Thursday, January 31, 2008
"A new international task force will convene for the first time Tuesday to address the problem of maintaining data for future generations.
The National Science Foundation and Andrew W. Mellon Foundation are funding the Sustainable Digital Preservation and Access panel's two-year mission, with support from institutions like the Council on Library and Information Resources, Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, and the United Kingdom's Joint Information Systems Committee."
"But she said the formal processes used to designate materials for storage or deletion are integral to sustainability across the globe because it is impossible to save everything."It might well be possible to save everything. After all, Google Docs saves all the changes made to a document, just as Wikipedia does. Storage costs are going down and down and down.
But if you do save everything, will anyone be able to find what they want? Maybe. Google desktop indexes most everything.
But if you save everything, and anyone can find anything, will anyone care? The problem is the same as for wiretapping, or security cameras, you mostly can only review some stuff in real time. And humans are easily bored. As a natural born pack rat, I saved most everything from my bureaucratic career, at least after the PC landed on my desk. But no one will care. (Unlike Samuel Pepys, no one will write books about mid-level bureaucrats.)
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
This sort of thing is needed. I remember the old SCOAP QandA's and the various bulletin board systems and mailing lists we used to have. There's limits on how much you can do with a straight up and down hierarchy--you need some other methods. A problem for us in ASCS was that technology opened up possibilities, and each innovator followed his or her own nose. Of course, when technology is changing fast, you don't want to standardize quickly.
And another problem was that this was all guerrilla stuff--top management was mostly only vaguely aware of what was going on, if that. It's possible now that wikipedia has given the "wiki" methodology enough visibility and prestige, and its experience has mapped out some parameters that this is truly a useful exercise. (Assuming that the relevant user community is all comfortable with computers, etc.)
Monday, January 28, 2008
Household Water Well System Grant Program Announcement of
Application Deadlines and Funding
I'm no doubt being unfair by linking to it without any background--my guess is that it's funding one or two non-profits who loan money for drilling wells in God-forsaken places, but that's only a guess.
The process worked reasonably well, though the "help" process is a little lame. I requested a report on the usage of the process--I'm betting they don't have one, but maybe I'm too cynical. We'll see.
Why doesn't it work for Latinos and African-Americans? Money. Eating local, eating organic is the sort of crunchy life-style choice that made by people who have it made. Not to say that it's only rich people, but it's people who aren't striving to make it, to put kids through college, to advance a rung up the ladder. In Thorsten Veblen's terms, it's another form of conspicuous consumption. It's the people who can afford to be skinny, to devote their life to art, who seem to gravitate to this.And yet, sustainable-ag remains a passion limited largely to white, middle-class folks. Eco-Farm displayed a broad diversity of ages and sartorial styles. Ethnically, though, a kind of monoculture flourished. That fact was seldom mentioned; and only with a dose of self-flagellation. What was missing, though, was analysis. Why are so few non-whites drawn to small-scale farming? I never heard the question come up. Like the national food-justice movement, the California contingent has failed to open a broad and sustained conversation on food, class, and race. Indeed, the whole question was essentially relegated to a single informative session on urban farming. I think the vexations of food and class will have to be fully aired and addressed for the sustainable-food movement to move beyond niche status. But the lack of discussion at Eco-Farm doesn't mean there isn't plenty of powerful activism around food in low-income, minority-dominated areas in California. In the next days, I plan to visit and post about San Francisco's Alemany Farm and Oakland's People's Grocery.
We're going to need another justification than "cheap food" to continue our subsidies with farm income for many growers at record levels. When disposable income stagnates with slow growth, our oft-repeated statistic about "less of their income" could shoot up significantly, revealing it is 90% about income and 10% about commodity prices.
Grain farmers are also going to have to contend with increasingly restive livestock producers.
I think payment limits and means-testing would be a strategic compromise to consider right now. Ya gotta know when to fold 'em.
It's interesting, though it fits my preconceptions a bit neatly.
Saturday, January 26, 2008
Friday, January 25, 2008
That's the economics of farming--the farmer cannot price his or her output, so the premium is on reducing costs. How? By mechanizing and rationalizing (aka "industrializing") and paying labor poorly. The return in farming is on capital, i.e., land, not labor.
