The Lithium-Ion Battery still not Ready to Power a Practical All-Electric Car

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 14th, 2013

Week in Review

If you’ve been waiting with bated breath for the all-electric car with a real useful range you can start breathing again.  For the one technology that promised the most is having a setback.  Because of its propensity to burst into flames (see FAA sees lessons from Boeing 787 battery woes by Andrea Shalal-Esa posted 4/13/2013 on Reuters).

Lightweight and power-packed, lithium-ion batteries are used to power electric cars, laptops, tablets, cell phones, satellites. They are even used on the Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 fighter jet. The number of cells manufactured globally has leapt to 4.4 billion in 2012 from 800 million in 2002.

But safety remains an issue. The battery industry still does not have a foolproof way to predict or prevent internal short circuits in the cells, according to experts who spoke about the issue this week at the National Transportation Safety Board forum…

In the Cessna case, the FAA required that lithium-ion batteries in the Cessna Citation Model 525C, be replaced with nickel-cadmium or lead-acid batteries, older technologies that are not as volatile. Airbus officials have said they think lithium-ion batteries can eventually be made safe, but that the company was shifting to nickel-cadmium for its forthcoming A350 jet, because it doesn’t want to risk a delay in bringing the plane to market.

If you’re buying a replacement lithium-ion battery don’t try to save a buck.  Just bite the bullet and buy the brand the manufacturer recommends.  So it doesn’t burst into flames.

If these are not safe to go onto airplanes without some extraordinary precautions just imagine that all-electric car you plug in overnight in your attached garage.  There have been a couple of garage fires.  Not many.  But that’s probably more to do with the fact no one is buying these all-electric cars.   Why are these so dangerous?  Because they contain a lot of energy in a very small package.  Sort of like our early steam engines where a lot of steam pressure was in a very small package.  And when something didn’t go right like a pressure relief valve sticking they blew up in a massive explosion.

This is the risk when you try to get a lot of energy out of small packages.  They can do a lot of work for us.  But if something goes wrong something really bad can happen.  And until we can get past this point in the development of the lithium-ion battery we won’t have a practical all-electric car any time soon.

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The Unfilled Demand for Abortion Providers creates a House of Horror in a Pennsylvanian Abortion Clinic

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 14th, 2013

Week in Review

Girls grow up so fast these days, don’t they?  Why when I was in high school I remember girls being girls.  Hanging out with their friends.  Getting involved with after-school activities.  I even remember some of the cool girls in the marching band playing inside the school on Friday.  And at the pep rallies.  Today these girls are managing their birth control.  Even having an abortion or two.  Because the liberal Left has empowered them.  So they can be free and do whatever they want to.  So these girls aren’t playing in marching band anymore at pep rallies.  But giving in to the constant begging of the cool boys they want to like them.  So instead of those innocent after-school activities they’re having consequence-free sex.  Well, what they thought was consequence-free sex.

Which brings us to the ugly side of all that empowering girls.  Some of them are getting venereal diseases they will live with for the rest of their life.  Some are getting pregnant.  Some are having babies.  And some are having abortions.  And all of this is happening even before they graduate from high school.

It’s getting harder to get an abortion these days.  As more people are turning away from the heady days of the Seventies.  Where women went on the pill.  And Roe v. Wade made abortion legal.  Anything went in those days.  But after seeing the explosion in abortion rates people are having a change of heart on the issue.  Especially those in the health care field.  Making it hard to find abortion providers in some areas.  And because fewer and fewer people are providing these services stories like this appear in the news (see Why Pro-Lifers And Pro-Choicers Both Blame The Other Side For Kermit Gosnell’s ‘House Of Horrors’ Abortion Clinic by Grace Wyler posted 4/12/2013 on Business Insider).

The gruesome murder trial of Philadelphia abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell has inflamed political passions on both sides of the abortion debate, both for its horrific content and for the potential policy implications that the trial could have on abortion rights and women’s health.

If you are just tuning in to the Gosnell story, here is the ugly synopsis, from the 2011 grand jury report (emphasis added):

This case is about a doctor who killed babies and endangered women. What we mean is that he regularly and illegally delivered live, viable, babies in the third trimester of pregnancy – and then murdered these newborns by severing their spinal cords with scissors. The medical practice by which he carried out this business was a filthy fraud in which he overdosed his patients with dangerous drugs, spread venereal disease among them with infected instruments, perforated their wombs and bowels – and, on at least two occasions, caused their deaths. Over the years, many people came to know that something was going on here. But no one put a stop to it.

