American Elephants

Science Moves On, and Our Old Bulbs May Yet Return! by The Elephant's Child

The incandescent light bulb. Gone, but not forgotten

— February 28, 2014  Popular Mechanics

Incandescent era, RIP. Like it or not, it’s time to move on. Traditional incandescent lightbulbs are gone—not banned, precisely, but phased out because the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA), passed in 2007, requires them to be about 25 percent more efficient. That’s impossible to achieve without decreasing their luminous flux (brightness), so, instead, manufacturers have shifted to more energy-efficient technologies, such as compact fluorescents (CFLs), halogens, and LEDs.

Wikipedia has a page entitled “Phase-out of incandescent light bulbs” the first sentence says: “Governments Have Passed Measures”

Governments around the world have passed measures to phase out incandescent light bulbs for general lighting in favor of more energy-efficient lighting alternatives.

This one was really a case of crony capitalism or a couple of very large corporations who used the power of government to force Americans to buy a new product that cost up to 10 times more than the old reliable bulbs. The profit margin on the new bulbs is significantly higher. Any environmental benefits were largely hooey, but the manufacturers got to pretend they were “saving the planet.”

The problem was that nobody liked the replacements, and the environmentalists insisted that the bulbs had to be disposed of in an environmentally friendly way. I don’t know about you, but the recycling enthusiasts are going way too far, and I can see a reckoning coming. People just wanted their friendly, cheap, satisfactory bulbs back.

The people may win. Scientists at MIT believe they may have come up with a solution which could see incandescent bulbs return to the marketplace — better and cheaper and more efficient.

MIT researchers have shown that by surrounding the filament with a special crystal structure in the glass, they can bounce back the energy which is usually lost in heat — while still allowing the light to come through. They call the technique “recycling light” because the energy that would usually escape into the air is redirected back to the filament where it can create new light. “It recycles the energy that would otherwise be wasted.”

Traditional incandescent bulbs are only about five percent efficient with 95 percent of the energy lost to the atmosphere. LED or florescent bulbs manage around 14 percent efficiency. Scientists believe that the new bulb could reach efficiency levels of 40 percent, achieving near-ideal rendering of colors.

If the new bulbs live up to expectations they would cost far less than the hated LEDs and CFL bulbs. Researchers have warned that the blue light emitted by modern bulbs could be stopping people from getting to sleep at night and there have been concerns about the dangerous chemicals they contain.

Luboš Motl explains the physics at the reference frame, for those who want more details, and there’s a picture of the prototype — which isn’t the bulb pictured above.


The Romance of Big Wind and Environmental Flim-Flam by The Elephant's Child

The Obama administration Department of the Interior has long busied themselves with preparations for the country’s first-ever federal offshore-wind lease sales, and the administration plans to start with a plot off the Atlantic coast that they hope will prove what a potential offshore-wind market will look like. Will there be any interest? Depends on how much subsidy Interior is promising.

“Trust us,” the wind industry intoned, “the enormous public investment is just seed-funding. It will be well worth it if costs fall in the cause of saving Mother Gaia.”

Energy insiders never bought it. The Victorians replaced windmills with steam driven machinery because they weren’t cost-efficient enough. But it’s easy to understand why Joe Average and populist politicos bought it. After all, aren’t most of us suckers for fictional romantic notions of wafting windmills able to harness the wind and create ‘free energy?’
Except that’s not how it worked out in the real world:
(Peter C.Glover)

Sally Jewell, the new Secretary of the Interior, and former head of consumer co-op REI, said “If there is good interest in this one, then I think you will have this happening on a consistent basis.” She said Interior considered many factors, including which areas would yield the highest potential for wind power while avoiding bird migration patterns and shipping lanes. Timing for developing a commercial offshore wind industry, she added, is up to the private sector. “The market will dictate, but we certainly don’t want to get in the way.”

Numerous articles document how European climate policies have been disastrous for affordable energy, economic growth, entire industries, people’s jobs and welfare, wildlife habitats and human lives.

The Obama administration is still trying to save the earth from global warming, though even the IPCC is admitting that there hasn’t been any warming in 15 years, even while CO2 continues to increase (and green the world). The president has shown no signs of approving the Keystone XL. The administration ignores the fact that wind farms are killing thousands of eagles, bats and other birds, and in spite of the fact that eagles are a federally protected species and it is a crime to kill one. Most European countries are recognizing that their huge investment in wind energy has been a flop, and are trying to reconsider. In the meantime, they are buying wood to fuel their power stations — that they get from American forests. Go figure.