While he treated his audience with great respect -- and won enthusiastic applause in response --Schlosser didn't let the assembled growers off the hook. He noted that organic standards make no stipulations about how growers treat workers. For him, he added, organic means nothing if workers are systematically mistreated. His remark must have caused some unease (though the cheering audience didn't show it). As my friend Bonnie Powell of Ethicurean writes in her account of Schlosser's speech, "labor is an Achilles-heel issue for many organic farmers." Bonnie reminds us that:A 2005 report published by researchers at UC Davis found that of 188 California organic farms surveyed, a majority failed to pay a living wage or provide medical or retirement plans.
There's nothing easy about that issue. As I wrote when the UC Davis study came out, organic farming is so labor-intensive, and its profit margins remain so low, that most small- and mid-sized growers would probably go out of business if they paid a decent wage.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
However, the same truth applies for all human actions, including those by corporate bodies. I think the law is a subset of the generalization: "people aren't as smart as they think they are".
Bruce Babcock, as summarized here, seems to agree with me.
I'd add, in view of the last few days, a widespread economic slowdown means a softer market for feed grains (remember the Asian recession of the late 90's). It also means lower oil prices, which means less of a bonus for ethanol. Finally, I noticed somewhere the idea that Russians found US-made farm machinery very good. That's a turnaround from the 90's, when Russian tractors were being sold in the U.S. But more importantly, it means that Russian farmers have the money to invest in modern machinery, which means more production there.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
It's all the Mark of the Beast, isn't it?
Of course, logically they should all merge with the pro-choice forces in supporting a right of privacy in the Constitution for guns, animals, and people.
Lonely people are more apt to see human traits in pets than non-lonely people? Okay, I can buy that.
Lonely people are more apt to believe in the supernatural? (Not sure whether that's God or UFO's or what). Maybe.
People who aren't lonely are less likely to see human traits in people who are outside their sphere?
Mr. Matthews noted that, “Agriculture Ministers had their first discussion of the Commission’s Health Check proposals at the first Council meeting under the Slovenian Presidency yesterday. It appears that the two issues causing the most fuss are the Commission’s suggestions to introduce a progressive reduction in single farm payments to larger farms (inaccurately referred to as capping) and to increase the rate of compulsory modulation (which again would only affect larger farms), in both cases with the additional funds going to Pillar 2 rural development measures. At the same time, Ministers were clearly taken by the emphasis on risk management and safety nets in the Commission Communication and called for more specific proposals in this area."Progressive reductions" is a good name for my hobby-horse.
But the same tension is still evident today, as IBM announces some "mash-up" software. Reading between the lines of this article I can still hear the echoes of long-ago battles.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
If, for example, in 1950 you compared your dinner to what was being eaten by the starving children of China, you'd feel very lucky. On the other hand, if your reference group was the Joneses, then you spent your time trying to keep up with them.
As I age, I find my reference groups changing. When I was a boy, I compared myself to everyone older, bigger, stronger, than me. Now I compare myself to myself, my younger self, the one who was smarter, more vigorous, more productive than I am now. And I know that mostly myself tomorrow will be less than today. I suppose the moral is--enjoy today for what it is. If I could only remember morals.
Monday, January 21, 2008
"rbST-Free"--that's a construction which implies that rbST is bad. Most notably: "drug-free", "tax-free", "gluten-free", "risk-free", "pollution-free"...etc. etc.
Sunday, January 20, 2008
I thought of that this morning as I waited in the supermarket line, and noticed a picture of Ms Clinton on the cover of one of the magazines. She's noticeably blonde.
I also stumbled across this in today's Post:
Clinton's ground troops seeded Las Vegas beauty salons with folders displaying Clinton's hairstyles through her career and declaring, "Worry about your hair. If you don't, someone else will" -- a dig at establishment sexism, Titus said. That issue came even more into focus when MSNBC political talk show host Chris Matthews was forced to apologize for comments that he conceded could have been regarded as sexist and demeaning to Clinton.And I remember her first hairstyles when in the public eye--seems to me she definitely was not blonde. So she dyes her hair. She's made the choice to be blonde. It fits her boomer personality--in my generation, as the ad suggests, dying one's hair was not something a woman advertised. Nor was it something any man would consider. It was a matter of fakery, dishonesty, meddling with the natural order of things. The boomers changed all that, I guess.
