Decadence, Episode 4: Education

I’m going to post another one of these today, simply because I’m tied up and am not going to get anything written for you. Still, I intend to present the whole series, anyway, so it’s really a question of timing.

This one, on education, I think makes some very excellent points, although as we all know, if I agreed with everything he says, one of us would be superfluous. :)

The Socialist Dream Will Never Die

w704 (2)Steven Hayward over at Powerline recently wrote something very interesting.

Not long ago I was listening to one of Russ Roberts’s archived “EconTalk” podcasts with the great Thomas Sowell (and if you don’t listen to EconTalk you’re missing one of the top podcast artists of our time—subscribe for free here), and was completely stunned by something Sowell said. When he was assigned Friedrich Hayek’s seminal essay “The Use of Knowledge in Society” as a graduate student, he didn’t get it. Sowell found it too abstract and dense. Russ Roberts, another fine Chicago-school economist, said he had the same reaction to it the first time he read it, and, moreover, that Vernon Smith (a Nobel Prize winner) also found the essay opaque at first reading.

Source: The Socialist Dream Will Never Die | Power Line

Like Steven, I’ver never found this anything but clear as a plate glass window, so I’m a bit dumbfounded. Still the examples he gives worked through it, extraordinarily well, and as sometimes happens, maybe they understand it better for not seeing immediately the point.

He then proceeds to comment on an article in The New Republic, entitled “What If Stalin Had Computers?” What his point is that it is simply the old socialist saw that communism merely needed more time, as if a few more generations of misery would have made it work, violates another thing. Name one thing that Stalin’s Soviet union invented or developed from scratch. Can’t think of one myself, everything they had, somebody in the west, mostly Britain or America developed. So, Stalin having computers is simply a fantasy, that would have never happened in a millennium without the west. But, in truth, communism, or socialism, can never work, because people will always act in their own rational self-interest. And if you attempt to force it, they will simply pretend to work, and lie.

And the real reason it makes no difference is this. Sometime, long ago, I read a quote from Sir Winston Churchill, which I can no longer find, that said roughly, “We gather all the statistics in the world, and analyze and plan things on them, and reorder national priorities and all that. But it all come down to that grubby little man, with a clipboard and a pencil, who wrote down whatever he felt like.” And that is what always kills command economies–they lie to themselves, whether they are the Soviet Union, Venezuela, or increasingly, the United States. The real reason that we didn’t forsee the downfall of the USSR was that we believed the BS given to the Politburo.

Let’s finish with Steve and how he finished his article:

I recall reading one of the last interviews Hayek ever gave shortly before his death in 1992 in Forbes (sadly I can’t seem to find it now), where he was asked whether the information revolution and supercomputing didn’t change things, and make possible more effective centralized economic planning. Hayek said no—no matter how big and fast computers get, and how complete the data gathering, no centralized process can ever hope to match the uncoordinated actions of the constantly changing marketplace. Go re-read “The Use of Knowledge in Society” slowly and repeatedly until you get it.

At the end of the day, of course, the socialist impulse is not really rooted in reason or epistemology, but in envy and the desire for authoritarian control. That’s why we’ll never be rid of these people, no matter how many Venezeulas and Cubas you pile up.

 

Obama Wasn’t Kidding About Spiking Your Electricity Bill

article-0-0F79094500000578-917_634x421You know, it is hard to know what to think about these folks. I’d like to believe they are simply misguided, and truly care about the environment. But it becomes increasingly clear that if they do, they care about absolutely nothing else, including if our citizens have a chance at a job, or simply starve while freezing to death in the dark.

More and more, though, I’m coming to believe they are actively sabotaging our economy, whether for the religion of climate change, anti-American/anti-western civilization Luddism, or simply a lust for power. In many ways, the why is unimportant. If we want our kids to live at something approximating the level we have known, as opposed to the want and squalor of medieval life, we’d best get these characters under control.

Doug Domenech will tell you about it as he wrote in The Federalist.

[…] Obama was announcing the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) final Clean Power Plan regulation. It is little changed from the proposed rule, although the administration and supporters will tout cosmetic changes to the rule as evidence of their “flexibility.” It is designed to force states to force the electric utilities to reduce “carbon pollution.” (FYI, carbon is not a pollutant.) Among other things, the regulations require power plants to reduce carbon emissions by 32 percent in 15 years, and states to reduce overall emissions at a rate that depends on current levels. If states don’t create their own plans that please the feds by 2018, EPA will create a plan for and impose it on them.

