GOV. FRAUD/WASTE/ABUSE

April 24, 2014

Blinded by Green Energy

Blinded 1My article as originally published in American Thinker:  

Last weekend, my father-in-law took my son and me to Arizona to watch a couple of Giants games during Spring Training – an early birthday gift for my son, and a truly fabulous experience that I’m sure my soon to be ten-year-old will never forget.  But before we even made it to Arizona, I witnessed something else pretty unforgettable during the flight.  About an hour or so into our journey from Sacramento to Phoenix, I noticed three extremely bright lights off in the distance while looking through a window on the right side of the aircraft.  The lights were so intense that I thought I was looking at three miniature suns.  In all my years of flying (that route included), I had never seen anything like this before.

I had my suspicions that the lights had something to do with some sort of solar farm, and after reading an article in The Daily Caller and doing a little research using Google Maps, I realized that I was in fact a victim of the world’s largest solar thermal plant – and that I wasn’t alone:

Airplane pilots cruising over southern California have been complaining about a “nearly blinding” glare emanating from a massive government-funded solar thermal facility.

The Ivanpah solar energy plant in San Bernardino County is the world’s largest solar thermal plant and has 173,500 large mirrors that reflect sunlight onto boilers in three 459-foot towers. A feat of modern engineering — to green energy advocates, but a flying hazard to pilots.

The Federal Aviation Administration’s Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS) got two anonymous complaints in August that mentioned a “blinding glare” coming from the Ivanpah solar facility. One complaint came from a Los Angeles air traffic controller and the other from a small transport plane pilot that took off from an airport in Boulder City, Nevada.

“The FAA is aware of potential glare from solar plants and is exploring how to best alert pilots to the issue,” an FAA spokesman told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

Why didn’t someone think of this before breaking ground on such an enormous project?  Well, according to the DC article, they did:

BrightSource’s environmental impact study for Ivanpah included mitigation measures for glare issues related to the site’s reflective mirrors. The aviation community actually raised such worries during the environmental review process.

Ivanpah’s environmental impact study found that the solar thermal plant could cause temporary blindness to pilots flying within 3,300 feet of the heliostats, which compromises safety. BrightSource had to develop a heliosat position plan to mitigate the potential harm from Ivanpah’s glare.

I think the study may have been off by more than a few decimal points with its estimate of pilots having to be within only 3,300 feet of the heliostats to experience temporary blindness.  When I snapped the below photo (the only one that wasn’t totally overexposed) with my phone, the aircraft was at about 35,000 feet and dozens of miles to the East of Ivanpah’s 459-foot green-’n'-clean towers.

 

Many who are blinded by green energy don’t know about or simply ignore the heavy reliance on taxpayer subsidies and massive cronyism surrounding it.  But now, in addition to the fiscal impracticality of green energy, we have Bald Eagles being killed by ugly wind turbines and pilots being dangerously disorientated by giant solar plants – and as if the Ivanpah solar plant wasn’t causing enough trouble, it’s the very same plant that has been conveniently cooking birds before they fall to the ground.

Isn’t it interesting how green energy (and those who amass their wealth from it) gets a free pass from any of its negative impacts, unlike the economy-growing affordable energy options?  I guess those privileged to make these green omelets are permitted to break a few eggs – even if some of those eggs happen to be a protected species or are otherwise diligently protected by the TSA.

The next time I fly this route, I’ll be sure to bring along a few marshmallows to roast along the way.

We Already Have ‘Super Trucks,’ Mr. Obama

My article as originally published (math corrected) in American Thinker:   

President Obama just threw another wrench into the economy with his new heavy-duty truck efficiency standards. While it may be desirable to see more efficient trucks on the road, as Kevin Williamson at NRO pointed out — this technology isn’t free.

President Barack Obama is a masterly practitioner of the occult art of single-entry bookkeeping. Consider his speech today, in which he praised the fuel economy of a new “super truck,” making the point that, since most U.S. freight moves in trucks, lower operating costs for freight operators should in theory mean lower costs for consumers. And he would have a point — if that fuel-economy technology were free. It is not. It costs money to develop. It costs money to deploy. Where it adds to the price of a vehicle, it also adds to ownership costs such as insurance and taxation.

