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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Energy Policy: What "Green Jobs" Revolution in the U.S. Economy?

Too bad this editorial Green jobs fading from the 27 Oct 14, Oil And Gas Journal is hidden behind a subscription wall because more Americans need to be aware of the expensive sham of alleged "green energy" jobs that has cost them billions:
While campaigning for election to his first term, President Barack Obama promised to create 5 million green jobs in 10 years. Once in office, he maneuvered Congress into passing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009, a $840-billion spending spree that included about $90 billion for energy and, of course, green jobs. Results have not been spectacular. In fact, they testify to core problems of governmental profligacy.
***
So how many green jobs did the munificent government create with AARA energy money? An administration proudly dedicated to transparency must find that question disturbing.

In March 2013, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, part of the Department of Labor, reported employment associated with production of green goods and services in 2011 amounted to 3.4 million jobs. That was an increase of 158,000 jobs from the prior year, corrected in both cases to account for adjustments in estimation methods. But what jobs were being counted? The BLS explained its definitions and methods elaborately. By the time it issued its report for 2011, however, the validity of those methods had been shredded.

In a June 6, 2012, hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Chairman Darrell E. Issa (R-Calif.) elicited an illuminating sequence of confessions from acting BLS Commissioner John Galvin, now deputy commissioner. A person could be counted by BLS as holding a green job, Galvin had to admit, if he or she swept floors in a solar-paneled facility, drove a hybrid bus in public transportation or even a school bus, pumped fuel into a school bus, worked in a bicycle shop, sold recycled goods in an antique store or Salvation Army outlet, or collected garbage. These revelations discredited official numbers, formerly flaunted, about green jobs. Responding to spending cuts mandated under sequestration provisions of the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act, BLS made its green-job report for 2011 the last.

Program troubles didn't end there. In June last year, the Government Accountability Office raised questions about the $501 million of targeted ARRA funds Labor spent on training for green employment. Required by the statute to act quickly, GAO said, Labor implemented several programs simultaneously. "As a result," it said, "in some cases Recovery Act training programs were initiated prior to a full assessment of the demand for green jobs." And in this program, too, definitions were flexible. According to GAO, "Labor created its green jobs definitional framework to provide local flexibility, and grantees we interviewed broadly interpreted Labor's framework to include any job that could be linked, directly or indirectly, to a beneficial environmental outcome."

At the time of the GAO report, incomplete data made results of the training effort uncertain. Information from grant recipients reporting final outcomes indicated slightly more individuals than projected had received training, GAO said. But job placements were only 55% of the target level.
Let me direct you to this series of articles (full disclosure they written by my brother, a long-time reporter for the L.A. Times) on one example of "stimulus money" gone awry:
. . . the federal Department of Energy in 2009 and 2010 pitched in with $9.9 million in stimulus grants — part of the Obama administration effort to create jobs and revive the American economy.

To date, however, not one of the proposed North American Power Group plants has been built. The stimulus grants — ostensibly to study carbon sequestration potential on the Two Elk site — were suspended by the DOE in January 2012 because of numerous accounting irregularities.

But that was not until $7.3 million of the stimulus money had already been spent, much of it on inflated salaries . . .
A couple of million here, a couple of million there. Pretty soon it adds up. Not necessarily in job creation, though.

In the meantime, job growth largely fueled by the private energy industry due to fracking and the development of shale gas sites has been significant:
The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) projects that U.S. annual natural gas production will increase from 23.0 trillion cubic feet in 2011 to 33.1 trillion cubic feet in 2040, a gain of 10.1 trillion cubic feet (44.0 percent).2 More than 87 percent of this increase is due to growth in shale gas production, whose share of total natural gas production is projected to reach 50.4 percent by 2040.3 Because of this rapid growth, the oil and natural gas industry has experienced large employment and wage increases over the past few years. Many of these increases have occurred in areas outside the “oil patch” region, which produces a substantial amount of U.S. oil and natural gas and comprises the states of Oklahoma, Texas, and Louisiana.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics kindly produced the following chart on such job growth:

You might note those are just jobs in the "oil and natural gas industry" and does not, apparently count jobs of people in industries who provide services to those oil and gas workers. Heck, if you count floor sweepers, motel clerks, school bus drivers, etc, those numbers might even be higher.

