August 2, 2011

Menken: Not getting what we didn't pay for

Rabbi Yaakov Menken is the Director of Project Genesis, a Jewish cyber-outreach organization based in Baltimore.

Two weeks ago, as the mercury soared to record highs across much of the United States, electrical demand rose with the temperature as air-conditioning systems ran full blast. Years ago, Baltimore Gas & Electric created a program called Peak Rewards, intended to help reduce demand when it neared capacity.

Roughly 453,000 customers (including the Menkens) were given remotely programmable thermostats with free installation -- and a catch: when necessary, BGE could shut off our air-conditioning compressors for 50%, 75% or even 100% of each hour during extraordinary situations. And for years, those customers were rewarded with monthly credits on their electricity bills during the summer months, whether or not the system was ever activated.

Friday of that week, the system was activated -- and people reacted as if they'd been coerced rather than given hundreds of dollars to participate in the program. Among the more intemperate [sic] remarks given to the Baltimore Sun: "What outrages me is there's no alternative for people in special circumstances."

There was, of course, always an alternative: not participating in the program. I'm not saying that it wasn't uncomfortable; our upstairs thermostat reported temperatures in the high-80s by 5 pm. But "Peak Rewards" was designed for times of peak demand, not when the outdoor temperature is 75.

It might not be the bargain we expected, but it was the agreement we made.

Even in circumstances like this one, we have to accept responsibility for the choices we have made. And personally, I still think we made the right decision!

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 5:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Culture, Guest Posts, Yaakov Menken

June 24, 2011

Menken: Bias has consequences

Rabbi Yaakov Menken is the Director of Project Genesis, a Jewish cyber-outreach organization based in Baltimore.

According to a new book from a professor at UCLA, the media's left-wing bias is so overwhelming and pervasive that the few balanced news outlets appear to have a conservative slant.

"It's like concluding that six-three is short just because it is short compared to professional basketball players," writes Professor Tim Groseclose. He asserts that by a neutral standard, Fox News and the Drudge Report are centrist, with perhaps even a minor left-wing tilt -- but due to the steep liberal bias of every other major outlet, "commentators mistake relative bias for absolute bias." From the article:

Groseclose opens his book quoting a well-known poll in which Washington correspondents declared that they vote Democratic 93 percent to 7 percent, while the nation is split about 50-50. As a result, he says, most reporters write with a liberal filter. "Using objective, social-scientific methods, the filtering prevents us from seeing the world as it actually is. Instead, we see only a distorted version of it. It is as if we see the world through a glass—a glass that magnifies the facts that liberals want us to see and shrinks the facts that conservatives want us to see."

If the liberal media tends to "shrink" conservative facts, this is true to a still more extreme degree with anything concerning religion. The Deseret News, the commercial paper of the Mormon Church, recently published a two-part series on news coverage of religion -- or the lack thereof. Journalists not only tend to be much more liberal, but much less religious, then the American population.

A 2002 survey (the most recent data available) of 1,149 randomly selected journalists conducted by the Indiana University found that 34 percent of journalists say they have no religious affiliation, compared with 13 percent among the general population who said the same in a 2002 Pew Research Center survey.

The journalists were also asked how important religion or religious beliefs were to them. Roughly a third (35 percent) said they were “very important.” By comparison, the figure among the general population, as measured that same year by Gallup, was nearly double at 61 percent.

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Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 4:20 PM | | Comments (3)
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About Matthew Hay Brown
Matthew Hay Brown writes and blogs about faith and values in public and private life for The Baltimore Sun. A former Washington correspondent for the newspaper, he has long written about the intersection of religion and politics. He has reported from Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East, traveling most recently to Syria and Jordan to write about the Iraqi refugee crisis.

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