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Here’s a fact you won’t see mentioned in the public policy debate over “alternative” energy:
There exists no alternative energy source, no combination of alternative energy sources, and no system of combinations of alternative energy sources that can fully replace a single, coal fired electric plant built with 1930s era technology.
Yet many want to make this group of functionally useless technologies the primary energy sources for our entire civilization.
I have long assumed that the demagoguery by Obama and other leftists against the insurance companies was just cynical “eat the rich” politics. I assumed that behind closed doors, these Ivy League grads did actually understand that insurance provides protection against statistical risk only and not protection against absolute certainties. I assumed they understood that money being payed out in claims has to be balanced out by money paid in as premiums or the entire system will collapse very quickly.
However, hearing the President speak on the matter of insurance over the course of the past year, I’ve come to the conclusion that he, personally, simply does not understand how insurance works. I fear that no one else around him really understands either.
I say this because if he did understand how insurance worked, he would know that the story about his car insurance would make him look like an idiot.
Burnham was a prominent Trotskyite during the 1930s. However, he had a Road to Damascus moment in the wake of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and the Soviet invasion of Finland. It was during during the period between his previous life as an American Communist/Socialist Party apparatchik and his later career as a prominent conservative intellectual (he was one of the original founders of National Review) that Burnham wrote his two most important books, The Managerial Revolutionand The Machiavellians. Writing during this transition produced a curious fusion of the worldview of the Old Left and the nascent worldview of the New Right. Burnham writes in a frame of mind that is largely free of the orthodoxy of the Left but hasn’t yet absorbed the orthodoxy of the Right.
Well heeled executives in France are paying big money to a company that arranges faux kidnappings. It seems that the thrills of bungee jumping and alpine skiing have faded, and adrenaline junkies with more money than sense are looking to add a little spice to their life.
After the contracts and liability waivers are all signed, and I suppose the check has cleared, the kidnapping kompany will lie in wait, lurking until the best time to strike! That way the surprise and emotions are at their most fevered.
A spokesperson for the firm which arranges these hijinks goes all psychobable in an attempt to justify the service. The clients are facing their worst fears in a controlled setting, hence it is good for their mental health!
I loved this part….
“While paying “victims” might find the experience cathartic, however, there’s little guarantee of how innocent bystanders might react to witnessing a kidnapping in broad daylight.”
For some reason, I don’t see an American version of the company having too much success if they set up shop in Texas.
It’s an interesting idea. It uses the iPhone’s accelerometer to monitor the motion of your bed while you sleep. Like so:
It uses the motion of the bed as a proxy measurement for your REM states. When you’re not moving much you are more likely to be deep asleep and when you move more it means you’re more likely nearly awake. You set a 30 minute time window in which you wish to awake and the app wakes you up when your motion peaks so you wake up alert instead of dragging yourself up out the depths of REM and starting the day feeling vaguely stunned.
It’s a neat idea and the basic idea is scientifically sound but that’s not what I’m blogging about.
No, they did not serve tea; they did not serve cucumber sandwiches or buns or scones. No tea was dumped into the Channel. There were no hand-made cool signs, as an American correspondent put it; there were no signs or placards at all. In fact, it was, as the slightly amateurish pictures show, an extremely well attended fringe meeting with an enthusiastic audience, most of whom had come running from other meetings, main or fringe, that a party conference provides. Most of them were going on to other meetings or dinners.
As it happens, I am a veteran of packed fringe meetings. There were the early European Foundation meetings, at one of which every fire regulation was broken and the Head of the Commission’s London office, having unwisely left the room, could not be allowed back in as there was quite literally not a square inch of space. “Health and safety” we told him with big grins on our faces and delegates who also could not get in laughed. The Conservatives have always seen themselves as somewhat rebellious as far as the EU is concerned – they laugh at the discomfiture of officials.
Then there were all the Save Britain’s Fish meetings at both Labour and Conservative conferences where the full horror of the Common Fisheries Policy was carefully analyzed and dissected to packed rooms. And what good came of it all? We still have the CFP with successive governments whining about the reform that they are working on. The only sensible policy the Conservatives ever had, was discarded by the Boy-King as soon as he became the leader.
