Friday, May 31, 2013

It's the cover-up that will get you

Brian links to an interesting article theoretically refuting the claim that former IRS director Douglas Schulman had visited the White House 157 times, noting that White House records only show him being signed in 11 times,  and noting that Shulman's meeting invitations were predominantly for healthcare-related meetings.

Fair enough.  Now, if they were for healthcare related meetings, then that's very interesting in light of the fact the IRS director for Obamacare is the exact same person who was responsible for IRS targeting of Tea Party groups.  Remarkable coincidence, that.

It's also remarkable that the IRS's fairly simple role in Obamacare--implementing a form for reporting of insurance or paying a fine/tax--required 120 meetings.   All this fuss over Schedule INSurance and its implementation, and no review of  Ms. Ingram's work history, and whether it qualified her for the job?  Quite remarkable.

Now, let's go further.  When Mr. Shulman testified before Congress, he was asked about the apparent 118 times (the count then) he'd been at the White House, and he did not deny he'd been there an awful lot, and claimed it was for things like the Easter Egg Hunt, budget and tax issues. 

So did Shulman lie about his attendance and possibly the purpose of those meetings, or is the White House keeping a really bad visitors' record?  Either is a scandal, of course.  It's time for a special prosecutor.

Here's a shocker

More and more evidence is coming up that demonstrates that the Obama administration, like the Clinton administration before it, was using the IRS to persecute his personal enemies list, and this enemies list includes pro-life activists and conservatives not affiliated with the Tea Party movement.

And if you believe that, with 157 visits by the IRS commissioner to the White House, that someone working (and living) at the White House wasn't coordinating this, I've got a bridge I can sell to you cheap. 

Our President's full name; Barack Hussein Khalidi Wright Pfleger Ayers Jackson Daley Blagojevich Milhous Obama.  Also, Betsy Hart asks a very relevant question; since it was becoming clear in March 2012 that there was a suspicious pattern of audits of enemies of Barack Milhous Obama, why didn't the GOP make an issue of it last year?   The excuse could be either cowardice, the government so corrupt, we can't even figure out where to start in cleaning it up?

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Yet more brilliance in government accounting; California "Obamacare" premiums

Much has been made of the apparent fact that California insurance exchange premiums are coming in well below predicted amounts.  Now given that the CBO was given pretty decent starting assumptions, and they're not a bunch of dummies, how indeed did the "real" rates come in at up to 29% lower than predicted?

It should be noted here that the cost structure of insurance is pretty well known, and accessible to most any actuary or other statistically trained person.  You have about 2% overall profit by insurance companies, between 10-20% overhead costs, and the rest goes to the care providers.  So how do you get to costs up to 29% below expectations?

Simple.  Each insurance company has a payment percentage.  If you look at your healthcare bills, you'll see the initial number, an insurance discount, and then the amount you and your insurer finally pay.  So to get to 29% less than the prediction, you simply assume that a certain portion of doctors will need to take a lot less for their services to keep working.

Now in the short term, that works, but in the long term, you get phenomena like the Mayo Clinic telling new associates not to accept Medicare patients.  In short, there is a cost structure in medicine, and you can't simply cut payments ad infinitum and expect that the supply curve will rise to meet the demand.

Translated, this means that a lot of Californians are likely to learn the hard way that having health insurance is not the same as having healthcare.

Update: it turns out that California's overall "reduction" in health insurance premiums actually turns out to be an increase of 64% to 146% when one compares the premiums for their plan with the actual peer group of insurance plans from the individual market instead of highly regulated corporate plans.

Once again, government accounting is not honest accounting.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Brilliance in government accounting, part....oh never mind

President Obama's proposed sale of the TVA--and hypothetical shedding of $25 billion in debt owned by the TVA--has run into a little hiccup.  Apparently, sources inside the TVA estimate its value at only $10-15 billion

Now given that TVA profits are only $700 million, and the agency faces $10 billion in pension liabilities, $25 billion in retooling expenses in the next decade, and already owns $25 billion in debt, I'm thinking a valuation of $10 billion is.....pretty darned generous, even allowing for the fact that TVA has a tremendous amount of capital (dams) that will last for decades.   If a deal goes through, I'd guess it would be more along the lines of "we'll assume the obligation of retooling these plants if the government assumes the pension liabilities, allows us to charge market rates for electricity, and assumes part of the debt."