But I'm not sure we're ready for a President who dyes her hair--have we really changed that much?
But of course there was Reagan, but he's not a role model.
Friday, January 18, 2008
This long post from FarmPolicy on the current state of play on the 2007 farm bill shows how far we've deviated from it. Issues include payment limitations and means testing and even reform of the marketing loan program. Perhaps most important is how to pay for the new stuff in the bill (i.e. permanent disaster program, help for veggies, conservation). I wonder if the drive to do a stimulus package for the economy may not adversely impact the farm bill--tweaking the tax system to get more money for farmers may not fit well into the atmosphere of doing stimulus.
The energy bill signed into law will have greater impact on farm commodity prices than any farm bill being considered," says MO economist Pat Westhoff at FAPRI. “Mandates to use set levels of biofuels increase demand for corn and vegetable oil and affect market-driven prices more than current or proposed farm bills.”
Thursday, January 17, 2008
in the Journal-Advocate of Sterling, CO is well done. She even covers the electronic customer statement and AFIDA.
(AFIDA is a carryover from the time when the big fear was Japanese buying up our farmland. Now foreign government funds are buying our banks and there's a little agitation for more transparency. AFIDA should be a reminder that the body politic is subject to fevers and agitations which aren't necessarily well founded.)
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
From Fort Wayne.
From St. Louis
Judging by the volume of criticism the farm bill is doomed to extensive revision. But poking fun at subsidies doesn't accomplish much. To do that you need to find a coalition of politicians who would gain from the reform. I'd assume that most farmers currently receiving benefits aren't discontented enough to support someone pushes for revision. So that leaves suburban and urban lawmakers, and those Senators who don't have much agriculture. The problem is that politicians tend to be rewarded for doing something positive. They get attention from their local media if they do something for the district or state. There are a few, like Chuck Schumer when he was a representative on House Ag and pushing payment limitation, who can see opportunities in the most unlikely situations. But, thank goodness, most politicians are not as smart or publicity driven as Schumer.
Another possibility is a politician like Senators Morse and Proxmire (I'm showing my age, I know). Morse was around in the 50's-70's, moving from Republican to Democratic party but always a maverick. Proxmire won fame for attacking government "waste". So you could get an effective maverick working against the current shape of farm programs. But by definition mavericks don't work well in coalitions.
Possibily pressure from WTO limitations on supports may be effective. We'll have to see.
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
He started out with an Apple II in 1979 to help run the farm and ended up in Microsoft accumulating half a billion dollars. So he has enough money to buy some land, but not too much.
Monday, January 14, 2008
"It's totally ridiculous," said Joaquin Contente, who oversees 1,700 Holsteins on his Hanford, Calif., dairy farm. Contente said existing regulations in California and other states meant his cows and their movements were well-documented.
"We already have a good paper trail. It will be more of a burden for the small-to-average producer," said Contente, who worries about the expense for an average-size farm like his. [emphasis added]
“‘I have talked to a lot of farmers and I can tell you they don’t really care whether something is a budget gimmick, or closing a loophole, or providing a tax credit,’ Stallman said. ‘They don’t really care about all the back and forth from Democrats and Republicans on those issues. What our members care about is: Are we going to have a farm bill and when are we going to know what the rules are so we can plan our planting operation?’”If the rules affect the planting, then decoupling isn't.
Sunday, January 13, 2008
The questions, then, remain: Why should taxpayers foot the bill for manure lagoons, particularly under the flag of environmental conservation? Why should taxpayers subsidize expansion of livestock farms? And if livestock farms have created environmental problems, shouldn’t the polluters have to pay for the mess that they created, rather than the taxpayers?Just another example of the falling support for farm programs.
Saturday, January 12, 2008
"Attempts by the Wheat Board to invent an imitation marketplace fall far short of the expressed will of barley producers. Farmers have demanded marketing choice. No bureaucratic program can replace this. It is time for the CWB to stop ignoring this unavoidable fact.It's also interesting that the Minister doesn't have power over the Canadian Wheat Board.