ILLEGAL: The final rule is still illegal and will be changed in court as soon as the ink is dry later this summer. At least 15 states, if not more, will file suit challenging the regulation that Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe called “lawless.” The plan has four “blocks. EPA only has the legal authority to do one of the blocks.

The Heritage Foundation estimates a loss of $2.5 trillion in gross domestic product and more than 1 million job losses.

EXPENSIVE: The cost of the rule is in the billions. The final rule still imposes higher energy prices on families, businesses, and the poor. NERA Economic Consulting estimates that U.S. electricity prices will increase by an average of 12 to 17 percent. The Heritage Foundation estimates a loss of $2.5 trillion in gross domestic product and more than 1 million job losses.

INFLEXIBLE: The final rule still offers no actual flexibility to the states. EPA to states: “Comply, or else.” Utilities are scared sh-tless.

DESTABLIZING: According to the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, regional grid operators, and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the final rule threatens the electric power grid.

INEFFECTIVE: Even if you believe carbon is a pollutant, the final rule still does nothing to address climate change—in fact, it only reduces global temperatures by an immeasurable 0.018 degrees Celsius by 2100. Say what? The EPA’s climate rule fails to impact the climate in any meaningful fashion, since the vast majority of global emissions originate outside the United States.

Continue reading: Obama Wasn’t Kidding About Spiking Your Electricity Bill.

It’s time, nay, it’s well past time to simply disband the entire EPA, they haven’t done anything useful, that the states didn’t do first, in at least thirty years, and they are a malevolent, revanchist, and unlawful force in American government.

Find and Repair a 230kV 800Amp Oil-Filled Power Cable Fault

scattergood01Have you ever wondered what guys like I do, when we’re not telling you that you need to do some completely unaffordable thing to keep your house wiring safe? We’re telling the utilities the same thing.

I ran across this the other day, talking about fixing an underground cable from a powerplant in California. It also highlights one of the reasons why a fair number of us are not fond of underground, no matter how much prettier you think it makes the landscape. :)

How do you fix a shorted cable ? Not just any cable. An underground, 3-phase, 230kV, 800 amp per phase, 10 mile long one, carrying power from a power station to a distribution centre. It costs $13,000 per hour in downtime, counting 1989 money, and takes 8 months to fix. That’s almost $75 million. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power did this fix about 26 years ago on the cable going from the Scattergood Steam Plant in El Segundo to a distribution center near Bundy and S.M. Blvd. [Jamie Zawinski] posted details on his blog in 2002. [Jamie] a.k.a [jwz] may be familiar to many as one of the founders of Netscape and Mozilla.

To begin with, you need Liquid Nitrogen. Lots of it. As in truckloads. The cable is 16 inch diameter co-axial, filled with 100,000 gallons of oil dielectric pressurised to 200 psi. You can’t drain out all the oil for lots of very good reasons – time and cost being on top of the list. That’s where the LN2 comes in. They dig holes on both sides (20-30 feet each way) of the fault, wrap the pipe with giant blankets filled with all kind of tubes and wires, feed LN2through the tubes, and *freeze* the oil. With the frozen oil acting as a plug, the faulty section is cut open, drained, the bad stuff removed, replaced, welded back together, topped off, and the plugs are thawed. To make sure the frozen plugs don’t blow out, the oil pressure is reduced to 80 psi during the repair process. They can’t lower it any further, again due to several compelling reasons. The cable was laid in 1972 and was designed to have a MTBF of 60 years.

Finding out the location of the fault itself was quite a feat. It involved time-domain reflectometry (inconclusive), ultrasound, and radar (didn’t work) and then using an Impulse Generator-Tester (Thumper) which got them pretty close to the defective segment. What pinpointed the problem was a bunch of car batteries and some millivoltmeters. They hooked up car batteries to both ends, tapped the cable at several points and knowing the drops and resistance of the cable, got within a few feet of the fault. Finally, X-Ray equipment was brought in. Sure enough, they could see the cable shorting against the steel wall of the pipe. Cutting open, and closing it all up, required certified welders spending up to 8 hours on each section to avoid damage to the paper insulation. The welders placed their thumbs 3 inches away from the seams they were welding, and stopped when it got warm to touch, allowing it to cool off before starting again.

