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Apr 26, 2008

Confused Liability Produces Bad Policy

A pizza delivery man for Pizza Hut recently used his own gun to defend himself against a robbery by shooting the robber. He was not charged by the police, who confirmed that he was defending himself. He was later fired by Pizza Hut for carrying a gun against company policy. The first reaction is to see Pizza Hut as heartless and stupid.

The pizza companies are merely doing what the society wants, as expressed by the liability law. If they allow drivers to carry guns, then that is a corporate policy of allowance. They would be supporting the practice. Then, if a driver caused an injury with a gun, there would be a big lawsuit against Pizza Hut, which they would lose, if they couldn't prove that the third party had threatened the driver (and maybe even if they could prove it).

On the other side, some people think that Pizza Hut should pay damages if a robber injures one of their drivers, because Pizza Hut should protect their employees. Never mind that Pizza Hut has no power to issue guns to its employees, and it isn't clear what protection could be offered otherwise.

I think that Pizza Hut had to fire the employee, or some later lawsuit would claim that they condone their drivers carrying guns, even though they have a policy against it.

We have a society where companies are held liable for all bad outcomes, regardless of the good sense behind a policy. It seems that the best a pizza company can do is to hope that their drivers carry guns, hope that they don't find out, and to fire any driver who uses a gun even in self defense.

Comment by Say Uncle
Story by KCCI

Is Obama Guilty by Association?

Updated 10/14/08

Guilt by Association is false evidence when convicting someone of a crime in court. A person is not criminally guilty because his father, brother, friend, or employee is guilty. A court needs more proof.

Politics is about understanding, ideas, and truth. The voter is not convicting the politician; the voter is choosing a leader. What is a politician's understanding and bias about the world? What are his ideas? Is he telling the truth about his thoughts and conclusions, or is he merely saying what we want to hear?

It is obvious that people of similar beliefs associate. "Birds of a feather flock together" is obviously true about personal belief, if ideas matter at all to a person.

Mr. Obama presents himself as a man of ideas and belief. Shall we understand that he cares nothing about the history, ideas, and beliefs of his close associates? I do not think that he, Pastor Wright, self proclaimed bomber Bill Ayers, and terrorist fund-raiser Dr. Hatem El-Hady form a personal debating society where Mr. Obama argues one position and they argue the other side.

Would Mr. Obama say in private, "I disagreed with Pastor Wright about all that horrible slander against white people and society, but I sat there because I needed to convince my political base that I was one of them"? Either he agrees with Pastor Wright, or he cares nothing about his personal belief in politics, and he would represent anything to anyone to be elected.

I have deleted a paragraph here about Obama's children possibly having play dates with Ayers' children. I have added more recent and widely quoted references. Andrew Garland - 08/28/08
Mr. Obama has a long association with Bill Ayers, a former Weathermen member, bomber, and current ideologue. Ayers admitted in 2001 that he bombed a police station and the Pentagon in the 1960's, regretting that he couldn't have done more. He was not prosecuted because illegal wiretaps were used to identify him.

Obama, Ayers, and the Annenberg Challenge Cover-Up
08/22/08 - by Tom Maguire at PajamasMedia

Bill Ayers led the group that brought $49.2 million to Chicago and formed the Chicago Annenberg Challenge. The kick-off in January 1995 was attended by the governor of Illinois and the mayor of Chicago, as well as many other luminaries. The first chairman of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge was Barack Obama, a post he held until 1999 when he stepped down and remained on the board.
Axelrod Talks About Bill Ayers
02/26/08 - by Ben Smith of Politico.com
He reports what Obama's campaign manager David Axelrod said, when asked about Ayers:
Bill Ayers lives in [Obama's] neighborhood. Their kids attend the same school. They're certainly friendly, they know each other, as anyone whose kids go to school together.
FactChecking BarackBook: The Obama-Ayers children
07-28-08 - Reports that Bill Ayers is married to Bernardine Dohrn, also a former Weathermen member and bomber. They have two adult children and were guardians of a third child, also now an adult. Obama's two children are aged 7 and 10. The post asks: "Exactly where is the school that these “kids” all attended together?"