Put gently, this is a classic example of how you can't undo 80 years of passing the buck with a single bill of sale.  Unfortunately, it's yet another case where the buck stops with the taxpayer.

Don't ask, and keep it very, very, very quiet

The Department of Defense reports that the majority of sexual assaults in the military were perpetrated by males upon males.  See page 9 of the linked report.   So parents will apparently do well not just to keep their daughters out of the armed forces, but also their sons.  Looks like the DOD and the Senate really need to start asking some questions that--to put it delicately--they've been avoiding asking.  It could be completely random post-adolescent juvenile behavior, but given that the military rate of sexual assault exceeds that of the civilian world, it's likely to be correlated to something else.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Let's think about these statistics.....

Vox links to a list of facts--I've not had the chance to double check them--that theoretically ought to frighten us about our economy.  A couple of them are interesting; that the "Forbes 400" list has a total wealth exceeding that of nearly the poorest half of Americans, and that the Wal-Mart heirs share wealth exceeding that of the bottom third of Americans.  Now let's run the numbers.

The numbers; bottom half of Americans have about $1.6 trillion in assets, and apparently the bottom 40% have about $90 billion in assets.  So the bottom 40% has about $750 in assets per capita, and the next 10% about $40,000 apiece.  Curses on the evil Wal-Mart, right?

Not so fast.  That "bottom 40%" includes student borrowers, who are by definition people (a) without assets and (b) with debt.  The total debt is $902 billion divided among 37 million recipients, about $25,000 per recipient. 

In short, student loan debt--the majority of which is owed by below-average wage earners--is the big driver in low net worth of the lower middle class and poor.  Maybe it's time to rein in a program whose participants have a 50% graduation rate and a 27% late payment rate.

And, quite frankly, maybe it's about time for government to recognize that "means testing" is a synonym for "incentive to remain poor."  There is no easy way out, but in the long run, our choice is between a painful way out, and a very, very painful way out.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

IRS: Pressing need for an ISO audit.

Hugh Hewitt is under the impression that what is needed to deal with the IRS abuse scandal (which now apparently includes a 90% audit rate for adoptive parents) is an independent prosecutor.  Now, while that may be a good idea--despite the low success rate of such prosecutors due to stonewalling--what might work better is to unleash a few experienced ISO auditors on the IRS and give them authority to issue findings and require corrections.

How could this work?  Well, an ISO auditor generally starts at the shipping dock and tracks a shipment back to its component parts through the full process.  He talks to each process owner and asks them two simple questions:

What did you do?  and
Can you show me the documents that tell you how to do your job?

In general, minor findings are when a person ignores published procedures, and major findings exist either when those procedures do not exist, or when management circumvents the published procedures. 

In this case, I'd expect that a good ISO auditor would figure out that the relevant documents are unused due to access, complexity, and corporate culture within an hour.  It could literally be orders of magnitude faster than an independent prosecutor.

Why the Bard dropped out of college?

This source suggests that many colleges are dropping Shakespeare in part not just because the Bard makes today's writers look like blog-writing hacks in their pajamas, but also because of the sexual references in his writing.

This is, of course, bizaare in a college culture where "hooking up" has replaced dating or courtship, you'd think, but think again.  A few might be offended at the content, but perhaps a more coherent explanation is that the passion of Juliet makes today's hookup culture look like the pathetic excuse for love that it is, and those "unfortunate" enough to read the classics might start asking for "more of that."

About that 99 score

Advocates of coal-burning vehicles are understandably abuzz about a recent Consumer Reports review of the Model S which gave that model a rating of 99 out of 100 possible points.  Now, given what I've presented about this vehicle, you would be correct to assume that your host would give the vehicle a score closer to 10 than 100 on a scale of 100.  So what gives?