Let us say right up front that we realize this case will be used by those on both sides of the abortion debate. We ourselves cover a spectrum of personal beliefs about the morality of abortion. For us as a criminal grand jury, however, the case is not about that controversy; it is about disregard of the law and disdain for the lives and health of mothers and infants. We find common ground in exposing what happened here, and in recommending measures to prevent anything like this from ever happening again

So what are the two sides of the abortion debate saying?  Here’s the pro-life point of view:

To that end, pro-life groups like SBA List have used the Gosnell trial to bolster support for new state laws that impose further restrictions on abortion clinics, including so-called Targeted Regulation of Abortion Provider (TRAP) laws that require abortion clinics to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers and often require abortion providers to have hospital admitting privileges.

“One solution is to increase the standards that these clinics and facilities are held to,” Quigley said. “The types of legislation that we’re focusing on are precisely these types of common-sense measures that ensure health and safety standards for abortion clinics.”

To emphasize this point, pro-life advocates point to the fact that Gosnell’s clinic was not inspected by the Pennsylvania Department of Health after 1993, when the agency decided to stop inspecting abortion clinics at all.

According to the report from the grand jury, this decision was made for “political reasons” because the state didn’t want to be “putting a barrier up to women” who wanted abortions. The board considered restarting inspections in 1999, but officials were concerned that abortion clinics wouldn’t meet inspection standards, resulting in fewer abortion facilities.

So, in other words, they want to make an abortion clinic as clean and professional as my veterinary doctor’s office.  Where my vet works hard to keep his standards up.  Because there are a lot of vets out there doing the same thing and he doesn’t want to lose my business.  As there is no stigma in being a vet.  And no political controversy.  Which tells you a lot about abortion.

Now the pro-choice point of view:

Still, pro-choice advocates say that the Philadelphia “House of Horrors” is also the tragic by-product of a hostile political climate that has driven legitimate abortion providers out of business and forced women to seek out low-cost butchers like Gosnell.

“We all thought we had said goodbye to the days of back-alley abortions,” said Jessica Arons, director of the Women’s Health and Rights program at the Center for American Progress. “The majority of abortions provided in this country are legal and safe. But there are people like Gosnell who take advantage of the polarized atmosphere and exploit women. So hopefully people will take away the right lessons from this case.”

According to Arons, TRAP laws are the result of a decades-long push by pro-life lobbyists to limit access to abortions at the state level. She explained that these laws put cumbersome architectural and bureaucratic restrictions on abortion clinics, forcing providers to comply with medical standards designed for far more complicated surgical facilities.

In the end, clinics are often unable to meet the requirements and are forced to shut down — which, of course, is the goal of these laws from the outset.

Laws requiring doctors to have hospital privileges are also a “catch-22,” Arons said, because hospitals are often reluctant to grant privileges to qualified abortion providers for fear of political backlash.

Hostile political environment?  Back alley abortions?  They couldn’t have left Gosnell more alone.  The only thing restricting access to abortion was the trouble in finding more abortion providers to work in an unregulated industry.  Which means it must be more of a matter of conscious than politics.

Of course the bigger picture here is what the liberal Left is doing to girls by empowering them with free birth control and access to abortion.  It is because of this girls feel that it must be okay to use sex to get a boy to like them.  And because boys can have more sex with more girls they continue this behavior after high school.  Which is a large reason for women turning to online dating services to find someone to marry.  Because most men these days are just looking for a good time.  Like they were back in high school.  Which leads to multiple sex partners.  Greater transmission of venereal diseases.  And abortions.

In hindsight these women probably wished they did play in that marching band in high school.  And enjoyed being a girl.  Having some wholesome fun in those after-school activities.  Instead of empowering themselves.  By objectifying themselves.  And creating a whole lot of stress in their lives they don’t need.  Caused by the Left.  Who exploited these women.  And girls.  To make them fear Republicans.  And vote Democrat.  So they could have all the consequence-free sex they so desired.  As if that was the only thing important in their lives.

