Patterico's Pontifications

1/14/2008

Power Grabbers Will Undoughtedly Try It Again

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 5:35 pm



The “North County Times opinion staff” writes:

A rose to Joseph Somsel and Patrick “Patterico” Frey for their roles in exposing a plan hatched by California regulators that would give utilities control of thermostats in new homes. Reading an obscure report from the California Energy Commission, Somsel, an engineer, spotted a proposed new rule that would require the installation of “Programmable Communicating Thermostats” in every new home in the state. The setting for these thermostats can be controlled by a radio signal broadcast by utilities. State officials planned to use this feature during so-called “emergency events” and consumers could not override their diktats.

After raising the alarm in “The American Thinker,” an Online magazine, doughty blogger Patterico picked up on the news and spread the word to the blogosphere. From there the story was State proposes to take control of home temps taken up by North County Times reporter Bradley J. Fikes. By week’s end, the story had made national news and state energy bureaucrats were backing away from this literal power grab.

It’s amazing what can happen when new media and old unite to fight the man.

Indeed.

But wait. Did they just call me “doughy”?

Oh . . . “doughty.” OK, then.

Seriously, I think they’ve overstated my role in this. I think the alarm bell was raised by The Corner and Protein Wisdom before I said a word. It just so happens that Bradley J. Fikes saw the news here and not there.

But Joseph Somsel’s role was not overstated and neither was Bradley’s. Congratulations to them are properly conveyed — but they know very well that we have to keep an eye on these power grabbers. They’ll try this again.

35 Responses to “Power Grabbers Will Undoughtedly Try It Again”

  1. And yes, both puns were intended. Don’t write me about the spelling of the title.

    Patterico (4bda0b)

  2. I had to look ‘doughty’ up. Why couldn’t they just call you steadfastly courageous, resolute and valiant? You certainly deserve it.

    And well done to all three of you.

    DRJ (517d26)

  3. I had to look ‘doughty’ up. Why couldn’t they just call you steadfastly courageous, resolute and valiant? You certainly deserve it.

    Comment by DRJ — 1/14/2008 @ 5:42 pm

    Ugh. Get a room.

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  4. But wait. Did they just call me “doughy”?
    :)

    Seriously, this is awesome–kudos to all you guys for keeping on this. Least they didn’t do the “corners of the Internet” thing–LOL

    They’ll try this again.
    You got that right.

    no one you know (1ebbb1)

  5. In the name of energy conservation, the state controls the amount of insulation in your walls and ceilings, the type of glass in your windows, the type of A/C and heater you can buy, the type of water heater you can have, the “efficiency” of the major appliances you use and the mileage your car can achieve. It is little wonder that some bureaucrats felt they could also control your thermostat.

    Patterico is right, they will be back.

    Perfect Sense (b6ec8c)

  6. They’ll try this again.

    A non-sequiter, since they really haven’t stopped. All they’ve done is mandate the hardware installation while pretending that control of it by the state will be optional. They are on exactly the same schedule with exactly the same timeframes as before.

    1. Why aren’t the units modular?

    2. Why not just publish the specs and let the free mkt build and market these things? Is it cuz co’s might make them modular for cost and for ease of maintenance and thereby defeat the state’s bait-and-switch strategy for making them mandatory?

    3. Does the state have so much extra money that it can install units at the state’s cost in (hundreds of thousands of?) homes that don’t want it?

    4. If those homes are gonna want it cuz it pays for itself, then there’s no need to mandate it at all, is there?

    ras (fc54bb)

  7. Props to Protein Wisdom — sorry I didn’t mention its role. But the praise still stands — I wouldn’t have known about this were not for you. The help goes beyond just alerting me. Your discussion threads have given space for commenters to contribute their own perspectives, which have been quite useful.

    You are absolutely right — the mandatory part of the PCT dream won’t be defeated so easily. Mandatory is a basic part of the plan, worked into the supporting documents, not just the formal proposal. IOW, this is not just a case of a poorly phrased sentence. I will write about this more at length at my own blog this evening.

    Bradley J. Fikes (1c6fc4)

  8. Thanks, Christoph. You always bring me back to reality with your pointed comments. Au revoir.

    DRJ (517d26)

  9. I talked with one of the CEC consultants who has worked years on this. There MIGHT be a modification to the plan that both respects citizens right to not be intruded upon but reduces the amount of the most expensive power needed by the system though voluntary action. I’m not yet convinced that the peak power currently consumed is THAT expensive. This might be a residual of the deregulation problems of 2001.

