Why Maryland wind power subsidies are a bad idea . . .

. . . and why legislative bodies -- inevitably ignorant of technology, business and markets -- should never try to pick energy technologies.

From Timothy P. Carney in the Washington Examiner:

Green-energy plant sucks up subsidies, then goes bust

To turn wood chips into ethanol fuel, George W. Bush's Department of Energy in February 2007 announced a $76 million grant to Range Fuels for a cutting-edge refinery. A few months later, the refinery opened in the piney woods of Treutlen County, Ga., as the taxpayers of Georgia piled on another $6 million. In 2008, the ethanol plant was the first beneficiary of the Biorefinery Assistance Program, pocketing a loan for $80 million guaranteed by the U.S. taxpayers.

Last month, the refinery closed down, having failed to squeeze even a drop of ethanol out of its pine chips.

The Soperton, Ga., ethanol plant is another blemish on ethanol's already tarnished image, but more broadly, it is cautionary tale about the elusive nature of "green jobs" and the folly of the government's efforts at "investing" -- as President Obama puts it -- in new technologies


Malcolm Gladwell on the ridiculosity of US college rankngs

From the New Yorker:
At a time when American higher education is facing a crisis of accessibility and affordability, we have adopted a de-facto standard of college quality that is uninterested in both of those factors.
There are schools that provide a good legal education at a decent price, and, by choosing not to include tuition as a variable, U.S. News has effectively penalized those schools for trying to provide value for the tuition dollar.

Beta website from Sunlight Foundation lets Maryland voters track state legislators & their votes

The site, called OpenGovernment, went live in January 2011. The beta version has data for five state legislatures: California, Louisiana, Maryland, Texas, and Wisconsin.

The Maryland version is here.

As an example of what it can do, here's a profile of Sen. Jim Brochin. On the site, you can find out what Sen. Brochin has been up to:
You can also find info on state delegates. Here are the three from Maryland District 42:
Sue Auman:
in news and blogs, the bills she has sponsored, her voting record, and campaign contributors.
Bill Frank:
in news and blogs, the bills he has sponsored, his voting record, and his campaign contributors.
Steve Lafferty:
in news and blogs, bills he has sponsored, his voting record, and his campaign contributors.
OpenGovernment.com is just one of many projects happening at the non-partisan Sunlight Foundation.


A few Mencken quotes on politics and government

via Wikiquote:
"The public...demands certainties...But there are no certainties."

"When a candidate for public office faces the voters he does not face men of sense . . . . So confronted, the candidate must either bark with the pack or be lost."

"Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.

"The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out for himself, without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos."

"One of [government's] primary functions is to regiment men by force, to make them as much alike as possible and as dependent upon one another as possible, to search out and combat originality among them. All it can see in an original idea is potential change, and hence an invasion of its prerogatives."

"Government is a broker in pillage, and every election is a sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods."

"When 'A' annoys or injures 'B' on the pretense of saving or improving X, 'A' is a scoundrel."


Quote of the day, from Will Durant

Via Tax Lawyer's Blog:
Freedom and equality are sworn and everlasting enemies, and when one prevails, the other dies.


Kudos to Sen. Jim Brochin for his work against speed cameras

He has a new bill (SB 30, text here) that would prohibit state highway work zone speed cameras from issuing citations when no workers are on duty:
[Brochin] presented 2010 data from the State Highway Administration’s speed camera project “MarylandSafeZone,” that noted how, on the beltway in Baltimore County over the period from July to December, workers were deployed 131 times — but speed cameras were deployed 437 times when the workers were not present.

According to data, the number of citations issued when workers were present was 62,161, but 167,281 citations were issued when workers were not present. In the work zones, the highway speed limit is lowered from 55 to 50 mph.
More here from Bryan Sears at the Timonium Patch:

Brochin said Monday that using the cameras even though workers are not on location diminishes the argument that the devices are being used to improve safety.

"It's about revenue generation," Brochin said of the off-hour use.