American Elephants


Leftists Don’t Understand “Cause & Effect” And That Makes a Huge Problem for the Rest of Us! by The Elephant's Child

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Progressives, Liberals, Lefties consistently have trouble understanding cause and effect. I’ve been noticing this for quite a while, particularly in relation to crime. That is where the famous “Butterfield Fallacy” comes in( well, maybe not famous, but it should be.) Fox Butterfield was a reporter for the New York Times, “whose crime stories served as the archetype for his eponymous fallacy.”

“It has become a comforting story for five straight years, crime has been falling, led by a drop in murder,” Butterfield wrote in 1997. “So why is the number of inmates in prisons and jails around the nation still going up?’  He repeated the trope in 2003: “The nation’s prison population grew 2.6 percent last year, the largest increase since 1999, according to a study by the Justice Department. The jump came despite a small decline in serious crime in 2002.” And in 2004: “The number of inmates in state and federal prisons rose 2.1 percent last year, even as violent crime and property crime fell, according to a study by the Justice Department released yesterday.”

The Butterfield Fallacy consists of misidentifying as a paradox, that which is a simple cause-and-effect relationship. You put more bad guys behind bars, and the crime rate goes down. Lefties disapprove of sending people to prison because they believe it to be racially discriminatory. “In 2004 almost 10 percent of American black men were in prison” and it diverts tax money from what should be higher priorities. I’ve written about this a number of times, but I have a hard time recognizing how pervasive the inability to understand cause and effect is.

Today’s problems also include the “Ferguson Effect” which has resulted in policemen being more hesitant to arrest or deal with crime, especially in the black community — because of the blowback from the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson MI.

When the demand for a higher minimum wage began to circulate, we explained that a minimum wage was a starting wage for beginners, and low because they weren’t worth more, and there was no end to the numbers of people who wanted a starting-out job. We explained that most get a raise within the first 6 months. We mentioned automation. But the Lefties said “you can’t raise a family on the minimum wage.” Of course you can’t — the minimum wage is for beginners.

So Lefties are raising the minimum wage legally (government has no business telling businesses how much they must pay workers). Well effect follows cause and Wendy’s Restaurants are installing self-service kiosks in their approximately 6,000 restaurants across the country in the second half of the year. There are 258 Wendy’s in California where the minimum wage has gone up to $10 an hour. The former CEO of McDonalds warned that Robots cost less than paying a $15 minimum wage. Hillary jumped in on the controversy to demand an end to disabled workers’ exemption from minimum wage requirements — and got a stinging rebuke from economist Don Boudreaux.  Cause and effect.

Greenies usually use Denmark as a stunning example of the beneficial use of natural wind power. Well, Denmark is abandoning wind power. Danes’ cost of energy has been climbing and climbing, with 66% of the bill being “green taxes” and only 15% going to energy generation. Denmark’s energy prices were the highest in Europe, and politicians are abandoning wind power as too expensive. Greenies celebrate the natural source of energy, but the problem remains that wind does not blow at the correct speed to generate power even most of the time. They’ve tried to remedy that with taller turbines, more exotic minerals, better designs — doesn’t matter. The cause is the nature of wind, the effect is unaffordability.

In desperation our federal government has raised the numbers of eagles and other birds that the wind farms and solar arrays can chop up or fry each year, But that too is a cause and will have an effect — not yet recognized.  In the meantime, the world’s largest solar array at Ivanpah which has never produced the electricity they promised (cause) and is under enormous pressure to do something — did. It caught on fire.

Keep an eye on the inability of the Left to grasp this simple fact, you will find that it explains a lot.



A Truly Weird Electoral Season. by The Elephant's Child

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They are voting in Indiana, and the polls will be closing soon. I do not understand this presidential campaign at all. We are told that the people are really angry. According to the media and Donald Trump, they are angry about illegal immigration, and unfair trade policy that is negatively affecting our country. According to exit polls, the people are not particularly concerned about immigration as it is far down the list of concerns, and majorities prefer a path to citizenship.