And, before you go off on the hazards of "non-green" energy (which I would assert you need to be careful in doing when natural gas is involved), you might be interested in the huge pollution bomb that is China:
China's emissions already exceed the US and EU combined, it emits more per capita than Europe and could overtake America by 2017.
Well, of course, there is a big capita difference involved.

Can you say "misguided" and ""unsupervised?" That seems to be the theory behind throwing "green job" stimulus money around. If you need to review it, there's a pretty good look at the $535 million Solyndra Scandal from the Washington Post:
Meant to create jobs and cut reliance on foreign oil, Obama’s green-technology program was infused with politics at every level, The Washington Post found in an analysis of thousands of memos, company records and internal ­e-mails. Political considerations were raised repeatedly by company investors, Energy Department bureaucrats and White House officials.
Sure, old news. But we are still paying for it - especially, I would argue, in the reduced funding for national security matters, including readiness.

UPDATE: Changed link to Rone Tempest Wyofile articles to give you the best possible access.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Disaster Prep Wednesday: Be Ready to Be on Your Own Because Logistics

Here's a disturbing report on a certain -uh- lack of preparation on the part of one of the primary responders to disasters:  "The Red Cross’ Secret Disaster".

Some of the "issues" reported are over-blown, some not - but you should read it all.

As you read it, remember that the Red Cross does not have a hard core of professional responders it calls on for a disaster - instead, it relies on people volunteering to go to a disaster location and offer their services. Some of these volunteers are quite good and are experienced and well-trained. Many others may not be experienced, well-trained or, even if well-trained, not placed in jobs for which they are trained. So if you read about an "shelter leader" who was trained - but in his first lead role, don't be shocked. The Red Cross must use the volunteers it has who volunteer for a particular disaster. You go to a disaster with the volunteers you have.

Many of these volunteers are retirees who now have the time and willingness to go to a disaster area for a few days or even weeks. They may get meals and a place to sleep, but they aren't getting paid to lend a hand. Don't misunderstand me, when you work with these volunteers, you will be impressed by how sharp and committed most of them are.

But it should shock no one that a large entity - highly dependent on volunteers - and yet operated under a bureaucracy of paid workers may have certain command, control, training, logistics and prioritization issues. Like any other big enterprise it also has its full share of idiots and incompetents.

Yes, the Red Cross is run by human beings and is subject to the same pressures as any other big organization. If you want perfection in execution, you need to look elsewhere, but for the most part,  Red Cross volunteers get the job done - within their limitations of time and money.

Given those limitations, let's just say you should read the article and then make plans for your disaster preparation based on being on your own for several days, a topic which I have addressed here before several times.

Why can't there be an instant response to serving every afflicted person in a major disaster? As often stated here: logistics, logistics and then logistics.

Disaster response takes time to organize - to assess the extent of the damage, to assess the available access routes to the scene, to assess the level of response needed for each afflicted area. Only once the damage assessment is made can demands be placed on the logistics system to attempt to meet the needs of those impacted by the disaster. In a perfect world, the damage assessment (DA) is done within a couple of days - but it may take longer because the DA volunteer teams may have their access to affect areas limited by damage to the areas impacted. There may also be political pressure brought to deliver aid to areas that have some constituency that "demands" attention - even if a DA survey would indicate many other areas far worse off. You might blame local politicos for grandstanding in some such case. Photo ops do nothing for the victims.

In other words, conflicting demands can derail logistic efforts.

The other side of disaster relief is the failure of people living in areas predicted to be impacted to leave the area before the storm (for example) hits. Having people trapped in areas without water, food or electricity challenges the Red Cross feeding programs - since there have to be assessments of the numbers so trapped to order up the right mix of food, water and other necessities to load onto trucks to get to the afflicted areas. Easier in a town of 4000 hit by a tornado than dealing with tens of thousands in the coastal New York/New Jersey area following a hurricane.

The larger the number of people who have failed to take themselves out of the problem area, the bigger the logistic nightmare trying to get them help. If they had taken some steps to mitigate their risk by laying in some water and food, as the Red Cross and everyone else in the disaster response world suggest, then their circumstances might be less dire.

However, if you rely on someone else to take care of you - you are at the mercy of the "helper's" schedule and availability.

