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China; A Technological Backwater No Longer September 13, 2021

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I think it was around 10 years ago that I attended a blogger meetup in Denver. Ace was there, as was NiceDeb (Deb Heine) and our own Cathy. Was sipping on a pint with the three of them, minding my own business in my shy and retiring way, when NiceDeb points at me and says (in quite a mocking tone of voice, mind you), “And you! You’re all about China!”

I don’t know if I was all about China, but I was certainly a lot about China. One point I made at that table, having set down my pint to form a hasty defense, was that in my field (heat transfer & fluid flow), technical journals which 10 years prior had 90%+ of the articles written in the US, now had less than 50%. And China was now one of the big sources of those articles.

Now the draft of a report commissioned by the Department of Energy confirms what I saw then has continued with a vengeance:

In all cases studied, the analysis of the top 20% of cited literature clearly showed that the U.S. is losing ground to foreign competitors and, in some cases, is already lagging behind (see Figure 1 on page 16). The U.S.’s relative position improves when analyzing top 5% cited literature (see Appendix), but qualitative trend remains similar. In the emerging area of Quantum Information Science, for example, the EU is clearly leading, with China and the U.S. close behind. In other areas studied China is emerging as a worldwide leader. The changes in leadership in these areas correspond to a period of rapid increase in research investment in China and a flattening in the research funding in the U.S., suggesting that investment in key areas has a significant impact on leadership.

What they’re talking about is research in leading areas of Basic Energy Science, which are pretty good areas (table screencapped from the report):

So what’s the point? The point is that China is now leading the EU and the US in many of these cutting-edge technologies, and is pretty much tied if it’s not leading. Given their rapid progress (and penchant for helping themselves to other people’s work) in another 10 years it’s likely that we’ll be trailing them by quite a large margin. And it’s not just these energy areas – Instapundit is constantly pointing out how aggressive China is getting in the Space Race.

The United States has had several things going for it that ensured its position as the world’s superpower. They were:

  • Large economy
  • Dollar standard
  • Technological leadership
  • Foremost military
  • A culture where entrepreneurship can thrive

All of those are being threatened today. Saddled with massive debt, a ridiculously inept educational system, and a corrupted value system which elevates social justice to the pinnacle in society, . . . I don’t see how we turn this around.

Cruz Says “Get a Job” ==> Libs Freak September 8, 2021

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Ted Cruz aroused the ire of the libs when he responded to an ABC tweet thusly:

The Left predictably dug in with responses criticizing his lack of empathy, and claiming that there weren’t enough jobs to go around. I don’t have an opinion about his empathy, but we can certainly have a gander at that second claim.

Are there really not enough jobs to go around?

The Hill tells us:

Over seven million people across the U.S. will lose their unemployment benefits beginning on Monday as pandemic safety nets expire.

The emergency federal jobless benefits are set to end on Labor Day, while another three million people will lose their additional $300 boost to state unemployment benefits, barring government intervention.

Got it. 7 million lose federal benefits, while another 3 million lose state benefits. That totals to a convenient 10 million unfortunates (the number is convenient, not the unfortunates).

So what’s the job sitch? The Bureau of Economic Analysis’s job report (released today) sez:

The number of job openings increased to a series high of 10.9 million on the last business day of July, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today.

Hunh. Obviously there’s a problem comparing jobs at the end of July to people in September, but it’s all we’ve got to work with. And it tells us that Cruz was right – there are 9% more job available than people losing their benefits.

Here’s another way to look at it. The BEA makes a handy-dandy chart that tells us how many people are unemployed vs. how many jobs are available. As you can see from their chart, as of July there was less than 1 person available per job. A little dated, but at least it compares July to July.

I’d say that Cruz was spot on. Not that he was claiming that getting a job was the answer for everybody – his tweet simply said that ABC was wrong when they said that the benefit-losers had no other options.

Maybe that’s a little subtle for the liberal media.

Checking in on Manufacturing Jobs September 8, 2021

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Haven’t done one of these in a while, but I was wondering how manufacturing jobs are faring, given COVID and the new administration. The good news is that the rebound is continuing, the bad news is that we’ve got a ways to go:

It’ll be interesting to see how the fate of manufacturers unfolds over the next year or two.

