The NHS is Rationing Cataract Operations to Senior Citizens as Obamacare will Probably do as Well

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 12th, 2012

Week in Review

The British are proud of their national health Service (NHS).  But they are not always happy with it.  Especially the elderly (see Eye surgeons unite to condemn rationing of cataract operations by half of NHS trusts by Jenny Hope posted 8/12/2012 on the Daily Mail).

Eye surgeons are warning that the rationing of cataract operations by more than half of NHS trusts is putting thousands of patients at risk.

Elderly victims of the cutbacks are being left unable to read, write or drive as they wait longer for surgery…

A joint statement from the Royal College of Ophthalmologists, the College of Optometrists and the Optical Confederation calls for primary care trusts (PCTs) to abandon caps on operations that mean patients have to wait longer.

They say that, in some cases, patients with cataracts in both eyes are being told their PCT will treat only one, leaving people unable to judge distances and more likely to have accidents. ..

‘However, we must remember that the NHS is facing an unprecedented financial challenge and commissioners must live within their means while providing high quality care.’

Again, it’s that again population.  As the senior population swells so does the need for cataract surgeries.  There are just too many people at the top of the pyramid for the fewer workers in the workforce to pay for them.  Which leaves Britain really with only two options.  Compel doctors to work for less (as well as force students to go to medical school so they can come out after that grueling ordeal to make as much as someone who didn’t sacrifice eight years or so to become a doctor).   Or they ration services.  Guess which option they chose?

Watching the NHS as they struggle with both an aging population and budget deficits is telling of what we can expect of Obamacare.  For we have an aging population, too.  In fact, our aging population is much larger than their aging population.  And we have budget deficits.  Which are even larger than Britain’s.  Based on this what is the obvious conclusion?  Obamacare will ration cataract operations for senior citizens, too.

Of course some will say this is the price we must pay for universal coverage.  Denying coverage to some through rationing.  (Did you catch the irony there?)  But the question that just begs to be asked is this.  Is our health care system this bad as it is now?  No, it’s not.  But it will be.  When we turn it over to a vast government bureaucracy.  For whenever did a vast government bureaucracy run anything well?  Or didn’t require ever more funding?

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The Australian Carbon Tax is Confusing and Angering a lot of ‘Green’ Utility Customers

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 12th, 2012

Week in Review

The American Left wanted a carbon tax.  The program they kicked around before dying was referred to cap and trade.  The idea was to cap carbon emissions by forcing polluters to buy certificates to pollute.  Those who pollute below their certificates could sell their pollution certificates (i.e., trade) to someone who pollutes over their certificates.  Simple, yes?  Well perhaps a real example of a carbon tax program will clarify how a carbon tax can work (see Green energy customers paying carbon tax by David McLennan posted 8/9/2012 on The Canberra Times).

Several Canberrans have complained to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission that ActewAGL is charging the carbon tax on its Greenchoice scheme, an economist says…

“ActewAGL understands that this is confusing for many customers and paying the carbon price for a green energy product goes against the grain of common sense. But this isn’t a straight forward matter, and ActewAGL certainly does not benefit from this scheme,” she said.

“In a nutshell, green power is a voluntary government-accredited program that enables customers to purchase renewable energy for their homes, when they actually make that voluntary purchase of green power, they are supporting the product of electricity from renewable sources over and above mandatory government targets that are set by the government. So you cannot separate the electrons; the energy doesn’t directly feed into your home, it is added into the electricity grid … on the customer’s behalf…”

The carbon tax is currently set at $23 for each tonne of carbon emitted and is charged to polluters, but is generally passed on to customers.

Mr Grudnoff said ActewAGL’s Greenchoice scheme – which he takes part in and broadly supports – was too complex and convoluted.

He said that people on a Greenchoice 100 plan – whereby all the electricity they used was “displaced by green sources”, according to the ActewAGL website – should not have to pay the carbon tax…

“When a customer purchases Greenchoice, they pay for the retail rate of electricity that comes from the grid. Then they pay for what we call a large generation certificate, which is a certificate that comes from Greenpower accredited renewable energy generators, such as wind and solar farms,” she said.

“They are two different schemes, so the price of that certificate that we purchase, hasn’t been impacted by the carbon price. So that Greenchoice premium, as we call it, has not been affected by the [carbon price], that is a separate transaction, and the customers still have to pay for that component…”

“When customers opt for Greenchoice, the extra amount they pay is invested in renewable energy generation from sources like mini-hydro, wind power and biomass. Depending on the plan a customer chooses, ActewAGL purchases a certain amount of renewable energy on the customer’s behalf. This can be a percentage of the electricity they use, or a fixed amount each day. In either case, that amount of renewable energy is added to the electricity grid on the customer’s behalf. This helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with the generation of electricity from fossil fuels,” the report said.