Friday, January 11, 2008
WHY PUBLIC POLICIES ARE NEEDED
- The average age of farmers and ranchers is increasing. USDA estimated that in 2004 about 4 percent of America's farmers were under 35 years of age, while nearly one-fourth were 65 years or older. The fastest growing cohort of farmers and ranchers are those 70 years or older, while the fastest declining is those 25 years old or younger.
- Over the next two decades an estimated 400 million acres of U.S. agricultural land will be passed on to heirs or sold. USDA estimates that currently over one-third of farmland is owned by landowners over the age of 65.
I suspect, but don't know, the problem is either in differences in the definition of what forms to include or learning problems in feeding data from one database to another. Of course, to a rationalist, the ideal is one database for every government form, but that doesn't work. Instead we have multiple databases (FSA's forms manager had an on-line database even when I was working--she was a sharp, forward-looking individual) as different organizations catch the wave of innovation.
Thursday, January 10, 2008
HereI've heard of two-faced politicians, but not two-voiced.
In a steady, soothing tenor, Obama tells voters he is the candidate to unite the nation's fractured political divisions and restore America's good reputation abroad.
Obama's baritone voice filled the open field, shaded by an old willow tree by a little pond. He spoke not only with his voice, but with his hands. And though he is an attorney who took his J.D. at Harvard Law and later taught Constitutional law, his gestures were not those of a trial attorney, binding the jury by casting a spell with a closing argument. Rather, his oratorical gestures were more like those of a preacher conducting a revival and call to baptism down by the river side.
A Newsweek cover story out yesterday gushed that Obama, "tall and handsome and blessed with a weighty baritone, knows how to bring along a crowd while seeming to stay slightly above it." The journalistic scrutiny usually visited on instant front-runners has been replaced by something akin to a standing ovation.
All joking aside, it's probably significant that news reports do pay attention to Obama's voice. It must be pleasing or impressive.
I'm not sure that approach will be sufficient--see the Environmental Working Group's digest of editorials on the farm bill for a sense of the growing opposition to farm program payments.
This was my husband's sound system. Mine rocks, his is well....ok!Can this marriage survive despite the obvious differences in sonic tastes and housekeeping standards?
- Pioneer cd player
- Teak cassette player
- Pioneer tuner
- Infinity Speakers
Come 'n get it! (free pre-marital dust included)
Wednesday, January 09, 2008
Tuesday, January 08, 2008
After an event on Friday at a company that makes equipment for the military, Mr. McCain chose to rail against the “military-industrial complex.” Later, he said, “Sometimes I go too far.”
He said an angel on one shoulder begged him to pipe down while a devil on the other goaded him on. His best events are when the devil gets the better of him.
NASCOE is agitating for its positions with members of the committees (see this comment).
John Phipps notes everyone running for President seems to be promising change, and doubts that farm programs can withstand the surge.
It's an interesting world, particularly if you are tucked snugly on the sidelines.
What's my logic? Over the course of the housing boom, the percentage of people owning homes rose from about 66 percent to 70, if memory serves. Most of that increase is probably people at the lower end of the income scale. My guess, based mostly on the activity in my mother-in-law's neighborhood and my neighborhood, is that many immigrants bought at the lower end. By doubling up (or tripling or more), people could split the mortgage payment and still make it. Many of these immigrants were working home construction. Many were eager to have a piece of the American dream.
So it was a virtuous circle. My next door neighbor sold his townhouse in 1999 for $93,000. The new buyers, D'Amico, did a lot of fixing up and sold it at the end of 2001 for $167,000. They moved to a new house in a new development, probably stretching their money as far as it would go. The buyer was Salvadoran, who shared the house with others. (Good neighbors, not that I'm particularly outgoing.) He paid a high price, at least in terms of the history of the unit since it was built in 1973. But the high price was necessary for the D'Amicos to buy the house they did. It's quite possible some of his roomers built the house that the D'Amico's moved to. The process worked--the Salvadoran family lived there for 5 years and sold for $367,000 in 2006!
