Vladimir Putin is running roughshod over International Law and the EU is addressing Coffee Makers

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 19th, 2014

Week in Review

Vladimir Putin is running roughshod over international law.  He took Crimea.  And is threatening further parts of Ukraine.  Some think he will take Moldova next.  Or possibly one of the Baltic States.  And what is the European Union (EU) doing to protect democracy?  This (see EU lays down the law on coffee making by Edward Malnick posted 4/19/2014 on The Telegraph).

Filter coffee machines will have to turn off automatically to help save energy, under new European Union rules.

All of the devices on sale for domestic use from next year will be required to go into “standby mode” after brewing the drink, the Sun reported.

The European Commission said the changes would save money on electricity bills and were “supported by consumer and industry organisations” as well as member states including the UK.

However campaigners claimed the rules would leave many people with “cold coffee”…

Those machines with non-insulated jugs will have to go on standby after no more than 40 minutes.

Really?  Coffee makers?  That’s the threat to Europe?  Not Vladimir Putin running roughshod over international law.  I guess the EU has a different set of priorities.

All right, let’s look at the cost savings for the average EU consumer.  In America we typically brew a pot of coffee and let it sit on the warmer for maybe 2 hours.  After that it gets a little strong.  So let’s look at two hours.  Assuming a typical 600 watt heating element and an electrical cost of $0.15/kilowatt-hour the cost savings comes to $0.12.  If we brew a pot every morning that comes to a cost savings of $43.80 per year.  Of course, people will have to warm up their tepid coffee after the coffee maker automatically shuts down.  And the most likely way will be in a microwave oven for about 30 seconds.  You do this for three cups of coffee and you’re not going to consume much electric power.  But you’re going to put a lot of wear and tear on your microwave oven.  Which cost more than the $43.80 savings in electric power.  Not to mention the inconvenience of having to run your microwave when you want another cup of coffee.

You know what can keep that coffee warm without stressing your microwave oven?  The coffee maker.  For only $0.12 a day.  There are people that won’t stoop to pick up a coin if it’s less than a quarter.  So do you really think the people are going to appreciate paying more for a coffee maker (that now must include a timed shutoff mechanism) so they can go through microwave ovens quicker just to save $0.12 a day?  Probably not.

This is the problem with a nanny state.  Which the EU is.  The worst part is that these people are paid by taxes to come up with these brilliant ideas no one needs.  Something taxpayers may be more in need of is a way to stop the law-breaking ways of Vladimir Putin.  For Vladimir Putin probably poses a greater risk to Europe than coffee makers.

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You just can’t Replace a Coal-Fired Power Plant with a Solar Farm

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 23rd, 2014

Week in Review

What’s unique about Windsor, Ontario?  The city across the river from Detroit?  It’s the only place you can drive south from the United States to get to Canada.  So it’s about as far south you can get in Canada.  But it’s no Florida.  No.  They have cold winters in Windsor.  They also have snow.  And clouds.  So it’s probably not the best place to build a solar farm.  Any rational person would see this.  So guess what the government in southern Ontario is doing?  Building a solar farm (see Airport land leased for Samsung solar farm by Chris Vander Doelen posted 3/19/2014 on The Windsor Star).

A “major” developer of solar power will lease hundreds of acres at Windsor Airport for a green energy farm, city council has agreed after years of negotiations with the company…

He said the company picked Windsor as the site for its investment because “we have more sun days than any other jurisdiction in Ontario.” That clearly suggests a solar farm, but Francis wouldn’t confirm that…

The agreement approved Wednesday – the meeting was closed to the public for legal reasons, Francis said – is believed to be the final, long-delayed piece of a massive deal the Province of Ontario and Samsung announced in January 2010.

That’s when former premier Dalton McGuinty announced that the province had signed a $7-billion agreement to produce renewable power with the Korean industrial giant – a contract that became so controversial parts of it were later renegotiated…

But the deal also became controversial as the costs starting driving up residential and industrial power bills, all of which will be affected by the renewable energy plan.