The Red Cross is not in the "rescue you from your own failure to help yourself" business - it is in the business of helping to shelter and feed those who avail themselves of that service and offering some assistance in recovery. It is not an insurance company and is not designed to put you back as you were before the disaster.

When governments fail to evacuate elderly residents of public housing high rises before a storm hits and then is surprised that they are trapped on upper floors, that is not a Red Cross issue. Nor is it really a Red Cross issue if wheel chair needy elderly are delivered to shelters without their wheel chairs. Red Cross shelter kits do not generally come with such equipment - which means there will be delays (as noted in the article) in finding wheel chairs and getting them to the appropriate shelter. If you don't like the way shelters are operated - come on and join the Red Cross volunteers who work in Mass Sheltering - I'm sure they will appreciate your help and ideas.

So what's the point of this? To remind you that disasters are an everyday part of our lives on this planet and that your preparation for disasters is your own responsibility - not that of the government,  the Red Cross, or FEMA or any other agency or person.

Even the best run disaster relief process takes days, not hours, to put in place and get going. You need to be ready to be on your own -
  1. Have a disaster plan!
    Having a personal and family preparedness plan increases your chances of staying safe and helps you to be resilient during and after a disaster. To ‘live with resilience’ means that no matter what obstacles you will face, you will survive and get back to normal. A well thought out plan also enables you and your family to be as comfortable as possible during and after a disaster.
      2. Take care of your own disaster logistics - have a disaster kit: 

Okay, those are the basics.

Which will take some of the burden off organizations like the Red Cross.




Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Lines Drawn 50 Years Ago: Reagan's "Time for Choosing" Speech of 27 Oct 1964

Worth looking back at a speech given in the losing fight to elect Barry Goldwater in place of Lyndon Johnson in the 1964 presidential campaign:



Whether you agree with some or all of it or not so much, it helped shape generations of conservatives - and led, ultimately, to the election of Mr. Reagan to the presidency in 1980.

Monday, October 27, 2014

College Sports: One UNC Alum's Thoughts


What follows may seem unrelated to either maritime or national Security but it is of some importance to our culture and to our national character.

As an alumnus of the University of North Carolina (and the father of two other UNC grads), it seems to me that one result of the recent  academic scandal ought to be a serious re-thinking of the place of athletics in the academic world.

I have enjoyed Tar Heel basketball and football over the years and rooted for the soccer teams, cheered on baseball, lacrosse and field hockey. But . . . I long have been dismayed by the incredible emphasis placed on the major sports.  This emphasis has turned these teams into minor leagues for professional sports while increasing the opportunity for corruption and misguided efforts of boosters to "help" the university field better teams.

In fact, according to the Wainstein Report on the scandal,  much of the most recent UNC academic fraud seems to rest at the feet of a relatively low level employee - who was also a major Tar Heel fan- to "assist" various sports teams by aiding and abetting puny/phony academic effort:
Despite her love for the University, she often told people that she had a difficult experience during her student years at Chapel Hill, feeling that she was left adrift by a faculty and staff that focused on “the best and the brightest” and failed to pay attention to students like herself who needed direction and support. Because of that experience, Crowder felt a strong affinity for students with academic or other challenges in their lives. She believed it was her duty to lend a helping hand to struggling students, and in particular to that subset of student-athletes who came to campus without adequate academic preparation for Chapel Hill’s demanding curriculum.
From such a tiny acorn of "good intentions" the road to hell so often is paved.

That there were other aiders and abettors who allowed academically poorly prepared athletes (a) into the university in the first instance, (b) fostered an environment in which minimal "athletic eligibility" became more important that raising these athletes to the level where they were capable of doing the work expected of other students at the university and (c) those who looked the other way in order to maintain some level of "plausible deniability" as to their own knowledge of this scheme is a major issue.

Somewhere there ought to be a special roasting pit for those who have allowed the concept of "1 and done" to flourish. If the NBA/WNBA want to take 17, 18 or 19 year old kids and let them mature before allowing them to play with the big people - well, let the NBA and WNBA fully open its "minor leagues" to those young men and women and stop this travesty of pretending that this current plan is in the best interest of anyone except certain college coaches. I don't think it hurt Madison Bamgarner much that he was able to be draft by Major League Baseball without having to pretend to be a college student.

