THE TENTH BATCH OF SHORT RANTS

SOLAR POWER PLANT

If Hoover Dam generates 4B kilowatt-hours a year, and if an off-the-shelf solar panel generates 64 watts for ten sunny hours a day, costs $400 each and occupies 11 square feet each, what will it take to make a solar generation station that equals the output of Hoover Dam?

My rounded-off calculations delivered a solar farm of 17.2 million panels covering 434 acres at a cost of $6.88 billion. I got from the DOE website that in 2000, Arkansas consumed 14 billion kilowatt-hours. Four of these solar plants would cover Arkansas' electrical consumption and not create any nuclear waste for expensive disposal. They also wouldn't destroy the downstream ecosystems in our streams. They also wouldn't require a lot of security because what waste is produced isn't material that evildoers might want to make weapons out of.

The $80 billion appropriated for the war in Iraq could have built eleven such plants.

We wouldn't need to care if the Arabs had oil or not.

9/01/04

OOPS

Turns out those numbers were out of date.

On May 5, 2004 the Boston Globe reported that the total appropriations for the war in Iraq and Afghanistan had reached $166 billiion. Make that 24 Hoover Dam sized solar farms left unbuilt as of three months ago.

9/02/04

AMENDMENT 2

As things stand now, any state bond issue must be approved by the voters. The governor says this makes it difficult to attract big factories to the state because big corporations require states to spend big money to build roads and utilities and environmental repairs before they'll locate here. Going to the voters for this kind of money slows him down in his efforts to attract big factories. Amendment 2 will allow him and the legislature, within limits, to issue bonds to be paid off by the taxpayers.

Trouble is, those limits are poorly defined. The maximum per bond issue is %5 of the previous year's revenue. It doesn't say net or gross. It also doesn't limit the number of bond issues the governor can have outstanding at any time. There's nothing in the amendment that would prevent him from whupping out that credit card once a week, or making more than one bond issue for any given project. There are also no limits on what the money can be spent on. Not that our noble, righteous and honest politicians today would abuse this new power to create infinite money that we have to pay off, but you never know when a scoundrel might find his way into office.

An amendment like this might be a good idea, but we've got to set some limits. The way it's written now, there are no limits, and sooner or later some bandit will take advantage. How about this for a limit. A governor may do it once only, or maybe once every ten years. Or how about saying only one such bond issue may be outstanding at any given time. All others have to be voter approved until the governor's bond issue is paid off.

Update 9/14/2004: I just saw Gov. Huckabee's appearance on PBS. He said that the bond issues are limited to funding permanent infrastructure. The wording of Amendment 2 does list examples of permanent infrastructure, but also includes the phrase "NOT LIMITED TO." In view of the inclusion of the phrase NOT LIMITED TO, I think we should question the governor's promise that the use of the money would be limited. Somebody down the road might see the words NOT LIMITED TO and interpret that to mean NOT LIMITED TO.

PREDICTION

Price of diamonds drops just in time for Christmas. As Black Sea closes down for winter and with Afghan pipeline not secure, Putin sells warehouses full of Russian diamonds to raise cash to deal with Chechan situation.

THE PRICE OF GASOLINE

The media reports that the price of gasoline is not at an all time high when adjusted for inflation.

It is not appropriate to adjust the price of gas for inflation since the price of gas is such a significant part of the consumer price index which is the standard by which that adjustment would be made. Also, many of the other factors figured into the CPI include the cost of transportation, which is related to the price of fuel.

So adjusting the price of gas for inflation is kind of like adjusting the inch for inflation.

WHAT WOULD SAM WALTON DO

Today I met a guy on a hiking trail and the subject of Wal-Mart came up. The guy asked if I thought Sam Walton would approve of the way Wal-Mart is being run today. The question has been knocking around in my head for a couple of hours now, and I think I've got an answer.

I don't think Sam Walton would have much trouble with today's Wal-Mart. Remember that when he was starting out the Big Boys played hardball with the trusting hillbilly. He'd build something and they'd swoop in and take it from him. When he protested to the Ben Franklin management, they patted him on the head and told him you've got to be tough and smart and that's just life in the big city and maybe country boys should stay in the slow lane.

