Wednesday, January 16, 2019

FSA Goes Back to Work?

Only in part.  Here's the Politico piece on Perdue's telling 2,500 employees to return on Jan 17, 18, and 22.

And here's the USDA press release.

And here's the list of offices which will open.  (My impression is that a smaller share of offices in the Northeast are being reopened than in the rest of the country.  They may have given preference to locations with heavy MFP activity?)

I wonder how they determined the employees to call back?  All CED's of offices they're reopening?  Might not be the best employees to have. 

I wonder what happens after Monday?

Will be interesting to see how this works out.

And here's a NASCOE explainer from yesterday.  (Thumbs up to NASCOE for the post.)

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

It's All Downhill from Here

This month I got my first hearing aid.  Today I was told I need my first  dental crown.

My health has been generally good up to now--no hospital stays, no broken bones, etc.  But it's all downhill from here.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Small Dairy? Test Farm

The Times today had an article on a supposed small farm; actually a billionaire's test farm (i.e. playtoy given my cynical mood today) trying out various systems intended for small farms.

It's call Rivendale (it doesn't tweet much).

The article is frustrating--apparently  one person is mostly responsible for the 175 milking Jerseys, using an automated feeding system and $200,000 robotic milking systems.  The cows determine when they are milked (4 times a day) and produce 15 percent more.  But it's not clear whether it's their breeding or the milking system which is responsible for the gain.

What I'd like to know, among other things:

  • what's the expected life of these robotic systems? 3 year, 5 year, 8  years, 10 years? 
  • how much maintenance and downtime do they require?  my guess is 4 systems means that 3 systems can handle the 175 with the fourth providing for some backup and fudge factor.
  • what happens when Murphy's law strikes and the systems go down?  With the systems I grew up with, as long as you had electricity you could milk cows.  Without electricity, it was hand milking.
  • can the farmhand handle the technology or does it require a tech?
  • how does the feeding system handle the "non-processed feed" they claim to be using?
  • what's the overall picture--are the cows on pasture or is it a CAFO?

Saturday, January 12, 2019

John Boyd on BBC

Since I mentioned Boyd's appearance in a Post article, I should give equal time to the BBC, where a sound bite from Boyd was included in their piece on the impact of the partial shutdown of the government.

In fairness to Boyd, I suspect he has a reputation for giving good quotes to the media--he's articulate.  In the last century I was  bit dubious of him, thinking he was more a paper farmer than a real one.  But apparently he's (re?)married with kids now and still going with soybeans, getting older along with all the rest of us.

Friday, January 11, 2019

John Boyd and the Shutdown of FSA

When the Post wanted a farmer to talk about the hardships caused by the shutdown of FSA one of the ones they found was John Boyd.  See yesterday's article.

Forgive me for finding it ironic that Boyd still depends in part on the agency which he sued.  Just another proof that life is complicated, as are people.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Fences and Landowning in the Post

Marc Fisher had an article in the Post about walls, which touched on fences, which included a quote from an expert which I found to be wrong!!  I commented there, which I'll copy here:

"From the nation’s earliest days, when only white male landowners could vote, many built fences on their land to show their neighbors they were eligible voters, Dreicer [the expert] said."
This is irrelevant to the theme of the article.  Irrelevant because a fence to mark boundaries of ownership isn't like a wall.  Think of our northern boundary: it's marked, but neither fenced nor walled.  We have the symbol of ownership (US sovereignty ends and Canadian begins) without needing a physical barrier.