Green Energy vs. Reality September 7, 2021

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Amid all the administration-caused economic, immigration, and foreign policy crises that currently confront us, people with no sense of perspective keep yelling about the “emergency” that is climate change. So one might ask, what’s the problem here? Why don’t we just use that green energy stuff and solve the problem? One quick Green New Deal and we can move on!

Well, here’s why:

US_ElectricityGeneration1990-2019

This is a graph of electricity generation from 1990 – 2019 (sorry for the tiny font – blame the IEA). See that little purple band just above wind? That’s solar power. And that little dark purple stripe on top of solar? That’s geothermal.

Compare those small percentages to coal (blue on top), natural gas (green), nuclear (orange), and hydroelectric (whatever that color is just below nuclear).

So, while it’s clear that solar and wind electricity generation grew a lot over the 15 years from 2004 to 2019, it’s just as clear that despite all the hullabaloo and government money, they’re nowhere near ready to take over from the traditional sources of electricity, particularly by 2030 as the Green New Deal demands.

Right now the green sources of energy supply about 10% of our electricity needs, and, as we saw in Texas earlier this year, there are some weaknesses in those technologies which require smarter infrastructure to resolve.

I’m all for alternative, cleaner, sources of energy, but I’m not for unrealistic hype, wasteful & premature subsidies, and irresponsible economic disruption.

Which is where Al Gore, Jeb Bush, AOC et al., are headed.

COVID-19 Response Cage Match: Biden vs. Trump September 5, 2021

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Back on July 7, 2020, in a brief interval between lids, candidate Biden said:

Today, the trajectory of COVID-19 in America is headed in the wrong direction. In some parts of the country, the test positivity rate is climbing, hospitalizations are sky-rocketing, and testing sites are overwhelmed.

He claimed that he, and only he, had a master plan to beat COVID, and that Trump’s efforts were a “fiasco.”

So let’s compare how he and Trump have done (all data downloaded from CDC website):

Well, well, well. Despite having complete foreknowledge about the virus, despite having 400 million doses of 3 newly-developed vaccines already purchased and being distributed, despite getting to enjoy already-declining case and death rates, . . .

. . . the virus has erupted on Biden’s watch.

The Trump administration was faced with a completely new virus, against which there were no vaccines or treatments. Biden has had the advantage of all the prior experience, but now, 4 months after the appearance of the Delta variant, it has exploded, without any response by Biden and his crew. In fact, what did he just say this past Friday (9/3/2021)?

Biden said he plans to lay out steps next week for his administration to take to try to further stimulate the economy. More needs to be done to encourage people to get vaccinated against Covid, he said.

Oh. Next week. No particular hurry, then.

“High Priority” – I do not think that means what you think it means August 22, 2021

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When asked about Afghanistan, Kamala Harris says, “We couldn’t have a higher priority right now.”

. . . and then she flies to Singapore.

It Was a Dead and Lifeless Blog… August 15, 2021

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It’s fun, if your life is empty and shallow and devoid of meaning, to go visit old favorites on the web. Like, say, The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest.

The Grand Prize this year was:

A lecherous sunrise flaunted itself over a flatulent sea, ripping the obsidian bodice of night asunder with its rapacious fingers of gold, thus exposing her dusky bosom to the dawn’s ogling stare.

Stu Duval, Auckland, New Zealand

This one from 2020 was only a Dishonorable Mention in the Science Fiction category, but it was like the author had looked into my soul:

“The quantum flux field of the post-Einsteinian hyperdrive has gone asymptotically and we are in danger of approaching singularity as described by the Schrodinger equations!” cried Captain Quirke, having no clue what he said, only knowing it sounded sciencey, secretly crossing his fingers behind his back and hoping there were no physicists reading because he didn’t want any pedantic letters saying it was nonsense.

Sue Doenim, England

The Dems Pour the Gasoline and Light the Match August 11, 2021

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More than 8 years ago I wrote a post about corrections made to the infamous Reinhart and Rogoff paper. What? You don’t remember the infamous Reinhart and Rogoff paper?

Let me jog your memory with an excerpt from my old post.

