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Monthly Archives: August 2014

This is from a couple of years ago, but the premise is the same: folks who argue that the rich ought to “give back” (that is, pay taxes) at a higher rate than the rest of us are misinformed on a couple of key points.

  1. The top 10% of earners already pay a disproportionately large share of the taxes that are paid (I’ve written about this a couple of times, but lots of folks don’t understand this, or willfully ignore it).
  2. “Give back” implies a voluntary act of returning something that was previously given. Paying taxes is not a voluntary act; it is transacted at the point of a gun. Society didn’t “give” wealthy people anything, but they did make voluntary exchanges of dollars for goods or services. (h/t Speedmaster)

Over the course of the recent debt-ceiling debate, one argument made in favor of raising taxes on the rich was that they ought to be “giving back.” It wasn’t always clear to whom they were supposed to be giving back, but the argument is that since “society” has made it possible for them to become rich, they should “give back” by paying higher rates of taxation to support government programs.Who pays taxes from NTU

There are quite a few problems with this argument, not the least of which is that the total share of the tax burden shouldered by the rich is actually very high. The top 10 percent of households paid about 70 percent of total taxes in 2008. According to the nonpartisan Tax Foundation, in 2008 the top 1 percent of households paid 38 percent of all federal income taxes even though they earned 20 percent of total adjusted gross income. That’s a higher percentage than 30 years ago, when the top tax bracket was double what it is now. In addition, the average rate the rich actually pay is still notably higher than all the income groups below them. The top 1 percent pay 23 percent on average, and the top 10 percent pay 19 percent. So by those measures, the rich already do “give back” plenty.

Taking, Not Giving – However, I want to focus on two different problems. First, note the phrase “give back.” Whatever one thinks should be the optimal rate of taxation on the wealthy, using the phrase “give” is highly misleading. When one “gives” something, it is voluntary. Taxation, whatever else is true, is not a citizen giving; it’s a government taking. Again, even if one thinks the rich should be taxed more, referring to it as “giving back” is at best inaccurate and at worst dishonest.The bigger problem with the rhetoric of “giving back” is that it is shows a misunderstanding of the fundamental process by which wealth is generated. In particular it ignores the mutually beneficial nature of exchange and assumes that those who have become rich did so by “taking” from others. The only reason one would “give back” is that one has “taken” something inappropriately from others. The “back” in “give back” assumes that the thing in question rightfully belongs to someone else.

via Giving Back : The Freeman : Foundation for Economic Education.

Economists like to say that there are no solutions, only tradeoffs. This must be a dilemma for the environmentalists: do “green” energy sources justify large-scale killing of wildlife? This is a report about just one plant; thousands of eagles, bats, and other birds are killed by wind turbines every year. The government gives those facilities a pass for killing protected species.

The workers call them “streamers.” Hapless birds that fly over a massive California solar array, only to be golden-eagle-430immolated in midair, leaving a brief plume of smoke and a medium-well carcass.

BrightSource’s Energy’s state-of-the-art plant in the Mojave Desert is the largest solar thermal power plant on earth — and the deadliest.

Federal wildlife officials counted an average of one “streamer” every two minutes. The energy company estimates that only 1,000 birds are scorched each year, while a prominent environmental group puts the number at 28,000.

Federal and state biologists call the number of deaths significant, based on sightings of birds getting singed and falling, and on retrieval of carcasses with feathers charred too severely for flight.

Ivanpah officials dispute the source of the so-called streamers, saying at least some of the puffs of smoke mark insects and bits of airborne trash being ignited by the solar rays.

Wildlife officials who witnessed the phenomena say many of the clouds of smoke were too big to come from anything but a bird, and they add that they saw “birds entering the solar flux and igniting, consequently become a streamer.”

U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials say they want a death toll for a full year of operation.

Given the apparent scale of bird deaths at Ivanpah, authorities should thoroughly track bird kills there for a year, including during annual migratory seasons, before granting any more permits for that kind of solar technology, said [Garry] George, of the Audubon Society.

The facility has concerned environmentalists in the past, as its construction bladed over 3,500 acres of virgin desert. Being California, the state government required BrightSource to relocate a bunch of desert gopher tortoises to the tune of $22 million. The installation also endangers pilots flying the busy Los Angeles–Las Vegas corridor; they can be dazzled by the intense light.

It remains to be seen if regulators will stop the plant’s operation, but at least the world’s largest bug zapper should educate environmentalists and green energy boosters.

For too long, the public has been told that energy production is less a matter of physics than one of morality. Renewable energy like solar and wind are sold as “good” while reliable energy sources like oil and coal are “evil.” Methods like hydroelectric, nuclear and natural gas all were initially sold as clean and green, but became demonized the instant they turned a profit or revealed unintended consequences.

via California Solar Plant Kills 30 Birds an Hour | Ricochet.

Holy smokes. If you’ve got the dinero, and want to be set when the apocalypse comes, you have to get one of these. The cab looks like a spaceship or something, and it has a 2000-mile driving range. It can climb a 45 degree angle, and the trailer articulates so you don’t flip over in rough terrain. You can carry enough provisions to keep a crew of three supplied for 3 weeks. Long enough to outrun the zombies (for a while, at least). Cost? Not known, but it’s safe to say it’s more than you can afford – the guy spent millions developing it.

kiravan 2014-KiraVan-cab 2014-KiraVan-galley 2014-KiraVan-night 2014-KiraVan-office

 

If you need to be more nimble when you’re out in the boondocks, the KiraBike can get you around. It has a 3 cylinder turbo-diesel engine and gets 100 MPG.