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Doctor Shortages in the NHS force some Hospitals to adopt Banker Hours when treating Stroke Patients

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 14th, 2013

Week in Review

We hear it all the time how to recognize the early symptoms of a stroke.  Here.  And in the UK.  The sudden headache.  The numbness in an arm or a leg.  The slurred speech.  For if we identified these symptoms early enough we can get to the hospital in time to prevent a massive stroke.  As long as we get there during banker hours (see Mother, 30, suffered massive stroke after being ‘sent home from hospital because a specialist was unavailable’ by Liz Hull posted 4/13/2013 on the Daily Mail).

A young mother suffered a massive stroke after she was wrongly sent home from hospital because there were no specialists on duty over the weekend to assess a brain scan.

Ruth Stanton was aged just 30 when she was admitted to hospital after suffering two mini-strokes over 48 hours.

Doctors carried out two brain scans, but failed to give her a diagnosis because it was a Friday evening and the specialist neurologist was not on site…

Because it was a Friday evening the specialist wasn’t available and, although the scans showed signs of abnormality, medics made the decision to discharge Mrs Stanton, who was told to wait for an out patient’s appointment, instead.

She returned home and went to bed but suffered the stroke in the middle of the night.

A medical expert provided evidence to the couple’s solicitor that prescribing a simple dose of aspirin for Mrs Stanton, now 36, would have prevented it occurring.

We can learn the early warning signs of a stroke but the on-call doctors and nurses in a NHS hospital can’t?  This after she suffered two mini-stokes over a 48-hour period that were in her medical records?  And there were signs of abnormality in two brain scans?  What does it take for someone to call in a specialist?  A flashing neon sign over a patient’s head saying “I’m a having a stroke.  Please call in a specialist.  Help.”  Apparently so.  For they will discharge you on a Friday afternoon and ask you to come back during office hours on Monday otherwise.

There’s a running gag in American television about a busy doctor telling a patient to “take two aspirins and call me in the morning.”  So they don’t have to cancel their evening plans by staying late to see a patient.  Apparently they didn’t give this woman anything.  And asked her to come back sometime after the weekend.  As an outpatient.  Despite having had 2 mini-strokes.  And signs of abnormality in her brain scans.  Is this what we have to look forward to under Obamacare?  Health care resources so stretched that they can’t be bothered to call in a specialist.  Or give a woman about to have a massive stroke a couple of aspirins?

It may very well be.  For Obamacare will take us in the direction of the NHS.  A more top-down managed health care system trying to take care of an aging population.  Where the only way to cut costs will be to force health care providers to work for less.  Leading to the kind of doctor shortages where they ask a patient to come back after the weekend during banking hours when someone will be available to see them.  If they don’t die or suffer a debilitating stroke over the weekend.

Moving in the direction of the NHS may provide health care to more people.  But the quality of that health care will fall so much that there may be more deaths in the long run from substandard care.  More of that fair-share sacrifice President Obama is always talking about.  If people are dying because they don’t have health insurance than some of those who have it need to die, too.  To make things more fair.  Apparently.

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More of the Same from the Fed means more Housing Bubbles and Great Recessions

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 14th, 2013

Week in Review

Those who wanted to get away from the United States’ limited government past and grow government had to do away with the gold standard.  Those who favored a large and expansive federal government needed fiat money.  They needed the power to print money at will.  To fund deficits when they continually spend more than they have.  Despite continuously raising taxes.  When Nixon decoupled the dollar from gold in 1971 the fiat money people got their way.  Now the Keynesians could tax, borrow, print and spend to their heart’s content.  With the federal government in the driver’s seat of the U.S. economy.  With their Keynesian economists advising them.  Who said government spending was just as good as private spending.  So go ahead and tax, borrow and print.  Because all you need to create economic activity is to print money.

Of course they couldn’t have been more wrong.  As the Seventies proved.  Printing money just created inflation.  Higher prices.  And asset bubbles.  With no corresponding economic activity.  Instead there was stagflation.  And a high misery index (the inflation rate added to the unemployment rate).  Because there is more to economic activity than monetary policy.  Tax rates and regulations matter a whole heck of a lot, too.  As well as a stable currency.  Not one being depreciated away with double-digit inflation.  Rich people may get richer buying and selling real estate and stocks during periods of high inflation but working class people just see both their paycheck and savings lose purchasing power.

