Monday, September 25, 2017

Puerto Rico Disaster--II

As a followup to my previous post, while RMA has Puerto Rico included in its database of agents, it doesn't appear to have any agents for Puerto Rico. 

I'm operating under the assumption that Maria will show the USDA arrangements for Puerto Rico to be as faulty as Hurricane Andrew did for Dade County and the Typhoon Gay (?) did for Guam.  It's the perpetual fate of those entities/places/people who don't fit the existing mold. 

Agricultural Disaster in Puerto Rico--USDA

This NYTimes piece portrays the devastating impact of hurricane Maria on Puerto Rican agriculture.  It's total.  I did a quick check of USDA websites.  The USDA site and the FSA site have nothing keyed to Maria (just Irma).  Give RMA props; their website does have a Maria page.  

That's good.  Not so good is the confusion in the site (although perhaps due to my skimming too quickly).  According to the results of a google search for "crop insurance in Puerto Rice", FCIC does have crops insured on the island, for crop year 2016, roughly in the 50-60 percent insured range.  Not clear how that happens, because there don't seem to be any companies offering coverage there.

There is a Facebook page for a Puerto Rico Crop Insurance Corporation, but with nothing in it.  There is legislation dating back to 1966 establishing a Puerto Rico Farm Insurance Corporation, which presumably is the vehicle for the coverage.  And FSA reminded producers in 2016 they needed to comply with conservation compliance rules.

The one good thing I noted in this cursory survey--Puerto Rico stands alone among all the states by having a State Executive Director on board (appointed last year and apparently immune from the turnover from the election.)

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Why Not Follow the UK: Gov Wifi

For commercial establishments everyone and her brother now offer WiFi.  Not the government, at least not that I am aware of.  But our British cousins offer it, specifically "GovWifi", as described in this post at the UK blog:
GovWifi, developed and managed by Government Digital Service (GDS), is a single wifi login which can be simply and cheaply installed by government departments over their existing infrastructure.Anyone who registers with GovWifi will have access to wifi at any participating public sector location. It’s available to civil servants, consultants and visitors to government departments.It’s been designed to replace user and guest wifi with a single secure wifi connection.Users register once. After that, they’ll automatically connect to the GovWifi network. They don’t need to remember a password or sign in to different networks when they move between buildings.
So why can't the US government do this?

Friday, September 22, 2017

Economic Creativity: New Occupations

How many words do you need to discuss an Amish farmer, deer farms, the production of deer urine, bowhunters and the need to disguise their scent, the problem of chronic wasting disease, and good/bad government regulation?

See this short New Yorker piece.

I'm more impressed by our the market economy and human desires endlessly create new jobs, particularly in a context of fearing the loss of jobs to AI.

Bipartisanship Lives in the WH Garden

Politico reports Mrs. Trump is continuing with Mrs. Obama's White House garden.

[added: "After brief remarks, the first lady, dressed in a red plaid shirt, black pants and sneakers, joined the children in harvesting lettuce and kale, peas, radishes, Swiss chard and mustard. They also planted cabbage, cauliflower, turnips, carrots, spinach and kale, the White House said."]

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Trump Appointees at USDA

Politico has an article (or is it a post--who knows these days) about the backgrounds of Trump's appointees at USDA.  These are special assistants and confidential assistants, i.e., GS-12's and 14's and 15's.

There's a comparison with what Obama's administration did, trying to make the case that the people are being hired more on loyalty and campaign experience, than their other qualifications.  But what's most interesting to me is towards the end:
"Meanwhile, even with the campaign loyalists who are now on the USDA staff, the administration is still behind schedule in hiring for the agency’s more than 200 political positions that span from Washington, D.C., to rural communities across all 50 states."
I take that as meaning the FSA state directors are mostly vacant, and as the next paragraph notes, Secretary Perdue has a steep hill to climb to implement his proposed reorganization of support/administrative services, for which he will need the support of those political appointees. 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Maintenance Isn't Sexy: USNavy

I see I've not set up a label for "maintenance", but I'm sure I've observed that it's an important and often overlooked issue.  What happens when you build a system, as we were building a software system in the mid-80's, is you can't keep building without adding more people/resources.  If you start with 10 people working on the new, once it gets deployed, you need 1 person to maintain the deployed software, leaving only 9 to build the next phase.  And so on.

Furthermore, maintenance is not sexy. You can't tell the people who are paying the bills they won't get anything for their money, just a continuance of the current service (maybe sneaking in a couple tweaks along the way).

The DC area Metro system has found this out.  They built a system starting in the mid-70's, but skimped on maintenance along the way.  Consequently last year and this service has been restricted on various sections so they could do catch-up maintenance.  People aren't happy about it.

Now it seems the USNavy is in the same boat.  GAO has surveyed their shipyards and produced a video of their major points.  An example, using 80+ year old equipment to service nuclear submarines, then discovering the furnace didn't heat the parts evenly, so they had to reinspect years worth of work.

I'm cynical today, so I'm sure Congress will continue to give DOD new weapons/things they don't ask for and fail to provide the money to fix the shipyards.  That will go until we lose a ship because of faulty repairs.  (Training is "maintenance" of your human equipment and lack of training is blamed for the recent collisions the Seventh Fleet has experienced .)

Bureaucrat of the Day: S. Petrov

Applying the term loosely to any one who holds a position in an organization and has to follow rules, or who makes the rules for others.

Farewell, Stanislav Petrov, with obits in both the Times and Post

Monday, September 18, 2017

How Humans React to Change

Lots of angst about the coming of artificial intelligence and autonomous cars and CRISPR.  Even more angst about our addiction to cellphones and social media.  I was a late-comer to smart phones, but have somewhat caught up and now understand the addiction. 

But I'm not agonizing about it.  Seems to me generally people overdo in reaction to any social change, whether it's the coming of railroads, crack, or smart phones.  Once people see the downsides, they create new norms which have the effect of damping the adverse impact.  Remember the crack epidemic of the 1980's?  Or the concerns over mass media of the 1950's (i.e., comic books, etc.)? 

So my prediction is we'll see the same thing happening with social media and smart phones.  I may not live to see it, but it will happen.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Problems in Predicting the Future

I never dreamed in the early 70's we'd see a Sunday NYTimes paper we see today.  Back then we were worried about overpopulation, exhaustion of resources, and the failure of the newly decolonized nations to achieve development.  See this piece.  

The Chinese were an ant-like people, all dressed in Mao jackets and still starving from the effects of his ideology.  In that they weren't much different than the residents in the rest of the Third World.The developed world was bad on foreign aid, often funding projects which were strategic in the Cold War with the Soviet Union, not worthwhile for the recipient.

But today we have an article on obesity in Brazil and Nestle's role in pushing First World junk food on willing Brazilians.  And we have an article in the Times mag about the billions of Chinese investments abroad, and the possible debt trap they pose for the recipient nations.

Of course there's no Soviet Union and rich Chinese are buying Western baubles.

It's a strange world.