What gives is that the automotive writers are placing the Tesla in its own niche where adverse comparisons to competitive vehicles--its extremely low range, tight rear seats and poor rear visibility, and nasty environmental effects--simply do not matter.  It's not about how the vehicle really stacks up--poorly even in terms of performance--versus other sedans priced at $70,000 and above, but rather about how the writers react to bright shiny things.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Just how dirty is a Tesla?

Well, let's run the numbers.  The standard Tesla sedan has a battery capacity of 60kW-H and a stated range of 208 miles, and it gets that power from the electric network.  The usual owner will plug it in at night, and hence the power will come from those power sources that are hard to power down and backup, but where fuel is a significant cost.

Translation: coal, as nuclear plants are providing the base load at night already, the wind dies down at night, and natural gas and hydroelectric power can be cycled more easily than coal fired boilers.  So let's calculate how much coal is burned to fuel a Tesla.

To get 60kW-H, we divide that amount by the energy content of coal (6.7 kW-H/kg) and the average efficiency of coal fired power plants of 31% to find that charging one's Tesla sedan fully requires the burning of about 29kG of coal, which will release about 90kG of carbon dioxide, or about a pound of carbon dioxide per mile driven.  The Nissan Leaf and Tesla Roadster, also using about .3-.4 kW-H per mile, will have similar numbers.

For comparison's sake, this is about the same amount of carbon dioxide as would be emitted by most half ton pickups these days.  And my "favorite" vehicle, the Chevy Subsidy Volt?  Well, 16kW-H to go about 30 miles on average is the equivalent of about 29 ounces of carbon dioxide emitted per mile, or about the same as a one ton pickup towing a fairly significant trailer.

Would it improve much if power generation moved more to natural gas?  Well, with 55MJ/kg vs. coals 35MJ/kg, and a different hydrogen/carbon mix, you could get to about 9 ounces of carbon dioxide per mile for the Leaf or Tesla (a bit more than the Jetta TDI today), and about 15 ounces of carbon dioxide per mile for the Volt, about the same as my minivan or the Model T Ford, which got about 18mpg.

In short, the best an electric car can do is what compact cars have been doing since the 1940s--the Volt matching only the Model T--as (AHEM) any decent engineer familiar with the Carnot cycle could have told you.

Instead of subsidizing these boondoggles, maybe we should assess a road damage tax of $2000 or so to cover the gas taxes they're not going to be paying, as well as an environmental damage tax to mitigate the damage from all the coal they're burning.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Correction on Tesla

A bit back, I noted that the apparent $11 million profit generated by Tesla Motors was in fact--after deducting federal subsidies and below market rate loans received by Tesla--a loss of $32 million when honest accounting methods were used.

Well, unfortunately, your host neglected an item that appears on the balance sheet, which is $68 million in carbon credits sold by Tesla to other automakers.    Now beyond the irony of granting this car company carbon credits for making a clearly dirty product--it takes about twice the carbon emissions to build one as a standard car, and they effectively run on coal--you've got the question of why on earth the state of California mandates carbon credits instead of simply increasing taxes on energy.  It is as if they're deliberately choosing the clumsiest mechanism possible in order to bestow largesse on political benefactors like Elon Musk.

Whatever the rationale is, the simple fact is that I was wrong.  Tesla's loss by honest accounting methods is not $32 million last quarter, but rather an even $100 million, or over $20,000 per vehicle sold.  Hopefully legislators will soon wake up to what a fiscal and environmental disaster hybrid and electric cars are, and stop promoting them through government subsidies.

Monday, May 20, 2013

...if you believe the IRS scrutiny is not coordinated from Washington, DC

.....then ask yourself why the Engelbrecht family of Texas has been investigated by the FBI twice, the IRS (four times), the BATF(twice), OSHA (which imposed fines for inconsequential violations which are usually ignored), and the Texas department of environmental quality--and each time with no violations of interest.

What are the odds that all of these agencies would continue the process of investigation when the initial investigations revealed nothing of interest?   The confluence of agencies involved, along with the sheer improbability of this investigation, suggest only one man who could be ultimately responsible, a man who lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

It's time to rein him in with the bounds of the law.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Let's assume the IRS is being honest,

....and that they didn't know that asking questions about member prayers and addresses was illegal, that they didn't have a clue that a "Tea Party Only" rule for extended scrutiny would be seen as being politically motivated, and that the problem was limited to only a few people.