It was these Keynesian policies that caused the S&L Crisis.  The dot-com bubble.  And the subprime mortgage crisis.  Giving is the Great Recession.  The worst recession since the Great Depression.  But have we learned anything from these failed policies of the past?  Apparently not (see Blind Faith In The Fed Is Not Enough by Comstock Partners posted 4/12/2013 on Business Insider).

The move of the S&P 500 into new all-time highs is based on neither the economy, nor earnings, nor value, but almost completely on the blind faith that the Fed can single-handedly flood the market with enough funds to keep the illusion going.  In this sense the similarity of the current stock market to the dot-com bubble of the late 1990s or the housing bubble ending in 2007 is glaring…

Real consumer spending has been growing at a mediocre 2% rate over the past year despite growth of only 0.9% in real disposable income over the same period.  This was accomplished mainly by decreasing the savings rate to only 2.6% in February, compared to rates of 7%-to-11% in more prosperous times.  With employment growth diminishing and the negative effects of the January tax increases and the sequester yet to kick in, consumer spending is likely to slow markedly in the period ahead.  While March year-over-year comparisons may benefit from an earlier Easter, the reverse will probably be true in April.  Keep in mind, too, our over-riding theme that consumers, still burdened with most of the debt built up in the housing boom, are in no shape to jump-start their spending…

In sum, the lack of support from the economy, earnings or valuation leaves the Fed as the only game in town.  Although the old adage says “Don’t fight the Fed”, it did pay to fight the Fed in 2001 and 2002 and again from late 2007 to early 2009.  In our view, the Fed can only try to offset the tightness coming from the fiscal side, but cannot get the economy growing on a sustainable basis.

The only real growth we had was from a tax cut.  Surprise, surprise.  Of course that cut in the tax rate of the Social Security payroll tax decreased the Social Security surplus.  Moving the Social Security funding crisis up in time.  That along with Medicare and whatever Obamacare will do will cause a financial crisis this country has yet to see.  Which will cause great suffering.  Particularly because people are saving less because they have less.  Which is the only way they can compensate for the horrible economy President Obama and his Keynesian advisors are giving us.  So they won’t have private savings to replace their Social Security benefits that the government will spend long before they retire.

And what does the government do?  Why, spend more, of course.  Because of the sweet nothings their Keynesian advisors are whispering into their ears.  Saying the things big government types want to hear.  Spend more.  It’s good for the economy.  If you wonder what got Greece into the mess they’re in this is it.  Spending.  And anti-business policies to pull more wealth out of the private sector so the government can spend it.

All the countries reeling in the Eurozone sovereign debt crisis are there for the same reason.  None of them got into the mess they’re in because they had low taxes and low regulatory costs.  Because countries with business-friendly environments create private sector jobs.  And private sector jobs don’t cost the government anything.  So they don’t have to tax, borrow, print and spend like they do when they listen to their Keynesian advisors.  Because that is what causes chronic deficits to fund.  And growing national debts.  Things that don’t happen when you leave the economy in the private sector.

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Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan were Good for the World but Bad for Special Interests

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 14th, 2013

Week in Review

People either loved Margaret Thatcher.  Or they hated her.  And it all came down to their political ideology.  If you were pro-capitalism you loved her.  If you preferred socialism you hated her.  And the biggest socialist to hate her (and her friend Ronald Reagan) was the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics (USSR).  Not only did the success of her economic policies make the failure of the Soviet economic policies stark by comparison she was outspoken about her hatred of communism.  Even allowed her good friend, Ronald Reagan, base American nuclear cruise missiles on British soil.

Capitalism’s victory over Soviet socialism was so apparent that Mikhail Gorbachev opened dialogue with the Great Margaret Thatcher.  Ultimately bringing about the Soviet’s defeat in the Cold War.  Because socialism as an economic system doesn’t work.  Which is why Britain soared to new heights under the capitalist policies of Margaret Thatcher.  While the Soviet Union collapsed under their socialist policies.  And she entered office when Britain was at its worst (see To blame Margaret Thatcher for today’s problems is to misunderstand history by Allister Heath posted 4/9/2013 on The Telegraph).

[Margaret Thatcher] inherited a basket case of an economy, crippled by obsolete state-owned firms, a legacy of decades of poor policies. Management was insular and demoralised, the workforce used as pawns by militant union leaders who would call strikes at every opportunity, customers treated like dirt and production techniques stuck in the past.

