Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Harshaw's Corollary of Parkinson's Law

According to Parkinson's Law:
"work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion"
Or, as generalized since Mr. Parkinson first described it,
"The demand upon a resource tends to expand to match the supply of the resource"
In this light, I've Harshaw's corollary: 
 "books expand to overfill available bookshelves"

Of course, this is time-limited--books are a vanishing breed. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Harshaw's Rule of Appropriations

Based on earmarks, block grants, and general experience, I venture to say:

"the more general the appropriation, the more likely to be; the more specific the appropriation the safer from cuts"*

* unless and until the sole Congressional sponsor leaves Congress.

For example, if Congress inserts a particular line item to buy a weapon, a plane or tank, that's pretty immune from being cut; if they appropriate $10 billion for training, that's going to be cut.

Monday, July 28, 2014

The American Food Is Meat

America may or may not have been born a Christian nation, but it was surely born a meat-eating nation.  Consider this quote from a German who lived in Pennsylvania around 1750:
Even in the humblest and poorest houses in this country there is no meal without meat, and no one eats the bread without butter or cheese
It's from a short book he wrote upon returning to Germany. Here's some highlights

The "Halo" Effect

Some recent research found that umpires give pitchers who've been named to one or more All Star teams a bigger strike zone than journeymen.  I seem to recall some other research which backed the conventional wisdom: in the NBA the big names, the all-stars, get the breaks on referee's calls--charging, blocking, traveling, etc.

Let's call this the "halo effect".  I wonder whether it's the converse of racism? The great and good can do no wrong, the small and mean can do no right?  When actually living is just putting one foot after another, sometimes misstepping, sometimes not.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Reality Check for the Food Movement?

Mark Bittman says French cuisine has gone to les chiens.  Years ago some French farmer achieved fame by attacking a McDonalds.  And French government policy has been to subsidize the smaller farmer. The fact that these measures don't seem to have worked should tell the food movement something about the difficulty of moving beyond a niche catering to the better off.  Should but won't.

How Soon We Forget, Even Ag Ec Profs

From Farm Policy, discussing the ending of direct payments:
“‘The fundamental political problem that direct payments ran into is a question of fairness,’ said Carl Zulauf, an agricultural economist at Ohio State University. ‘Is it fair farmers were receiving these payments when income was at record or near-record levels? We as a country decided that was not something we felt comfortable with.’”

The article [in the Toledo Blade] stated that, “Direct payments were included in the 1996 Farm Bill as a temporary safeguard against bad years, but eventually became permanent. The subsidies drew heavy fire recently as farm income rose to record levels. Mr. Zulauf said as long as farmers met the basic qualifications, direct payments were made regardless of need. In the new system, payments will only be made when certain market conditions exist — either revenue declines or low market prices for grain and other commodities.
Of course, as everyone knows, at least those of a certain age, direct payments replaced deficiency payments in 1996 as the Republicans' means of phasing out farm programs, except it didn't work.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Our Great Democratic ex-President

Jimmy Carter and his center have, with others, almost eradicated guinea worm.

Note that education and clean water were the keys.

What Is "Genetically Modified"?

The most familiar GMO crops are those which have genes added to provide resistance to a herbicide, or to fight some disease or pest.  The anti-GMO people argue this is messing with mother nature, when you add a gene to corn which comes from some other organism, and that such messing is dangerous.  I don't agree, but I can understand why someone might think that way.

But now comes a report that Chinese scientists have genetically modified wheat to improve its resistance to powdery mildew. What strikes me is the method used: deleting  genes that encode proteins that repress defenses against the mildew.  To me, this undermines the anti-GMO argument--you aren't creating a Frankenstein's monster by combining parts from different organisms, you're simply streamlining an organism.

I suspect few anti-GMO types will agree with me.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Words of Wisdom from Kevin Drum

Towards the end of a rant (Kevin rants? yes) against Thomas Frank's new article on Obama:
"All of us who do what Thomas Frank does—what I do—have failed. Our goal was to persuade the public to move in a liberal direction, and that didn't happen. In the end, we didn't persuade much of anyone. It's natural to want to avoid facing that humiliating truth, and equally natural to look for someone else to blame instead. That's human nature. So fine. Blame Obama if it makes you feel better. That's what we elect presidents for: to take the blame.
But he only deserves his share. The rest of us, who were unable to take advantage of an epic financial collapse to get the public firmly in favor of pitchforks and universal health care, deserve most of it. The mirror doesn't lie."

Handling Emails, Tweets, and Chats

FCW has an article on government failures in handling e-communications of all sorts.  It confirms my previous post about problems in ASCS/FSA.