The controversy eventually led to reductions in some of the feed-in tariffs paid to producers of solar and wind power, which likely added to the delays of the solar farm not announced until this week. It also led to the renegotiation of additional incentives for Samsung, which were reduced to $110 million over 20 years…

Installation of the panels would generate many years of employment for an undetermined number of labourers and IBEW electricians. But once built there wouldn’t be much employment generated by the static field of passive solar collectors.

The solar farms were to be part of something called the Ontario Alternative Energy Cluster, claimed by Samsung to be “the largest of its kind in the world” at 1,369 megawatts of output.

They may have more sun days in Windsor than any place else in Canada.  But Canada is a northern country.  Even Windsor is in a northern clime.  And they just don’t get as much sun as they do in more southern climes (see The Climate and Weather of Windsor, Ontario).  In the sunniest month they have 9.5 average hours of sun per day.  Which means they have 14.5 (24-9.5) average hours of no sun per day.  And during these hours of ‘no sun’ a solar farm will not produce electric power.  Which means on average this solar farm will produce no electric power for half of the day.

And it gets worse.  The average hours of sun per day declines going into winter.  October (5.5 hours of sun and 18.5 hours of no sun).  November (4.1 hours of sun and 19.9 hours of no sun).  December (2.6 hours of sun and 21.4 hours of no sun).  January (3.4 hours of sun and 20.6 hours of no sun).  February (4.4 hours of sun and 19.6 hours of no sun).  March (5.4 hours of sun and 18.6 hours of no sun).  So, on average, there are 5 hours of no sun for every hour of sun for half of the year.  So you can install solar panels that could produce 1,369 megawatts of output.  But they seldom will.  So you will need another power source to provide electric power when the solar panels don’t.  Which means a solar farm can’t replace something like a coal-fired power plant.  For that coal-fired power plant will have to on average provide power 82% of the time.  Which is why building a solar farm is a real bad idea.

And it gets even worse.  December has 10 days of snowfall on average.  January has 12.  And February has 9.  Just under half the days in the winter months will have snow which will have to melt off when the sun comes out from behind the clouds.  If it comes out.  Or someone will have to clear the snow from the solar panels by hand.

Windsor also has some other climate statistics (see National Climate Data and Information Archive).  They have the most thunderstorm days.  So they have more high winds, hail and tornados to damage delicate solar panels pointed skyward than any other part of Canada.  And more black overcast days to block out the sun.  They have the most smoke and haze days to filter out some of the sun from hitting the solar panels.  They have the most humid summer which will coat the solar panels with early morning dew that will run down and drain off in blackened streaks.  Reducing the efficiency of the solar panels.

This is why no one is building solar farms without taxpayer subsidies.  Which raises the cost of electric utility bills to pay for the subsidies.  Eating into household budgets forcing families to get by on less.  And for what?  You can’t shut down a coal-fired power plant during the day and turn it back on at night.  It takes time to make high pressure steam.  That’s why they use these plants for baseload power.  They’re on all the time.  And when demand picks up they add a natural gas-fired turbine ‘peaker plant’ to provide that peak demand.  Or some other source that they can bring on line quickly.  Like another turbine at a hydroelectric dam.  So the good people of Ontario will pay more for their electric power without getting anything in return.  Not even a cleaner environment.  Because you just can’t replace a coal-fired power plant with a solar farm.

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The Government Bureaucracy will make Health Care as Abysmal as the Obamacare Rollout

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 16th, 2014

Week in Review

Government wants to run everything.  And they think they can fix anything.  But few people want to deal with the government.  No one enjoys renewing their driver’s license.  Or dealing with any other government bureaucracy.   Because they know it will not be a quick or an enjoyable experience.  They’d much rather go to a store or a restaurant.  Any place in the private sector where the customer is king.  This is what people prefer.  And yet here we are.  Turing over our health care to the people we least like having to deal with.  But really now, how bad can it be (see HHS official resigns with scathing letter, rips ‘dysfunctional’ bureaucracy by Kellan Howell posted 3/15/2014 on The Washington Times)?

A top Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) official resigned, accusing the agency of fostering a “dysfunctional” environment on the way out…

Mr. Wright wrote that his research was rewarding but that it only accounted for 35 percent of his job. The rest of his time was spent “navigating the remarkably dysfunctional HHS bureaucracy.”