That would still mean that people with stellar performance records at the IRS are too dense to figure these things out, which would in turn mean that the systems in place for selecting them, managing them, and evaluating their performance are incapable, more or less, off differentiating a Forrest Gump from Albert Einstein.

Sounds like a good reason to reduce the size of government to me. 

Another great example of government incompetence; White House spokesman Dan Pfeiffer has suggested that Republicans need to apologize to U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice for thinking that she actually would have had access to the evidence behind the administration's Benghazi lies. 

If I were John Boehner, I'd give it to them; I apologize to Ms. Rice for assuming that her manager would have the basic human decency of including her in discussions of the evidence instead of feeding her a line of baloney to share with the world. 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Another triumph of socialism

Venezuela, benefiting from $100/barrel oil and on the edge of the greatest growth of pulp-wood known to man, finds itself needing to special order fifty million rolls of toilet paper, as well as foods that also could grow quite well in that tropical paradise.

It brings to mind Reagan's quip that if you brought socialism to the Sahara, pretty soon they'd have a shortage of sand.  And so, courtesy of the late Hugo Chavez and his minions, Venezuelans are learning this truth the hard way.

A very cynical view of government

Take a look at Brian's link to how a government employee in a corrupt agency ought to bring that corruption to the attention of the press.  In parallel news, Hugh Hewitt released a list of things that an employee of a corrupt government agency ought to do if he's in a situation where he needs to report wrongdoing.  Among the top things to do, apparently, is to hire an expensive lawyer, and it appears that one countermeasure (counterintuitive) against the whistleblower is to pre-empt him by announcing the scandal and carefully walk his evidence out of the courtroom.  (exactly what the Obama administration did, by the way)

What this means, in my opinion, is that apparently in DC, there is no meaningful protection for lower level employees who report perceived wrongdoing in good faith, and (as the Obama administration has prosecuted more leakers than all of his predecessors combined) it appears that the situation is becoming even more brutal. 

It would seem that an employee of a corrupt agency like the IRS, EPA, BATF, DOE, DOEd, or any number of other agencies can do little better for their soul--and their pocketbook, as those lawyers don't come cheap--than to quit and find honest work.  After all, Proverbs 28:1 tells us that

The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The bright side of Democrats running things..... in Minnesota is that we are going to see just how quickly the costs can accumulate, from our homage to the Crystal Cathedral (new ViQueens stadium) to a bill allowing daycare providers to unionize.

Now as the former neighbor of a daycare provider here, I can understand some of the rationale for this, as a large portion of daycare costs are paid by the state.  When Governor Dayton Messinger shut down the state a year or so back, it was eerily quiet--the checks from the state weren't coming, and our neighbor's business was hurting badly.  So in this case, we do have a major player calling the shots in a bit of market monopoly, which is one of the few cases where a union makes sense.

That said, the bill sets up the possibility of a "closed shop" where providers are required to pay dues to the union, and also creates the likelihood of the "unholy alliance" between unions and the state to make daycare even more expensive than it already is--Minnesota is one of the top states for the cost of daycare already.

So what's the bright side of this?  Well, everyone earning over about half the median income is going to see that (a) sending your kid to daycare may not make sense after all, and (b) voting for Democrats is really, really, really expensive.  With a bit of luck, Minnesota could become a right to work state.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Parenting 101

Apparently, a prominent actor's son has told his parents that he wants to be emancipated and live like an adult, and for some odd reason, Dad has gone to the press.

Now I'm guessing that this is a scheme of getting a buzz around his name (acting gigs coming slowly for him these days), but if my 14 year old told me that, I'd sit her down and say "OK, kiddo, let's figure out how you're going to pay for your housing, food, health insurance, transportation,......". 

I'm guessing that the desire for emancipation wouldn't make it past understanding that (a) most companies don't hire 14 year olds and (b) the cost of rent.  Plus, she loves making desserts for the family.

