Sunday, August 30, 2015

Ode to American Beauty

Just to show that one of those lefty historians can enjoy American beauty, we present Taking the Long Way Round.

Just a taste:
New York was an absolute revelation. Is there any place more lovely in the summer than the Finger Lakes region? I have never seen the like.
But read the whole thing.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Good Sentence from a Conservative

"Ignorance is the natural state of human affairs, and all of us, from addlepated reality-television enthusiasts to theoretical physicists, are almost entirely ignorant of almost everything."

Read more at:

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Firing Employees

Government Executive has a piece on firing federal employees.  It's all very nice, but it misses an issue which can be as important: the economists call it "opportunity costs".

A manager has many demands on her time, demands mostly over which she has no control.  It's the in-basket, which keeps filling up. In an office with several or many employees, there's also an urge to devote time to your employees, and to be fair to them.  (Not that I achieved that, but I could be made to feel guilty about failing.) And if you'd like to think of yourself as an effective manager, you probably have dreams of your own you want to implement. (I had too many.)

Now if you have an employee who's marginal, what the rules say is you need to devote time to him: counseling, training,  documenting actions, etc. etc. The rules are all very well, certainly they fit the golden rule, they're what I'd want applied to me.  But spending the time is the killer; it takes away from the in-basket, it takes away from paying attention to other employees, and it kills your dreams.

Red Shirt Boys

". I do think that if we essentially red-shirted boys and had them begin kindergarten a year later than girls, it would go a long way toward closing this gap."

A quote from a book on women/men ratios and college (boys mature later, hence the quote above).

Four women graduate from college for every three men.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Salad and Wasting Food

Tamar Haspel has a story dissing salad--lettuce and other salad constituents aren't very nutritious, at least by weight.  As she say:
Lettuce is a vehicle to transport refrigerated water from farm to table.
She points out that salad is a big component of food waste, at least when you measure by weight.

She's an interesting writer.

Farm Kids Learn to Work Young

I couldn't resist stealing this photo from Northview Dairy.

One of the things we lose with our modern economy is the ability for kids to imitate the work of their parents. That's one way to learn, and a good one.

I'll stop now before I get all sentimental about days gone by.  Just a reminder, that little girl doesn't have to fear polio as she grows. 

Friday, August 21, 2015

Was Katrina Racist?

New Yorker has a piece by Malcolm Gladwell on New Orleans after Katrina, more specifically some of the research on those who left the Big Easy for good.

A paragraph:
"By a combination of geography, history, and meteorology, Katrina disproportionately hit black New Orleans. These were the people whose homes were flooded, who camped out in the Superdome, who were evacuated to Baton Rouge or Lafayette or Houston—many of whom have never returned. The Lower Ninth had twenty thousand people before Katrina. Five years afterward, there were six thousand. In Mid-City, there are still abandoned houses and empty lots. Many of these people may have wanted to come back right after the storm. But the public schools were shut down, the city’s main public hospital was a wreck, and the city’s public-housing projects were shuttered."
 There's much in the article and the events it describes, and I may blog on other aspects. But in answer to my question in the title: no, I don't think Katrina was racist, even though its adverse impact on blacks was disproportionate.  It makes an interesting case study: IMHO calling Katrina "racist" is nonsensical--it was the history of New Orleans and the society which was racist, not the storm. 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Apparel from Wood

Proof that American innovation is unceasing--the Foreign Agricultural Service is seeking OMB approval to collect information on this subject.

Foreign Agricultural Service

Title: Agriculture Wood Apparel Manufacturers Trust Fund.
OMB Control Number: 0551-0045.
Summary of Collection: Section 12315 of the Agricultural Act of 2014 (P.L. 113-79) authorizes distribution out of the Agriculture Wood Apparel Manufacturers Trust Fund (“Agriculture Wool Trust Fund”) in each of calendar years 2014 through 2019, payable to qualifying claimants. Eligible claimants are directed to submit a notarized affidavit, following the statutory procedures specified Section 12314 (c) or (d) of the Act.
Need and Use of the Information: The Foreign Agricultural Service will use the information provided in the affidavits to certify the claimants' eligibility and to authorize payment from the Agriculture Wood Trust Fund [Underlining added]

I can understand one typo, I could even understand consistent typos, but why one word correct and 3 incorrect?

I need to vent in a future post about the absurdity of these approvals.

A Question for Presidential Candidates

The governance of schools is different in different parts of the country.  In Broome County, NY, there were a number of central school districts, each with their own elected school board.  In Fairfax County, VA there's one county elected school board.

I note from today's papers that several of the Republican candidates for President participated in an education forum, many (all?) of whom plugged for state and local control of education.  

I'd challenge each of them to declare whether they voted in the last school board election, and who they voted for.  I may be cynical but I suspect most people couldn't answer the question, which says something to me about the value of local control.

For the record, I can't answer my own question. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

EU Cartels in the Food Chain?

Politico has a piece on the problems which European sanction on Russia are causing for the farmers, particularly French farmers.  (Does anyone here remember the problems Pres. Carter had imposing a grain embargo on the Soviet Union after the invasion of Afghanistan--that and the boycott of the Olympics were the major sanctions we imposed, IIRC?)

It includes this paragraph:
While French industrial purchasers normally agree to absorb a set volume of local production at controlled prices agreed during roundtables, this time some of them balked over the huge difference between the cost of French meat and products from Germany or Spain — around 30 euro cents per kilo.
Some complained that buying French meat at inflated prices would put them at a serious economic disadvantage. The refusal of just two moderately sized groups, Bigard and Cooperl, to buy a certain volume of pork at an agreed price of €1.40 per kilo was enough to upset the tightly-controlled system, shutting down the Brittany pork product exchange for eight days. 
I wonder what "roundtables" means--do the French equivalents of McDonalds, Burger King, KFC, etc. meet together to set volumes and prices of meat they'll buy?  It's what it sounds like.

I sort of assume that the contract growing of livestock in the US extends all the way up.  Jane Doe signs a contract to grow chickens for Tyson, Tyson signs a contract to deliver chicken breasts to KFC.  But how are the prices set--subtle signalling between KFC and McDonalds (like the airlines do)?  When I'm reincarnated I'm going to study economics.