    However, who is to negotiate this new effort and will it be worth it? There were NO ordinary citizens at the “stakeholders’ meetings when the state was blowing MILLIONS of your dollars on the project. I understand that a specific political appointee within the Commission has driven this policy.

    The root problem is the state’s policy of “Conservation First.” From that flows the urge to use coercive demand response when we customers don’t meet our quotas. The greenhouse gas policy does NOT help alhough it need not preclude adequate electricity supplies.

    My suggestion? Roll a head, publicly, at the Commission before the Jan 30th meeting and appoint someone who will clearly and loudly advocate a policy of energy adequacy.

    Joseph Somsel (7f4afb)

  10. BTW, that Commissioner was appointed by Gray Davis and reappointed by Schwartenegger.

    Joseph Somsel (7f4afb)

  11. I believe it was here that I said to Christoph:

    The next time I catch you being an ass to someone who goes out of their way to be polite to people, I’m pulling the plug. Period.

    Above in this thread, in this comment, Christoph says to DRJ:

    Ugh. Get a room.

    Christoph is banned — temporarily and likely permanently.

    This isn’t the first time since I gave him a weeklong vacation where he has deliberately done something he knew he was warned not to do.

    He tends to feel justified, but feeling justified doesn’t give readers license to break my rules.

    I have said it before and I’ll say it again: this is a fairly rough-and-tumble site, but I really like those people who are polite — and I demand extraordinary civility towards the few people who always conduct themselves with politeness.

    Christoph seems incapable of following this rule, and so, unless I change my mind, he is banned permanently.

    Patterico (4bda0b)

  12. I just finished my post; it’s here.

    Suggestions are always welcome. You can leave them at my site. Also, this is not just a California story. Read the last three paragraphs and you’ll see why.

    Bradley J. Fikes (1c6fc4)

  13. Patterico, it is never pleasant to ban anyone, even temporarily, but it is your house. Your rules. I have never understood that people don’t get that (here or elsewhere), nor the related propensity to confuse liberty with license.

    DRJ is, as you say, uniformly polite. That is a rare business indeed in the blogosphere, and should be honored.

    Thanks for hosting a place for discussions, polite or otherwise.

    Eric Blair (ef2392)

  14. Remember who started the California Energy Commission?

    If you guessed “Governor Jerry ‘Moonbeam’ Brown”, you would embarress the current Attorney-General.

    Joseph Somsel (7f4afb)

  15. The current AG of CA is incapable of being embarressed.
    Some people just have no shame.

    Another Drew (8018ee)

  16. And I think there’s some credit to the North County Times itself here.

    Reporter picks up an idea from a blog:

    Normal Step 1: Reporter doesn’t tell anyone where he got the idea.

    This time: Fikes tells his editors where the idea came from.

    Normal Step 2: (If number 1 failed somehow): Do not acknowledge in paper that non-journalist found or developed story.

    This time: Acknowledge in highly-read opinion section that bloggers helped.

    Times are hard for newspapers, and the North County Times is owned by Lee Enterprises, which owns a lot of similarly sized newspapers. The fact that they let their reporter run loose with the unwashed masses is surprising enough; they do have an internet presence, but their primary income is papers. That they let him actually interact with other people in a traceable way – opening up allegations of all types of point-of-view malfeasance – is very interesting. It’s sharply against the trends of other newspapers to stop their reporters from blogging.

    I salute them.

    Anyway, this is a great story – the state overreaches, and the people are informed. The story would have come out much slower if it weren’t for blogs; it would have come to far fewer people if it weren’t for the mainstream media. Woo!

    –JRM

    JRM (355c21)

  17. To follow up on Joseph Somsel’s post, it’s just too bad that the state’s energy commission is trying to ration energy and attempting to deal with the inevitable shortages by imposing price controls.

    Short of ludditism, it’s hard to imagine a more counter-productive policy.

    They build roads, don’t they? I mean, they make it obvious they would rather we all live in coffin hotels above our offices or ride on mis-scheduled buses or occasional trains, but they hunker down and build roads.

    Hunker down and build some reactors, ninnies!

    Merovign (4744a2)

  18. See, it takes a village!

    Congrats to all of those involved with the issue. It needs to happen much more!