An advantage of having a death penalty,

....even if it is not often used, is that defendants can and will modify their behavior to avoid it.  A recent example is "Dr." Kermit Gosnell, who gave up his right to an appeal in exchange for getting life in prison without the possibility of parole.  He will die in prison, as he should, and the taxpayers will be spared the expense of appeals.

It's worth noting as well that if Gosnell changed his behavior to avoid the death penalty--though of course sadly too late for his victims--then we'd be silly to argue that the death penalty can not function as a deterrent.  It's also worth noting that the deterrent effect depends strongly on whether the penalty is administered justly, as anyone from Illinois can tell you.

(there, I'd limit it to politicians, of course)

Monday, May 13, 2013

Book/diet review; The Mayo Clinic Diet

It almost goes without saying that the majority of people in this area are glad to have Rochester's biggest employer in town, and being among them, it was natural for me to take a look at their book when my doctor told me that it was time to either drop some weight, or start taking a cornucopia of pills to control blood sugar and triglycerides.  So let's take a look.

The advice is pretty straightforward, almost common, but it quietly departs from USDA advice on diet in some pretty significant areas.  First of all, the base of the Mayo food pyramid is not grains and starches, but rather fruits and vegetables--of which you can eat as much as you like, at least if you hold the salad dressing, butter, and the like.

Mayo also abolishes the old system of having independent groups for protein and dairy (sorry cheeseheads!), and they reclassify many foods according to their actual nutrient content.  Cheese and peanut butter, for example, fit the category of "fats" better than "proteins."

The book then teaches the reader how to do a basic calorie count, and how to "break down" a meal into its constituent parts.  A slice of pizza, for example, might be a  serving of grains, one of fruits/vegetables, one of protein, and one or two of fat--from the cheese and the crust as well.

Notice that Mayo "quietly" departs from USDA advice.  No comparison is drawn, and no accusations are made.  In doing so, they allow the reader to make his own decisions based on his own worldview--not to mention avoiding the wrath of the USDA and others.  It's a book for adults.

My take, for what it's worth, is that lumping dairy in with meats as "protein" (and sometimes "fats") is a welcome departure from USDA protection of the meat and dairy industries, as well as a recognition that most of the world can't handle dairy after about age 5.  The reversal of the food pyramid order is simultaneously a rejection of USDA grain subsidies and historic dietary advice, an acknowledgement of the insanely high nutrient/calorie ratios of most fruits and vegetables, a healthy helping of the fact that we've got to fill our stomachs with something, and finally a picture of the original "Paleo" diet of Eden.

Finally, the book's first few chapters parallel Peter's Gospel call in Acts 2, by noting that our health really depends on putting off certain habits (TV, meat-centered meals, calorie-rich snacks) and putting on others (movement, fruits and vegetables, and the like)--a process of repentance.  Almost certainly this is not intentional, but it's welcome nonetheless.

In short, I can endorse this diet for far more reasons than the fact that I've edged five pounds closer to where my friend Ray's scale is supposed to read.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Government accounting vs. honest accounting

....can be seen in the recent news that Tesla Motors has scored a quarterly profit of eleven million dollars.  It sounds pretty good until you realize that the same company has received one time subsidies of $500 million, and ongoing subsidies of $7500/vehicle.  So if you consider a likely cost of borrowing that half billion bucks of at least 5%--or $25 million annually--and the per vehicle subsidies of $37 million for 4900 vehicles--and that $11 million profit is looking an awful lot like a loss of $32 million, or a loss of $6500 per vehicle. 

On the flip side, it looks like a pretty good return on investment for CEO Elon Musk's $35,800 donated to the Obama Victory Committee.  Not that there was any quid pro quo arrangement on this, no sirree.  You might as well argue that the IRS was targeting conservative groups for audits, or that high level State Department and White House testimony on the Benghazi debacle is hopelessly at odds with the testimony from those who were there.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Yes, it's time to repeal the 16th Amendment....

....because once again, the IRS has been caught using its power to harass political conservatives.  The simple fact of the matter here is that there is no procedure or program that can prevent this; a nod and a wink from a senior functionary will suffice to engage the full body cavity exam for which the IRS is rightly infamous.