And as truckers, especially single operators (AKA small businessmen), have found out in California, free it is not.

So just how inefficient are these evil heavy-duty gas hogs? The White House “fact sheet” claims that in 2010, heavy-duty vehicles accounted for only four percent of the vehicles on the road, but consumed twenty-five percent of the fuel. While this sounds pretty bad on the surface, perhaps we should take a look under the hood given the source?

I think it’s important to keep in mind that vehicles contribute to the economy by doing work, be it carrying people to and from the office, or transporting thousands of pounds of goods across state lines. But is it really fair to compare giant cargo haulers with passenger cars simply as a percentage of the vehicles on the road? Shouldn’t the efficiency of doing actual work be what is instead considered?

If heavy-duty vehicles account for only four percent of what is traveling the road, this means that out of every one-hundred vehicles only four would be heavy-duty, and ninety-six would be standard autos. I understand there is a large variance of vehicular size and weight, but for simplicity, let’s take just one group and compare ninety-six passenger vehicles having a total loaded weight of 4,000 lbs each with four semi-trucks with a total legal loaded weight of 80,000 lbs each. The ninety-six cars would weigh a total of 384,000 lbs and the four heavy-duty trucks would weigh a total of 320,000 lbs. When looked at this way, four percent of these vehicles are doing almost as much economic work as the other ninety-six percent. Put another way, the heavy-duty trucks do about forty-five percent of the total work while representing only four percent of the ‘workers’ in this case. Further comparison using actual payload capacity would only serve to make these monstrous trucks look even better.

But what about comparing fuel consumption with work done? Using the same vehicle specifications as above, a truck with a total legal weight of 80,000 lbs can travel about (again keeping it simple) five miles using one gallon of fuel. A passenger car that gets 20 MPG uses .25 gallons of fuel during that same five mile trip but only hauls a total load of 4000 lbs. In order to do the same work (move 80,000 lbs) as the heavy-duty trucks, twenty of these cars would be needed. But in order for those twenty cars to move the same amount of weight over the same five miles, they would instead consume five gallons of fuel. That is a 400% increase if my math is correct.

I won’t get into it here, but couldn’t we also factor in the energy used to produce these vehicles as well? A semi truck engine can last over one million miles while a standard auto engine will last only one or two hundred thousand miles.

It looks to me like we already have “super trucks,” Mr. President. And I have faith that over time, the market will improve upon what we already have, and do so in an efficient manner.

Left alone, the free market has no problem efficiently pulling its own weight. But when the dead-weight of politicians and their “brilliant” ideas are piled upon it, the economy slows down to a crawl.

 


Minimum Wage Destroys Education for the Poor

My article as originally published in American Thinker:  

While President Obama may still possess the ability to bedazzle a certain segment of the population with his haughty rhetoric, his policies, coupled with his economic ignorance, continue to wreak havoc upon the U.S. economy. Case in point: his persistent and injudicious push for an increase in minimum wage that, if achieved, would only further the economic carnage. Without a doubt, minimum wage laws hurt entry-level workers and ultimately the whole economy, as Thomas Sowell and Ron Ross clearly demonstrate. But perhaps the cruelest consequence of minimum-wage law is the fact that it denies poor Americans access to a truly affordable education. With overall teen unemployment already at 21% and sky-high black teen unemployment at 38% under Obama’s watch, his proposal would only exacerbate this problem.

Merely highlighting the hourly wage rate as the singular measure of value received from working in an entry level capacity conveniently ignores one of the most important aspects of the story — education. When an individual has zero work experience and very little in the way of skills to offer, it is imperative to somehow gain such experience. The ability to do just that represents the highest level of value for the entry-level employee. Others think nothing of paying to receive a similar level of instruction in the classroom or taking an unpaid internship to develop new skills. But that’s often just not an option for the poor.

Given the exorbitant costs of higher education (due in part to the ever-reaching tentacles of government), a paid entry-level position appears to be one of the better educational options available for some within the ranks of the poor and middle class. But misguided minimum-wage laws, in effect, price many of these would-be students out of a quality education and a chance to get ahead in life. Employers are willing to give (hire and train) these “students” a paid education in exchange for their labor when it makes good economic sense, but when “tuitions” are raised by government mandated wage controls, only the highest skilled “students” will be accepted, effectively outlawing this form of education for those who possess the lowest level of skills.