Productivity was appalling, overmanning the norm and the quality of UK-made goods notoriously poor. Britain was sclerotic, anti-entrepreneurial and anti-innovation, often specialising in industries with no long-term future.

Yet it is a little-known fact that manufacturing output actually went up during her time in office, despite the necessary liquidation of so many unviable plants.

This was basically the problem they were having in the Soviet Union.  Everything was state-owned.  Production techniques were stuck in the past.  No one clamored to get their hands on good Soviet products.  Because there were no good Soviet products.  And they had far too many workers in their plants building stuff no one wanted.  While store shelves sat empty and people went without the basic necessities.  Britain was far along the path to outright socialism.  While Soviet Union was nearing the end of that path.  Margaret Thatcher turned the country around before they could end up where the Soviet Union was.  And the sun began to shine once more on the British Empire.  Albeit a smaller one.

Output had grown another 4.9pc by the start of 1997, when the Tories were booted out. Given the bitterness of the 1980s’ recession, caused by the desperate need to wring out extreme levels of inflation from the system by using high interest rates, it shows just how effective her supply-side reforms turned out to be…

…She was right to slash income tax, to repeal capital controls and to shake up the City of London with Big Bang. Most of her reforms to retail banking, including allowing banks and building societies to compete with one another, were spot-on.

There were some bad changes, however, though not the ones usually cited: still-high inflation made the ultra-safe saving banks unviable, especially after the EU forced the UK to introduce retail deposit insurance in 1979; there was a counter-productive move away from individual responsibility in retail financial services; and the UK signed up to the Basel Accords in 1990, a flawed international system to regulate banks that triggered all sorts of dangerous unintended behaviour and ensured financial institutions retained far too little reserves. In all cases, however, these were changes that didn’t really follow her basic philosophy…

Thatcherism was about choice, individual responsibility and independence from the state, not the politicised, artificially pump-primed markets we ended up with by the mid-2000s. She hated bail-outs, government subsidies and nationalisations; and would have looked on in horror at the gradual socialisation of losses and privatisation of profit in the financial services industry in the 15 years running up to the crisis.

Starting with the rescue of the LTCM fund in 1998 in New York, regulators decided that no large financial institution could ever fail. Alan Greenspan saw himself as an economist-king, manipulating interest rates to bolster financial markets and ensure perpetual growth, and triggering a giant bubble that burst twice. This was corporatism, not genuine capitalism.

Under the new order, including Gordon Brown’s late, unlamented Financial Services Authority, banks were disciplined neither by the free market – the authorities were there as a backstop, so there was no chance of going bust – nor by regulators, who allowed risk to build up unchecked. Greed was no longer balanced out by fear; moral hazard had replaced prudence. Thatcher, the grocer’s daughter and keen student of F.A Hayek, would have despaired.

A genuinely Thatcherite government in the 2000s is unlikely to have tolerated the explosion in the money supply – and house price madness – that Brown allowed, not least because Lord Lawson made a similar mistake in the late 1980s when he was Chancellor, triggering an earlier, disastrous house price bubble and bust. The parallels between the two episodes are striking but bizarrely uncommented upon.

So it is silly to blame Thatcher for today’s problems. If only one of her disciples had been in power in the 2000s, we wouldn’t be in anything like the mess we are in today.

Supply-side reforms?  Those were the same kind of reforms that her good friend, Ronald Reagan, favored.  And by using them he undid the Keynesian damage of his predecessors (LBJ, Nixon, Ford and Carter).  Pulling the United States off the path towards socialism.  Long before they got where Britain was before Thatcher.  But like in Britain it didn’t take long to return to the failed policies of the past.  The Keynesians returned in full force.  Playing with interest rates.  Keeping them artificially low to interfere with market forces.  Causing great irrational exuberance.  Those famous words uttered by Alan Greenspan.  An irrational exuberance his Federal Reserve policies enabled. Allowing people to borrow cheap money to invest with abandon.  With no fear of the economic fallout.  Pure Keynesian economics.  This wasn’t capitalism.  For capitalism would have raised those interest rates before they created such great bubbles.  And capitalism would have disciplined those free markets.  By checking greed with fear and having serious consequences for irrational exuberance.  Not government bailouts.

If Thatcher and Reagan were in office in the past decade things would be a lot better now.  And the simple proof of that is that when we moved away from their policies we created the mess we have today.

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