Obama's 'Weatherman' Connection
02-19-08 at The Washington Post - The Fact Checker, by Michael Dobbs

Obama spokesman Bill Burton noted in a statement that Ayers was a professor of education at the University of Illinois and a former aide to Mayor Richard M. Daley, and continued:

"Senator Obama strongly condemns the violent actions of the Weathermen group, as he does all acts of violence. But he was an eight-year-old child when Ayers and the Weathermen were active, and any attempt to connect Obama with events of almost forty years ago is ridiculous."

Mr. Obama's spokesman Bill Burton is being cute. When asked about Obama's association with Ayers, he answered that Obama was too young to be at the bombing. That is amazing to me.

In fact, Bill Ayers organized the Chicago Annenberg Challenge and appointed Obama as its chairman. This is a close relationship in my understanding.

As a comparison, I don't think Obama would have worked for anyone who had bombed a black church as a member of the Ku Klux Klan. It would not matter that the unrepentant bomber was accepted by the mayor of his town or had become an educator. I believe that some violent crimes would prevent Obama from working for an unrepentant criminal. Bombing the Pentagon and a police station does not rise to that level for Obama.

Association does not assign guilt to Mr. Obama. Politics is not about guilt; politics is all about ideas, belief, and association. What could the explanation be for Mr. Obama's associations? Possibly, he agrees with his associates. Possibly, he disagrees, but has maintained these long-time associations to attract his political base and advance his career, fooling them about what he believes.

Either Mr. Obama believes things that are horrifying to me, or he is as expedient a politician as I have ever seen, without any belief that matters to him in public. I can't see a third possibility, and I don't like either of the first two.


Inspired by Don Surber: Wrong Crowd

Obama Played by Chicago Rules
WSJ Opinion 8-20-08 By David Freddoso
Mr. Obama's story includes his rise into national politics because of his ability to reach out to all sides and communicate with the people. Instead, his success came from work in Chicago machine politics, disqualifying opponents through careful attention to election law, and luck.

Wright, Ayers, and Obama: An Agnostic Quotes the Bible
04/23/08 by Roger L Simon at PajamasMedia.com

But at that point I didn’t realize the extent of Obama’s ties to the former Weatherman who wrote in 2001 “I don’t regret setting bombs [during Vietnam]. I feel we didn’t do enough.” Do enough?! Folks were blown up, including some of Ayers’ friends. Did he want more?

Obama and Acorn:
Community organizers, phony voters, and your tax dollars.

10/14/08 - WSJ Editorial (via Commentary Magazine and Instapundit)

[edited] Mr. Obama got his start as a Chicago "community organizer" at Acorn's side. In 1992, he led voter registration efforts as the director of Project Vote, which included Acorn. , He lauded Acorn's leaders last November for being "smack dab in the middle" of that effort. Mr. Obama served as a lawyer for Acorn in 1995, in a case against Illinois to increase access to the polls.

Chicago's Woods Fund funneled more than $200,000 to Acorn while Mr. Obama served on its board. More recently, the Obama campaign paid $832,000 to an Acorn affiliate. It reported to the Federal Election Commission that this was for "staging, sound, lighting.", but later admitted the cash was to get out the vote.

The Obama campaign is now distancing itself from Acorn, claiming Mr. Obama never organized with it and has nothing to do with illegal voter registration. Yet it is disingenuous [unbelievable] to channel cash into an operation with a history of fraud and then claim you're shocked to discover reports of fraud. As with Rev. Jeremiah Wright and William Ayers, Mr. Obama was happy to associate with Acorn when it suited his purposes. But now that he's on the brink of the Presidency, he wants to disavow his ties.