According to Mr. Wright’s letter, tasks that took a couple of days at a university research center, required weeks or months and that the budget was micromanaged by senior officials.

If you ever wondered why the rollout of Obamacare was so abysmal this is why.  Because HHS is abysmal.  As all government bureaucracies are.  A bunch of career bureaucrats who are more interested in maintaining their beloved bureaucracy than making the customer king.  For the more complex and convoluted their bureaucracy is the more their jobs are secured.  And the bigger they grow the more funding they can get.  Bureaucrats love that.  Because there will always be a place for them in the government.  So they will never have to get a job in the private sector.  Where people hire based on merit.  Where they only keep people who have value.  And fire anyone doing a horrible job.  Like the kind of job the people who rolled our Obamacare did.  Which is why they want nothing to do with the private sector.  Preferring to stay snug and warm in the cocoon of their bureaucracy.  Comforted by the fact they can remain there no matter how incompetent or irrelevant they are.

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The Abysmal Rollout of Obamacare going According to Plan to bring us to National Health Care?

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 16th, 2014

Week in Review

The roll out of the Affordable Care Act (i.e., Obamacare) has given us a plethora of unintended consequences.  From freezing new hiring.  To pushing full-time workers into part-time.  To people losing the health insurance and doctor they liked and wanted to keep.  To higher insurance premiums. To higher deductibles.  To higher co-pays.  Taking a health care system that the vast majority of people were satisfied with and making it worse.  To accommodate a small percentage of the population who were uninsured.  If that wasn’t bad enough it doesn’t even look like some of the people who signed up for Obamacare are paying their insurance premiums (see Next problem for Obamacare: deadbeat enrollees by Rick Newman posted 2/14/2014 on Yahoo! Finance).

The  New York Times has discovered  that only about 80% of people purchasing health insurance through the federal online marketplace or a similar state-run exchange paid their first month’s premium. There’s no single source of such data, but the Times canvassed insurers participating in the program, such as Aetna (AET), Wellpoint (WLP), Humana (HUM) and Blue Shield of California. All said that the first-month payment rate ranged from 75% to 80% or so, far lower than for typical plans. If enrollees don’t pay the first month’s premium, their insurance never goes into effect.

That doesn’t mean, however, that one-fifth of the people signing up for Obamacare are blatantly refusing to pay. Technical problems with some of the exchange websites may have left people enrolled in an insurance plan without knowing it. Some may never have received a bill or confirmation of their enrollment. Others may have unwittingly signed up for two different policies, while paying for only one.

To make the Affordable Care Act work required a huge health care cost transfer from the old and sick to the young and healthy.  The young and healthy, incidentally, made up a sizeable portion of the uninsured.  Because they were young and healthy and felt invincible.  And invincible people don’t need to buy insurance.  So Obamacare needed the individual mandate to force these people to buy insurance against their will so they could pay for the old and sick.

Of course when they raised the price of health insurance to cover pre-existing conditions it wasn’t the young and healthy that ran to the Obamacare exchanges.  It was the old and sick.  Adding too many old and sick to the insurance pool.  And not enough of the young and healthy.  Those who would pay without consuming any benefits.  Because they are young and healthy.  Causing the insurers to pay more out in benefits than they receive in premiums.  Forcing them to raise their premiums.  Which will, of course, kick off the death spiral as people drop out because they can’t afford those higher rates.  Which will, in turn, force the insurers to raise their rates again.  Hence the death spiral.   And as bad as all of that was now it looks like about 20-25% of those who ‘signed up’ either didn’t or are simply choosing not to pay.  Making the financial predicament of the insurers far worse.

Of course if your plan was to force single-payer (i.e., national health care) onto the people against their will then everything is going according to plan to destroy the private insurance market.  Leaving only the government to step in and provide single-payer (i.e., national health care).  Which should fill everyone with confidence after seeing how well they rolled out the Affordable Care Act.  And no doubt will impress us even more with the rollout of single-payer (i.e., national health care).