In fact, it's that "pretending" that makes me most angry. We end up "pretending" that some of our college athletes are "students" because we "pretend" they are qualified or even interested in being in college and then allegedly create an elaborate support network to "pretend" they are getting the help they need to balance their athletic lives with the demands of their sports.

Face it, college is not for everyone. And among those who are fit for college, athletes are not the only ones with time issues. What's the level of support for the kid working his/her way through college by working part or full time and squeezing school in when time and money permit? You know, the one who didn't get a full scholarship (that includes room and board and tutors) to a great university and doesn't want to drown in debt to get a degree? My neighbor, a Korean war vet, took something like 8 years to graduate from Virginia Tech because he worked to get the money for school and to support his family along the way. Not a hero in battle, perhaps, but if I was one of his kids who had better lives because of his efforts to improve himself, I would be very humbled. Heck, I'm just his neighbor and I'm humbled.


In order to truly work through this issue, you have to look to the "big money" that has brought this corruption into the house of academia. A great deal of that money flows from the television networks which pay billions to provide coverage of college football and basketball. More comes from the purveyors of athletic attire and shoes. The late William C. Friday, once President of the UNC system was prescient when he said (William Friday: Power, Purpose, and American Higher Education:)
"No one who has an interest in college sports can fail to see the power of money."
One response to corruption in college sports was the 1990's establishment of the Knight Commission whose purpose is
"to ensure that intercollegiate athletics programs operate within the educational mission of their colleges and universities."
Moreover:
As Chairman James Knight said at the time, “We have a lot of sports fans on our board, and we recognize that intercollegiate athletics have a legitimate and proper role to play in college and university life. Our interest is not to abolish that role but to preserve it by putting it back in perspective. We hope this Commission can strengthen the hands of those who want to curb the abuses which are shaking public confidence in the integrity of not just big-time collegiate athletics but the whole institution of higher education.”

We saw this as a goal worthy of a foundation which identified higher education as one of its primary interests, for the abuses in athletics programs had implications reaching far beyond football stadiums and basketball arenas.

In a cover story shortly before the Commission was created, Time magazine described the problem as “an obsession with winning and moneymaking that is pervading the noblest ideals of both sports and education in America.” Its victims, Time went on to say, were not just athletes who found the promise of an education a sham but “the colleges and universities that participate in an educational travesty -- a farce that devalues every degree and denigrates the mission of higher education.”
Exactly.

Only now it is 24 or 25 years later and we are still in the same boat. Academic integrity has been sold - not in a big money way, not in point shaving, not in a "big bang" of corruption, but instead eroded away in little chunks, piece by piece, bit by bit by both misguided "fans" and those who may have profited from either encouraging the erosion by action or inaction. Big money for coaches, big profits for networks.

Sad.

Quite frankly, I would rather watch college teams full of students who plan to go on to become doctors, dentists, lawyers, accountants or whatever who play for the love of the sport and a degree. I'll even accept good athletes who seek majors in sports management or Exercise and Sport Science - but I would prefer they earn those degrees.

What to do? Go Ivy League and not offer purely athletic scholarships? Raise minimum GPAs to participate in varsity sports? Put players on athletic probation for not performing in the classroom?

Did the University of Chicago do the right thing when it killed its successful  intercollegiate football program in 1939? Interesting thoughts here:
“In many colleges, it is possible for a boy to win 12 letters without learning how to write one,” Robert Maynard Hutchins, the university’s president, had written acidly of sports in The Saturday Evening Post. He particularly disparaged football, deriding as myth the idea that the game produced men of good character or instilled a sense of fair play. Indeed, for a college to be a success on the field, he said, it must be something of a scoundrel beyond it.

Seventy-two years later, what Hutchins called the “infernal nuisance” of college football is troubling more university administrators than ever. Ohio State, Miami, Southern California, North Carolina and on and on: it is as if global warming were affecting the number of big-name colleges in hot water.
But, now, football is back at Chicago - at a lower level:
In 1969, football returned as a varsity sport, oddly enough during the Vietnam War era when many rebellious students were comparing blocking and tackling to bombing and strafing.

Since then, the game has been thriving on its own measured terms in N.C.A.A. Division III, free of the highest level of competition. Winning is a preference and not an obsession. Players, though zealously recruited, are not given athletic scholarships. Championships are won but little noticed.
So, can a major public state university do what private Chicago did and move down levels to something like Div III, or is the money way too big?