The Weathermen tried to kill my family
12/06/08 - City-Journal by John M. Murtagh 04/30/08
Murtagh was a child when the Weathermen fire-bombed his home.

[excerpt] In February 1970, my father, a New York State Supreme Court justice, was presiding over the trial of the so-called “Panther 21,” members of the Black Panther Party indicted in a plot to bomb New York landmarks and department stores.

Early on the morning of February 21, as my family slept, three gasoline-filled firebombs exploded at our home on the northern tip of Manhattan, two at the front door and the third tucked neatly under the gas tank of the family car. (Today, of course, we’d call that a car bomb.)

A neighbor heard the first two blasts and, with the remains of a snowman I had built a few days earlier, managed to douse the flames beneath the car. That was an act whose courage I fully appreciated only as an adult, an act that doubtless saved multiple lives that night.

Interview of John M. Murtagh
12/06/08 - YouTube (date not shown).
In this video clip (running 4:21), Fox news interviews the now grown John M. Murtagh. William Ayers' Weathermen fire-bombed his house, conflicting with the claim by Ayers that he never aimed to kill anyone.

Apr 22, 2008

Undocumented Employee Benefit

Great Moments in Government: The Birth of a New Tax Policy

(As it might have been)

Fred: I have a great idea. I got it when I read a story about the FAA, those airplane guys.

Mack: About how to raise taxes?

Fred: Not "raise", just collect the tax that we want, I mean that we are owed.

Mack: I've got to hear this.

Read more ...

Fred: Well, the FAA has a sweet operation. They make those airlines document EVERYTHING. So, if anything goes wrong, they look it up in the documentation, and there is always some paper mistake, or some rule that wasn't followed. Then, no one talks about the FAA, it is always about the airline's mistakes.

Mack: Come back to earth. How does that help us?

Fred: We allow businesses to deduct "expenses" so they don't pay tax on those.

Mack: Right.

Fred: But, what about stolen office supplies, phone calls home, donuts served at office meetings, extra furniture in the offices that isn't directly related to an employee's work, desk chairs that are more expensive than needed, break rooms with free coffee, and ...

Mack: Are you OK Fred? You are breathing hard. All of those things are allowed under the "Employer Convenience" rule. The employer provides a few free things that encourage employees to be more comfortable and to work better. They are at the employer's convenience and for the employer's benefit.

Fred: Yes, but we could make them DOCUMENT it. In detail.

Mack: That is ridiculous. The documentation work would be picky and enormous. They would never go to the trouble to . . . AH!

Fred: You see. It would be way too expensive to document. We could say, either document everything, or we will just ALLOCATE some part of your expenses to these Undocumented Employee Benefits. The allocated amount is no longer an expense, so we would collect the extra tax.

Mack: This is a moment. You are going to be an Assistant Director. This is big, complicated, and wonderful.

Fred: Yes, and what could they complain about? They can't say that they don't know, or can't keep records. They are running a business, after all.

Mack: You have created a new category: Undocumented Employee Benefit. This is history. But, won't this be a big burden on business?

Fred: The airplanes are still flying, right?


Wall Street Journal: Tax on Talking

Apr 19, 2008

The CFL Advertising Account

[CFL's are great, except for one little thing]

Fred: Thank you Jim for landing the CFL United ad account. Let's work out the ad campaign.

Mike: I didn't get the memo. What does CFL United do?

Techno: They make Compact Fluorescent Lights. They are like those four foot tubes you see in warehouses, but these are about 1 foot long, really thin, and twisted around so they can fit in a the space of a light bulb. They have a different coating so the light isn't so blue, but more yellow. Sometimes they put a glass bulb around them so they look more regular.

Jim: These CFL's are great. Should be a lot easier to sell than bottled water. They actually save money, use less electricity, and are cooler. Let's just sell them as a win win win.

Fred: Here are the talking points:

  • Costs less
  • Uses 1/4 of the electricity for the same light as from a Regular 100 watt bulb
  • Lasts 10,000 hours compared to 1,000 hours for a regular bulb.
Techno: Uh, they don't cost less. A CFL is $5.00, a Regular is $.50 .