Today’s event proved something unexpected, however. It seems my history teachers who were told to slant everything towards a Marxist interpretation were actually right: the British establishment does have an uncanny ability to mould and remould itself, to include anybody who might challenge them and to co-opt potential oppositions. We have seen this with the blogosphere, that has been converted into the clogosphere plus a few supporting players with those of us who do not want to be inside the tent ever diminishing in importance. Now we see it with a potential tea party movement. Before it could even start, it was pre-empted by a fringe meeting at a Conservative Party conference, addressed by a Conservative politician and presided over by another Conservative politician, Roger Helmer MEP.
There will be another, more serious attempt to launch a British tea party movement in Brighton today. Not only, being British, tea will be served (and cucumber sandwiches, I hope) but the whole event is promising to be rather tame and controlled unlike that anarchic, grass-roots colonial movement.
The tea party is being imported into Brighton by The Freedom Association, a national organization, first set up by the McWhirter twins back in the seventies to fight trade union power. It is a fringe event at the Conservatives’ Spring Conference and will be addressed by the ubiquitous Daniel Hannan MEP. Almost certainly, most of the attendees will be Conservatives who are in Brighton for the conference.
All of which makes me hum and ha but I shall go anyway. There has to be somebody there who has not been co-opted by the political establishment. More on this on Your Freedom and Ours.
There has been much talk of a “renaissance” of nuclear power in the United States. While I personally am a big fan of nuclear power, in my posts I attempt to cull the reality from the hype. One key concept is that even if a few plants get built, they are not likely to significantly dent the capacity loss from plants being pulled from service out of our current fleet of 104 units.
Recently the state of Vermont decided not to allow the renewal of the license for the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant. This decision was made by the Vermont Senate not the NRC itself (the NRC has allowed all licenses to be extended that have been requested so far, I believe). The NRC originally licensed reactors for 40 years and can provide a 20 year extension; Vermont Yankee went live in 1972 and thus it will not be in use past 2012 unless the license is extended. Per this article, Entergy intends to fight the state decision:
Late Wednesday, the Vermont Senate blocked the company’s application for a 20-year operating license extension for its Vermont Yankee nuclear plant. Entergy said in a statement that the effort to win the renewal, “is far from over.” The power company said it’ll work to prove its case to the Vermont legislature, state officials and the Vermont public. Entergy may be forced to shut down the plant in 2012.
Of course this begs the question as to how Vermont will now get its power; this plant provided 35% of all power (according to the Wikipedia link above) for Vermont in 2006 and certainly losing a fully paid for, base load nuclear station is going to require a lot of expensive replacement power from other sources. Since Vermont is on the east coast and there is a heavy transmission grid there other power sources should be available, but this likely will have a rate impact on the citizens of Vermont when they begin paying a higher price for out of state power.
Entergy and Spinning off Nuclear Assets
The plant is owned by Entergy. Entergy is run by Wayne Leonard, one of the smartest guys in the electrical utility industry, who purchased this plant back in 2002 (here is a link to the original purchase announcement, before it officially closed, back in 2001). It isn’t a “done deal” yet that the plant won’t get re-licensed, but if so, it would be expected that this would be a financial negative for Entergy because they likely assumed that the plant would have been re-licensed (because they are routinely approved by the NRC) when they purchased this asset back in 2002. Entergy is also thinking of spinning off their nuclear plants to shareholders; this is smart because the value of the nuclear assets are impaired by the fact that they are owned by distribution companies; as a stand-alone asset, they can charge whatever the market will bear and the distribution company will have to pay up or go without; when they are part of an integrated utility you can only raise rates so much without causing yourself problems since you own both sides of the value chain.
The state of New York woke up and realized the problems that independent nuclear plants would cause. Per this article:
New York’s utility regulator said on Thursday its staff found Entergy Corp’s (ETR.N) plan to spin off six nuclear power units, including three reactors in New York, to a new company, Enexus Energy Corp, was not in the public interest. The New York State Public Service Commission said in a release it was considering other options, including changes to the transaction to improve the financial stability of the three New York reactors and provide benefits to ratepayers. The staff concluded that the level of debt needed to finance the Enexus spinoff “is excessive when the business risks of this new merchant nuclear plant enterprise are considered,” the agency said.
