People fed up with Poor Weather Forecasting want to Fine those Forecasters whose Forecasts are Wrong

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 15th, 2012

Week in Review

Climate forecasting is a very difficult thing to do.  For there are so many variables.  And there’s so much that we still don’t understand about our weather.  Because climate trends typically take decades to track.  Or centuries.  It just isn’t like forecasting tomorrow’s weather.  Something simpler by far (see Netherlands councillors call for fines for wrong weather forecasts by Martin Banks posted 7/15/2012 on The Telegraph).

Local councillors in the Netherlands are calling for weather forecasters who get their predictions wrong to be fined…

It follow claims that wrong forecasts in both the Netherlands and Belgium are damaging outdoor attractions as day trippers cancel plans to go out because of poor weather prospects…

Pieter van Cutsem, who runs a small hotel in Hoek van Holland, agrees that forecasters should be “punished” for incorrect predictions,saying: “Despite having more forecasting tools than ever before they often get it wrong.

Interesting.  With more forecasting tools than ever they still often get tomorrow’s forecast wrong.  People are so furious they want to fine these horrible forecasters.  For you can’t believe a thing they say they are so bad at forecasting tomorrow’s weather.  Yet we’ll change our very lives based on their climate forecasts.  As they scare the bejesus out of us for what will absolutely happen in 10 years if we don’t enact a carbon tax.  A carbon emissions trading scheme.  If we don’t shut down all our coal-fired power plants.  Or replace all of our gasoline-powered cars with plug-in electric hybrids. 

No.  They can’t get tomorrow’s weather forecast correct despite having more forecasting tools than ever.  But we’re to believe everything they say about their forecast of the weather for the next decade out.  That they can get right.  Even if they can’t forecast tomorrow’s weather accurately.  Amazing.

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Iran says their Nuclear Program is for Generating Electricity and Powering Merchant Marine Ships

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 15th, 2012

Week in review

First they wanted to develop nuclear power to generate electricity.  Now they want to make nuclear-powered merchant marine ships (see Iran parliamentary committee approves construction of nuclear-powered merchant ships by Associated Press posted 7/15/2012 on The Washington Post).

A Iranian parliamentary committee has approved a bill requiring the government to design nuclear-powered merchant ships and provide them with nuclear fuel, an Iranian news agency reported Sunday.

The bill appears to be a symbolic gesture to bolster Tehran’s argument that it has a right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes. The West suspects Iran’s nuclear program is aimed at developing weapons technology, a charge Tehran denies.

Nuclear-powered vessels other than warships are rare, and the International Atomic Energy Agency has said in the past that nuclear-powered merchant ships would be uneconomical…

The West has raised concerns that Iran might cite submarine and other nuclear-powered vessel construction as a justification for producing weapons-grade 90 percent enriched uranium.

A nuclear-powered merchant marine ship?  Gee, I wonder how much the Somali pirates would get for one of those?

I would not allow an Iranian nuclear-powered ship of any kind anywhere close to U.S. territorial waters.  Imagine letting a nuclear reactor melt down in a U.S. harbor.  That would bump Three Mile Island, Fukushima and Chernobyl down the list of worst nuclear ‘accidents’.  I put ‘accidents’ in quotations because with the Iranians it probably wouldn’t be an accident.

This would just give the Iranians an opportunity to work on nuclear propulsion systems.  If successful (and if they have the funding and the resources) they will transform that technology into a warship.  Or a submarine.

Or perhaps they won’t do any of this.  They may just develop a nuclear weapon under the guise of producing weapons-grade material for ‘peaceful’ purposes.  And once they have it they’ll put it in a bomb.

The real question is how long are we going to let the Iranians down this road?  Far enough that they can threaten Israel, the U.S. and our friends and allies with a nuclear capability?  This is what we worried Saddam Hussein would do if left in power in Iraq.  He wanted to stay in power.  At any price.  So he could oppress his people.  And perhaps his neighbors.  What’s scarier with the Iranian leadership (NOT the Iranian people) is that their main goal does not appear to be in this life.  But in the next.  Which means nuclear retaliation and annihilation may not dissuade them.  Not if they get to take out their enemies first.

Perhaps the greatest foreign policy failure of the Obama administration was not helping the Iranian people during the Green Revolution following the 2009 Iranian presidential election.  It’s particularly sad because we didn’t help these good people but we did help the Muslim Brotherhood rise to power in Egypt.  And helped al Qaeda rise to power in Libya.  The so-called Arab Spring.  Which was more about the rise of Islamism than the rise of Democracy.  While we did nothing to support a real Democracy movement (the Green Revolution) in Iran.  One shudders to think of the consequences of this foreign policy blunder.  Especially now that the Iranians are aggressively pursuing a nuclear program.

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The Medicaid Expansion included in Obamacare may prove to be its Achilles Heel

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 15th, 2012

Week in Review

Part of Obamacare includes an expansion of Medicaid.  The state’s health care programs for the poor.  As we know health care is very expensive.  Which has been the driving force behind Obamacare.  To cut these high costs.  And they’re going to do this by transferring a lot of these costs to the states.  Which has got them really nervous.  Because health care is very expensive (see Governors divided over Medicaid expansion by Michael A. Memoli posted 7/14/2012 on the Los Angeles Times).