KiraBike3-960x600

From the KiraVan site, some info about features and capabilities:

TRACTOR – The tractor is a modified Mercedes-Benz Unimog U500NA with a Mercedes-Benz 6-cylinder in-line 260HP high-efficiency intercooled turbo-diesel engine providing 700ft-lb of torque.  The chassis frame has been stretched and reinforced, a four-door composite crew cabin added, and an off-road articulating fifth-wheel trailer hitch attached.

SIZE AND WEIGHT – The combined length of the KiraVan tractor and trailer is 52’ (with the motorbike mounted on its carrier elevator).  The maximum gross vehicle weight is 51,700 lbs. with an off-highway limit of 42,500 lbs.

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X-ray View

EXPEDITION ENDURANCE – The 170 US gallon diesel and/or bio-diesel fuel supply can provide up to a 2000 mile driving range over average terrain. Enough food, water, and expendables are carried to support the crew of 3 people for 3 weeks without re-provisioning. The fuel system and tanks are heated for extreme cold and bio-fuel use and incorporate extensive filtration capabilities.

TECHNICAL POWER SYSTEMS – Twin, hushed 25kW diesel engines and two modular high-current battery banks with static inverters and UPS systems provide technical power. A solar battery charging system complements two 570 amp and one 285 amp alternators. The battery banks reside in sealed stainless steel housings, with integrated charge state monitors and winter heaters. There are also two shore power connections for use when external power is available.

COMPUTERS AND NETWORKS – An extensive selection of embedded, server, and portable computers communicate over multiple wired and wireless data networks to host the vehicle control systems and a wide variety of software programs and applications.  Wireless satellite broadband (available most places on earth) provides a maximum 5Mbps uplink and 10Mbps downlink.

POSITION, NAVIGATION, AND TIMING SYSTEMS – A series of GNSS receivers (GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, and BeiDou frequency compatible) provide time and frequency correction information to the onboard rubidium frequency standards, as well as precision 3D location information.  When no GNSS signals are receivable, an onboard inertial measurement unit (IMU) employing precision accelerometers and fiber optic gyros maintains position, course, and velocity knowledge.

Read more about the features and capabilities of the KiraVan at Kiravan.net. There’s also an interesting article over at WIRED.

Lovely. The president of the NYC teacher union thinks you’re a conspiracy theorist if you don’t approve of the Common Core standards, and he’s ready to punch you in the face for it. What’s sad is the teachers in attendance at this speech applauded.

Are you skeptical that the Common Core education standards will significantly improve school outcomes, given their massive cost and cumbersome standardized testing requirements? Why, you must be some kind of insane conspiracy theorist!Michael Mulgrew, president of New York City’s United Federation of Teachers, remarked at a convention last month that only crazy people could possibly oppose Common Core. His comments were not widely publicized until late last week. “I’ve heard the stories about how Eli Broad, Bill Gates, Joel Klein, and a flying saucer full of Martians designed these things to brainwash us all,” he said, according to The New York Daily News.

It’s a cheap shot, although it’s nothing compared to what he said next, regarding activists who are trying to pressure legislatures to move away from Common Core:

“So I stand here in support for [Common Core] for one simple reason. If someone takes something from me, I’m going to grab it right back out of their cold, twisted, sick hand, and say it is mine. You don’t take what is mine. And I’m going to punch you in the face and push you in the dirt.”

It’s nice to passionate about things, but this is -I don’t know- maybe going too far? Common Core has a lot of issues, and seems doomed to fail. What rationale could Mulgrew have for defending it so vociferously?

via Teachers Union Prez: ‘I’m Going to Punch You in the Face and Push You in the Dirt’ – Hit & Run : Reason.com.

What is seen cannot be unseen. Do Secret Service agents really have to endure this? Apparently so. “Unnamed sources” kind of puts the story in doubt, but I guess there’s a lot of stuff that stays off-the-record when it comes to what the Secret Service sees.

It’s the Joe Biden you didn’t know — and might not want to see.

Secret Service agents dread being assigned to protect the vice president, in part because Biden’s a big fan of skinny dipping, according to a new tell-all book.

In “The First Family Detail,” author Ronald Kessler quotes unnamed Secret Service agents dishing about the supposedly “hidden lives” of Presidents and the other important people they protect.

Biden is portrayed as being more interested in coming off as a “regular Joe” than being potentially responsible for the nation’s nuclear codes.

Not to mention he’s a guy who apparently doesn’t have a problem getting naked.

In ‘The First Family Detail,’ author Ronald Kessler quotes unnamed Secret Service agents dishing about the supposedly ‘hidden lives’ of Presidents and the other important people they protect.

“Agents say that, whether at the vice president’s residence or at his home in Delaware, Biden has a habit of swimming in his pool nude,” Kessler writes.

“Female Secret Service agents find that offensive.”

More serious is Biden’s insistence, according to Kessler, that his official motorcade not interfere with his neighbors back in his home turf of Delaware.

That means the veep puts an uncomfortable — perhaps even dangerous — distance between himself and the vehicles carrying his physician and the 40-pound “football” that enables him, if necessary, to authorize the launching of a nuclear warhead, the book claims.

LUIS ALVAREZ/AP

Biden is portrayed as being more interested in coming off as a ‘regular Joe.’

“What’s going to happen is either you’re going to have a dead vice president in Delaware or you’re going to have agents killed in Delaware because Secret Service management refused to stand up to (Biden),” Kessler quotes an unnamed agent as saying.

via Vice President Biden loves to skinny dip, says tell-all book  – NY Daily News.