Mr. Trump is going to build a huge big wall. And he is going to put big tariffs on any country that isn’t being fair. He’s going to be nicer to our friends so we will be closer, but he will insist that they pay a larger share of  the cost of protecting them from radical Islam. He liked World War II and the Cold War, but is against any foreign adventures since.

What the people seem to be angry about is the economy, the lack of jobs, jobs going to immigrants, they are fearful about terrorism, angry about the ridiculous hooplah over women’s restrooms being open to men, the increased cost of ObamaCare, the lack of jobs and economic growth, and increased inflation while salaries have not risen at all. Jobs have vanished on coal country, employment is down in oil and gas country because of the drop in the price of oil, some manufacturing jobs have gone overseas because of high corporate taxes, and some high-tech jobs have gone to H1-B immigrants.

All of these problems are the direct result of policies of the Obama administration. The stimulus didn’t work. Republicans warned that ObamaCare was not going to work and would cost more, not less; every Republican voted against he initial law, and have voted to repeal the act five times, Obama has vetoed their efforts each time. Jobs have gone to offshore companies as a direct result of the highest corporate tax in the world. The rise of ISIS and the war in Syria and the Middle East is a direct result of Obama pulling the troops out of Iraq too soon. President Obama vowed early to bankrupt the coal companies, which he has done in a misguided and fruitless battle against catastrophic global warming which exists only in the computer programs of the IPCC. And in refusing to utter the words Islamic terrorism, Obama has skewed all of our perceptions of  the Middle East and what is happening.

So the people are furious with the Republicans? Huh?

They blame the policies of the Obama administration on the Republicans? They don’t think the Republicans have done enough to stop the administration?

This is the first time, as far as I know, when a President of the United States has deliberately decided that “he has a phone and a pen” and he will accomplish by executive order or actions of agencies whatever he wants, and that he will pay no attention to the Constitution of the United States of America, because he believes it to be a tired old document that needs repealing or fixing.  The remedies available are to proceed through the courts in one lawsuit or another or to impeach the president. The Republicans have voted to repeal ObamaCare five times, Obama has vetoed every bill.

Results are in from Indiana, and Donald Trump has enough votes that he will be the presumptive nominee, for he is sure to pick up enough from states like California and Washington, for example, from the remainder of states left.  Ted Cruz has suspended his campaign.

I am not and have not been a Trump supporter. I do not understand what they hope for from what little Mr. Trump has had to say in his speeches.  His supporters seem to put a lot of faith in “Make America Great Again”  and “America First” which was a discredited slogan from  the America First Committee which was highly non-interventionist in the days just before World War II. I guess they see it as patriotism and strength. I see it as lacking in evidence.

We’ll see. Mr. Trump hasn’t even released his tax returns, and is due to face trial for fraud regarding his promotion of Trump University.  But then the case against Hillary proceeds slowly as well. What a weird, weird electoral season.



How to Talk To Progressive Millennials by The Elephant's Child

This speech by Bill Whittle was the keynote speech at the David Horowitz Freedom Center’s 2016 West Coast Retreat earlier this month in Palos Verdes, CA. He’s a terrific speaker, and in this case he was talking about talking to the millennials — Progressive millennials.

So his speech became sort of a lesson in how to talk to progressive millennials who have a lot of preconceived notions about conservatives — about some of today’s common issues of disagreement, like Citizens United, and guns, and Socialist paradises and science — that sort of thing. And because he’s a terrific speaker, he does it very well indeed. You can watch, or if you prefer to read the transcript it is here.

I’m inclined to read transcripts myself, because I go back and read some sentences over again when I think something is particularly well said, and there’s a lot of that here.



How They Spend Your Hard-Earned Money: by The Elephant's Child

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And was paying your hard-earned money to the IRS painful? $600,000 of taxpayer money is going to the National Science Foundation to study — why people cheat on their taxes.

The National Science Foundation approved the 2015 proposal which set out to “advance basic understanding of how tax compliance behavior emerge”, to determine if there is a link between taxpayers feeling that tax policies are unfair and trying to avoid paying, by cheating. Any several thousand of you willing to write a clear response for, say, half the price? Thought so.