So far, everyone is happy. Everyone has ended up with more house and a bigger net worth than they had before. Even I feel good because the value of my townhouse has soared. But now comes Rep. Tancredo and Lou Dobbs and all the others who want to build a fence at the border. All of a sudden it's harder to find construction workers and people who will rent a bed in a house for ridiculous prices. So people pull back, and the bubble starts to pop. And when the gas goes, it goes fast. Zillow.com shows the most recent home sales in the cluster down about 25 percent from their high. And Juan, who paid $367K, is moving out today.
I exaggerate, the housing bubble was a bubble which would have popped even if Tancredo had never existed. But there is a real connection between economic growth and immigration.
[Added] The point is that the demand at the bottom of the ladder pushed up prices all the way up. Now the people who bought late face foreclosures, as described in this article.
Monday, January 07, 2008
Any supporter of Mr. Obama might remember this. If he wins the nomination and the election, he's sure to run into the problem of unrealistic expectations. Of course, to win, he almost has to raise the expectations.
Saturday, January 05, 2008
Friday, January 04, 2008
Anyone reading that would get the wrong understanding about the last two items. I've seen a similar meme in the Kingsolver book I blogged about last year. Not sure of the origin--fuel for farm use used to be taxed less than for on-road use. Not sure if that's still the case.
How does the Government Skew the Market?The government encourages planting of selected crops, providing low-cost loans, crop insurance, research, weather forecasts, fuel and pesticides.
As I promise in my profile, I'm contrarian. I also got a haircut this morning. (Very macho barbershop, not one of these new-fangled unisex shops that have been around for 35 years.) The conversation was mostly about the Redskins amazing run and their chances in the playoffs. The little talk about Iowa showed some male chauvinism, plus a lot of dislike of Clinton, and surprising acceptance of Obama. This is Virginia, the leader of the Old South, but it's also the first state to elect a black governor this century. (Whoops, last century.) We had warm fuzzy feelings when we elected Mr. Wilder Governor. Didn't make him a good governor, didn't make him a bad governor, did make us feel good about ourselves for a little while. But all of this leads me to the question: is it more acceptable to be a male chauvinist than a racial bigot? The answer is neither are acceptable. But while neither sentiment can be openly expressed, except by comics and rap artists, both are still present in society.
I shouldn't deprecate the significance of warm fuzzy feelings. To the extent that people share in them, or simply understand them, we reestablish our image of the U.S. as a good and caring country, open to all. And if the U.S. is good, then its citizens must be good. While the logic sucks, in human terms it's much better to live in a country where people have those images than in a country, like Kenya, which is teetering on the edge of ethnic violence. (Suggestion for Mr. Obama--grab Mr. Richardson and head for Nairobi to try to mediate a settlement--that would be a better campaign move than anything he could do here.) It just reaffirms the old WASP sentiment--some things are best left unexpressed.
Speaking of letting everything hang out, as was the meme in the late 60's, to some extent I'm now reminded of the 1972 election, with Howard Dean filling the role of Eugene McCarthy in 1968, Clinton in the Ed Muskie role, and Obama as George McGovern. McGovern too was all about process--increasing the influence of the people in governance and eliminating the influence of the evil ones, like the party bosses. McGovern too brought hordes of young enthusiasts, even including Hillary Rodham and Bill Clinton, to participate in politics. McGovern too had a record that got lost during the campaign. Of course, McGovern's crusade fell short of the White House and would have failed even without Tricky Dick and his dirty tricks brigade.
Fortunately so far the Dems have been able to campaign without splitting the party, and the current signs promise success in the fall. McGovern had a split party, facing a popular President, and little chance of success. And McGovern had proposals which the Reps were able to mock. So I'm hopeful regardless of which of the Democrats becomes the party's nominee.
(To be fair to Obama, and because I always like Charles Peters, read his op-ed in the Post today.)
Thursday, January 03, 2008
Wednesday, January 02, 2008
I'm not sure that's fair--presumably NASS only does online censuses when they do the ag census, so they don't get much practice. FSA has to write checks much more often. And they've had their own problems with going online.
(It feels good to get my first shot in at the Republicans in this election year. I hope to restrain myself, perhaps only one cheap shot a week, but I fully expect the politicians to test my resolve.)
Tuesday, January 01, 2008
It's all true and interesting and worrisome, but:
how did we get all that privacy in the first place? I wait for a historian to write about the advance of privacy.