I don’t know how I can make it any clearer.

Anyway, this is what we have to look forward to if they revive cap and trade.  It may not be the same type of program.  But it will be about as simple and straight forward as this is.  And by simple and straight forward I mean anything but.

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Britain and the US should follow New Zealand’s example of Public Sector Reform

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 12th, 2012

Week in Review

Ruth Richardson was Finance Minister of New Zealand from 1990 until 1993.  During that time New Zealand reformed their public sector.  Something she believes Britain needs to do to help pull it out of its financial troubles.  And it probably wouldn’t be a bad thing for the U.S. to do either (see Want to reform government? Start with the Civil Service by Ruth Richardson posted 8/9/2012 on The Telegraph).

New Zealand underwent a radical reform of the public sector nearly three decades ago, [as] Minister of Finance I knew it was crucial to secure a results-driven and accountable public sector. The NZ public sector performance management system broke sharply with the bureaucratic norm…

The UK Government faces the same urgent imperatives that New Zealand did. A crippling fiscal position; an inefficient and unaccountable public sector; and a bureaucracy incapable of innovation…

I learned that success in government relies on ensuring that the forces of productivity and innovation, so crucial to lift private sector performance, must equally be allowed to make themselves felt in the ranks of the Civil Service.

New Zealand, like the UK, used to be burdened by a typical bureaucracy . The system served its own ends, behaved in a wasteful and unaccountable fashion and there was a complete disconnect between resources and results…

And so the public sector performance management system for which NZ has become renowned was instituted.

We introduced contracts between Ministers and the heads of government departments to focus them on our priorities. And to sharpen accountability we put these heads of departments onto fixed term contracts, rather than providing them with jobs for life. We then let these managers get on and manage their organisations.

We also radically changed the way the way we managed our budgets. We made departments account properly for their assets, so that they would value them better. We made them report their performance in a way that every citizen could understand. These changes were important in allowing us to monitor the performance of services, were central to holding heads of department to account and were crucial in the quest to do more with less in fiscally straightened circumstances…

It is hardly a surprise that the old guard – the unelected government with real staying power – are lining up to oppose reform. But their arguments are discredited by our experience in New Zealand…

The real crux of the matter is – why should civil servants have jobs for life? The real life “slumdog millionaire” from Mumbai, who wants to use his winnings to take India’s tough civil service exam so he can win a secure and prestigious lifetime job”, is so typical of the species and the problem. And why shouldn’t they be accountable for their performance?

Do more with less?  Accountability?  That’s crazy talk.  No wonder the career civil servants are fighting similar reform in Britain.  And in the U.S.  Why would they want that when they can have prestigious lifetime jobs?

In the U.S. they don’t call them civil servants anymore.  Not when they work for the federal government.  No.  Civil servant was too demeaning for their prestigious stations in life.  Now we call them federal workers.  The very sound of it elevates them above us.  The civil society they serve.

It is hard to initiate this type of reform, though.  Because the people who can initiate this reform are served well by these civil servants.  For the more people that work for government the more votes they will get.  As civil servants tend to vote for the people who want to expand government.  Not shrink it.  Because few people will vote themselves out of a job.

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Despite President Obama’s Stimulus Bill Caterpillar hired Workers in China instead of U.S.

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 12th, 2012

Week in Review

Remember the Obama stimulus plan?  To pay for all those shovel-ready jobs?  And pull the economy from recession to robust economic growth?  That was going to save or create 3.5 million jobs?  President Obama even said that the Caterpillar CEO said he would start rehiring some of the 20,000 employees laid off recently if Congress passed the president’s stimulus bill.  Well, the Congress passed the president’s stimulus bill.  And it appeared Caterpillar did go on a hiring spree.  In China (see Caterpillar exporting China-made goods by Ernest Scheyder posted 8/8/2012 on Reuters).

Caterpillar Inc (CAT.N) has begun exporting Chinese-made machinery to the Middle East and Africa, part of a plan to offset a dip in China’s economic growth, a top official at the company said in an interview…

China’s economy has been pressured this year by a drop in its domestic property market and high inflation, with the economic growth rate slowing to 7.6 percent in the second quarter, the slowest pace in more than three years.