The IRS itself estimates that 83 percent of Americans file and pay on time.

If you are bothered by government waste, which is voluminous,  let your representatives know. They won’t do anything about it unless they know there is some blowback.



As The Sun Sinks Slowly in the West, So Does the Solar Industry by The Elephant's Child

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Back in 2010, President Obama hailed a Spanish Company, Abengoa, saying its new solar technology would supply tens of thousands of American homes with renewable power, and create local employment.

Since then the Spanish company has built two American plants, one in Arizona and one in California, which supply electricity to more than 160,000 homes based on the capacity of the solar thermal plants. Remember that “capacity” is what the plants would provide on perfectly sunny days, and ignoring clouds or rain.

It appears that Abengoa got overambitious, and saddled with debt from its expansion, is scrambling to avoid what would be the biggest bankruptcy in Spanish corporate history. Abengoa’s American projects in Gila Bend, Arizona, and Barstow, California, still have around $2 billion in outstanding loans guaranteed by the United States government. The plants were partly financed by $605 million in federal grants and tax credits, besides the federal loan guarantees. The New York Times adds:

“The whole reason Abengoa Solar had to get the guarantee from the government is that no private lender thought the risk was worth it,” the Institute of Energy Research, a prominent renewables critic that has received financing from the oil industry, said in 2011.

Do note the NYT phrasing, and the “oil industry” link doesn’t seem to lead anywhere at all. Abengoa has legal problems as well from shareholders and creditors, with claims of misleading investors, and against individual executives. The company lost $1.3 billion last year and paid employees late.

They’ve also done projects in Central and South America. In 2007 they established the world’s first commercial solar thermal power plant on the outskirts of Seville. That year their stock hit a record high of €7.39 a share. In November, the share price had fallen below 40 euro cents. It’s now hovering around 71 euro cents.

Meanwhile up north in Maine: from Bloomberg:

Despite long winters, a famously foggy coastline and relatively few solar panels in operation, Maine is emerging as a pivotal U.S. state for determining how consumers will pay for power generated by the sun.

U.S. solar installations have boomed more than 10-fold in the past five years, driven in part by a policy known as net metering that requires utilities to pay their customers for extra solar energy from rooftop panels. That’s lowered consumers’ monthly bills, and also cuts into revenue for utilities that still must contend with their own fixed costs — spurring conflict between traditional power companies and solar providers.

The permanent problem with the sun is that sunlight is diffuse. The major greenhouse gas is water vapor, which we recognize as clouds. especially here on the Northwest coast where there is not a speck of blue sky today. Note the lovely photograph of the sun at the top of this post, and — the extensive clouds.

US solar installations have increased by 10-fold in the past five years driven by a federal policy  called net metering that requires utilities to pay their customers for extra solar energy from rooftop panels. That has lowered customers’ monthly bills, but the utilities still have their own fixed costs, and it cuts into their revenue.

Maine has proposed replacing net metering with a system that lets utilities sign 20-year contracts with residential solar customers. And instead of paying the retail price, as called for under current policies, utilities would pay rates set by regulators.

Because this is the Twenty First Century, as we are so frequently reminded, the greens are sure there is a technological fix just around the corner, and energy storage will cease to be a problem. But every known rare earth has been tried and found wanting.

Elon Musk’s Tesla Powerwall is meant to be a daily use battery. Tesla has announced prices of $3,000 and $3,500, but that does not include the inverter, and with installation it comes to $7,340. It requires about 7.5 kilowatt hours to charge the Powerwall, providing about  5.4 kilowatt hours of power once charged. The Institute for Energy Research found that it would require a payback period of 38 years which is almost 4 times the warranty period of 10 years for the Powerwall. Even if solar power were used to charge the Powerwall the payback period would be 31 years. The obvious problem is that for home use, we require electricity most when the sun has gone down.

The government’s idea was that by stimulating greater consumer demand with subsidies, production would increase and costs would go down, but in the meantime the industry believes that solar is a complete non-starter unless utilities are forced to pay extremely unrealistic prices for solar energy produced by households with solar panels. It’s not just Maine, even in sunny Nevada solar requires huge subsidies.

