Archive for June, 2011

A gay bellwether

The ruckus about homosexual privileges seems to be the point, a bellwether, for much of the social dialogue in governance. It is pushed as a ‘right’ on a comparison with such institutions as marriage. Some say the government should not define marriage and others want the government to enforce it as traditionally understood. The reason it is showing up in politics is because there is a very vocal group that wants homosexuality to be normal or even respected rather than suffer its fate through history. The political pressure is such that it is creating taints of scandal. GAFFNEY: A smoking gun – How Congress was duped into repealing military homosexual ban describes one such event.

The IG went on to say: “We consider it likely that the primary source disclosed content from the draft Report with the intent to shape a pro-repeal perception of the draft Report prior to its release to gain momentum in support of a legislative change during the ‘lame duck’ session of Congress following the Nov. 2, 2010, elections.”

In other words, legislators were misled by this selective – and endlessly repeated – distortion of the working group’s findings into ignoring some of its other, unpublicized and deeply troubling conclusions. These included a single sentence buried on Page 49 of the CRWG report: “Our sense is that the majority of views expressed were against repeal.”

This follows yet another governor of Illinois going to jail for his actions in filling the senate seat vacated by the President implicated in this questionable debate shaping. And now a story about ‘selling’ the White House chef for campaign contributions?

It is not hard to see why some think corruption is rampant in the political class.

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Favorite villains: Medicare Part D

The addition to the Medicare entitlement collection in 2003 has been a target both because of its advocates and its ideology. James Capretta describes Klein’s F on Part D by going over the numbers that show that the program has done well for bringing in market forces and reducing costs while, at the same time, providing benefits.

At the time of its enactment in 2003, the Medicare drug benefit — known as Medicare Part D — had many critics. … All these predictions were dead wrong. The program is now in its sixth year of operation, and it has exceeded all expectations. Some 90 percent of Medicare participants are now in secure drug coverage of some sort, and public-opinion surveys continue to show that seniors are very satisfied with the new program. Most important, the drug benefit’s costs for the first decade are coming in 42 percent below what was predicted at the time of enactment.

The bill that set up this program also established the health savings accounts. These have been successful but extremely distasteful to some. Paul Ryan’s proposals for federal budget relief learns from the success of the 2003 efforts and attempts to broaden the ideas tested then. The attacks on Ryan’s proposal must also attack the 2003 bill and that is, in part, what stimulated the Capretta rebuttal.

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Scrambling eggs to make a point

Fast and Furious Backpedaling at the Department of Justice at Powerline will bring you up to date on the effort to blame the U.S. for the weapons used in cartel violence in the Mexican drug trade.

The weapons that were permitted to be smuggled into Mexico under Fast and Furious contributed to the drug violence there. According to ATF agents who testified, that made ATF officials “giddy.” One agent recounted a conversation with an ATF higher-up in which he asked, “are you prepared to go to a border agent’s funeral over this or a Cochise County deputy’s over this, because that’s going to happen.” Her response, in a chilling echo of Lenin, was that “if you are going to make an omelette, you need to scramble some eggs.”

At the same time they were damning gun dealers in public, the administration was secretly forcing them to provide weapons to the cartels, by the armful and without oversight. More than one gun industry insider suggests that the administration extorted cooperation and silence from these gun shops.

So, what’s a law enforcement officer funeral or two if we can advance the agenda for more gun control? After all, the end justifies the means, doesn’t it?

This is an explosive accusation, for which there is no evidence beyond the circumstantial. But Eric Holder’s Department of Justice needs to stop stonewalling Issa’s committee and start providing clear–among other things, unredacted–answers as to who devised Fast and Furious, and why. In the absence of such cooperation, speculation will inevitably run rampant.

There needs to be some better explanation, one that makes sense. The Iran Contra scandal makes a good referent here as that was a ‘take from one bad guy to get at another’ type thing. This one is beginning to look like a crass propaganda ploy with ‘good guys’ being the pawns in a deadly game.