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National Health Care would only be as good as the Obamacare Rollout

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 2nd, 2014

Week in Review

The Affordable Care Act was passed into law in 2010.  The Obamacare website opened for enrollment in 2013.  Just under 4 years since its passage.  That’s a lot of time to build a website.  But they couldn’t do it.  The rollout of the Affordable Care Act was an embarrassment for the Obama administration as the website was plagued with problems.  People struggled to get on it in the beginning.  The enrollment information did not make it to the insurers.  The backend of the site that processed payments was apparently not built yet.  And security experts have said the sight is so insecure that no one should use it.  Then we find out this (see Obamacare computers not yet equipped to fix errors: report by Peter Cooney and Roberta Rampton posted 2/2/2014 on Reuters).

The HealthCare.gov website is not yet equipped to handle appeals by thousands of people seeking to correct errors the system made when they were signing up for the new federal healthcare law, the Washington Post reported on Sunday.

The newspaper, citing sources familiar with the situation, said appeals by about 22,000 people were sitting untouched in a government computer.

“And an unknown number of consumers who are trying to get help through less formal means — by calling the health-care marketplace directly — are told that HealthCare.gov’s computer system is not yet allowing federal workers to go into enrollment records and change them,” according to the Post.

You can just feel Jon Stewart’s frustration over those in government.  As the government wants to get ever bigger to make our lives supposedly better.  But veterans’ benefits are held up because computer networks can’t talk to each other.  They couldn’t build a functioning website in 4 years’ time despite it costing hundreds of millions of dollars.  And now this.  If there was ever a case against national health care this pattern of failure and ineptitude is it.  And the last thing we want these stumblebums responsible for is our health.  Unless you want national health care as good as the Obamacare rollout.

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Is it a Bad Omen for Obamacare Website that Hackers compromised President Obama’s Twitter Account?

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 2nd, 2013

Week in Review

It’s a brave new world out there.  An electronic world of convenience and pleasure.  On demand 24/7.  Wherever we are.  But this convenience comes at a price (see President Obama’s Twitter account compromised after Syrian group hacks into link-shortener by Adam Edelman posted 10/28/2013 on the Daily News).

President Obama’s Twitter account was briefly compromised Monday after a shady online group hacked into the link-shortening service used by Obama’s social media team.

Well that doesn’t bode well for the security of the Obamacare website or the massive database the government will be keeping our personal data in. 

According to CNBC, the group, which has claimed responsibility in the past for other big cyber-attacks, didn’t actually hack into the President’s account.

Rather, it breached the link-shortener tool, which send out truncated links to Internet URLs, used by his social media team.

The tool, a custom third-party link-shortener, was used by the President’s Organizing for Action group and is not affiliated with Twitter.

Oh, so it wasn’t a government account that got hacked.  That’s good.  Wait a minute, if they can hack into a tool millions use successfully and with ease then surely they can hack into a system so poorly designed that it doesn’t even work.  A system that tells its users they have no expectations of privacy.  Did they include that disclaimer because the system is so poorly designed that it is a hacker’s paradise?  Or is it because they are going to share that data with all of their political cronies to help them in the next election?  Whichever it is the people won’t like it.

Makes you pine for the good old days when your phone was on the kitchen wall.  And you read your news in a newspaper.  And actually enjoyed opening your mail.  Those were the days.  All the way back to the ancient 1980s.  When the only worry you had in the world was the Soviet Union starting a thermonuclear war.  Which seems at times less frightening than what can happen today.  For the odds of thermonuclear war were so great that it didn’t weigh on your mind every day.  Unlike the odds that the government will collect our most private information in such an unsecured fashion that hackers will steal it.  And use it to financially ruin us.

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The Obamacare Website uses 10-Year-Old Technology that is not User Friendly

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 19th, 2013

Week in Review

They say you should never send a boy to do a man’s job.  With the Obamacare website rollout we also see we should never send the government to do a job a kid can do.  Design a functioning website (see Tech experts: Health exchange site needs total overhaul by Kelly Kennedy posted 10/17/2013 on USA Today).