    TC (1cf350)

  19. Patterico,

    I don’t like Christoph, but in his defense, I think he was trying to be flippant, not offensive. As has been said, your house, your rules, but he may not deserve a total ban. Just my thoughts

    BTW congrats on the pick up. This is one reason I don’t even look at jobs in CA

    Dr T (69c4b2)

  20. You think the energy commission ever floated the idea of the various government entities; state, county, city, turning off their lights, as a means of controlling consumption?
    Looking out my window here in North Highlands, I count 38 street lights blazing – not counting traffic lights.
    Ca Gov has to be the largest single consumer of electricity in the State.

    papertiger (c9b193)

  21. Merovign: They build roads, don’t they? I mean, they make it obvious they would rather we all live in coffin hotels above our offices or ride on mis-scheduled buses or occasional trains, but they hunker down and build roads.

    Ah, but the building of road employs union labor, right? The building of reactors, not so much.

    Has anyone suggested that they build an Arcology in Sacramento? (Then we could seal them up in it.)

    LarryD (feb78b)

  22. Re Labor

    Actually the efforts to build a reactor in Fresno is being lead by Tom Hutson who was head of the Central Valley Building Trades Council.

    So new nuke consruction does have at least some support from organized labor in California.

    The difference is the road work has more opportunity for graft for the pols.

    It is all well and good to find a problem (here, energy rationing) and gripe about it. What’s needed is an action plan to change government policy and action.

    I’ve been noodling this problem and may have a proposal for specific actions. I’m going to talk it over with some politicians and see if it is feasible.

    Joseph Somsel (277996)

  23. JRM,

    And I think there’s some credit to the North County Times itself here.

    My editors are Internet-savvy. And they care about results. If I can get good stories from those unwashed crab grass bloggers, all the better. And I believe in giving credit because it’s the ethical thing to do, and because I will get more respect for being transparent.

    Times are hard for newspapers, and the North County Times is owned by Lee Enterprises, which owns a lot of similarly sized newspapers. The fact that they let their reporter run loose with the unwashed masses is surprising enough; they do have an internet presence, but their primary income is papers. That they let him actually interact with other people in a traceable way – opening up allegations of all types of point-of-view malfeasance – is very interesting. It’s sharply against the trends of other newspapers to stop their reporters from blogging.

    Of course I have a point of view – everyone does. My point of view as a Libertarian is that free markets and choice is good, and that government mandates should be avoided whenever feasible. Also, I believe, as should all good reporters, that the public should be told the full ramifications of government actions, not just the sugar-coated version designed for the public’s consumption.

    Speaking of points of view, LA Times reporter Nancy Cleeland’s departure for a liberal think tank caught my eye:

    Now I’m across the country at an influential Washington D.C. think tank — the Economic Policy Institute — puzzling over how to pour two decades of newspaper experience into a new job of translating economic research and policy for a broad audience.

    I’ll still be writing. And in time, I hope to add context to the numbers coming from EPI’s staff Ph.D.s with street reporting, just like the old days. But there’s a key difference: My writing now will be unabashedly informed by a point of view.

    “Unabashedly” is the giveaway. It suggest that while at the LA Times, her writing was privately informed by a point of view. The readers weren’t told. I think my readers should know, thinking influenced by Patterico and the late Cathy Seipp.

    Most importantly, belief must always bow to facts. There are no conservative, liberal or libertarian facts. And the evidence in the CEC’s own documents proves that its staff and consultants envision mandatory controls as part of its vision of the future plan. When the CEC says this is all going to be voluntary, it is contradicting its lengthy paper trail. Either the staff is lying or hasn’t read its own documents.

    I am amazed that more MSM reporters appear not to have read the documents. Their reports are mostly summary and vague. I told them in public, here, on my own blog, and in my North County Times articles, where to get them. All they have to do is read them.

    My hunch is that many of these reporters, believing that the CEC’s goal is good (and I think they have good intentions, government planners always do), and themselves favoring government intervention in the name of the environment, don’t think the issue is worth pursuing. Where is the Los Angeles Times on this issue? Where’s our pal David Lazarus, supposedly looking out for the consumer?

    My own home, btw, has no incandescent lights. I swapped them out for CFC and regular tube fluorescents years ago. It saves me a lot of money each month. I like these energy-saving devices — but as a choice, not a mandate.

    Bradley J. Fikes (1c6fc4)

  24. Dr. T #19,

    I mostly like Christoph and I’m sorry that it had to come to this but he has a long history of harassing DRJ. Just totally pointless barbs one after the other. Why, I don’t know.

    nk (dda711)

  25. Tangently related: Thomas Sowell on CA housing prices

    Skyrocketing housing prices are forcing out families with children, as well as blacks and other people with low or even moderate incomes.

    But these runaway housing prices in California did not just happen, for no reason.