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Another money loop: government and ideological organization

Whether it’s labor unions in the public pocket or the environmentalist, the money flow is unseemly. Ben Pile lays bare the IPCC, Greenpeace, and the European Parliment in Ideological money laundering.

The EREC, and its eleven member organisations all share an address: Renewable Energy House, Rue d’Arlon, Brussels — a moment’s walk away from the European Parliament. But the EREC are much closer to the political institutions in Brussels than this.

The EU Financial Transparency system — which only lists accounts between 2007-9 — reveals that the EREC were the beneficiaries of €1.8million ($2.5million) from the EU.
The question now is, what exactly is the EREC? It appears to be a council of trades associations, each representing a technology sector within the renewable energy industry. But it also seems to have been given a para-governmental role by the EU, to ‘map renewable energy pathways for EU member nations. Meanwhile — literally, at the same time — it produces seemingly independent research with Greenpeace. This report is taken by one of its authors to IPCC WGIII, where he is also a lead author on the renewable energy report. That report in turn seems to be intended as advice to policy-makers, including those within the EU.

what really grates is that to ask questions about this process is to identify oneself as a ‘denier’, in hock to fossil energy interests and ‘well-funded’ PR organisations. Pointing out the implications for democracy and the economy when self-interested NGOs and industry-associations enjoy such privilege from government is characterised as ‘denying scientific evidence’.

Tantrums and name calling and other childish behavior will only go so far. No matter how you hide the data, hide the bias, or try to pretend the product will start to smell after a while if it is note truthful.

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Battlefronts in a nuclear war

It is one that has been ongoing for many many years. The tactics are the familiar: hide what is unpleasant, monger FUD with escalated risks, and attack those who don’t toe your line. Kimberley Strassel describes the current situation.

Mr. Obama has every right to try to convince the legislative branch to change the directives of past bipartisan Congresses on Yucca. Instead, he and Mr. Reid have teamed up to install a regulator whose only mission is to abuse his independent agency’s authority and bypass Congress to accomplish a partisan political promise.

The really interesting thing here is the ongoing resistance to do anything about nuclear power plant residuals and then using the backlog as an argument against nuclear power. It is in line with the lawsuits and excess regulation creating costs that are then used to assert that the power source is overly expensive.

The data says one thing. The desires point elsewhere. Reason and rationality goes by the board. So far.

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What is wrong with America today?

Conan O’Brien is quoted by Scott, Notable and quotable. The scene is an honorary degree awarded to George H.W. Bush (41) at Dartmouth.

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Defining skepticism

David Gorski gets into a rather long post on Science-based medicine, skepticism, and the scientific consensus.

For a skeptic and supporter of science-based medicine, in matters of science it is undoubtedly true that the scientific consensus is always the best place to start when evaluating unfamiliar issues. … [but] Not all scientific consensuses are created equal because, in different fields the strength of scientific consensus can vary quite markedly depending upon the topic or even the subtopic within the topic.

What is missing is the role of skepticism in science that misplaces science from a learning activity to a collection of knowledge. Missouri picked up a nickname that is pertinent. It is called the “show me” state. Science is plebeian. If you are an authority, I can be, too. If you have an idea, show me why you think its a good one. Skepticism is about learning as science is about learning.

This is why the FOIA resistance and the use of labels such as “denier” for those asking questions are important. Whether the topic is evidence based medicine or climatology, skepticism is about one side trying to learn and the other trying to explain. If you posit something, then you had better be prepared to explain it to others. You need to teach them why it is a valid idea or conclusion and show them how they could achieve the same idea themselves.

It’s more about tactics and how evidence is used to support an argument. Scientific skepticism looks at the totality of evidence and evaluates each piece of it for its quality. Cranks are very selective about the data they choose to present, often vastly overselling its quality and vastly exaggerating flaws in current theory, in turn vastly overestimating their own knowledge of a subject and underestimating that of experts. … They also tend to leap to confuse correlation with causation. … there is often a strong sense of being underappreciated—persecuted, even—among cranks, leading them to view their failure to persuade the mainstream of the correctness of their views as being due to conspiracies or money.