The Sierra Club has long since changed from an environmental club that wanted to protect the Sierra mountains, into a radical environmental group. They have just decided to go whole “Deep Ecology,” and oppose any form of energy other than wind and solar. Even hydro is a problem for them because they’d prefer to tear down dams. This is all quite precious and sensitive, but would leave Americans freezing to death in a cooling climate. We can adapt to slight rises in heat, but cold kills. Wind and solar just don’t produce enough energy to even begin to power our country.  It simply does not and cannot work.

Top Swedish climate scientist Dr. Lennart Bengstrom wrote: Warming is not noticeable —the warming we have had in the last 100 years is so small, if we didn’t have climate scientists to measure it, we would not have noticed. Sea level has risen fairly evenly for 100 years by 2 -3 mm per year. The pitch has not accelerated.

So there you have it. This president will continue to push more money into wind and solar, probably directed to his cronies, and continue to leave fossil fuels out of his “all of the above” energy plan, though he is happy to take credit for the rise in our natural gas and oil production on private lands that he had nothing whatsoever to do with.

Electronic Medical Records: Not Cost Effective, Not Efficient. by The Elephant's Child

I had a routine Doctor’s appointment his week. My doctor had left her old group and is now with a new group. Same town, same hospital. I told her that she looked a lot happier. She agreed that she was. She said they were shortly going to digitize all their records as required by ObamaCare. She added that it was just a mess. There is so much opportunity for error. She said that some of the records she receives, she can hardly read. Having accurate records is essential.

Buried in the stimulus law of 2009, was an electronic-medical-records “incentive” program.Michelle Malkin reports that :

Oversight is lax. Cronyism is rife. The job-killing and privacy-undermining consequences have only just begun. The program was originally sold as a cost-saving measure. In theory, modernizing record-collection is a good idea, and many private health-care provides have already made the change. But as with many government “incentive” programs, the EMR bribe is a tax-subsidized, one-size-fits-all mandate. … Penalties kick in for any provider that hasn’t switched over by 2014.

…$4 billion has already gone out to 82,535 professionals and 1,474 hospitals and a total of $6 billion will be doled out by 2016. But the feds’ reckless profligacy, neglect and favoritism have done more harm than good.

A recent report by the HHS Inspector General said essentially that no one is actually checking to see if the transition from paper to electronic is improving patient outcomes or health services. The claim that the EMR conversion would reduce paperwork was based on hope rather than evidence, and many doctors say that it is actually doubling the amount of paperwork in their practices. Malkin again:

Billionaire Judith Faulkner, Obama’s medical information czar and a major Democratic contributor, just happens to be the founder and CEO of Epic Systems — a medical-software company that stores nearly 40 percent of the U.S. population’s health data. Another billion-dollar patient-record database grant program has doled out money to the University of Chicago Medical Center (where first lady Michelle Obama and senior adviser Valerie Jarrett both served in high-paid positions).

It seems the cost-savings predictions were grossly overstated. Epic Systems, Faulkner’s company is famed for its lack of interoperability. antiquated, hard-drive dependent software firms that refuse to share data with doctors or hospitals using alternate platforms. And what is a company like Faulkner’s doing with this enhance power to consolidate and control American’s private health information. Epic and other large firms spent hundreds of thousands lobbying for the Obama EMR giveaway. It seems not to be a coincidence that Epic’s sales have been skyrocketing in recent years, double what they were four years ago. Obama named billionaire Democratic donor Faulkner as the only industry representative on the federal panel overseeing the EMR $19 billion “incentives” program from which her company benefits. Crony-capitalism indeed.

Now the person who supervised the IRS political pursuit of anyone who might potentially donate to the election campaign of the President’s opponent has been moved from that section to being in charge of the IRS grab for every American citizen’s medical records. This is unprecedented and disturbing. If the IRS is an agency that cannot be trusted with our private financial information, uses their power to force you to reveal information to which they have no legal or ethical right, then we are all expected to hand over all our private medical history and current treatment for whatever they want to use it for.  Are you going to go for that?

It Pays to Be a Crony of the President. by The Elephant's Child

This is an odd story. A health insurance company headed by an old friend from the days when President Obama was an Illinois state senator got a $340 million federal loan to establish Obamacare co-ops in New York, New Jersey and Oregon is spite of having a chronic record of consumer and regulatory complaints.

The New York-based Freelancers Insurance Company has been rated as the “worst” insurer for two straight years by state regulators,  according to Richard Pollock, of the Washington Examiner’s Watchdog Team. Data compiled by a national insurance association show an unusually high rate of consumer complaints.