Mike: OK, there is big hit up front, but they save money on electricity, right?

Techno: Over its lifetime of 10,000 hours, a 25 watt CFL uses 250 KWH (kilowatt hours), compared to the same light from 10 Regular 100 watt bulbs, each lasting 1000 hours, and using 1000 KWH total. Here is the summary for 10,000 hours of use, with electricity costing $.10 per KWH.

100 watt Reg 10 bulbs $5.00 1,000 KWH $100.00
 25 watt CFL  1 bulb  $5.00   250 KWH $ 25.00
                                 Saves $75.00
Mike: OK, no problem. Buy 10 CFL's and save $750. Get rich!

Techno: Yeah, if you don't turn them off.

Fred: Is that supposed to be a joke?

Techno: Not really a joke. CFL's are complicated. First, they need a high voltage to operate, which they get from some miniaturized electronics in the base. Second, they have a coating on the inside metal contacts which helps the electricity start flowing. They are hard to get going. When you turn one on, the electronics take some stress and that metal coating evaporates a bit.

Turning one on takes away some of the CFL's life. Once on, no problem. Turn one on and it can last 10,000 hours. If you turn it off, you have to turn it on later, which costs some of its life. So, don't turn it off.

Jim: Whoa! We can't tell people to just leave them on. How long do they last if you turn them off?

Techno: That's hard to say. CFL United isn't too clear about the matter. They don't say, really. And the aftermarket studies don't dwell on this either. But, reasoning backward from some statements here and there, I estimate that the consumer grade CFL loses 5 hours of life each time it is turned on.

Mike: So you get 10,000 hours or 2,000 on/off cycles, whichever comes first. What if I put one in the bathroom? I bet my family turns that light on and off about 10 times a day, for about 5 minutes each time.

Techno: That CFL is going to last about 6 months (200 days). A Regular bulb in that use would last about 39 months. Regular bulbs don't care if they are turned on and off. In that use, the CFL costs $9.89/yr compared to the Regular at $3.04/yr, counting cost of bulbs and electricity. This is mostly the cost of bulbs for the CFL, and the cost of electricity for the Regular.

Mike: (shaking his head slowly) Not good. Not good. Is there anywhere these CFL's can actually be used cost effectively?

Jim: How about the kitchen or family room?

Techno: Yes, if you need to leave them on for a while, CFL's are cost effective. Fluorescent bulbs are always used in warehouses and offices, where they are on for 8-16 hours per day.

Jim: Cut the suspense. How long for our CFL?

Techno: I figure that the break-even is about 20 minutes. If you need the light on for at least 20 minutes, the CFL saves enough on electricity to offset the cost of turning it on, compared to a Regular 100 watt bulb. After that, you actually save money, about $.0075 per hour (3/4 cents).

In the winter, the break-even is 38 minutes, because you benefit from the expensive heat that the Regular bulb puts out. In the summer, the break-even is 15 minutes, because the greater heat of the Regular bulb requires more air-conditioning.

Mike: We're saved. They are actually good for something after all.

Fred: OK people, calm down. We've been through this sort of thing before. We have our campaign.

  • Saves 75% of the electricity of a regular bulb.
  • Lasts 10,000 hours* compared to 1,000 hours for regular bulbs.
  • Saves $50 per bulb over its lifetime, compared to using regular 100 watt bulbs.
  • Environmentally friendly
  • * As measured in bulb-life studies. For maximum bulb life, leave the bulb on for 15 minutes or more for each use.

Jim: I like the part about maximum bulb life. It slyly suggests that even if the bulb might be injured by short uses, you can heal it by leaving it on a bit longer.

Mike: Why do we claim only $50 per bulb in savings?

Fred: Clearly these bulbs aren't going to last 10,000 hours, so we'll claim more reasonable savings, but still big. Since they can use less energy, in the right situations, they are environmentally friendly. Right?