The re-licensing of Vermont Yankee isn’t a done deal yet. It is likely that Entergy will continue to negotiate with the state of Vermont and they want some sort of additional clean up or concessions to allow the sale to go forward, or a guarantee of some sort of rate reductions below what could be charged as “market” rates. Like the state of New York, the states have to move while they still have some leverage (when the plant owners are changing the license or getting re-licensed by the NRC, which may or may not require state approval) because the Federal Government is pretty much approving everything right now without significant conditions.
Given that the states don’t actually believe that significant new capacity will be coming on line anytime soon, and that renewables haven’t made any sort of significant supply contributions to date, letting these nuclear plants charge whatever the market will bear will have ruinous impacts on utility customers because there is no viable competition on the horizon in terms of significant new plants. There has never been a better time to own a paid-off nuclear plant than right now.
Why has the western world shown such loss of will in defending itself from radical Islamic terrorism? Why, indeed, do substantial numbers of people–particularly those who view themselves as intellectuals–endlessly make excuses for dictatorships and terrorist movements whose values are completely at odds with their own stated values–and even romanticize these goons? I think some clues can be found in a forgotten novel by Arthur Koestler.
The Age of Longing (published in 1950) is set in Paris, “sometime in the 1950s,” in a world in which France–indeed all of western Europe–is facing the very real possibility of a Soviet invasion. Hydie Anderson, the protagonist, is a young American woman living in Paris with her father, a military attache. Hydie was a devout Catholic during her teens, but has lost her faith. She was briefly married, and has had several relationships with men, but in none of them has she found either physical or emotional satisfaction…she describes her life with a phrase from T S Eliot: “frigid purgatorial fires,” and she longs for a sense of connection:
Hydie sipped at her glass. Here was another man living in his own portable glass cage. Most people she knew did. Each one inside a kind of invisible telephone box. They did not talk to you directly but through a wire. Their voices came through distorted and mostly they talked to the wrong number, even when they lay in bed with you. And yet her craving to smash the glass between the cages had come back again. If cafes were the home of those who had lost their country, bed was the sanctuary of those who had lost their faith.
Anyone else see this? The Obama administration declared neutrality on the issue of the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands!
Go ahead and click on that last link. The author of the op-ed, James Corum, seems to think that the Obama administration is lacking a coherent foreign policy. Adding to the chaos is a clueless President, and a Sec. of State that does not have the intellectual resources necessary to do the job.
I think Mr. Corum is wrong on all counts, but I can certainly see why he would form such opinions.
I really shouldn’t be seeing grand political metaphors in a Failbooking post, but I just can’t help seeing Obama’s emotive, metaphorical, fantasy-driven worldview in the first post and the real-world-grounded, non-leftist worldview in the second.
All the more since it turned out that chanting “Yes, we can,” wasn’t an actual plan for governance.
Last year, I read about an incident in a water park in the United Kingdom.
A father took his kids to the park so they could frolic in the cool and refreshing waves. When the children said they wanted to hurl themselves down the water slide, the proud father decided that this would be a perfect opportunity for some action photos of the apples of his eye.
He positioned himself at the end of the slide, camera at the ready, only to face a muttering and hostile crowd that apparently wanted to lynch him then and there!
The justification for the violence was that he must be a pedophile. After all, what other reason would a grown man have of snapping shots of young children in swimwear? The explanation that he was only photographing his own progeny were rejected out of hand. What else would child molesters say to escape just punishment when the righteous crowd gets their blood up?
Lucky for all concerned, the police were notified by someone in the mob. A police officer arriving at the scene averted any ugly actions.
Unfortunately, I cannot now find the online article to prove to my readers in the United States that such a ridiculous incident actually occurred. It seems unbelievable, that such a climate of suspicion and paranoia can actually exist in Old Blighty. I wouldn’t blame you one bit if you thought that I was simply writing as fact a bad comedy I once viewed on cable TV, or some uncomfortable dream I once had where everyone around me turned into bizarre and violent zombies.
