services.  Causing a further exodus from the city.  Urban blight followed.  As did crime.  Causing a further decline in property values.

Low interest rates helped boost housing prices.  For awhile.  President Clinton’s Policy Statement on Discrimination in Lending kicked off subprime lending in earnest as lenders bowed to the Clinton Justice Department to put more low-income and minorities into homes they couldn’t afford.  Creating a huge housing bubble.  Built on easy credit.  Artificially low interest rates.  And the adjustable rate mortgage (ARM).  When rates went up all those low-income and minorities who bought houses they couldn’t afford defaulted on their higher mortgage payments.  Creating the subprime mortgage crisis.  Giving us the Great Recession.  Creating a flood of foreclosures.  A free fall in housing prices.  And more of the same that helped put those three Michigan cities into the top ten of Forbes’ America’s Most Miserable Cities 2013.

Michigan recently opted to become a Right-to-Work state.  Greatly angering the UAW and those public sector unions.  But it may be just what Michigan needs to reverse the great decline caused by the UAW and the public sector unions that devastated some of Michigan’s greatest cities.  One thing for sure it can’t get any worse.  Not when being a union state for so long secured three places in the top ten of Forbes’ America’s Most Miserable Cities 2013.

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