The firm was founded by Sara Horowitz in 2009, who worked with Obama when he was in the Illinois state senate to launch Demos, a left-wing New York think tank funded in part by George Soros. The website of Demos described Horowitz and Obama as members of the founding group in 1999. Sometime between that date and November 6, 2011, reference to Obama was deleted.

Before incorporating FIC, Horowitz had established the Freelancers Union, a nonprofit organization that describes itself as offering “health insurance and other benefits, plus advocacy, solidarity, and resources for freelancers and independent workers.”

In 2012, Horowitz’s FIC won the largest single award under an obscure Obamacare provision that allocates $2 billion to establish 24 co-ops to compete against private insurers and state health insurance exchanges. Co-ops are collectively owned organizations that produce goods or services for the benefit of members instead of for profit.

The funds are awarded as tax-free loans by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Center for Consumer Insurance Information and Oversight.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has opened an inquiry regarding FIC’s eligibility for the loans. The New York State Insurance Dept. ranked FIC last among commercial insurers with the most complaints , and 49th out of 50 among all of the stat’s insurance providers.

The department ruled that the insurer did not comply with statutory or contractual obligations in half the cases filed against the company. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners which represents 50 state insurance commissioners reported FIC’s complaint rate to be more than seven times the national average in the two most recent years for which information is available.

Horowitz was chosen in December to serve a three-year term as a director of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. It apparently pays to be a friend of the president. Just gives you all sorts of confidence in ObamaCare, doesn’t it.

Crony Capitalism, Chicago Style. by The Elephant's Child

President Obama has been trying for four years to promote the claim that the financial crisis was caused by the hated Bush tax cuts for “the rich.” Democrats always hate tax cuts, because they believe in BIG government, and  you can’t have BIG government without lots of tax revenue.

Democrats also believe in “fairness” which means that income should be redistributed from those who earned income to those who didn’t earn any or enough. It just isn’t fair that some people should work harder or have more expertise or be luckier than others who don’t work hard or have any expertise and just aren’t lucky. Although “luck” isn’t always as lucky as people think. Statistically, the people who win lotteries usually turn out to be less lucky than they were in the first place.

Bill Clinton left a recession for George W. Bush. The “booming” Clinton economy was booming largely because of the “dot-com bubble” when everybody with a computer thought they were going to make their fortunes online. President Obama wants to go back to the Clinton tax rates because the rich paid more then, but he wants to pretend that Bill Clinton’s much lower spending didn’t exist, didn’t happen, spending is good, don’t even suggest that I should cut back on spending. Did you know we have 54 Christmas trees in the White House? Although we’ll be in Hawaii for most of the Christmas season. Out of touch.

Tax Cheats? Rule Breakers? Trickle-Down Fairy Dust? by The Elephant's Child

“The Chairman’s Blog: Insights for leaders from Gallup’s work around the world”

The House of Representatives passed a bill last Tuesday that would fire federal employees who’ve been seriously delinquent in paying their taxes. They did this because almost 100,000 federal workers are behind on their taxes, including 700 congressional employees. These workers owed more than $1 billion in unpaid taxes 2010, up from just under $600 million in 2004, according to the Internal Revenue Service. We could charitably call these folks “rule breakers.”

Wow! We could save a billion dollars if the tax cheats just paid up? And they are rule breakers as well?

Of course, we’ve also learned recently that there’s been significant rule breaking in the General Services Administration (lavish conferences and now word of excessive bonuses) and the Secret Service (the prostitution scandal in Colombia). Combined, the problems of tax evasion and rule breaking generally point to deep ethical issues in the federal workplace.

The federal government really needs to know what Gallup knows: Rule breaking is very predictable. The more disengaged the workplace, the more employees will break rules. And according to Gallup’s 12-question employee engagement survey (Q12), U.S. government workers are mostly not engaged (52%) or are actively disengaged (18%).

Now, it may surprise many government leaders to learn that generous pay and benefits don’t predict a great workplace. Federal workers are generally well compensated and receive more vacation days and better healthcare and retirement packages than many private sector employees — yet they remain disengaged and work within a growing culture of rule breaking.

The Chairman doesn’t mention it, but an attitude at the top that rule breaking will not be tolerated would be a start. But that would be sheer hypocrisy wouldn’t it. The President of the United States has been quite explicit in saying that he will not prosecute the laws with which he disagrees. Reports of the Attorney General’s failure to prosecute the law have been constant. The Secretary of the Treasury was publicly labeled a tax cheat because he had not paid his taxes. Administration members accused of illegal actions EPA director Lisa Jackson, Interior’s Ken Salazar, HHS’s Kathleen Sebelius, some have been taken to court and told to knock it off.