What a lot of this distinction boils down to is that crankery, denialism, pseudoskepticism, or whatever you want to call it tends, either intentionally through ideology or unintentionally through an ignorance of the scientific method, to conflate and/or confuse emotiona, nonscientific, and/or ideological arguments with scientific arguments.

As Richard Feynman once famously said, “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself—and you are the easiest person to fool. So you have to be very careful about that. After you’ve not fooled yourself, it’s easy not to fool other scientists. You just have to be honest in a conventional way after that.”

What Gorski misses is Feynman’s caution. He falls for the ‘denialist’ label on those skeptical of climate alarmist claims. He fails to note that many of the behaviors he describes as belonging to the camp of the cranks are expressed by the self proclaimed consensus creators in climatology.

It is all about learning, about thrashing out ideas, showing why an idea is valid, answering questions, exploring accuracy and precision of measure, and realizing that even the teacher learns by teaching. When data is hidden, questions not answered, challengers labeled with derogatory terms, … that is when it is not science and not skepticism.

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Paul Revere in the modern era

Rick Richman thinks that Palin may have a lot in common with Paul Revere. In describing the “artisan” vs “elite” social divide, he provides a good summary of the latest expressions of the Palin Derangement Syndrome. See Palin, Paul Revere, and Republicanism

The reactions to Palin’s remark were more interesting than the remark itself. Buried within them is a connection between Palin and Revere, unrelated to his Midnight Ride, which bears on her coming decision about running for president.­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­

The tri-part reaction to Palin’s remark — (1) she’s stupid; (2) she was only unknowingly right; (3) she was right, but she can’t speak good English — was an elite response. It was the reaction of a class that prizes, above all else, educational credentials and the ability to speak well.

Of course, the values claimed often seem to be missing when it comes to what the ‘elites’ actually do. Wisconsin demonstrated that.

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It’s the response

Alder does a hand waving, back of the envelope calculation to highlight a problem with ‘alternate’ energy dreams in Renewable Energy Sprawl. The rebuttals in the comments are illuminating. Right off the bat is a ‘silly assumptions’ allegation. Another, miss the point, creates straw men by taking the post as an engineering treatise. Hydroelectric comes up but not the green war on dams because of the destructions of habit and the migration of fish. It’s the response to a simple illustration that is interesting when it comes to matters of intellectual integrity.

The fact is that the politically correct or green energy sources are often power sources, not energy, and quite dilute. That means that they are not suitable for base power needs and will have significant environmental impact.

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You’re supposed to know the law?

This week it was a misdirected SWAT raid by the Department of Education. Who knew they had a police force much less laws to enforce that warranted a SWAT raid? That got Peter noting That Dept. of Education SWAT team is the tip of the iceberg

The thing that puzzles me most about this incident isn’t that it happened, but that there’s suddenly so much outrage about it. This has been going on for years – no, for decades! It involves dozens of federal, state and local government agencies. It’s a creeping criminalization of almost every aspect of American life, and it troubles me deeply.

A federal crime used to be something really, really special. It isn’t that way anymore.

According to the Office of the Federal Register, in 1998, the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), the official listing of all regulations in effect, contained a total of 134,723 pages in 201 volumes that claimed 19 feet of shelf space. In 1970, the CFR totaled only 54,834 pages.

The General Accountability Office (GAO) reports that in the four fiscal years from 1996 to 1999, a total of 15,286 new federal regulations went into effect. Of these, 222 were classified as “major” rules, each one having an annual effect on the economy of at least $100 million.[Federal laws and regulations]

One of the problems is that the laws Congress passes establish agencies with a charge to develop regulations on their own. So you get health care statutes that total 425,116 words that have generated 1,147,271 words in regulation documents – so far.Once enacted, all of these regulations have the force of law.