    Prior to 1970, California housing prices were very similar to housing prices in the rest of the country. In more recent times, it has not been uncommon for California homes to cost three times what homes cost nationwide.

    What happened in the 1970s was that severe government restrictions on building became common in coastal California. With supply restricted and demand not restricted, it was inevitable that prices would soar beyond many people’s ability to pay.

    The main impetus behind severe restrictions on building is environmentalist zealots who demand that vast amounts of land be set aside as “open space” on which nothing can be built.

    It is not uncommon for substantial proportions of all the land in an entire county — sometimes more than half — to be set aside as “open space.”

    Environmentalists often talk as if they are trying to save the last few patches of greenery from being paved over, when in fact 90 percent of the land in the United States is undeveloped and forests alone cover more area than all the cities and towns in the country combined.

    Behind much of the lofty and pretty talk are some ugly and selfish realities.

    People who already own their homes in an upscale community pay no price for making it hard for others to move into their community. On the contrary, the value of the homes they already own shoots up when they restrict the supply of new homes.

    In other words, they can keep out the less affluent people — or, as they put it, “preserve the character of the community” — while benefiting themselves economically in the name of green idealism.

    LarryD (feb78b)

  26. Good point NK, I’m fairly new here and don’t have the history

    Dr T (340565)

  27. Here’s a FAQ from the Energy Commission:

    http://www.energy.ca.gov/title24/2008standards/faq.html

    This bears follow up since they’ve shifted the issue to, essentially, another venue or docket.

    Joseph Somsel (bea526)

  28. Hi Joseph,

    Ugh. I’m home sick, but I just saw your post. Indeed, worth a followup to see where the PCT issue arrives next.

    Thanks!

    Bradley J. Fikes (1c6fc4)

  29. Bradley Fikes – I like you, but more importantly, at least to me, I respect you. Your profession needs more like you, and the people you work with, and for.

    JD (3cdc37)

  30. I mostly like Christoph and I’m sorry that it had to come to this but he has a long history of harassing DRJ. Just totally pointless barbs one after the other. Why, I don’t know.

    Yup. I mostly like Christoph too, but he has a major attitude problem, and I specifically warned him not to let it manifest itself with the polite commenters. There aren’t many of them, but my feeling is that if you can manage to be one of them, I am going to reward you by making sure people aren’t complete jerks to you.

    My main goal with these comments is to create a hospitable environment for good people with differing opinions to argue politely. This being the Internet, most people aren’t polite, so I enforce only minimal standards as to most commenters. (Christoph failed as to them, too — I almost banned him for telling someone they should be “beaten.” The only thing that saved him was the fact that 1) he quickly retracted the comment, and 2) the guy he was addressing was a racist.) But there are a few special ones: AMac, DRJ, and aphrael come to mind. They are smart and polite — and I’ll protect aphrael from nasty attacks as quickly as I’ll protect DRJ or AMac, even though aphrael is very liberal — because he’s unfailingly polite and doesn’t deserve nasty comments.

    Again, I created a simple rule and Christoph violated it. That’s pretty much my last word on the subject.

    Patterico (4bda0b)

  31. Patterico – I am certainly not in the “polite” category, but I appreciate all of those you mentioned. However, just because someone points out that, for example, blah has the mental capacity of wilted spinach, does not invalidate their position.

    JD (3cdc37)

  32. That’s a good rule, although I am sorry for Christoph. I’ve wondered myself as a blogmaster how to deal with the wildly divergent personalities one gets online. Your standard is fair and flexible.

    Of course, the deeper mystery is how do you find the time for all this? Is it some secret time management program? Or did Dr. Wilmut help you out?

    Bradley J. Fikes (1c6fc4)

  33. I don’t have time for it.

    Patterico (4bda0b)

  34. Even though banning is sad, I like the approach of “rewarding” polite posters by preventing internet bullies from needling them.

    Needling isn’t the same as disagreeing. It is possible to disagree with class and rigor, as opposed to reactive snarkfests and personal insults. Still, there are some folks who delight in attacking other people, calling them vile names, and so forth. How best to handle that?

    I like your approach, Patterico. If people like mudslinging, have at it. The people who take the high road get to still participate, but not be continually hammered by mudslingers. Personally, I don’t care for vulgarity and nasty photographs, but that is me.

    At the base of everything: your house, your rules. Period.

    Eric Blair (839cfb)

  35. POWER CORUPTS AND ABSOLUTE POWER CORUPTS ABSOLUTLY

    krazy kagu (711c87)


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