Somewhere between the Ivy League and Division III the answer lies.

In the meantime, I may cut the cable TV (as my personal protest against big money to college sports) and focus on the smaller, less tainted sports and those "club" sports like UNC Rugby where professionalism seems not to have taken over.

But is there a connection to national security and maritime security? CDR Salamander has thoughts on some athletic recruiting issues at the military academies at The Moral Warping of D1 Sports Shows its Head Again. Along those lines, think about these words from here:
If the institution and their supporters are prepared to wink at -- if not also to participate in -- cheating against the rules by athletes, can the schools stand against cheating anywhere else?

Is it OK for students to cheat in class? Does anybody want to be represented by a lawyer who cheated to get through law school -- or to be operated on by a surgeon who had to cheat to pass the medical school exams?

Can colleges and universities continue their traditional posture of upholding the highest values of personal character and integrity when they themselves display so little of either?
Well, what level of cheating are you willing to accept as our national standard?

Are such things related to the false representations so prevalent in the political ads for people seeking high offices in our government?

What is the standard we accept as "okay" for our military leaders as they discuss our security needs?







Saturday, October 25, 2014

Join Us for Midrats 26 Oct 14 at a Special Time for Episode 251, "DEF2014 wrapup, and the budding question of veteran entitlement", starting at 6:30pm EST

Yes, we are time shifting for this coming episode of Midrats to 6:30pm on Sunday, 26 October for a 90 minute adventure in national security and spin-off topics as we offer up Episode 251: DEF2014 wrapup and the budding question of veteran entitlement:

A special time and format this week with two different topics and guests.

Moving for just this week to a 6:30pm Eastern start time, our guest for the first 30-minutes will be Lieutenant Ben Kohlmann, USN – Founder of Disruptive Thinkers, F/A-18 pilot, member of the CNO’s Rapid Innovation Cell, and Co-Founder Defense Entrepreneurs Forum. He will be on to give us an overview of DEF2014 that ends this weekend.

For the following hour our, guest will be Major Carl "Skin" Forsling, USMC. He will be on to discuss some of the broader issues he raises in his article earlier this month, Unpacking The Veteran Entitlement Spectrum, and perhaps some more as well.

Skin is a Marine MV-22B pilot and former CH-46E pilot. He has deployed with and been an instructor in both platforms. He has also served as a military advisor to an Afghan Border Police battalion. He is currently Executive Officer at Marine Medium Tiltrotor Training Squadron 204, training Osprey pilots and aircrew for the Marine Corps and Air Force. He earned his batchelor's degree from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and his master's from Boston University. His writing has appeared in the Marine Corps Gazette, USNI Proceedings, Small Wars Journal, and Approach, among others (available at carlforsling.tumblr.com). Follow him on Twitter @carlforsling.
Join us live at 6:30pm or pick the show up later by clicking here. You can also pick the show up later from iTunes here.

Saturday Is Heinlein Quote Day #31

What drives you or anyone else? What you choose to value?

"Value" has no meaning other than in relationship to living beings. The value of a thing is always relative to a particular person, is completely personal and different in quantity for each living human—"market value" is a fiction, merely a rough guess at the average of personal values, all of which must be quantitatively different or trade would be impossible.

Starship Troopers, p.93-94

“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”

― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets


Friday, October 24, 2014

Friday Fun Film: "Cleanliness and Health"

In the media frenzy over Ebola, nice to have some guidance from 46 years ago on cleanliness and health.



But -wait- where are the gloves for the health care workers? And ... beware the germ laden pencil .... and that "doctor" who washes up and then shuts off the water using handles he must have touched before he washed his hands! Horrors!

These people will be lucky if they survive!

By the way, the selected film will auto roll into another film on the first 25 years of Los Alamos Labs.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Battle for Leyte Gulf 23 Oct -26 Oct 1944

Midway was big. But the Battle for Leyte Gulf was perhaps the Navy's finest hour.

The Battle Off Samar was courage on top of courage.




70 years ago . . .

If you haven't done so already, please read The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors by James D. Hornfischer, a brilliant book:
"“This will be a fight against overwhelming odds from which survival cannot be expected. We will do what damage we can.” Lieutenant Commander Robert W. Copeland.
They did more than the minimum.