Jim: You have a strange look on your face Techno.

Techno: What about the other facts? Do you guys have my memo?

Mike: I didn't quite read that memo. What's in it?

Techno: There are a few other things.

  • Most CFL's contain about 5 mg of mercury. They are supposed to be disposed of as hazardous waste, but there is no program to take them.
  • They need a careful cleanup if you break one.
  • The twisty ones, with no outer glass bulb, can emit enough UV radiation at 1 foot away to produce a sunburn.
  • If you use them in an enclosed fixture, or base up in the ceiling, the electronics get hot, and its life is reduced. I couldn't find out by how much. There are many manufacturers, and you can't tell how long a brand is going to last, or how it reacts to heat or on/off cycles. You need to trust, or you can always pay more for a higher quality CFL.
  • They are somewhat longer and wider than a regular bulb, so they don't fit everywhere.
  • Many CFL's, especially the $5 ones, have a slow start-up. It takes them 30 seconds to 3 minutes to fully light up. If you use them outdoors in the cold, some of them never fully light up, or they don't start at all.
  • You can't use the cheap CFL's with a dimmer, but there are some that will work.
  • CFL's are fluorescent. Some people get headaches from the light, or they see the 60 cycle flicker and can't read by them, or they hate the color of the light, or they hear a faint buzz.
  • CFL's get 20% dimmer as they age toward failure.
  • A house has many bulbs that are almost never used. It makes no sense to place $5 bulbs in those locations, rather than a $.50 bulb that will last for 5 years anyway.
Jim: That is a lot to handle. How is CFL United going to sell these things?

Fred: Need I remind you that CFL United has hired us? We are helping them sell these things. Also, we are informed that CFL United has done a good job in the US Congress pushing the idea of saving energy. So, everyone is going to buy CFL's, because the Regular bulb is going to be prohibited. Green technology and all of that.

Guys, we have our campaign. Techno, you are always unhappy. CFL's have a few flaws, but there is no need to go into the small details. Let's get the art work in production and sell, sell, sell.


CFL bulbs spark safety fears
01/23/09 - HealthZone.ca Canada by Jen Skerritt of the Canadian Press

[edited] Health Canada is testing compact fluorescent lights. Two months earlier, Britain's Health Protection Agency warned the public that the bulbs emit UV rays.

They recommend that people should not be closer than 30 cm (1 foot) from an energy-saving light bulb for more than one hour per day, saying it is like exposing bare skin to direct summer sunlight. This could cause problems for people with medical conditions like lupus.

The bulbs have been widely promoted in Canada as an easy way to reduce greenhouse gases and are expected to replace incandescent bulbs by 2012 after a federal ban eliminates them.

The first comment is interesting:
[edited] I hate these bulbs. They give me migraines! They do not produce enough light to read by even when they are just behind my shoulder shining on the book page. One out of three malfunctions in some way (breaks etc). They take up to 5 minutes to reach maximum output. I'm usually gone by then. They are the wrong shape for most of my existing fixtures. If a new product is legislated in it should at least be as good as the one they are kicking out. I'd switch to LED but have issues again with having to replace every light fixture in the house. I like saving electricity but at what price?

CFLs and a call for civil disobedience
01/06/09 - Christopher Fountain reports on the EPA Guidelines for cleaning up after a broken CFL. Don't break one! Here is a small excerpt.

[edited] Pending the completion of a full review of the Maine study, EPA will determine whether additional changes to the cleanup recommendations are warranted. The agency plans to conduct its own study on CFLs after thorough review of the Maine study.

Disposal of Clean-up Materials
- Immediately place all clean-up materials outdoors in a trash container or protected area for the next normal trash pickup.
Wash your hands after disposing of the jars or plastic bags containing clean-up materials.
- Check with your local or state government about disposal requirements in your specific area.
- Some states do not allow such trash disposal. Instead, they require that broken and unbroken mercury-containing bulbs be taken to a local recycling center.