But such an environment of hatred and prejudice is all too prevalent in Great Britain, and simply scanning the online news article from that country proves it to be so with appalling regularity. Read the rest of this entry »
Duncan: “We’ve got naught to amuse our persons with save a frozen pond, some smooth river boulders and our wimmen’s brooms.”
Angus: “Oh, aye, and we’re drunk.”
Duncan: “And we’re drunk.”
Yes, like all winter sports, curling began as a drunken bet. (Come on, you can’t tell me that the luge, ski jumping or ice dancing were invented by sober, thoughtful people!)
Yet, now there is something relentlessly bourgeois about curling (and it’s not just because the players wear polyester slacks and sensible shoes). Curling is a sport of thought and patience. It is the sport of moderation. It’s the sport for people who get up in the morning, every morning and quietly go forth to make the world work.
I find it endlessly fascinating and I can watch it for hours. I was born in the wrong clime for I should have been a curler. I tried Texas style curling by shoving armadillos across the hot asphalt at discarded tires…
Mars, Dec. 2404: At Commuter Space Elevator Lot 4, Democratic Party headquarters, graffiti serve as silent reminder of bitter political divisions remaining after the contested election of George H.H.W.W.W. “Wookie” Bush XIV as President of the United IndoAmerican Planetary Confederation.
If you are interested in some wholesome family fun I highly recommend going to the IKC Dog Show at McCormick place in Chicago this weekend. Here is a link to the site.
The fun part about the show isn’t the judging or the events, it is the fact that you can walk around and see all of the dogs being groomed and prepped by their owners before the show. It isn’t every day that you see 5-10 of every type of dog breed imaginable in fine form. Here is a you tube video I made last year at the 2009 show (I had a song to it but they stripped it out so the video is silent; if I actually knew much of anything about dogs I could narrate it).
Whereas five years ago the FDA typically approved a new generic drug within 16 months of the manufacturer’s application, the typical delay is now more than 26 months. The budget for the FDA’s generics office is only $51 million for 2010: up from 2009, but still clearly insufficient to meet the need. It’s hard to think of many ways that an additional $30 million or so could be invested with better near-term payoff on the nation’s collective medical bill.
Executives at a generics meeting joked that the government spends less on reviewing applications for new generic drugs than the New York Yankees spend on the payroll for the left side of their infield.
Update: In the comments, Michael Kennedy adds: “CBO says there are not enough details to score the new “bill.” What else is new?”
Yes. What else is new? Also, this via Drudge: “An unapologetic Danny Williams says he was aware his trip to the United States for heart surgery earlier this month would spark outcry, but he concluded his personal health trumped any public fallout over the controversial decision….This was my heart, my choice and my health,” Williams said late Monday from his condominium in Sarasota, Fla.”
Be aware: If the health care plans don’t work as smoothly as gamed by the white paper crowd, the connected will exempt themselves from the worst of it. They always do. Do Senators tend to fly coach?
Another example of not thinking through the consequences of the consequences is the standard reaction in economics to Ricardo’s law of comparative advantage giving benefit on both sides of trade. Ricardo came up with a wonderful, non-obvious explanation that was so powerful that people were charmed with it, and they still are, because it’s a very useful idea. Everybody in economics understands that comparative advantage is a big deal, when one considers first order advantages in trade from the Ricardo effect. But suppose you’ve got a very talented ethnic group, like the Chinese, and they’re very poor and backward, and you’re an advanced nation, and you create free trade with China, and it goes on for a long time.
Now let’s follow and second and third order consequences: You are more prosperous than you would have been if you hadn’t traded with China in terms of average well-being in the United States, right? Ricardo proved it. But which nation is going to be growing faster in economic terms? It’s obviously China. They’re absorbing all the modern technology of the world through this great facilitator in free trade, and, like the Asian Tigers have proved, they will get ahead fast. Look at Hong Kong. Look at Taiwan. Look at early Japan. So, you start in a place where you’ve got a weak nation of backward peasants, a billion and a quarter of them, and in the end they’re going to be a much bigger, stronger nation than you are, maybe even having more and better atomic bombs. Well, Ricardo did not prove that that’s a wonderful outcome for the former leading nation. He didn’t try to determine second order and higher order effects.