Take that complexity of federal laws and toss in overlapping agencies and then add in state and local governments and what you have is a complicated intermeshing of behavior rules that the odds of contradiction become overwhelming. That, in essence, means there is no way you can avoid being a criminal if someone wants to find the right law.

Then you’ve got each agency wanting to set up its own police force. That means a whole lot of people with badges and guns and significant potential for differing goals — and you in the middle.

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Energy update: evil US myths, green taxes, risk and safety

It seems to take a while for the politicians to figure out when they’ve encountered a new swamp. Comments on climate change and energy efficiency prompted Steven Hayward to take note about Romney on Energy Efficiency.

Sigh. This once again reflects Romney’s frequent slavishness to the conventional wisdom. I’ve commented a lot on this trope, most recently over on my weekly energy blog in response to Newsweek magazine’s claim that “”The United States is known throughout the world as a pathetic energy hog,” a claim made without a single fact or statistic to back it up or provide context.

Such as, for example, that as the economy that produces the most goods and services the United States will use the most energy. We use the more energy per capita because we produce the most economic output per capita and our incomes are about one-fourth higher than European incomes.

It’s another one of those anti-U.S. themes that relies on a selected statistical measure with a questionable referent in order to rationale its ridiculousness. The question is why U.S. politicians should be buying into it in the first place.

Then there’s Watt’s item about how Pressure Mounts To Come Clean On Hidden Green Taxes.

Power companies were under mounting pressure last night to come clean about the green ‘stealth levies’ secretly added to fuel bills – and tell customers exactly how much they are paying for Britain’s climate change revolution.

There was a note recently about the premium North Dakota electricity customers are paying for Montana’s anti-coal efforts – which brings to mind one reason why Texas has its own grid. Many states require utility companies to subsidize non-economic power sources and that often adds ten percent or more to individual utility bills.

Then there’s Kate’s item about the German nuclearophobia: “One German organic farm has killed twice as many people as the Fukushima nuclear disaster and the Gulf Oil spill combined. Crickets.”

And then you get into Exxon’s discovery of another large Gulf of Mexico oil reserve – that they can’t get permits to drill for – and the war on tapping massive newly discovered natural gas reserves with propaganda movies that use gross deceit to make their point.

Energy is probably a key component in solving the U.S. debt problem. Cheap energy is put into better competitiveness in manufacturing as well as increasing personal wealth. But then, those that think the U.S. are evil also don’t seem to grasp just how dominant the U.S. really is in the world market, either.

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more on unseemly treasure hunting

Jonathan Tobin doesn’t think much of the The Sarah Palin E-Mail Treasure Hunt.

Almost three years later, it’s not clear what the point of the e-mail dump is today. But that has not stopped the media from rushing to the Palin e-mails as if it were another gold rush in the Klondike. … What motivates these publications and their civilian volunteers to spend so much time going through every Palin communication? The answer is obvious. Leftists who hate Palin will spend days, if not weeks, sifting through boring routine communications as if they were panning for gold in order to find something embarrassing or silly that can then be published in order to humiliate her.

But there is something unseemly if not indecent about the way publications like the Times and the Post have embraced this project and sought to involve readers

Tobin also illustrates another interesting Palin phenomena that shows up in certain circles.

I have no brief for Palin. She is a flawed public figure whom I have criticized sharply.

What does this have to do with the unseemly treasure hunt? This judgment about Palin being “flawed” or some such seems to be a very common disclaimer in a lot of posts about the Palin obsession. It is a phenomena that needs to be observed, noted, and discussed in its own right.

Meanwhile, Ann Coulter was stimulated to do a bit of research about mobs after her experiences on the speaking circuit. (AmazonCoulter home page) It seems what she is describing applies both to the treasure hunt and to Tobin’s disclaimer theme.

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Digging for dirt is becoming an organized crowdsourcing phenomena

They finally got the State of Alaska to let loose with Governor Palin’s electronic communications records. Now the fun begins, maybe. Charlie Quindunc: Help Us Investigate the NY Times and Washington Post

now we see that both the Times and the Washington Post are trolling the fever swamps for people with no lives to divide up the 24,000 emails into digestable chucks so they can quickly let the juiciest tidbits rise to the top.

