Monday, January 16, 2017

Trump's Approval Worse Than Obama's Ever Was

I think this statement is true.  The link says Trump's rating is 37 percent, while Obama's lowest was 38 percent.

I'm sure the conservative bloggers (Powerline, I'm thinking of you) who made much of Obama's unpopularity will note Trump's as well. 

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Unique Identity: the American Solution

Some countries, like Estonia and Burkina Faso, try to assign a unique identifier to each citizen.

Others, like the U.S., don't.  Instead we have workarounds.  One of the latest which has comet to my attention is the Food and Nutrition Service's "Electronic Disqualified Recipient System (eDRS).  This seems to be a file of people who have been disqualified for food stamps (aka SNAP) because of fraud.  FNS is now notifying the public it will furnish the file to each of the states so they can verify SNAP recipients against the file.

One might consider this to be somewhat similar to the "do not fly" list, where civil liberties people protest the lack of procedures for challenging the contents.  But it seems likely from this bit in the MD manual that there is a process for determining fraud:

Fraud overpayments. Consider cases suspected of fraud to be client error overpayments until the court or an Administrative Disqualification Hearing (ADH) makes a determination of fraud. Consider an overpayment in any month in which a client files a false report timely and this results in an overpayment to be a client error overpayment. This applies even if there is an agency error in the same month, unless the agency caused the client's failure to report.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Most Powerful Force in Washington

According to former intelligence chief Dennis Blair:
"There is no more powerful force in Washington than, “What if this comes out somehow and I was found not to have done my utmost?”
 That's from a [Vox ]   Atlantic interview, on the Trump dossier. Quite interesting--bottomline, not much government agencies could have done with it, since it relates to an American.  Need enough evidence of a crime to get a warrant.

It reminds me of the old days of the Washington Post Federal page, which used to have a column highlighting Fed screwups.

But maybe the real most powerful force in Washington is the reality described in the last paragraph:
"I would just give you one of Blair’s Laws developed over the years: If there is a choice in explaining a government action between a Machiavellian, clever, ingenious plot to achieve that result and sort of blind, bumbling, well-meant incompetence, choose number two all the time.

[Corrected source]

Friday, January 13, 2017

Complications of Organic Farming

Extension has a piece where they analyzed the phosphorus and potassium added to an organic farm (since 1985) and the adverse effects of excess P and K.

Perhaps I'm too skeptical of the food movement but I suspect some of the adherents believe that "natural" equates to "easy".  After all, if you don't have to hassle with herbicides and pesticides and just rely on Mother Nature how difficult could farming be?  But as shown in the piece, if you want to maximize what you produce you're faced with the problem of analyzing and adjusting your inputs.

What Could Go 1 Million Revolutions Per Minute?

A paper toy/centrifuge.  See Kottke.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Sharing Agricultural Data and the Rewards Thereof

Here's a DTN/Progressive Farmer piece on software packages, "real estate robots" to evaluate farmland, particularly its value.
"The beauty of the services is that they can help you assess a potential rental farm's crop and yield history, protest your land taxes, look for comparable sales, gauge real-time property values, or identify who owns the farm you covet -- all from the comfort of your personal computer.
By logging onto these free sites, you know boundaries on every parcel, what economic rental rates are and which farm is owned by a brother and sister in Florida, Sherrick said.
Meanwhile precision agriculture is building data on fields.  And somehow I think there's still a prohibition on FSA releasing some crop data outside USDA. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

USDA Is Tail-End Charlie

"Tail-end charlie" is a term from aerial combat--the last plane in a formation is particularly vulnerable.  In ground combat you don't want to be "point" on a patrol, nor do you want to be at the end of column.

Anyhow, since Trump has now nominated a head of the VA, USDA is officially the tail-end charlie.  Farmers who expected a NYC billionaire to put priority on their concerns were fooling themselves.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

I'm Relaxed on Trump Appointees

Jonathan Bernstein captures why I'm relaxed about Trump appointees: the confirmation hearings fulfill other functions than approving/disapproving.   The only thing worrisome is whether all the ethics paperwork will be filed before Senate approval.  The Senate should not approve before seeing all the paperwork.

My attitude is generally: "enough rope", as in give him enough rope to hang himself.    I remember the results of Reagan's appointments: Interior, EPA, and State all self-destructed, and OMB didn't go so well either.

Monday, January 09, 2017

Driverless Car Showdown--Waymo and Mobileye

Mobileye is doing the learning approach, as described here. I've blogged before about the advantages of this approach.  But Alphabet (Google) has spun off its driverless car enterprise into Waymo, which announced this week it would have Chrysler minivans outfitted with its technology on the road by the end of the month.  Waymo isn't building its own cars anymore; instead it's providing a package of sensors, computers, and software to be added onto existing cars.  As well as I can tell Waymo is still taking the top-down approach, presumably taking advantage of Google Map data and expertise.

The competition between the two approaches will be interesting.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Vertical Farming and Misleading Illustrations

The New Yorker has an article on vertical farming, featuring a Cornell professor, Ed Harwood, who is depicted as the prime mover behind aeroponics.  (When you check the wikipedia article he's mentioned in one sentence.)  Anyhow, Harwood's aeroponics uses water sprays of nutrients and a patented fabric together with specialized LED lights.

It all sounds good, but I'm constitutionally unable fully to approve of vertical farming.  The catch in this article is the illustration, which instead of showing stacks of plant trays and LED lights shows a few leafy open-air terraces, with the implication that the light for photosynthesis is furnished by the sun. The illustration fits the original concept of vertical farming, but not that described in the article.