The failure was attributed to “TMB”, short for Thermal Mechanical Bending. TMB causes the cable to wiggle in place due to load surges. This eventually causes insulation failure due to abrasion against the pipe and separation of the many layers of paper tape. They repaired the short, put aluminum collars in most of the joints to hold the splices in place, and have added a load management scheme to reduce the current peaks. Apparently, the fix wasn’t good enough. According to this Wikipedia article, “the 315 megawatt capacity Scattergood Steam Plant (Unit 3) to West Los Angeles (Receiving Station K) 230 kV line is having to be replaced after only 45 years of operations, due to multiple failures within this rather long single-circuit, oil-filled, “pipe type” cable.”

Find and Repair a 230kV 800Amp Oil-Filled Power Cable Feels Like Mission Impossible | Hackaday.

TDR’s are one of the most useful diagnostic tools ever, they pay for themselves quite quickly but it’s nearly impossible to convince bean counters that think Radio Shack sells useful meters that a $2K plus tool, that doesn’t fix anything, and occasionally isn’t good enough is justified. Heck, I haven’t even quite convinced myself yet. Thumpers work (sometimes) on the principle of “letting all the smoke out”. It’s much easier to find a broken something than a cracked one, after all. For the rest, if you’re interested follow the links.

It’s part of the reason than the electrical trades are often so fascinating to be in.

And there’s this, from his comment stream, showing how sometimes we manage to get authorized to buy a new widget.

Widespread touchscreen ordering to come to NYC fast food restaurants by next year?

mcdonaldsThis cannot be said enough:

The Actual Minimum Wage is $0.00!

Why? Because that’s what you earn when you do not have a job, or business (with customers, I suppose)

The Wall Street Journal reports that, on Wednesday, as predicted, the panel convened by Governor Cuomo to study fast-food wages will formally recommend paying workers statewide $15 an hour — a substantial raise that’s nearly double the current rate of $8.75. The only step left is an okay from Acting Labor Commissioner Mario Musolino (which he’s expected to give), and then Cuomo can move forward (which there’s every indication he will) regardless of how the Legislature feels about it. So it looks likely that a big raise will come to New York’s fast-food workers.

Briefly. Because the actual minimum wage is zero. Seriously, the franchisees are screwed. So is anybody who gets defined as being ‘fast-food.’ But you know who will benefit? Fast-food restaurants that are directly owned by a corporation or family […]

Moe Lane » Widespread touchscreen ordering to come to NYC fast food restaurants by next year?.

Yup. Exactly. Why would you hire a surly employee for $15.00/hr, when for say $13.00/hr* you can have a robotic vending machine that will work 24/7 without breaks, complaints, making fewer mistakes, and never not showing up for work? Huh? Why??

My friend Jack Curtis adds this:

This is one more such move in what appears a developing chain, following the initial action in Seattle. All of it appears as a reaction to a rather perfunctory “nation wide” campaign by the Service Employees’ International Union (SEIU) after that body proved unable to organize fast food. Conclusion: If the union can’t do it, the Democrats will.

The move has some interesting aspects. It applies to chains with over 30 locations in state. An obviously prime target: McDonald’s. With so large an increase in labor costs, Big Macs prices must rise significantly.in a time its sales have been dropping. That’ll teach ’em to resist an SEIU organizing drive!

What favors will a significant fast food price rise provide the customers? Last time we read: “How to Stimulate an Economy,” hefty price increases were somehow omitted. We note too that a lot of fast food customers are lower income folk who really can’t afford pricey restaurants. Aren’t these supposed to be the Democrats’ favorite folk to help?

Wasn’t in my copy either, sad to say.

In other economic news, Steven Heyward at the Powerline Blog notes:

Did you happen to catch this little detail in yesterday’s news about the old A & P grocery chain filing bankruptcy:

More than 90% of A&P’s workers are union members, with 35 different collective-bargaining agreements that A&P said require benefit increases that are unsustainable. A&P said it would try to negotiate immediate changes to the contracts to prevent “catastrophic” results on sales, but otherwise will seek court orders to force the contract changes.

Gee: I wonder if those labor agreements have something to do with the chain’s uncompetitive cost structure and declining business prospects.

Meanwhile, from our “Don’t Look Now But. . .” file, the Chinese stock market seems to have stabilized after a significant correction that could be confused for a crash. But then there’s this little detail reported yesterday:

China may have the world’s second-biggest stock market after the U.S., but at one point during a roller-coaster ride for investors this month only 93 of 2,879 listed companies were freely tradable—about the same number as trade in Oman.

As always, read the entire articles, there’s more than what I copied.

NON-scientific wild a** guess. Likely much too high, really.

 

 

What is America?

It’s late and getting later.

Enjoy, but more to the point,

Learn and employ!

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