How to live with CFL's Lots of facts.

Home automation and CFL's Facts and discussion.

Popular Mechanics
Problems with CFL's discussed in the comments.

The compact fluorescent lamp is actually a fairly conventional, small fluorescent tube packaged with its own power converter (ballast).

Wikipedia: Compact Fluorescent Lamp
The life of a CFL is significantly shorter if it is only turned on for a few minutes at a time: In the case of a 5-minute on/off cycle the lifespan of a CFL can be up to 85% shorter, reducing its lifespan to the level of an incandescent lamp. The US Energy Star program says to leave them on at least 15 minutes each time to mitigate this problem.

MN Energy Challenge
For most areas of the United States, a general rule-of-thumb for when to turnoff a fluorescent light is if you leave a room for more than 15 minutes. In areas where electric rates are high and/or during peak demand periods, this period may be as low as 5 minutes. Fluorescent lights are more expensive to buy,and their operating life is more affected by the number of times they are switched on and off, relative to incandescent lights.

Therefore, it is a cost trade-off between saving energy and money by turning a light off "frequently"and having to replace the bulbs "more" frequently. This is because the reduction in usable lamp life due to frequent on/off switching will probably be greater than the benefit of extending the useful life of the bulb from reduced use. By frequent we mean turning the light off and on many times during the day. Lighting manufacturers should be able to supply information on the duty cycle of their products.
[AG: But they don't]

Ann Porter: Most Life Out of a CFL
"Switching CFLs on and off does shorten lamp life, but [the] conclusion that they need a three- to five-hour on-cycle to maintain a reasonably long life does not appear to be correct. Robert Clear, a staff scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, told Environmental Building News that it has been difficult to get data on this question, but a 1998 study of electronically ballasted CFLs found a 20% reduction in lamp life if the on-time was reduced to one hour. With significantly shorter on-times, the lamp life is dramatically reduced: with15-minute on-time cycling, lamp life dropped 70% and with five-minute on-time lamp life dropped 85% (which brings the lamp life close to that of incandescent light bulbs).

"This suggests that you should consider replacing incandescents with CFLs in any application where the lamp is on an average of [at least] about 10 minutes per start," said Clear. He added that "every switch cycle is equivalent to about 6 minutes of lamp life. This means that you should turn a CFL off if you think it won't be turned on again for another five minutes or so." This approach should also maximize electricity and cost savings."

[AG: These facts don't seem to be consistent with others. It seems that the various factors affecting CFL operation are remixed in a different way, with different conclusions.]

Daily Mail News
Why 'green' light bulbs aren't the answer to global warming, by Christopher Booker

Rod Elliott
Should There be a Ban on Incandescent Lamps? A very detailed examination of CFL and lighting issues.

Tim Stevens
Are Energy-Saving Bulbs Causing Migraine Headaches?
[AG: It seems so]

- -
Why Did my CFL Burn Out So Fast?
(09/03/10) - About.com by Bob Formisano

[edited]  Get used to frequent recycling. One of the biggest myths in all the CFL hype is the rated life of the bulb. Article after article repeats the same misleading "fact" that you will get 6,000 or more hours of life from the CFL. Well, both consumer complaints and lab research are showing how untrue this is.

The rated life for a CFL is measured in either 4 hour on/off cycles or continuously on. Unfortunately, they are sensitive to the number of cycles (and many other factors), so most uses will not see near their claimed 6,000 hours or 10,000 hours of use.

That severely reduces the savings, if any, from using CFL's in most applications and locations. Further, if you hate the light quality or the buzz, then saving some money is a trade-off, not a no brainer.

The requirement to use CFL's is a case of regulatory capture. Big business is writing law to capture profits, in the name of green energy. The entire green energy movement is a profit-seeking venture. Al Gore, high priest of green, became a billionaire by investing in companies that were made rich by favorable regulations after the fact.