Ben Frank's, Kresge, Sears, Wards, TG&Y and all the other retailers tried to shoot down Sam Walton on the way up, and the business world, especially retailers, can play pretty rough. Wal-Mart's slash and burn economic style is not an aberration. It is the highest refinement of all the organizations that tried to beat it. Retail is a cutthroat game. Don't be surprised if a team of cutthroats wins it. The Big Boys of the 1950's created the monster that's eating them today. If they had managed to squelch Wal-Mart thirty years ago, another giant would be here in its place. Some other rough player.

Are outfits like Wal-Mart good for the economy or bad for it? That's not the question. The question is would Sam approve. He might not like everything that's going on, but in general the team is playing the game they were taught.

9/04/04

GEORGE W. AND WHAT WOULD JESUS DO?

I'm always amazed at the variance in what people say they believe and how people express that belief. People say they want peace while their every action takes them to war. Every politician says that energy independence is a desirable thing for America. At any time in the last 20 years the government could have easily achieved energy independence, yet nobody ever proposed the measures that would have brought it about.

Here's a very specific example of mouth-east-mind-west. During the last election, when George W. was asked which great thinker was central to the formation of his personal philosophy, he named Jesus Christ.

George W. was an outspoken proponent of capital punishment.

Jesus Christ taught, "Let you who is without sin cast the first stone." He personally intervened to prevent a legal execution.

Jesus himself was eventually executed by a legal system that used capital punishment for its deterrent effect.

This rant is not intended to be for or agianst capital punishment. It is intended to demonstrate that George W. sincerely believes he is using the teachings of Jesus as the core philosophy of his life, and he has got at least one of Jesus' most clearly stated values completely wrong.

It's not that George W. is prone to self-deception and easily misled. I would never suggest that George W. is prone to self-deception and easily misled. Far be it from me to suggest that George W. is prone to self-deception and easily misled. What goofball would ever suggest that George W. is prone to self-deception and easily misled? He's just not the introspective type. He's more the courageous type, less the analytical type, better at Bible thumping than Bible reading.

The next time you listen to George W. speak consider that he might understand the speach he was given about as well as he understands the teachings of his Savior.

If that example isn't crazy enough for you, consider that the early Christian church rose on a tide of blood from its own executed martyrs; yet as soon as Catholicism was adopted by the political authorities the church endorsed capital punishment. Only a few minor Christian sects, like Quakers for instance, have eschewed the death penalty. Nixon was a Quaker, wasn't he?

9/12/04

THE RISING COST OF HEALTH CARE

Every year patents run out on proven effective drugs and they become available as less expensive generic drugs. Every year techniques are developed which diagnose earlier so that diseases can be treated easier, more cheaply and with shorter convalescenses. Every year new techniques result in treatments that are less invasive, quicker, more efffective, require shorter hospital stays and less rehabilitation.

On top of that, we keep adding people to the health care industry whose job it is to control and reduce costs. These are your HMO guys, your insurance guys.

So in the face of all that, how come the price of health care keeps going up?

RTJ--9/14/2004

SOUTHERN ACCENTS IN HOLLYWOOD MOVIES

I saw "Deliverance" on TV last night and was once again reminded of the problems Hollywood has with southern accents.

I remember that the Ole Miss library had a set of standard dialect tapes which included a dozen or so examples of New York dialects, Bronx, Manhattan, Uptown, Downtown, Hell's Kitchen, Brooklyn, Long Island and so on. That same set of tapes had only one example from the south titled "Southern U.S."

Mind you, this was in the library of the University of Mississippi. One dialect covering the whole South. Of course, the tapes were standard theatrical training modules, authored in New York and covering most the material the New York Theatre considered most essential. Because they were the industry standard, Ole Miss had to have a set just like the library had to have a set of Encyclopedia Americana.

I guess every actor in Hollywood refers to that same set whenever he has to play a southerner, because that's the generic delta-esque accent I hear.

Rather than list all the godawful southern accents I've heard in the movies, let me point out a few examples where It think the actor got it right.

Dan Ayckroyd in "Driving Miss Daisy." The minute he opened his mouth you could tell he was from Tupelo. Also the Judge in "My Cousin Vinny," sounded like he might have been from Alabama. Gary Oldman in "The Fifth Element" was from Plano, Texas. Tracy Ullman takes her dialects seriously as well.

It sounds like foreign trained actors have a more specific ear for American accents than do American actors.

RTJ--9/16/2004

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