Kate describes why I’m Not Expecting A Call Back noting that “Hypocrisy such as this why we hold modern “journalism” in such deep and abiding contempt.

Allahpundit says NYT, WaPo to readers: Hey, anyone want to help us dig for dirt in Palin’s e-mails?

An unusual example of media efficiency. There’s a huge new supply available of her e-mails as governor and an eternally huge demand among Palin-hating liberals for new dirt on her. If you’re a cash-strapped editor, why not match one to the other and let the market do your work for you? Palin derangement is like the wind, or the sun: All the media has to do is harness it to provide a limitless supply of productivity.

If nothing else, this illustrates why it was best for Alaska that Palin resign as governor. The efforts such as this to find something to pin on Palin, anything, were costing the state a good chunk of money and providing significant distraction from governance. It would not really be an issue if there was something of significance to warrant investigation but all of the efforts so far have only turned up empty and the allegations used to rationalize the efforts have turned out to be fabricated or exaggerated.

But one behavior that is worthy of note is that those of this anti-Palin ideology set do not give up. Losing elections doesn’t matter – just look at the recent Wisconsin ‘protests’ and election contesting (even zombies at a Governor’s ceremony to award Special Olympics?) This effort will be something to watch. When people look for something hard enough, they will be sure to find it even if they have to make it up. It is sort of like the gold miner who can’t tell the real thing from iron pyrite.

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Mongering FUD: about cell phones

Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt make for good press it seems. Dr. Grumpy isn’t happy about it.

But here is what I am pissed off about. Notice that the story said “may possibly” cause cancer. But the way we think, it somehow becomes “does cause cancer,” and so we panic, and hold our cell phones a yard from our head, and scream into them.

The Silicon Graybeard examines the issue in This Week’s Worry: Do Cellphones Cause Cancer?

Fair enough: is radio dangerous? Certainly some of it is. We all know for sure that if we put Mr. Hamster in the Microwave oven, Bad Things happen. But is that transmitter down the road safe? How do we know?

But that doesn’t matter to those who want to worry. We don’t know, haven’t seen any effects, don’t know of any mechanism to support their worries, … but that doesn’t matter. They worry so they want us to worry. And, if we don’t, then they often seem to want the government to worry for us and that is where it gets into an issue of significant concern. cell phones, climate change, nuclear power, DDT, and on and on .. how many die and suffer when the worry becomes law and regulation? Is that a part of the worry? It is a part of an honest evaluation of risks and benefits.

Update:Another good posting on this by Trevor Butterworth, Cell phones – as (non) Cancerous as Coffee, Firefighting? “Does that mean we should avoid coffee, give up vegetables, and ban firefighting? “

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The debate about taxes

One of the tactics used in a debate is about the selection of the measurement. If you present a simple measure for a complex situation, you might be able to find one that supports your point of view. That is happening in taxes. Richard Butrick says the real problem with taxes isn’t tax revenue as a portion of GDP but rather the complexity of tax law.

Those who think we should raise taxes note that tax revenues are low. Therefore the taxes must be low. The opposite of this selective measurement approach is to note that the U.S. has one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world.

Defining the tax rate in terms of tax revenues, as Bartlett does, just obfuscates the problem of getting a handle on the relationship between the two.  Moreover, the relationship needs to be discussed in the context of another seemingly antithetical fact.  Corporate tax rates in the U.S, with the possible exception of Japan, are the highest in the industrial world.  Naturally the Democratic argument for raising taxes to reduce the deficit is founded on the tax revenue fact and the Republican argument is founded on the corporate tax rate fact.  The puzzle is putting the two together.

That brings up another problem in some debates where the argument is misdirected to avoid certain unpleasantness.

Time to ask the Herman Cain question: “Are we working on the right problem?”