President Obama said: “Americans overwhelmingly agree nobody who works full-time should ever have to raise a family in poverty. And that is why I firmly believe it’s time to give America a raise.” But wage rates are for the market to decide and no one should expect to raise a family on the wages an entry-level position provides. As it is with any form of education, it is up to the individual as to whether or not something is actually gained during the process. Some will, of course, be complacent in their low-level position or lack the capacity to move up the corporate ladder, much like the proverbial college student-for-life or dropout. But that is certainly no reason for government to effectively bar entry for those who lack other choices but have the ability and ambition to acquire skills using this approach. While the full monetary value of such employment doesn’t appear on one’s paycheck at first, once an individual develops marketable skills, employers will be forced to compete for their labor within the marketplace.

President Obama will no doubt be given accolades from the Left for all of his faux compassion. But his proposal is anything but compassionate and is more than a job-killer — it’s an education-killer for the poor he claims to be trying to help. This will only breed more dependence upon government, which may actually be the point.

By the way, who wants to actually work (and learn) for a ten-plus dollar per hour minimum wage when, on average, welfare pays much more and requires absolutely zero effort? And that’s even before factoring in ObamaCare’s disincentives to continue working as hailed by the Left.

 


When will daily ObamaCare body count reporting begin?

My article as originally published in American Thinker:   

Even before the last tidbits of silver and gold confetti could be swept away following New Year’s Eve celebrations, Americans were already starting off the year with fresh ObamaCare surprises.  Some of the new “enrollees” in President Obama’s signature law are showing up at hospitals in parts of the U.S. and are being met with confusion as to whether or not they’re actually insured.  Because of this, some are just leaving without needed treatment to avoid the enormous out-of-pocket expenses that would be incurred (which they would most likely pay anyway due to ObamaCare’s high deductibles), as Rick Moran discussed in this AT piece highlighting a Northern Virginia hospital.

And in Chicago, a doctor decided to move forward with a patient’s scheduled surgery not knowing if the costs would be covered by insurance:

Paperwork problems almost delayed suburban Chicago resident Sheri Zajcew’s scheduled surgery Thursday, but Dr. John Venetos decided to operate without a routine go-ahead from the insurance company. That was after Venetos’ office manager spent two hours on hold with the insurer Thursday, trying to get an answer about whether the patient needed prior authorization for the surgery. The office manager finally gave up.

[snip]

Venetos, a Chicago digestive system specialist, described “tremendous uncertainty and anxiety” among patients calling his office recently. Some thought they’d signed up for coverage but hadn’t received insurance cards yet. Others had insurance policies that were canceled and weren’t sure if their coverage had been reinstated after Gov. Pat Quinn decided to allow one-year extensions of canceled plans.

Venetos said he has decided to take a risk and provide care for these patients, at least until there’s less confusion about coverage.

So what exactly will happen once tens of millions of Americans start losing their employer-sponsored health plans due to ObamaCare, thus adding even more confusion to a once-working system?  This is serious stuff, and if it continues, people will start dying in sizable numbers.

Just imagine if this disaster known as ObamaCare were instead BushCare under the previous administration.  Rest assured, if people were to begin dying due to these same disastrous policies under George W. Bush, Americans would be reminded daily of the body count, just as they were during the Iraq War when he was commander and chief.  Of course, not only would we be hearing about the daily BushCare body counts (along with his dwindling poll numbers); we would also be glued to the TV watching simultaneous impeachment hearings.

Don’t hold your breath while waiting for the mainstream media to provide any real tally of future ObamaCare-caused carnage.

By the end of 2014, perhaps Americans will be singing “Auld Lang Syne” while reminiscing about what once was the greatest health care system in the world

 


Who Likes Their Health Insurance?

