Cooked Books and Corrupt Government

English: Three-quarter length portrait of Rudy...

English: Three-quarter length portrait of Rudyard Kipling, photographic postcard, by Bourne & Shepherd. Image courtesy of the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University.http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/dl_crosscollex/brbldl/oneITEM.asp?pid=2022961&iid=1088883&srchtype=VCG (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And so, as I imagine most of you know, the administration has decided to cook the census books to get ‘better’ numbers for Obamacare. I wasn’t particularly surprised, they’ve cooked all the other books, why not these? Apparently, Megan McCardle was surprised. She had this to say:

I’m speechless. Shocked. Stunned. Horrified. Befuddled. Aghast, appalled, thunderstruck, perplexed, baffled, bewildered and dumbfounded. It’s not that I am opposed to the changes: Everyone understands that the census reports probably overstate the true number of the uninsured, because the number they report is supposed to be “people who lacked insurance for the entire previous year,” but people tend to answer with their insurance status right now.

But why, dear God, oh, why, would you change it in the one year in the entire history of the republic that it is most important for policy makers, researchers and voters to be able to compare the number of uninsured to those in prior years? The answers would seem to range from “total incompetence on the part of every level of this administration” to something worse

But I fail to see why we would expect anything else, we passed beyond the “Rule of Law” sometime late in the Bush presidency, or early in Obama’s, it hardly matters anymore. And if you’d like to know why there is no inflation, it’s mostly because we don’t count food, and fuel, anymore. Been to the grocery store lately? As usual Kipling said it best:

As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;

It’s all a sham, the corrupt books passed cooked to the apathetic. Nobody knows what is going on because the reports are, quite simply, lies. Nobody knows, not even the corrupt kleptocrats who perpetrated it. Why can’t anything be saved? Because the laws don’t work, especially the corporate bankruptcy laws, anymore. The housing bubble and the GM and Chrysler bailouts ruined all confidence in the market. Why do we have illegal aliens? Because unless you can afford the disguised bribes, or you work for an employer that wants cheap labor, you cannot immigrate legally.

But that’s all water over the dam, it simply doesn’t matter anymore. Why? because a huge majority of the citizens simply don’t give a damn, haven’t in years. They don’t care if they earn a living. Eat the Rich! What they’ll do when there are no rich except their masters in Washington never enters their minds.

That’s too much like cause and effect for their simple minds, so never mind.

And so Kipling again applies:

Recessional

God of our fathers, known of old,

   Lord of our far-flung battle-line,

Beneath whose awful Hand we hold

   Dominion over palm and pine—

Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,

Lest we forget—lest we forget!

The tumult and the shouting dies;

   The Captains and the Kings depart:

Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,

   An humble and a contrite heart.

Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,

Lest we forget—lest we forget!

Far-called, our navies melt away;

   On dune and headland sinks the fire:

Lo, all our pomp of yesterday

   Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!

Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,

Lest we forget—lest we forget!

If, drunk with sight of power, we loose

   Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe,

Such boastings as the Gentiles use,

   Or lesser breeds without the Law—

Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,

Lest we forget—lest we forget!

For heathen heart that puts her trust

   In reeking tube and iron shard,

All valiant dust that builds on dust,

   And guarding, calls not Thee to guard,

For frantic boast and foolish word—

Thy mercy on Thy People, Lord!

 

Well, you know what,it’sMaundy Thursday, and it’s my birthday, another year closer to getting worthless (by then) Social Security. In my lifetime, I’ve watched my country consistently hold the line on freedom, and win the cold war, and then gone from that triumph, on to become a lawless, rogue regime, that couldn’t find enough leadership to lead a horse to water. And so, I’ve nothing particularly important to do today, so I think I’ll go find a bottle of whisky, and get drunk as a lord.


After all, Who is John Galt?

 

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50 Years Ago This Week

Fifty years ago this week, Ford Motor Company, including a guy in marketing by the name of Lee Iacocca, brought to market a car that sold reasonably well, and still does: The Mustang.

In those halcyon days of proper American companies, I was a Dodge truck guy and a Buick (I still love the 63-65 Rivieras) and Chevy car guy but, it was a pretty cute car. My buddies tended to refer to it as a “Muskrat” in derision as we really prefered things like Impala SS’s and such but it wasn’t a bad car, by any means.

1966_red_Ford_Mustang_convertible_front_side

1966

Although they expected it to sell about 125,000 units, Ford’s bean counting types weren’t very excited, they thought it would pull sales from their other lines, and probably it did. It pulled sales from nearly everywhere else as well, it sold 418,812 units in the first year, for a profit of over $1 billion dollars (yes, with a ‘B’).