Taxes are just a representation of what underlies them. That is the exemptions, loopholes, rebates, deductions and other such regulation that is intended to focus taxes for social policies. Those end up with horrific amounts of regulation that get extremely complicated and sometimes contradictory. That, in turn, ends up in a significant cost for everyone trying to figure them out and an environment where you can be in conflict with the law no matter what you do.

And then there’s Peru. IBT notes that a shooting star turns red. One of the most solid Latin American economies has decided enough is enough. Some of the wrong people were getting richer faster than everyone else. So they elected a communist, “a former Peruvian army colonel with a history of violence, coup attempts and anti-Americanism” to get things back in balance. As a result, the markets there have taken a dive. Resentment and envy have won the day and now it is likely that a balance will be restored to reflect that in the countries they admire, like Cuba and Venezuela and North Korea. There, the only rich folks are political and there are very few of them so envy and resentment isn’t such a big deal – especially when all of your efforts are focused on basic survival.

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Understanding Palin

Jay Tea says She’s Got A Way About Her…. The post has some good ideas for those who are trying to figure out what motivates Sarah Palin.

I figured out years ago how to understand Palin. One of the first rules is to just listen to her and pay attention to what she says.

This partly explains the bus tour (and how she does it), but it’s not the whole picture. There’s another aspect of Palin’s personality that has also been apparent to pretty much anyone who has paid any attention to her career — and keeps their own prejudices in check. … Sarah Palin doesn’t need power.

The speculation runs rampant as most of it seems to be fundamentally based on an assumption that election to the Presidency is the primary goal. As a goal, it is treated as a result rather than a means. Having the power is the goal, not using it. For Palin, it appears that the focus is not on a particular method for the exercise of power but rather on what that power should achieve. If she can achieve those results in other ways, it appears that she will. That means that all of the rules, expectations, and assumptions of the traditional effort to acquire a nomination and then election to the Presidency do not apply. That confuses those whose entire career has been in that paradigm and can see no other.

The documentary Undefeated about Palin’s career that is soon to be released supports this view. It is not a ‘PG’ movie because it starts with clips of those who are offended by Palin’s presence and the words they tend to use are not those of polite society with children present. The producer is asking the same question as Jay Tea and proceeds to explore why it is that Palin stimulates such hatred and bigotry in some circles. It boils down to her motivations being based on fixing problems rather than seeking power and then being very effective at finding, and implementing, solutions. She does have a way about her ….

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philosophical differences.

At Newmark’s Door is a look at two views about the Medicare problem. One is from  Michael Hiltzik, columnist for the Los Angeles Times who thinks “the consumer-driven model has been widely discredited.” On the other is distinguished economist Alain Enthoven whose view is that “Health care in America is extremely wasteful” and “No amount of price cutting or central-government dictates will mitigate these problems.”

As Thomas Sowell pointed out long ago in his wonderful book A Conflict of Visions,
disputes such as these are unlikely to be settled by logic or by
empirical evidence. You either believe that most people are able to
conduct their affairs competently, or you don’t.

Or, from another viewpoint, how much are we all responsible for each individual’s decisions? This often gets slammed as a black or white issue, especially in arguments against libertarian ideas, but that logical fallacy only shows an unwillingness to confront the central issue. Even the current idea about ‘too big to fail’ when applied to financial institutions fit into this concept. Can we take the view that society must allow no risk and allow no failures? Or just how far do we go?

Of course, if people are generally incompetent, then who is it that is competent to make decisions for them? How has this worked out in past and current efforts? The inability to coherently deal with this question is why Dr. Sowell concludes that logic and evidence just won’t cut the mustard.

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Who pays?