(and though I can't name examples, I'd guess that just as the IRS has harassed conservatives under Clinton and Obama, so have they harassed liberals under other administrtions)

If the staffers involved do not lose their jobs and face prosecution, we will know that the Obama administration and Congress are unserious about this, if not complicit in the corruption.

Yet another unconstitutional move by the State Department

They have apparently taken possession of drawings for a plastic gun, alleging that it has something to do with interstate commerce.  Well, not exactly, as these are not firearm components or ammunition, but rather drawings.  They are protected by an obscure portion of the Constitution known as the "1st Amendment," which is one reason why you can find drawings for the 1911 Colt online.

Really, the BATF State Department has got to get it through their heads that anyone with access to a decent machine shop can make a passable firearm, and hence law enforcement authorities just might do better to follow the NRA's advice and prosecute lawbreakers instead of harassing the law-abiding.

Correction: it was the State Department, not the BATF, which raises the question of jurisdiction.  At the very least, are the designs for a single shot firearm really that sensitive?  Are we going to remove any information about the Brown Bess or Kentucky Rifle, then, from the Internet?

Thursday, May 09, 2013

"What about Bob II"

An Oregon psychiatrist has just been convicted of placing hazardous obstacles near Ashland bicycle trails.  Now I'm not sure what mental illness this is, but I'm thinking that if an expert cannot diagnose himself, then maybe we've got to review what psychiatry actually can, or cannot, do for us.

A bit of humor

As I walked up to the counter to pay for the food I was buying at the gas station today, cycling shoes going "skritch skritch" on the floor and my helmet in my hand, I was asked this:

Any gas with that?

Um, no.  Speaking of (natural) gas, and vehicles made to run on it, yet another of the Energy Department's "investments" has proven to be a flop.  Take a gander at a picture of these vehicles:

Gosh, where have I seen this vehicle before?  Let's see....

My apologies to the Trabant, of course.  Its Stalinesque styling is far better than VPG's.  Really, as the Detroit 3 have "only" been making natural gas powered vehicles for decades, and VPG was only "repurposing" the Indiana factory that used to make the Humvee, I've got to wonder what the DOE was thinking with this.  Even if the company had succeeded, it would have added nothing to the market.

But, if the boss says that you've got to spend other peoples' money on something, I guess....

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Congratulations, Barack: Torturer of the Month

Or, rather, the past four years and scheduled for the next four, if the ongoing commmentary of Nat Hentoff is correct.    So if you voted for Mr. Obama because he was going to close down Gitmo and end the practice of sending terror suspects to developing countries, I've got some news for you:

You've been had.

Yes, we're not waterboarding anymore, but we're still apparently sending prisoners to third world jails, and we're often choosing to kill suspects with drones instead of trying to capture them at all.  I'm not quite sure this is an improvement.

Regarding the topic of torture, it does seem as if we ought to have, at this point, enough evidence from the past 12 years to indicate whether measures designed to inflict disorientation, discomfort, pain, and injury actually get good information.  Yes, we have "expert testimony," but let's remember Deming (again)

In God we trust, all others must bring data.

Why Benghazi matters

Let's start with a fact of life in any manufacturing environment; if you want to really, really irritate any decent quality engineer or manager, respond to a quality problem in the way Hillary Clinton responded to the Congressional inquisition about the Benghazi debacle.  Imply that since the water is under the bridge, and therefore it really doesn't matter.

The response from any decent QE to such a statement (and managers entranced by accounting statements do it often) is to gently--or otherwise--remind the offender that "Your system is perfectly designed to give you the results you're getting.".

Now, I'm pretty sure that Hillary Clinton would respond to Deming the same way that Ford and GM did back in the 1960s (by brushing him off), but those who understand that "Survival Isn't Mandatory" would like to take a look at what systems, attitudes, personnel, and procedures led to the debacle in order to prevent its repetition on a larger scale.