The 1969 Mach 1 may have been the best of the early models it was sure a looker at any rate, and it moved along, if not quite Mach 1, still it was pretty quick.

 It would pass most things, other than a gas station of course.

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

1969 Mach 1

And that brings up an interesting point, that ’69 above put more pollution into the air, sitting in the driveway turned off, than this one does at 60 miles per hour.

2015 Mustang

2015 Mustang

One of the neat things is that for 50 years, the Mustang has stayed pretty much true to its original vision, and not turned into something else. And you know, the last 6 years or so has turned me into a Ford guy, simply because they’re still an American company, not owned by the government or the Italians or something.

Happy Birthday Mustang!

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Assembly or Retreat

Caption: A Russian national flag (L) and partly seen flag of Russian airborne forces (R) fly above a former Ukrainian military base in Perevalnoye, near the Crimean capital Simferopol, on March 27, 2014. Ukraine asked today the UN General Assembly to deter the risk of any future Russian aggression by adopting a resolution denouncing its annexation of Crimea. AFP PHOTO/ DMITRY SEREBRYAKOV (Photo credit should read DMITRY SEREBRYAKOV/AFP/Getty Images)

Well, have you noticed we live in interesting times. Yep, I live out here where the US Cavalry used to prowl. You remember them, right. The guys who ran away from Sitting Bull died with their boots on at the Little Big Horn. Wasn’t the smartest fight we ever got in, but they did their best and the general was right there with them.

Lke Tom Clancy said, “If you’ve ever seen a classic John Ford western, you know who the cavalry are. They are the ones who hold the line on the lawless frontier. They are the soldiers who come to the rescue.”


 

Times have changed, Bill Kristol writing in Time put it this way, as his indictment

The message is clear. The problem is its content. Obama certainly isn’t sending the message that Colin Powell, after the Cold War, wanted America to send: “Superpower lives here.” Obama’s message, by contrast, is: “Superpower once lived here. No forwarding address.”

Putin understands Obama’s message. He knows he’s won Crimea. The question is whether he’ll win Ukraine.

He thinks he will. He’s dealing with the Obama administration, after all. He looks at the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan, he witnesses the failure to enforce the red line in Syria and the subsequent successes of his friend Assad, he chortles at the relaxation of the sanctions on Iran and the desperate desire to cut a nuclear deal, and he sees Obama’s defense cuts. And he reads the New York Times, where David Sanger reports, “Mr. Obama acknowledges, at least in private, that he is managing an era of American retrenchment.”

So Putin sees retrenchment. Putin sees retreat. And Putin sees that Obama is unlikely to reverse course.

Pretty much what I see as well. And it doesn’t make for a peaceful forecast. To be fair, Obama is correct, Russia is a regional power. The problem is, that region is Europe, and that’s where the game is being played. Russia isn’t trying to invade Canada.

The other day, I defined a superpower, here. The definition of a regional power is one that can exert great power over a short distance. Russia, perhaps alone in Europe, qualifies. The only other contender is the United Kingdom. And they, like we, run into the rule that nuclear powers can’t fight each other, simply because it can get out of hand too easily. That’s what won the cold war, it’s also why Cuba is still communist, everybody recognized the rule.

Given that, Poland, and the Balts are likely safe, although it’s a thin cover. In military terms I’d call it concealment, not cover. But it’s worked before, at least for a while.

Bill Kristol continues

In late 1979, with the seizure of American hostages by Iran and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, President Jimmy Carter was mugged by reality. Carter then tried, however haplessly, to change direction. But Barack Obama is no Jimmy Carter. Will Obama increase defense spending, as Carter did? Is he likely to launch a military excursion, as Carter did, over the objection—and then resignation—of his dovish secretary of state?

Carter, whatever his problems, was more hawkish than most in his party. In this he followed in the footsteps of every other Democratic president in the past century. Until Barack Obama.

It’s been a bit bewildering, even disorienting, to watch Obama get mugged by reality and refuse to press charges. But of course he doesn’t want to press charges. He doesn’t believe in an international system in which the American role is to lead. Former Saudi intelligence chief Turki al-Faisal was asked by the Financial Times recently about Putin and Obama. He explained: “While the wolf is eating the sheep, there is no shepherd to come to the rescue of the pack. This is where we find ourselves today.”

[Emphasis mine]

And that’s all true as well.