The federal health care exchange was built using 10-year-old technology that may require constant fixes and updates for the next six months and the eventual overhaul of the entire system, technology experts told USA TODAY…

Recent changes have made the exchanges easier to use, but they still require clearing the computer’s cache several times, stopping a pop-up blocker, talking to people via Web chat who suggest waiting until the server is not busy, opening links in new windows and clicking on every available possibility on a page in the hopes of not receiving an error message. With those changes, it took one hour to navigate the HealthCare.gov enrollment process Wednesday…

“I have never seen a website — in the last five years — require you to delete the cache in an effort to resolve errors,” said Dan Schuyler, a director at Leavitt Partners, a health care group by former Health and Human Services secretary Mike Leavitt. “This is a very early Web 1.0 type of fix.”

“The application could be fundamentally flawed,” said Jeff Kim, president of CDNetworks, a content-delivery network. “They may be using 1990s technology in 2.0 world…”

Clearing the cache, which has helped make it easier for some people to enroll, could ultimately strain the system more, Kim said…

But as HHS fixes errors, the cookies may not correspond with the updated website, so rather than allowing someone to quickly log in, they instead cause an error message. And every time a person clears his computer’s cache, the government’s website has to work that much harder to grab more data…

Engates said he believes most of the problems are caused by systems integration with other sites, such as the IRS.

So much for the Obamacare website being user friendly.

Today when someone is having trouble with technology they usually turn to their children.  Or the neighbor’s kid.  In the old days parents had their kids teach them how to program the VCR.  Little has changed.  For when we have a technology problem no one ever says ‘let’s call the government’.  No.  They usually look for some kid they know.  Because kids are fascinated by technology and want to learn all about the latest new thing.  Whereas adults are just too tired to learn anything new.

Perhaps we can ask the neighbor kid to buy our health insurance for us.  They’ll know how to clear the computer’s cache, turn off a popup blocker and open links in new windows.  While us old people dream about the good old days.  When we could go to a private insurer, sit across the desk from her or him and buy insurance the old fashion way.  Without having to have a kid do it for us.

Why does the government always take something that was working perfectly fine and make it so damn hard?

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The Bureaucrats running the Army waste $5 Billion experimenting with a New Universal Pattern Uniform

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 19th, 2013

Week in Review

The rollout of Obamacare has been a disaster.  Now we’ve learned that they used ten-year old technology for the big website.  They didn’t test it sufficiently before going live.  And there are political operatives working as navigators collecting our most personal information.  Some even with criminal records.  In other words, it’s a real cluster [deleted expletive].  Or business as usual whenever the government tries to do something (see The Army’s $5 billion waste by Caitlin Dickson posted 10/14/2013 on Yahoo! News).

In 2004, the Army decided to scrap the two traditional camouflage uniforms that had long been used by the military—one meant for woodland environments, another for the desert—and claimed to have come up with a universal pattern that could be worn anywhere and blend in with any environment. The $5 billion dollar experiment with the universal pattern is over as the Army is phasing out the uniform after less than a decade of use. But many soldiers and observers are wondering why it took this long and cost this much to replace an item that performed poorly from the start during a period when the money could have been spent on other critical needs, like potentially life saving improvements to military vehicles and body armor.

The left loves to point to the military as a government success story.  But it’s not the government that makes the military the best in the world.  It’s the people.  Patriots who love their country.  Especially the junior officers and the noncommissioned officers.  Those closest to combat.  Who learn at a steep price the art of war.  Those grizzled veterans of their late teens and early twenties who survive pass their craft on to the kids coming up behind them.  This is who landed at Normandy and fought their way through those beach defenses and went on to win World War II.  These old men in their late teens and early twenties leading the younger guys through the fires of hell and back home again.  Not government.  For all the weapons and all the planes and all the ships would not have done a damn thing unless they were in the hands of America’s finest.

Those noncoms and junior officers who advance through the ranks and the officer corps to leadership positions command larger units.  Turning from tactics to strategy.  Crafting our war plans.  That those noncoms and junior officers carry out.  But, again, it’s these combat veterans that make the military great.  Not the bureaucrats responsible for buying the uniforms.

We can expect more of the same with Obamacare.  For the same bureaucrats that waste $5 billion on a bad uniform design will be running our health care.  Of course under Obamacare we won’t just be wasting billions of dollars.  We’ll be destroying the best health care system in the world.  Which will put all Americans at risk.  Our health.  And our lives.

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