This is, of course, why it matters, and for those who think Brian Johnson's riposte and media silence settles the matter, this quote of Deming bears repetition:

You don't need to change.  Your survival is not mandatory.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

"Pull over" and read this one

Thomas Sowell hits yet another one out of the park with this analysis of what smart drivers do when they see a bright red ball bouncing into the street; they slow down and watch out for the child who is chasing it.  He then makes the comparison to government programs, and how the stated purpose of a program is often a bright red ball that politicians chase--bringing the whole country into the path of the semi truck of reality.

I must, however, do a quick "one-up" of Dr. Sowell, because I vividly remember listening to ads for new mortgage products (e.g. 125% loan to value and the like) in the late 1990s and early 2000s and thinking "this will not end well." 

And, of course, it didn't, and, of course, the Obama administration, despite having abundant evidence of what is wrong with promoting risky loans, is working hard to repeat the mistakes of the Clinton and Bush administrations. 

Yup, this will not end well.  And if someone is offering you a subprime loan, just say no.  We may yet finagle another dip in the recession this way as a country, but at least you don't need to go through foreclosure as a result.

Friday, May 03, 2013

F in science for California environmentalists

Radio "shock jock" Hugh Hewitt is warning his audience about a new California "Green" initiative by which a regulatory program for the use of hundreds of common industrial chemicals would be developed.  Here is the link, and upon looking at it, here's what I saw.

On page 1, it claims that chemists are developing new light sources that are fifty times more efficient than a flourescent bulb.  OK, the sources I see suggest that a flourescent bulb is about 25-40% efficient at converting electrical energy to light.  So either some geniuses at Stanford or Berkeley have figured out how to make a lightbulb that returns 12 to 20 watts of energy for every watt it uses, violating conservation of energy, or a group of dumb bunnies on the panel (almost all of them with prestigious Ph.D.s) either can't do math or are spreading fertilizer on a scale that John Deere and Cyrus McCormick never imagined.

Later on, the document presents gross chemical production without specifying units(p. 22), environmental footprint without specifying units (p. 35-6), tries to apply Moore's Law (p. 37) to the problem of green technology, and makes no attempt to quantify the problem they claim to be trying to solve.

It is as if an All-Star panel of professors and activists were trying to violate as many of the rules of evidence, economics, science, and logic as they possibly could.  It would take some doing to "improve" on their try, and quite frankly, it's a rather damning indictment of a lot of very selective schools if their professors can't do better than this. 

The key to really fixing healthcare..... not expanding Medicaid, as the Health Insurance Deform Act ("Obamacare") does, as it appears that a paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine has established (H/T Say Anything) that in Oregon, Medicaid recipients had no discernible improvements in health related to diabetes or heart disease.  Since these--along with lung cancer from smoking--are probably THE big hitters for the health of less affluent people, it stands to reason that overall, the benefits for a very expensive program (about $7000 for a family of three if this is indicative) are pretty much nil. 

(overall Medicaid spending in 2009 was $5500/recipient, weighted towards the disabled and elderly--younger people cost the program about $2300-3000 apiece)

Now, speaking as a guy with a pretty extensive family history of heart disease and diabetes, and having been told by his doctor that it's either lifestyle changes or medication, this makes sense.  My doctor, despite being one of the best of the best (he's a resident at Mayo), cannot do anything to have me walk out of his office 30 pounds lighter and with better dietary habits. 

On the other hand, what if we had a system where I paid, to a degree, the costs of my excess weight?  The good doctor could simply say "here's the likely cost if you gain weight, and here it is if you lose weight", and let me make my decision. 

It is, of course, what we've done already, with the "little" exception that due to government, the real costs are hidden more than they ever were before.  Maybe it's time to change that.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Global warming update

I shoveled about 15" of "global warming" today.  Thankfully it was the white kind that falls from the sky, not the brown kind that comes from Al Gore and James Hansen.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Who needs an assault rifle?

That would be Yooper gas station owner Shawn Schank, who successfully defended his Shingleton business against two young wannabe thugs with an AR-15.

Don't you love it when a story has a happy ending?  Suffice it to say as well that at about ten miles from the Munising/Wetmore metropolitan area (population 2329) and over an hour's drive to the next significant towns of Manistique, Newberry, and Marquette, a few extra rounds in the magazine might have come in handy had the thugs been prepared for trouble.