America’s governors have long used their semiannual gatherings to lock arms in opposition to dreaded unfunded federal mandates and emphasize a pragmatic approach to problem-solving in stark contrast to a hyperpartisan, even dysfunctional Washington.

But the makings of a real divide loomed over the summer meeting of the National Governors Assn. here, as state leaders grappled with the fallout of the Supreme Court ruling that granted unexpected leeway with regard to a key component of President Obama’s landmark health law: whether to accept billions of federal dollars in return for expanding coverage for the poor through Medicaid…

But a greater number of governors on both sides approached the unexpected ruling with caution, largely out of concern for the long-term effect on state budgets that had been stretched to the brink by the economic downturn.

Through the Affordable Care Act, the government is set to spend an estimated $1 trillion over the next decade to help states insure Americans who make less than 138% of the poverty line, or about $15,400 annually, through an expansion of Medicaid. The provision was expected to extend coverage to about 17 million people, on top of the approximately 50 million Americans who are currently covered by the program…

But other governors are worried that already struggling states may be left in the lurch in the future.

It’s clear why these governors are wary about this Medicaid expansion.  An increase of Medicaid patients from 50 million to 67 million is an increase of 34%.  States are slashing other spending to cover their Medicaid spending.  As the Medicaid rolls are already overwhelming some states.  And the thought of increasing their Medicaid spending by 34% is making them very nervous.  For anything can happen in Washington.  Including the cutting of federal subsidies.  Which could leave some states with spending obligations they just won’t have the ability to pay.

Could this be part of some grander design?  Well, of course.  The proponents of Obamacare wanted a full-fledged taxpayer-financed national health care system.  Something the people vehemently rejected.  So they introduced a personal and an employer mandate to put the private insurers out of business.  More and more people will drop coverage because the fine will be cheaper to pay thus forcing insurers to raise premiums on the fewer remaining policy holders.  Which will encourage more people to drop their coverage.  And so on until the last private insurers shut their doors.  Leaving the federal government as the health care provider of last resort. 

The expansion of Medicaid will force states to spend more than they can afford to.  Requiring ever more federal assistance.  It will be just a matter of time until the federal government will have to step in and be the health care provider of last resort.  And before you know it they will have their full-fledged taxpayer-financed national health care system.  While the taxpayers stand in shocked disbelief wondering what just happened.  And muttering “government for the people my ass.”  Unless the states refuse this power grab by Washington.  And say ‘no’ to that federal money and not expand their Medicaid programs.  Perhaps making the Medicaid expansion the Achilles Heel of Obamacare.

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In the Great Electricity-Generating Race it’s Coal by a Nose over Natural Gas with Solar Power Still in the Barn

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 15th, 2012

Week in Review

Natural gas is running to catch up and pass coal in the great electricity-generating race.  While solar power is struggling to win a participation ribbon (see The Huge Shift in Our Energy System That’s Happening Right Now in 1 Chart by Alexis Madrigal posted 7/13/2012 on The Atlantic).

As long as Americans have made electricity, they’ve gotten more of it from coal than from any fuel. While petroleum and natural gas have played huge roles in our energy system, coal’s been responsible for more than 65 percent of the fossil-fuel electricity we’ve generated for most of the last 50 years. (And for big chunks of the 20th century, we made half of all the electricity in this country by burning coal.)

But natural gas is in the process of overtaking coal as the top fuel in America — and fast.

There’s a reason coal dominated for so long.  And still does.  For awhile at least.  Generating electricity from coal is more efficient than generating electricity from natural gas.  Coal plants are heat engines.  They produce heat to boil water.  Natural gas plants are more like the jet engines on an airplane.  Where we use the products of combustion, expanding gases, to spin a turbine.  We don’t use it to boil water.  So we waste much of the heat generated from combustion.  Resulting in lower efficiencies than a coal-fired plant.

However, thanks to hydraulic fracturing (aka fracking) the supply of natural gas is exploding (pardon the pun).  Causing prices to tumble.  And because natural gas is now so plentiful and so cheap the poorer efficiencies are less important.  Economically speaking.  So power companies are expanding their natural gas turbines.  Which helps them avoid headaches with the environmentalists.  For natural gas burns cleaner than coal.  So for the foreseeable future it will be roughly 50-50 between coal and natural gas.  But what about renewable energy you ask?  Like solar power?  When will solar power provide 50% of our electricity needs?

Each percentage point of share is roughly 40 million megawatt hours a year. By comparison, all solar projects in 2010 (the last year stats were available) produced 1.3 million megawatt hours.

About 40 million megawatt hours a year per percentage point?  Looking at the chart it looks like coal is currently at 52%.  And natural gas is at 45%.  Or thereabouts.   If you do the math that’s about 3,880 megawatt hours between the two of them.  Or approximately 96.97% of all fossil-fuel generated electricity.  While the 1.3 million megawatt hours of solar power provides about 0.032% of our fossil-fuel generated electricity.  So when will solar power provide 50% of our electricity needs?  Probably never.