Russia is hardly a juggernaut. It’s troops are conscripts, not the combat veteran volunteers we in America and Britain are accustomed to. But in the bad old days, NATO had a saying “Quantity has a quality of its own”. It’s still true. And that calculus, ain’t on our side. Great Satan’s girlfriend reminds us:

European powers in recent years have shelved entire divisions and weapons systems. The British Royal Navy doesn’t operate a proper aircraft carrier. The Netherlands in 2012 disbanded its heavy-armor division, and France and the U.K. each now field a mere 200 main battle tanks. France has cut its orders of Rafale combat jets to six a year from 11. This isn’t even a Maginot Line.

Most alliance members are also dangerously demobilized: Germany last year announced plans to cut its troops to no more than 180,000 from 545,000 at the end of the Cold War. The French military has shrunk to 213,000 from 548,000 in 1990. The U.K. now has 174,000 armed forces, down from 308,000 in 1990.

NATO countries have also been deferring maintenance of major equipment and cutting back weapons inventories. Such neglect, normally hidden, became apparent in 2011 when Britain and France ran out of precision-guided munitions during NATO’s Libya campaign.

Remember, we don’t have much of a committment to Ukraine, just an agreement to consult. Which is just as well, cause we’d have a devil of a time getting much there, and our supply line to Afghanistan goes through Russia. And Europe buys most of its natural gas from Russia as well.

But, supposedly we are leaving AFPAK, and a sensible energy policy would let us make up most of Europe’s shortfall in energy, but we have to decide. We know what the President believes but, the people of America are sovereign.

Should the bugler sound ‘assembly’ or ‘retreat’?

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Balance of Power

Europe - Satellite image - PlanetObserver

Europe – Satellite image – PlanetObserver (Photo credit: PlanetObserver)

With the destruction of the Soviet Union, for most purposes, the stationing of United States forces in Europe became unnecessary. It is reasonable to have some based there as a contingency, and it is also desirable that the US help maintain Europe as a nuclear free zone (if you exclude Russia, France, and the United Kingdom). I would say they are diverse enough to take care of it, with merely some warnings from time to time.

The thing is with the end of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, we are no longer dealing with “the rompin’, stompin’, Red Army” where every soldier was a ten foot superman. Russia is a regional power, perhaps a bit stronger than Germany or France, but not as powerful as the United Kingdom, although it does have more nuclear devices, which is why we need to remain engaged.

But much of our problem is that all of Europe has been on the dole for better than half a century. They have had the luxury of having America defend them, without cost to them. Most of their militaries have become parade units not much more useful in a war than the UCLA marching band. And so they’ve had the freedom to support the unproductive and jeer the Americans.

In addition, because of the willful nonsense of the green policies, Europe has become almost completely dependant on Gazprom, the corrupt Russian cartel for their gas and oil.

In my opinion, our major interest in Europe at this point, becomes rather similar to the UK’s in the nineteenth century, make sure nobody take over the whole fool continent, with the additional proviso that nobody gets to use nukes. That doesn’t require a standing American Army in Europe, and we have other needs in defense, so it’s time to come home. Germany will have to feed the Germans.

As for Europe and energy, they need to find some common sense, tsunamis are very unlikely in Germany, and so Fukushima type disasters are as well. Nuclear energy is very clean, and since the plants are built, make more sense than coal plants that aren’t.

It should be a no-brainer for the United States to drill and frack our way, to energy dominance. It’s very obviously in our interest. Near as I can tell, Russia needs oil at about $90/ barrel, if we develop as rapidly as we can, we should be able to force the price well below that.

Who is America’s other persistent opposition? Yeah, Islamic fanatics, some state supported, some not. What do they all have in common? Yep, they’re supported by oil money, so we can expect some subsidence in their activity if we cut their funding by using American oil, and if we’re making money selling oil, we’ll have more good jobs, reducing welfare, Europe will be better off, reducing our subsidies to them. and our opponents will be hurt.

Tell me again why we’re not drilling for oil on public land?

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The Levelized Cost of Electric Generation | Watts Up With That?

English: United States Power Grid

English: United States Power Grid (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

OK, we haven’t talked about ‘renewable’ energy for a while. It’s still a crock. There are some possibilities in geothermal, maybe, and hydro works well. The rest are simply political pork, which will cause inordinate increases in your electric bill.

 

The main reason I don’t write more about this, other than time, is that it is a complex field, and one I’m not overly competent in. Lots of costs that aren’t very evident, including what happens if you end up with an incompetent engineer designing the foundation of a wind turbine. I don’t know the answers, and I doubt anybody else has them all either. Yet on we go, on our merry way, threatening our lifestyle on novelties.

 

Anyway, this post is from Watt’s Up With That, one of the best sites out there for this type of thing.