That is reflected in waning demand for the machinery Caterpillar makes at its 18 Chinese plants, and caused a glut of inventory.

How about that?  Caterpillar is building equipment in China to export to the Middle East and Africa.  Pity they didn’t build that equipment in the U.S. for export to the Middle East and Africa.  That would have added to the president’s ‘win’ column in creating jobs.  And he needs it.  For all the talk about the jobs he ‘saved’ or created his overall record since being president isn’t good.  According to The Washington Post there are fewer people working today than when he took office.  Making him a net destroyer of jobs.  Not a net creator of jobs.  Further proof that the president’s economic policies are a failure.

Guess the president’s state capitalism isn’t as good as the Chinese’s.

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The Army is looking to use Unreliable Renewable Energy to provide Reliable Energy Security on their Installations

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 12th, 2012

Week in Review

The Army Corps of Engineers is following orders and going green.  Putting their installations at greater risk of electric power interruptions.  Even though the reason to go green was the complete opposite.  To minimize power interruptions.  As well as to lower costs (see Army’s Logic for Developing Wind and Solar Energy Makes No Sense by Daniel Kish posted 8/10/2012 on U.S. News & World Report).

The Army Corps of Engineers recently put out a request for proposal for renewable energy developers to build energy facilities on Army bases. The Army says building renewables such as wind and solar on Army bases will promote “energy security,” however this claim fails to acknowledge the inherent problem of reliability with intermittent sources of energy like wind and solar…

It is important to remember that under our system of civilian control of the military, political appointees direct the branches of the military to carry out administration policy, and the military salutes and carries out the orders. It would appear that politicians working to promote renewables is the reason the Army is making this move, because its proposal would essentially accomplish the opposite of what it says it intends to do…

The mission of the military is to kill people and break things.  And to deter others from killing Americans and breaking American things.  Two assets that have been very good at meeting these objects in the military’s arsenal are the B-52 bomber and the nuclear-powered sub.

Have you ever seen a B-52 take off?  A whole wing of B-52s in a Minimum Interval Take-Off (MITO)?  Their engines leave behind a thick black fossil-fuel-made cloud.  Yeah, that’s right.  Air pollution.  And those subs?  They use nuclear power because it lets those subs stay under water forever. The only thing that brings them up is the fuel the sailors need.  Food.  The B-52 pollutes.  And the nuclear sub uses the fuel the Left hates over all other fuels.  Radioactive fuel.  So given the choice the military will pollute and risk The China Syndrome in their subs.  Why?  Because the B-52 and the nuclear sub are the best assets for the mission.  And they will keep using them until their civilian commanders order them not to.  Just like they have ordered these Army installations NOT to use the best power source available but one that matches the current administration’s green agenda.  Unreliable renewable energy.  To help fight global warming.  A battle outside the mission of the military.  And will only weaken the military in their ability to fulfill their mission.

Wind or solar would make power production on military bases more secure if disruptions to the grid only happened when the wind was blowing or the sun was shining, and that will obviously not be the case…

Despite the fact that wind and solar are not reliable sources of energy, the Army’s request for proposal explicitly calls for proposals for wind and solar (see pages 6, 7 among others). Hammack’s [Assistant Secretary for Installations, Energy, and the Environment] argument that producing wind and solar on Army bases with increased “energy security” does not hold water, since the obvious alternatives, coal, and natural gas, are abundant in the United States: The United States has over 450 years of coal at the current rate of consumption, for example…

The Army also claims that the purpose of the renewable energy projects is to shield Army bases from electricity price hikes. But like the energy security argument, the Army’s assertion that its proposal will save money is rooted in fallacy. One of the reasons electricity prices are rising is because of regulations imposed by the Obama administration, and the Army could simply ask Congress to waive them for the military if high prices were the only issue at hand.

If you’re worried about cost you can make the electricity a coal-fired power plants produce less expensive by ending their war on coal.  But they won’t do that.  So it’s not about cost.  Besides, wind and solar power are some of the most expensive sources of power out there.  Yes, the fuel is free (wind and sunshine), but the infrastructure to capture it and use it is vast.  And costly.  Because each unit that captures these fuels is small.  So you need a lot of them to equal a fraction of what a coal-fired power plant can produce.