My article as originally published in American Thinker:   

The Obama administration clearly underestimated just how tough the sale of ObamaCare would be once the American people found out what “was in it.” To say the task is a bit like selling broccoli or asparagus flavored candy to a child is surely an understatement. In fact, thanks to a short video my daughter alerted me to, the Administration can get an idea of how the American people feel about having the so-called Affordable Care Act shoved down their throats. (Note: the video is by Crest and Oral B, not Michael Bloomberg.)

While I’m quite certain the Obama administration sees the American people as helpless children who need to have every aspect of their lives planned out for them, the problem isn’t the administration’s sales ability. The problem is the disgusting product they are trying to sell. At least the guy in the video told the children “what was in” the candy up front and didn’t lie to them. And it appears these kids weren’t going to be force fed the candy once they rejected it.

Even a child understands when they are being scammed. And they certainly don’t care what kind of pajamas the salesman is wearing.

 


Barry’s Comet

My article as originally published in American Thinker:  

The  so-called “comet of the century,” a sungrazer named ISON, reached perihelion on Thanksgiving Day,  but didn’t live up to its expectations to wow the masses and just  fizzled out. Perhaps ISON’s name should be changed to ‘Barry’s  Comet’ as it appears to be the perfect metaphor for the Obama Administration’s  rise and fall.

While  comets put on a dazzling show with their brilliant comas and alluring tails that  extend for many thousands of miles, solar radiation slowly strips away most of  their mass (largely a loose conglomerate of dust, ice, rocks, and gases), eventually leaving just a dull, tiny, often misshapen  core. While the illusion from a distance can be quite spectacular, when exposed  to sunlight, comets are in reality just objects that are falling apart before  our eyes.

Instead  of maintaining the United States on solid, stable, constitutional ground, President Barack Obama is the latest  “politician of the century” to tempt us with a dazzling “progressive” display –  a loose conglomerate of hope, change, economic egalitarianism and “fairness” for  all, yet hiding a thinly veiled dull, misshapen, statist central planning core.  Despite years of media filtering, the recent exposure of ObamaCare,  NSA, Benghazi, IRS and other Obama scandals to intense ‘sunlight’ are finally  causing his Presidency to fizzle-out as the public can now see a portion of what  lies beneath the unsustainable promises surrounding the core of his  ideology.

Not  only did America fall for Obama’s awe-inspiring tale of “hope and change” and  twice elect him to the office of president, but Obama himself seemed even more  self-assured than the mythical Icarus as he delivered his nomination  victory speech back in 2008:

America,  this is our moment. This is our time. Our time to turn the page on the policies  of the past. Our time to bring new energy and new ideas to the challenges we face. Our time to offer a new direction for  the country we love.

The  journey will be difficult. The road will be long. I face this challenge with  profound humility, and knowledge of my own limitations. But I also face it with  limitless faith in the capacity of the American people… I am absolutely  certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our  children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and  good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began  to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war  and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on  Earth…

Not  all scientists were fully convinced of ISON’s “comet of the  century” hype:

Some  reporters have started calling ISON the “Comet of the Century,” but Don Yeomans  of NASA Near-Earth Object Program thinks that’s premature.

“I’m  old enough to remember the last ‘Comet of the Century’,” he says. In 1973, a  distant comet named Kohoutek looked like it would put on a great show, much like  ISON. The actual apparition was such a let-down that Johnny Carson made jokes  about it on the Tonight Show. “It fizzled,” says Yeomans. “Comets are  notoriously unpredictable.”

Many were of course skeptical of the promise of Obama  too, especially those old enough to remember another “politician of the century”  from the late 1970′s by the name of Jimmy Carter, and we shouldn’t need to be  reminded of how that dud of an event turned out for America. ‘Barry’s Comet,’ is  merely the same old statist core surrounded by a repackaged conglomerate of  utopian promises that history proves (as do the jokes on late night TV) has zero  chance of delivering on any of the hype.

While  it remains to be seen if President Obama will endure the same fate as Icarus,  just like Comet ISON, his “progressive” world view is predictably unable to  withstand the intense ‘sunlight’ of truth, and is rapidly falling apart. The only remaining question is whether or not the  United States will suffer the same fate.