If you try and talk like this to an economics professor, and I’ve done this three times, they shrink in horror and offense because they don’t like this kind of talk. It really gums up this nice discipline of theirs, which is so much simpler when you ignore second and third order consequences. The best answer I ever got on that subject – in three tries – was from George Schultz. He said, “Charlie, the way I figure it is if we stop trading with China, the other advanced nations will do it anyway, and we wouldn’t stop the ascent of China compared to us, and we’d lose the Ricardo-diagnosed advantages of trade.” Which is obviously correct. And I said, “Well George, you’ve just invented a new form of the tragedy of the commons. You’re locked in this system and you can’t fix it. You’re going to go to a tragic hell in a handbasket, if going to hell involves being once the great leader of the world and finally going to the shallows in terms of leadership.” And he said, “Charlie, I do not want to think about this.” I think he’s wise. He’s even older than I am, and maybe I should learn from him.
The primary aim of the strategist in the conduct of war is some selected degree of control of the enemy for the strategist’s own purpose; this is achieved by control of the pattern of war; and this control of the pattern of war is had by manipulation of the center of gravity of war to the advantage of the strategist and the disadvantage of the opponent.
The successful strategist is the one who controls the nature and the placement and the timing and the weight of the centers of gravity of the war, and who exploits the resulting control of the pattern of war toward his own ends.
The “strategist’s own purpose” in war is dictated by politics since “war is merely the continuation of politics by other means”. This Carl von Clausewitz quotation, however, is frequently taken out of context, as Christopher Bassford demonstrates in correcting John Keegan’s portrayal of Clausewitz in his A History of Warfare:
Politicians, writers, and policy intellectuals talk a lot about “good manufacturing jobs” and how much “working families” have been hurt by the decline in the availability of such jobs. But back when such jobs were much more plentiful as a proportion of the total workforce, the social critics of the time were by no means uniformly enthusiastic about them. Read the rest of this entry »
Recently I wrote about how Interactive Brokers was offering to lend money at 1.25% in order to purchase stocks yielding 5% or more in dividends. I was struck by the low rate that they were able to offer as interest and the fact that there was a large universe of large companies offering such high dividend payouts (and not just companies that had a stock price decline with a dividend cut yet to follow so it was unusually high relative to the stock value).
To give Interactive Brokers some credit, the ad was kind of “tongue in cheek” in that it was made to look like it was written on a napkin like the classic business plan but there were enough elements there to get me thinking about what an odd state of affairs this represented.
Just recently this model started coming under siege. The Fed recently began tightening interest rates, increasing the discount rate to 0.75% from 0.5%. While the Fed has been denying that this is part of a long term policy shift, the markets have started to feel otherwise, as markets went down and yields increased on government debt. This won’t directly impact the 1.25% that they are able to borrow for on the “napkin” today, but it seems to be trending that way, even if this is just a first step.
On the other side, 2 large European firms just cut their high dividends. Daimler Benz (DAI), manufacturer of Mercedes autos, suffered a loss and canceled their dividend, leading to a drop of 4.6% in their stock price in one day. Societe Generale, a large French investment bank, cut their dividend from $1.2 Euros to $0.25 Euros (a drop of 79%) and their stock also fell 7.2% in a day.
The question is – how can companies pay out such high dividends in a sustainable manner when there isn’t much growth in the world economy and many of them are in mature industries? While 2 stocks don’t constitute a balanced statistical survey, they show that dividends are a function of profits and long-term profit view and to talk about them in an “historical” view is backwards.
The other side of this is that investing for yield in such a volatile area as stock prices shows that not only did the long term value of the income stream from dividends drop significantly (in the case of Daimler it dropped to zero, and for Societe it dropped by 79%) but then you can also see the impact on the underlying value of the shares, which dropped 4.6% and 7.9% in ONE DAY.