Collin Cole took a look at adding solar energy collection to his house and reports on his findings. His first proposal: “The total cost of the system and installation was $23,540, with a net cost of $7,664 after rebates were applied.” But that was for covering the entire front, south facing, roof of his house with solar panels with a 5.06 kW system. South is first choice and west facing is an alternative so he asked for a west facing system that was less of an eyesore.

while west facing panels are only about 80% as efficient as those that
face south, they can still create a productive system. They also qualify
for most all rebates and incentives. We found that a large west-facing
roof area on the side of my house could fit 26 panels – four more than
would fit on the front. The extra panels made up for the productivity
loss, resulting in a 5.98 kW system. And luckily for me, the Pecan
Street Project just announced a new, additional rebate for west-facing
panels. Even though the larger system was priced higher at $27,783,
the extra rebate lowered my initial out of pocket cost to $6,166.
Subtract the federal tax credit and my net cost on the system is only $4,316.

I’m uniquely fortunate to live in a city that offers substantial solar
rebates, in a neighborhood that receives additional incentives, and am
participating in a 100-home energy study that gives me even more money
for solar. So my cost for installing solar will be about one third to
one half of what it would be for any other American home owner.

What he is saying is that someone else would pay $23,467 so he’d only pay $4,316 in order to offset his personal electrical bill by $60/month.

That’s about 500 kWh per month which is about half of the average household electrical energy use. Now a 5.98 kW system and 720 hour month could mean 4,305 kWh. That’s about 12% efficiency which could probably be doubled if you wanted to think daytime only. That’d be 24% if only daylight was counted. And that is 24% of the 15% or so of sunlight the panels could convert to electricity.

So who’s paying for this inefficient and expensive system? Ever wonder why all the talk in Washington is about budget deficits?

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Teachers losing control

There are some indications that the zero tolerance policy is getting some review after so many stories of honor students being suspended for nonsense but this one is a classic. The San Francisco Unified School District is trying to implement a policy that will empty some classrooms. The idea is that students can leave class at anytime for a ‘potty break’ without having to explain anything to the teacher.

But that’s not how it sounded in a memo Truitt wrote asking administrators to discuss the issue with teachers. He wrote: “Absent a formal Board Policy, we are asking schools to make every effort to comply with the following.”

He then listed the core principles of free-range potty policy. “Students should not be denied access to the restrooms at any time during the day; Students do not need to explain or justify their need to use the restroom; Students are not restricted to a certain number of bathroom visits per class per semester.”

So the policy isn’t official, but teachers should follow it.

One of the ways students try to take advantage of substitute teachers, in particular, is with hall pass requests.

“A policy of allowing students to come and go as they please to the bathroom is a recipe for academic and disciplinary disaster,” wrote Armen Sedrakian, a Presidio Middle School math teacher who has been in the classroom 20 years. “Students can use this unsupervised time to freely use their mobile phones, tag and otherwise destroy school property, steal, do drugs, or participate in other illicit or self-destructive activities.”

That might sound paranoid – until you investigate where problems frequently arise at schools.

Too loose and too tight. It seems the school administrations just can’t get it right.

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Some upset folks: witch trials of the modern era

Luboa Motl wonders: Does ethics require us to believe in tornado witches? while Arnold Ahlert is wondering about the government.

for the first time in my adult life, I’m beginning to believe that government is my enemy. Not a nuisance, nor a necessary evil, but a conglomeration of self-absorbed, self-interested people working directly against the interests of the American public. People who, if Americans ever got the courage to openly rebel, would instinctively seal off Washington, D.C., rather than seriously address the source of the peoples’ discontent.

Motl takes off on a Anthony Watts posting a Penn State professor’s assertion about ethics and the causation of tornadoes. What the professor is doing is analogous to the accusations in the Salem witch trials and those trials are analogous to what Ahlert is upset about.

It’s kind of normal for the normal people to have crazy beliefs and it mostly doesn’t affect the functioning of the society. For centuries, sensible people were more likely to occupy more influential positions which is why the society could really make some progress despite the irrational beliefs of something that could be a majority of the world population. However, in recent years, much of this craziness started to be institutionalized in the very institutions that used to be associated with the scientific and rational evaluation of the evidence – such as universities.

The phenomena is dissonance and it seems events of the day are wonderful stimulants for such a state of mind.

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