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The Most Expensive City will be Getting More Expensive as New York City raises Taxi and Limo Fares

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 15th, 2012

Week in Review

One of the most expensive cities to live in just got more expensive.  Or will get more expensive this September (see Cost of riding New York City taxi to jump 17 percent by Joseph O’Leary posted 7/12/2012 on Reuters).

The New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission approved a 17 percent fare hike on Thursday, said Alan Fromberg, a spokesman for the commission. The change will take effect in September.

Gas prices are falling.  Because the economy is so bad.  Unemployment is stuck at 8.2%.  No one is spending money.  Few are packing the families into their cars for a long vacation.  As the rising food costs are taking a larger portion of family budgets.  One of the few areas improvements in productivity isn’t keeping inflation at bay.  Still, inflation is in the low single digits.  So with the horrible economic picture, the fall in gasoline prices and the relatively low inflation rate why are they raising fares by 17%?  For all of the above.

New York City is one of the highest tax locales in the country.  And when economic activity falls so does tax revenue.  The city is hemorrhaging money.  Because it’s a city dominated by public sector workers.  And public sector unions.  Who consume enormous amounts of tax revenue.  Raising taxi and limo fares raises taxi and limo company profits.  Which increases income tax revenue.  And it increases drivers’ incomes.  Which increases income tax revenue.  That is, as long as ridership doesn’t fall.  Which it may.  For this is yet one more reason not to go to New York City.  It’s just so costly to visit.  For once there you will be visiting the ATM early.  And often.  Especially if you travel by taxi.

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Floridians in General and Seniors in Particular want to Repeal Obamacare

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 15th, 2012

Week in Review

The fact that the Supreme Court upheld Obamacare doesn’t change some facts.  People don’t like it.  They don’t want it.  And they want to repeal it.  Especially the seniors (see Poll: Most Floridians disapprove of federal healthcare law, half want it repealed by Alex Leary, Tampa Bay Times, posted 7/12/2012 on The Miami Herald).

A majority of Florida voters oppose the national healthcare law and half want it repealed, a new Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times/Bay News 9 poll shows two weeks after President Barack Obama’s signature achievement was largely upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Only 43 percent of voters statewide support the Affordable Care Act and 52 percent oppose it, with 5 percent undecided. With the exception of southeast Florida, more voters think the law will make the healthcare system worse.

More voters also favor the state opting out of provisions of the law, something Gov. Rick Scott has already said it would do…

In perhaps the most worrisome sign for Obama and Democrats, only 39 percent of voters 65 years or older support the law. Seniors make up about 30 percent of the overall state’s electorate…

The results mirror surveys in other states and show the same entrenched partisan feelings.

What is even more significant is that seniors are the largest consumers of health care services.  These aren’t ill-informed young adults who want free birth control and abortion on demand.  These are people whose very lives depend on quality health care.  And that’s the problem.  These informed consumers of health care services see Obamacare reducing the quality of their health care.  For they listen to the details.  Unlike healthy people in their twenties who have other pressing issues on their minds.  I refer you back to the part of Obamacare that interests them.  The free birth control and abortion on demand.

When Coke came out with New Coke the consumers of the original Coke did not like the change.  So they brought out Classic Coke.  And eventually dropped New Coke.  Because New Coke was a disaster with the people who consumed the vast majority of Coke.  The Coca Cola Company understood they had to please the people who consumed the vast majority of their product.  So they took actions to please the consumers of Coke.

The reaction of seniors to Obamacare is similar.  For the new health care system doesn’t benefit the largest consumer of health care services.  These seniors.  No.  These seniors will lose the most.  Obamacare will make huge cuts in Medicare spending which will hurt seniors.  Obamacare will reduce doctors’ Medicare reimbursements and cause many of them to drop Medicare patients.  Again, this will hurt seniors.  And Obamacare will prioritize the use of their limited health care resources.  Those who are younger and have more to live for (i.e., who can work longer and pay more taxes) will receive priority over a senior who no longer contributes to tax revenue while consuming enormous amounts of health care resources.  The phrase ‘death panels’ does not appear in the health care law but there will be government bureaucrats determining who will receive health care and who will not.  Which is a terrifying prospect to all seniors and the terminally ill.  As well as the chronically ill.

Coke listened to their consumers because they cherished them as customers.  The problem with Obamacare is that the government looks at the largest consumers of health care as a burden.  And they don’t like them.  As shown by the passage of a health care bill that is so hostile to them.  Seniors often voted Democrat because they benefited from growing government spending.  That spending will continue to grow under Obamacare.  Only they will pay for a lot of it with spending cuts on programs that serve seniors.  So it’s not likely that the seniors will vote Democrat in the 2012 election.  Especially when only 39 percent of voters 65 years or older support Obamacare.  Meaning 61% don’t.  In Florida as well as other states wherever seniors can be found.  No.  They will vote for those who will listen to them as the largest consumers of health care services.  And who don’t plan on fixing whatever problems we have in the health care system by trying to get seniors to die sooner.

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