 

In early 2013, the US Energy Information Agency (EIA) released their new figures for the “levelized cost” of new power plants. I just came across them, so I thought I’d pass them on. These are two years more recent than the same EIA cost estimates I discussed in 2011 here. Levelized cost is the average cost of power from a new generating plant over its entire lifetime of service. The use of levelized cost allows us to compare various energy sources on an even basis. Here are the levelized costs of power by fuel source, for plants with construction started now that would enter service in 2018:

us average levelized costs 2018Figure 1. The levelized cost of new power plants that would come on line in 2018. They are divided into dispatchable (blue bars, marked “D:”) and non-dispatchable power sources (gray bars, marked “N:”).

Now, there are two kinds of electric power sources. Power sources that you can call on at any time, day or night, are called “dispatchable”. These are shown in blue above, and include nuclear, geothermal, fossil fuel, and the like. They form the backbone of the generation mix.

On the other hand, intermittent power sources are called “non-dispatchable”. They include wind and solar. Hydro is an odd case, because typically, for part of the year it’s dispatchable, but in the dry season it may not be. Since it’s only seasonally dispatchable, I’ve put it with the non-dispatchable sources.

OK, first rule of the grid. You need to have as much dispatchable generation as is required by your most extreme load, and right then. The power grid is a jealous bitch, there’s not an iota of storage. When the demand rises, you have to meet it immediately, not in a half hour, or the system goes down. You need power sources that you can call on at any time.

You can’t depend on solar or wind for that, because it might not be there when you need it, and you get grid brownout or blackout. Non-dispatchable power doesn’t cut it for that purpose.

This means that if your demand goes up,  even if you’ve added non-dispatchable power sources like wind or solar to your generation mix, you still need to also add dispatchable power equal to the increased demand.

 

 

Continue reading The Levelized Cost of Electric Generation | Watts Up With That?. Do work through the comments as well, there’s a lot of further information there.

 

 

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The Hammer of Reality and Green Energy

Ball and stick model of ethanol

Ball and stick model of ethanol (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There’s been enough going on that I’ve kind of let energy slide lately. I shouldn’t, like all the other projects built on magic and wishful thinking, they are running into the hard wall of reality. Some would say they are getting hammered. I tend to think of the hammer of reality as Mjølner, the modern incarnation of Thor’s Hammer, that can level mountains at a single stroke.

And Mjølner has been busy lately, rather than me rewriting it, I’ll simply excerpt from Marita Moon’s latest, and you can find the details at the link.

The whole idea of green energy—renewable resources—grew out of an energy reality that was much different from today’s. It was in the 1970s, following the OPEC Oil Embargo that solar panels began popping up on rooftops and “gasohol” subsidies were enacted. It was believed that green energy would move the U.S. off of foreign oil and prevent oil from being used as an economic weapon against us.

Today, that entire paradigm has been upended and OPEC’s power has been virtually neutered by increasing domestic oil production and decreasing gasoline consumption.

Jay Lehr, Heartland Institute science director, likens continuing “as though our new energy riches did not exist” to “ignoring our telecommunication revolution by supporting operator-assisted telephones with party lines.”

[...]

Ethanol

Mandated for blending into America’s gasoline supply in 2007 through the Energy Security and Independence Act, ethanol now has an unlikely coalition of opponents—including car and small-engine manufacturers, oil companies and refiners, and food producers and some environmental groups.

A national movement is growing and calling for the end of the ethanol mandates that, according to the WSJ, have “drained the Treasury of almost $40 billion” since the first gasohol subsides were enacted in 1978. Realize the word “Treasury,” used here, really means “taxpayer.”

“At the end of 2011, the ethanol industry lost a $6 billion per year tax-credit subsidy,” the WP points out. But the mandate for the American consumer to use ethanol remains through what Senator David Vitter (R-LA) calls: “a fundamentally flawed program that limps along year after year.”

Imagine the surprise, given that EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy asserts: “Biofuels are a key part of the Obama Administration’s ‘all of the above’ energy strategy, helping to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, cut carbon pollution and create jobs,” when, on November 15, the EPA gave a nod toward market and technological realities and, for the first time, proposed a reduction in the renewable volume obligations—below 2012 and 2013 levels.

On a call with reporters, a senior administration official explained: “While under the law volumes of renewable fuel are set to increase each year this unanticipated reduction in fuel consumption brings us to a point where the realities of the fuel market must be addressed to properly implement the program.”

The WP describes the problem: “Mixing more and more ethanol into a fixed or shrinking pool of fuel would bump up against the capacity of existing engines to burn it, as well as the capacity of the existing distribution network to pump it.” It states: “The downward revision of roughly 3 billion gallons is the first such reduction since Congress enacted the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) in 2007.”