The administration clearly has no respect for the separation of powers, and does not feel obliged to yield to the laws passed by Congress, nor the decisions that emanate from the courts. Thus we have a government functioning by “Executive Orders,” and a Congress left fuming. With that attitude, it is hardly surprising that you have some “trickle down fairy dust,” to borrow a phrase; a feeling that if they can get away with it, why can’t I?

Rudy Giuliani cleaned up New York with a belief that petty crime, broken windows and graffiti led to a general climate of disrespect for the law. You could call that “trickle up.” He was right, of course. And as long as the federal government has an attitude that crony capitalism, rule breaking, tax cheating are fine for members of the federal workforce and their executives, we will continue to have a lot of the aforementioned.


Whoah! The Hypocrisy is Getting Pretty Thick Here! by The Elephant's Child

Bwa-ha-ha-haha!  CNN headline:”Obama calls for greater transparency from Romney snort! giggle.  President Transparency, who won’t disclose his Harvard grades, or his grades from Columbia University, or his grades from Occidental, or Punahou grades, or even grade school or kindergarten. His life is an open book — the autobiography with all those invented characters and dubious stories.

President Transparency— who has two cabinet members under threat of contempt of Congress because they won’t reveal the papers that Congress has subpoenaed, and President Transparency has asserted “executive privilege” so they won’t have to.

Obama can’t talk about the economy because his record with the economy is truly horrible. All his claims of hope and change, promises of jobs, promises of a reviving economy are all for naught. The economy sinks deeper, the job situation gets worse, largely because of the policies that Obama has pursued.

Mr. Obama doesn’t understand how jobs are created. He doesn’t seem to understand that public sector jobs are paid for with money taken from taxpayers. Every time you add another high-paying administration job, and they are very high-paying, everybody’s taxes go up a little more. He announced today that he wants to tax the rich more because they paid higher taxes during the Clinton administration and the economy did fine.

So the economy and unemployment are off the table, that leaves only attacks on Romney. At Axlerod’s direction, armies of lefties are digging through Romney’s financial dealings trying desperately to find something, anything, crooked.  Romney is wealthy, that makes him a real target of the left. Former press secretary Robert Gibbs argued on Sunday that Romney’s financial picture is out of touch with that of most Americans.

“I pick a bank because there’s an ATM near my home,” he said on CNN’s State of the Union. “Romney had a bank account in Switzerland.”

OMG. Switzerland?

Romney had a stellar education, very bright, with a talent for numbers and data and business. Over the years that talent and his skill managed to turn many companies around, and some of them became spectacular successes. What people in private equity do is invest their own money, along with that of shareholders (including retirement funds and individuals) so they have a stake in how their efforts turn out, both on the upside and on the downside. The Obama campaign has already tried to portray Bain Capital as a “corporate raider” which is just silly, and demonstrates how very little these people understand about business.

When Obama was first inaugurated, Rham Emmanuel set up daily economic meetings, since the economy was in such dire shape. He was waiting for the multiplier effect to multiply, and he got bored and quit them.

Mr.Obama’s understanding remains at the same level as when he started. You jump-start an economy by creating demand; when there isn’t enough demand, you pump some money into the economy , which the people will spend, and the money will circulate through the economy creating a magical “multiplier effect,” creating more demand in every hand it touches. Trouble is, a number of our top economists have determined that the “multiplier effect” is approximately zero. And when people are frightened, they don’t spend the extra, they save it. He can’t even explain how his policies were supposed to work or why they haven’t, he can only make specious claims that it will all start to work pretty soon — one of these days.

People who regard the path to wealth as something obtained through crony capitalism, and government jobs as “public service” in which you buy votes and do favors are not going to understand American capitalism. From Elizabeth K. Spahn

Crony Capitalism.” Isn’t that what American capitalism is? We were into our third glass of very fine red wine at the banquet following the training session. He was absolutely sincere. I was horrified. . . .

Cronyism is not capitalism, I replied. Cronyism is the opposite of capitalism. American capitalism is about markets, competition. “Rational” markets in which sellers compete; purchasers decide based on price, quality, service, brand. Cronyism, nepotism, elites reserving the goods for themselves — This is the opposite, the antithesis of American capitalism. This is why we revolted in the first place.

He looked at me. I looked at him. Ah, he said.

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