 


Don’t Fire Democrats in 2014, ‘Transition’ Them

My article as originally published in American Thinker:       

The  most “transparent” administration in the history of the universe is for the very first time living up  to that title, albeit in one area only. The utterly embarrassing disaster and  convoluted set of lies known as ObamaCare has given Americans a front row seat  at one of the windows into big government  — and the view is anything but pretty.

Conservatives  are surly not surprised by the results of this law’s implementation. But those  who did believe the lies and misinformation spread by the president –  Democrats, mainstream media, Hollywood and even WebMD — are seemingly left in a total daze, knowing not  what to do or who to turn to after being so brazenly misled. Vulnerable  Democrats are now doing their best pretzel imitations in order to  distance themselves from ObamaCare as the 2014 elections  approach. And who knows, maybe even Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, the Democrat  Party’s equivalent of Baghdad Bob, will someday be forced to concede the total failure of ObamaCare?

The  natural instinct of irate voters may be to just “throw the bums out” in 2014.  But in order to make a broader appeal to independent voters and those who may  someday be known as Cruz-Democrats, why not take the Democrat’s kinder, gentler approach to canceling… eh, firing  these “substandard” politicians?

Instead,  during the 2014 midterms and again in 2016, just “transition” these “junk”  politicians back into the private sector where they will have a chance to prove  just how much value they actually provide for society. Then maybe we can begin  the long “transition” towards getting our high standard Constitutional Republic  back in order?

After  all, according to Democrats, a simple “transition” is a positive thing and a way  to rid millions of Americans of their so-called substandard-junk-policies. So  politicians should have no problem receiving a “transition” notice from the  American people. That’s most certainly a better outcome than being canceled,  right?

The  American people really don’t have a problem with substandard health insurance plans. But they do have a problem with  substandard-junk politicians trying to control every aspect of their  lives.

I  think “Transition 2014″ has a really nice ring to it.

 


What if Obama were an Insurance CEO?

A lack of accountability on the part of government officials is the very reason for a limited government as outlined in our Constitution.  The very Constitution President Obama and Democrats are currently tearing apart.

Andrew McCarthy discusses what would happen to Obama if he were operating within the private sector:

“If you like your health-care plan, you will be able to keep your health-care plan. Period.” How serious was this lie, repeated by Barack Obama with such beguiling regularity? Well, how would the Justice Department be dealing with it if it had been uttered by, say, the president of an insurance company rather than the president of the United States?

Fraud is a serious federal felony, usually punishable by up to 20 years’ imprisonment — with every repetition of a fraudulent communication chargeable as a separate crime. In computing sentences, federal sentencing guidelines factor in such considerations as the dollar value of the fraud, the number of victims, and the degree to which the offender’s treachery breaches any special fiduciary duties he owes. Cases of multi-million-dollar corporate frauds — to say nothing of multi-billion-dollar, Bernie Madoff–level scams that nevertheless pale beside Obamacare’s dimensions — often result in terms amounting to decades in the slammer.

Read the rest at National Review Online      


Just a Few of the Reasons ObamaCare will Fail

Steven Plaut lays it out in Frontpage Mag:

There is a fundamental difference between economists and lawyers (or legal scholars) when it comes to resolving complex social and economic problems.  Economists believe that human behavior and the functioning of institutions are based upon incentives.  Lawyers and legal types believe that one can resolve complex problems by passing laws and imposing regulations.  The latter think one can legislate away the problem.

I like to describe the approach by lawyer-types to such problems as “rain laws.” They are like trying to resolve the problem of flooding from heavy rainfall by means of a law making it illegal for it to rain.

Read the ten reasons at Frontpage Mag    


Nothing ‘New’ About ObamaCare

Dr.  Thomas Sowell once again makes it real easy for us:

Like so many things that seem new, ObamaCare is in many ways old wine in new bottles.

For example, when confronted with the fact that millions of Americans stand to lose their existing medical insurance, as a result of ObamaCare, defenders of ObamaCare say that this is true only when those people have “substandard” insurance.

Who decides what is “substandard”? What is older than the idea that some exalted elite know what is good for us better than we know ourselves? Obama uses the rhetoric of going “forward,” but he is in fact going backward to an age when despots told everybody what they had better do and better not do.

Read the rest at Townhall