The EPA’s decision is lauded by AAA President and CEO Bob Darbelnet: “The EPA has finally put consumers first.” He said the targets in the 2007 law are “unreachable without putting motorists and their vehicles at risk.”

[...]

Ethanol has been dealt a blow.

Here’s one of those rare times when the EPA is on the right track, likely it’s for the wrong reasons but even small blessings are welcome. I sit in the midst of millions of acres of corn, lots of it subsidized by ethanol, and I’ll tell you it’s a crock, it made a little sense when we were short of oil. So dod running the Germans running King Tiger tanks on charcoal, but it’s decidedly suboptimal.

And while I’m bashing my neighbors, have you noticed how bad soda made from corn syrup tastes, do you even remember what it used to taste like? You can still get the real stuff, look for Coke (and Pepsi too) products imported from Mexico. Here they are commonly available, and are made with real sugar.

Why are we in this spot? Because for about half of forever we have protected our sugar crop growers with ridiculously high tariffs, leading to corn being used instead, it’s not as good,  but it is affordable. If the sugar guys can’t make it without my tax money, they, like corn farmers should go out of business.

Solar

While the ethanol mandate hasn’t been eliminated, the administration has wavered and has given a nod toward “market and technological reality.” Likewise, those of us oppose government mandates and subsidies were handed a small victory in Arizona when, on November 14, the commissioners tipped their hand by setting a new direction for solar energy policy. In a 3-2 vote, the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) took a step and added a monthly fee onto the utility bills of new solar customers to make them pay for using and maintaining the power grid.

While the ACC decision didn’t make national headlines, as the EPA decision did, it has huge national implications.

The issue is net-metering—a policy that allows customers with solar panels to receive full retail credit for power they deliver to the grid. Supporters of the current policy—including President Obama—believe that ending it “would kill their business.” Opponents believe it “unfairly shifts costs from solar homes to non-solar homes.”

The ACC vote kept the net-metering program, but added a small fee that solar supporters call “troubling.” Officials for SolarCity and SunRun—companies that install solar arrays—have reportedly said: “The new fees mean fewer customers will be able realize any savings.”

“What amounts to a $5 charge is a big hit to the solar industry,” said Bryan Miller, SunRun vice president for public policy and power markets. “In our experience, you need to show customers some savings.”

Considering that Arizona Public Service Co. (APS) wanted to cut the rate paid to customers with solar and wanted a much larger fee added, the ACC decision might not seem like a victory. In fact, the solar supporters called it a victory for their side, claiming “policymakers in Arizona stood up for its citizens, by rejecting an attempt from the state’s largest utility to squash rooftop solar.” But that’s not the full story.

[...]

Renewable energy has suffered a setback in both the EPA ethanol decision and the ACC solar decision. Shouldn’t wind be next?

That’s an improvement but I see no particular reason any producer of solar power should be paid more than the wholesale rate for peak power, otherwise we are simply subsidizing inefficient suppliers at the expense of consumers.

Wind

On November 14, fifty-two Congressmen signed a letter, organized by Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS), calling for the end of the wind production tax credit (PTC). In the letter addressed to Rep. Dave Camp, chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means, they point out that the PTC, which was scheduled to end on December 31, 2012, was extended “during the closing hours of the last Congress,” as a part of the American Taxpayer Relief Act (ATRA). Not only was it extended, but it was enhanced by modifying the eligibility criteria. Originally, wind turbines needed to be “placed in service” by the end of the expiration of the PTC to qualify for the tax credit. Under ATRA, they need only to be “under construction” to qualify.

The letter points out: “If a wind project developer merely places a 5% deposit on a project initiated in 2013, it will have at least until 2015 and possibly 2016 to place the project in service and obtain the PTC. That means that a wind project that ‘begins construction’ in 2013 could receive subsidies until 2026.”

Like ethanol and solar, “the growth in wind is driven not by market demand, but by a combination of state renewable portfolio standards and a tax credit that is now more valuable than the price of the electricity the plants actually generate.”

[...]

These mandates and tax credits are remnants of an outdated energy policy that is akin to “ignoring our telecommunication revolution by supporting operator-assisted telephones with party lines.” America’s energy paradigm has changed and our energy policies need to keep up and be revised to fit our new reality.

Subsidizing green energy is like supporting operator-assisted telephones with party lines « Sago.

As always, if you want efficiency, which translates to the lowest price, let the market decide, without government intervention.

Go, Mjølner, Go

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