I’m sure you all remember the paper by a pair of Harvard University professors saying that a public debt level of 90% of GDP would significantly suppress GDP growth. Well, a team from UMass/Amherst has pointed out that Reinhart and Rogoff made mistakes in their analysis, excluding data from several countries.

UMass/Amherst made a corrected version of their key chart, which I’ve reproduced below:

As pointed out so long ago, the correlation isn’t as dramatic as first published, but it still looks menacing to me.

I took the liberty of adding some data points to the graph (Red triangles! How I missed you!): the points represent the United States’ experience from 2010 to 2019 (data obtained from the St Louis Fed). As you can see, we’re certainly not raising the curve.

But why is this relevant today?

Well, the Senate passed the $3.5 trillion mythically-funded liberal wet dream package today, which will undoubtedly push us farther to the right on that graph. We’re actually currently at 127%, BTW, so we’re going to get pushed rightward from that absurd value.. Only a handful of countries had higher levels of debt over the 53-year period considered in the studies.

As I pointed out a few months ago, we used to have the fantasy that we could retire the debt if we practiced fiscal responsibility for, say, 50 years. But at our current debt levels we will never pay off that debt. In fact, we’ll never shrink it to any appreciable degree. Especially with crippled economic growth.

We’ve chosen the form of our destructor.

Biden Blood Babble July 24, 2021

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Was musing over Joe Biden’s weird statement: “Are there people in the Republican Party who think we’re sucking the blood out of kids?”

Could just be more Bidenbabble or maybe some convoluted reference to vaccinating children, but then I thought about Tony Wyss-Coray and his work at Stanford and his company, Alkahest.

You all may recall that back in 2014 Professor Wyss-Coray mated the circulatory systems of an old mouse and a young mouse, resulting in large improvements in the physical and mental health of the old mouse. They ran some tests on a small number of people with Alzheimer’s a few years ago, and the young blood treatment seemed to help some of them. The press made a lot of stupid vampire jokes about it, and then promptly forgot about it though the research continues.

Fast forward to Joe Biden’s non sequitor: perhaps the notion of young blood treatments for dementia patients was on his mind.

Can’t imagine why.

Quick Review of “Soul” July 4, 2021

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Just watched Soul last night – the Pixar animation with Jamie Foxx as an aspiring jazz pianist. Not too bad (4.3/5, I’d say). Probably the upper limit of the amount of jazz reg’lar people can tolerate, but frustratingly short jazz licks for people like me who enjoy it.

Kind of a banal message from the film, but certainly better than all the woke messaging we get from most media. Revealing the message might corrupt your viewing, so I’ll put it below the fold:

(more…)

Biden Makes No Progress on Employment Participation July 3, 2021

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Last month I showed y’all a plot from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which illustrated how the recovery in labor participation had remained flat ever since Biden was elected. Here’s this month’s update, again from the BLS, which shows that nothing has changed:

You can refer to the earlier post for a view of a longer timeline.

Biden tells us that Milton Friedman is no longer the boss of him. But Biden and his administration will always be subject to the basic principles that everybody save Modern Money Theorists understand:

If you pay people to stay home, they stay home. And if you print money to pay for them to stay home, you get inflation.

Fittest Air Force Evah July 2, 2021

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You may have heard that the Air Force is planning on changing their fitness testing to allow walking and raised hand pushups. One wag burdened us with his thoughts:

“I think you can make an event like walking just as hard as running depending on how you score it,” Spoehr said. For example, he explained, a two-and-a-half mile walk in 13 minutes for a 17-year-old can be “really, really hard to make.”

Doing some quick math (13 minutes/2.5 miles) gives us 5.2 minute miles (5 minutes, 12 seconds), which I’m pretty sure no human on the planet is capable of doing.

For comparison, let’s check in on the world record for a mile:

British Olympian Tom Bosworth race-walked a mile in 5:31.08 at a Diamond League meet in London on Sunday, the fastest time ever in the rarely contested event. Bosworth broke a 27-year-old record by almost six seconds.

When I was a young lad in the Air Force we were required to run a mile and half in less than 12 minutes. Perhaps that’s more like what General Spoehr (ret.) was thinking. But I’m kind of stunned that no one did a spit take when he made his statement.