Progressives are sure that the government can just order utilities to charge less for their services, much like ObamaCare just assumes that hospitals and doctors can be forced to accept less payment for their services and all will be well. Most of the problems with our frighteningly large national debt and yearly deficits are due to the fact that Progressives just don’t understand the free market at all. They only understand the pursuit of power and an ever-larger government.



This May Be The Most Spectacular Failure Of Solar Power Ever by The Elephant's Child

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“Natural” is a ubiquitous word, especially for all things environmental. Wind and solar energy are held in high esteem largely because they are “natural.” Unfortunately, the word doesn’t mean much of anything, you only have to consider its opposite —”unnatural”— to point out how meaningless it is.

But for the environmental movement, natural is a very big deal indeed. We should draw our energy from the wind and the sun, eliminate unnatural chemicals from our diet, stop cutting down trees, save endangered species, but stop putting animals in cages, and stop eating meat. The word “natural” moved right to the top of the advertising buzz-word list.

So it is no surprise that in the panic about Global Warming, which was the next big thing after we stopped panicking about a new ice age in the 1970s, and the threat of a nuclear winter receded, we turned to trying to harness the power of the sun. Sensible people pointed out that the power of the sun was very diffuse, the sun had the habit of sinking below the horizon at night, and there was the problem of cloudy days and clouds on even nice days. But this is America, and the Twenty-First Century, as we are so frequently reminded, and we have technology!

The 2.2 billion Ivanpah solar project in California’s Mojave Desert is definitely high-tech. Those tiny white rectangles in the picture above are more than 170,000 mirrors, each about the size of a garage door, that rotate to follow the path of the sun across the sky. Solar-thermal technology was meant to supersede old-fashioned solar panel farms. The mirrors would reflect the sunlight to the huge “power towers,” enormous pillars to create steam which would generate electricity. It is not only the world’s largest solar project, it is also known as “the world’s largest outdoor bird fryer.”

The facility was built by Bright Source Energy Inc, and operated by NRG Energy Inc. NRG owns the facility along with Bright Source, Google and other investors. When I wrote about Ivanpah last November, they were delivering only 40% of their promised electricity, and they were trying to get a federal grant to pay off their $1.6 billion federal loan.

Now comes news that the Ivanpah solar plant may be forced to shut down. It is not producing the electricity it is contractually required to deliver to PG&E Corp., which says the solar plant may be forced to shut down if they don’t receive a break from state regulators. PG&E is asking the California Public Utilities Commission for permission to overlook the shortfall and give Ivanpah another year to sort out its problems. The extension request is opposed by some consumer groups, who are complaining that the cost of the electricity from the struggling plant is exorbitant. There is no mention in the article of whether or not they got the federal grant to pay off their federal loan. The high-tech power towers just aren’t working as advertised.

The huge array is owned by BrightSource Energy Inc., NRG Energy Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google. Government subsidy is what brings these projects to fruition and what brings investors who expect to be rewarded by the government subsidies. Over and over, across the world, when taxpayer subsidy is removed, the project shuts down.

In neighboring Nevada I had read recently that when Nevada withdrew the state subsidy, Elon Musk pulled out, but I apparently didn’t save the article.When I consulted Google, the headlines from the articles about Elon Musk and SolarCity are so completely fascinating that I couldn’t resist linking to that page. Do scroll down slowly to get the full picture. The federal government has no business using taxpayer money to pick winners and losers in the business marketplace.

California’s one remaining nuclear power plant, Diablo Canyon, produces more than twice as much clean, environmentally friendly electricity than all of California’s solar power installations combined. Environmentalists, of course, are trying to shut it down. (click to enlarge)

Diablo(h/t: Steven Hayward@ Powerline)



Government: Is It Ever Big Enough? by The Elephant's Child

Can the government ever be too big? How much spending is enough spending? And if there can be too much spending, where is that point? William Voegeli, Senior Editor of the Claremont Review of Books, explores these complex questions and offers some clear answers.




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