Electricity powers a hospital.  Without it their emergency rooms and intensive care units would go dark.  And people would die.  Because it is so crucial they have redundancies.  They will have a row of primary switchgear (4,800 volts or higher) fed by two different feeders going back to two different substations.  There will be an equal number of circuit breakers on each side separated by an open ‘tie breaker’ in the middle.  They will evenly (approximately) split the electrical load of the hospital on either side of the tie breaker.  Dividing the load evenly across the two primary feeds.  However, if one feed goes down (tree falls on wire, substation explodes, etc.) the breaker going to the down line will open and the tie breaker will close.  Putting the entire hospital on the one good primary feed.  It can do this because they size both primary feeds large enough to carry the full load of the hospital.

But redundancy doesn’t end there.  If an electrical event is great enough to take out both primary feeds the hospital will have backup generator power available as well.  Powered in most cases by on-site diesel fuel.  Some may use natural gas but they have to prove the reliability of their gas service.  As the last line of defense in a power outage, they want backup generator power self-contained and independent of all other municipal power sources.

This is redundancy.  And wind and solar simply do not provide this.  They are unreliable.  And they cannot carry the full electrical load of a hospital.  Or other large consumers of electricity.  At most these supplement baseload power.  They can’t replace it.  If these installations want true energy security, true power redundancy, they would be better off installing a diesel-powered turbine with onsite diesel storage for when their electric grid goes down.  Or a natural gas-powered turbine with a reliable (not connected to the local gas supply but a high pressure main) and secured gas feed to the base.  In other words, if they want true energy security they’d better be willing to pollute the air like a wing of B-52s taking off in a MITO exercise.  Because if you want true energy security you are going to have to pollute.

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New Zealand to publish Literacy and Numeracy Standards despite School Principals’ Opposition

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 12th, 2012

Week in Review

The education system hierarchs are circling the wagons.  This time in New Zealand.  For they are under assault.  By parents.  Who want a means to measure the quality of their children’s education.  And principals oppose these parental thugs for good reason.  They don’t want parents to know that they may not be very good in their jobs (see Data release ‘sad day’ by JONATHAN CARSON posted 8/8/2012 on the Waikato Times).

A Waikato education leader says it is a ”sad day for New Zealand education” after the Government announced plans to publicly release National Standards data today.

Education Minister Hekia Parata this morning confirmed that schools’ literacy and numeracy achievement levels will be published on the Ministry’s website in September.

She said it would allow parents to see how their child’s school was performing…

Waikato Principals’ Association chair John Coulam said principals in the region opposed the data being made public.

”What is of concern is that people who look at the data, unless they understand education, they can be making misleading judgements.

”Looking at data released on a website won’t show the hardworking teachers in the school, it won’t show the added value that’s made by a school – all it will show is that there are students that aren’t achieving, and there will always be a tail.”

So hardworking teachers’ efforts won’t appear in this data because the non-hardworking teachers’ poor efforts will bring the scores down?  The data won’t show how well a school does in other areas besides literacy and numeracy?  And what educational skills would these be?  Teaching the importance of diversity?  The evils of global warming and the necessity of a carbon tax?  I bet young students can tell you an earful on global warming even if they have poor literacy and numeracy skills.  Because it’s like that in the U.S.  Where the public education systems appear to be teaching our students more of what’s good for the public school system (teaching them to vote Democrat) than what is good for the students.  Strong literacy and numeracy skills.

Parents want the best education for their kids.  That means holding schools accountable.  And if they don’t look at the quality of the product of their education (literacy and numeracy skills) how else are they going to hold schools accountable?  Especially if they have non-hardworking teachers lowering educational scores?  Education is the only industry that we are supposed to accept whatever they say about their product.  Can you imagine any other industry getting to do that?

“You wouldn’t understand how to read a chemical analysis report.  So you shouldn’t.  Just trust us when we say that the smoke out of our stack and the discharge out of our plant into the river is clean.”

“Clean?  Okay.  Thank you very much.  I feel better now.  And I will let my children swim downstream of your discharge.”

Can you imagine that happening?  I dare say you can’t.

Education isn’t complicated.  That’s why private schools thrive.  People who can afford it will send their kids to private school.  Because they know they will come out of those schools with better literacy and numeracy skills.  Not because their kids will learn skills other than literacy and numeracy.  Because that’s what you need to advance into the workforce.  Or into higher education.  You have to be good in math.  And you have to be able to express yourself intelligibly both verbally and in writing.  This is what parents want for their kids.  To give them the best chance of succeeding in a high-tech world.

That’s all parents want from their education system.  And to do that they have to know what schools are good.  And what schools are not.  So they can improve the weaker schools.  Which would allow every child to have the best chance to succeed in the high-tech world.

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