But I call BS--I'm sure Dreicer never built a fence. A fence requires work, both to build it the first time (particularly stone wall fences but even split rail fences) and work to maintain.  You don't build a fence to declare ownership; you build a fence to keep animals in or out.  That's why we used to have fence viewers.  See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fence_Viewer.  BTW there are interesting regional and historical differences whether a landowner was required to fence his/her animals in, or to fence to keep free-ranging animals out.
Land ownership in the 13 colonies was marked by the metes and bounds system


Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Our Decentralized Systems

John Phipps twitted about this piece, specifically this:
This industry, and in particular the few groups who control the narrative, need to actually just agree and make one darn file type used to transfer and create data.I know this has and is being tried and there are a plethora of ways to go about it. Also, there are legacy systems and what not. We are not going to progress much more unless this finally gets solved though. Let us “you know what” or get off the pot.
I commented, comparing this problem with the problem of incompatible data sets in the healthcare industry.  I think this is a general feature of American society and economy: with a federal system, the size of the country and its population, the market economy, and our history we don't have centralized systems comparable to those in France or in Estonia

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

First American Cotton Mill and Eli Whitney

On Dec. 20 there was mention of the anniversary of the first American cotton mill. What struck me at the time, though I'm just getting around to commenting, is the date: 1790. 

Why is the date significant?  Well, we all know there was no cotton industry before Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin, which was in 1794. So what was Samuel Slater's factory spinning in 1790 and after, if no cotton was available?

The answer, of course, was cotton, and the point I'm trying to make is our mental picture of history is wrong.  In fact cotton was grown and de-seeded for centuries, in all continents except Antarctica.  The thing about cotton, as you can see if your aspirin bottle has a wad of cotton to suppress rattles, is it's light so a little goes a long way.  Try weighing the cotton clothes you're wearing now--they're light.  So if the elementary ginning tools in use before Whitney's invention could process a pound of cotton a day that would be sufficient for a lot of yarn and then weaving a fair amount of cloth.

Monday, January 07, 2019

Taxation Policy and Staffing

I commented on a Noah Smith tweet a couple days ago, a thread discussing tax policy. AOC (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez)  has gotten notoriety by proposing a tax bracket of $10 million and above with a rate of 70 percent.

I've not followed the debate enough to know what, if anything, she or others have proposed for the current brackets and rates.  Personally I'd add more brackets (because "simplicity" isn't important when you use software packages to file your taxes, with increasing rates.  And I'd have no problem with the 70 percent proposal.

What I do have problems with is IRS staffing.  IMHO the first priority for Democrats is to try to get bipartisan agreement on improving IRS staffing and administration, by which I mean something like doubling the auditors of richer people.  One of my early blog posts was to complain about a then-celebrity evading taxes. As an ex-bureaucrat, I want people to follow the rules, damn it.

Sunday, January 06, 2019

Kentucky Dairy Farms Fading

The Rural Blog had a post on the plight of Kentucky dairy farms recently.  A lowlight:
In Kentucky, more than 10 percent of dairy farms shuttered in 2018, lowering the count to 513, down from 1,400 in 2005, Bill Estep reports for the Lexington Herald-Leader
I don't know what the reduction in cow numbers was--Estep wrote: ""Farm Aid pointed to Walmart’s new Indiana processing plant as a example of large players taking over more of the milk-supply chain. Large companies with processing plants typically would rather deal with a few large farms than many smaller ones," 

Saturday, January 05, 2019

Police Shootings by State

Moskos has two new pieces here and here on the subject:

First piece on  police shooting people
The national annual average (of police shootings) since 2015 is a rate of 0.31 (per 100,000). And yet New Mexico is 0.98 and New York is 0.09. This is a large difference. 
Western states worst, NE states best, highest black states better than average.
Second piece is mostly on people shooting police

Quotes from the second piece:

Lack of density -- more space -- is correlated with being more likely to be killed by cops. Think of what this means. Common sense tells you it's not a view of "big sky country" that makes cops shoot someone. Whatever really matters, is correlated to density (or lack thereof). Maybe it's single person patrol. Or the time for backup to arrive. Or meth labs. Or gun culture.
The greater the percentage of blacks in a state, the less likely cops are to shoot and kill people.
1) Whites don't really care about who police shoot; period; end of story. And without the pressure over bad (or even good) police-involved shootings, cops never learn how to shoot less. Other things being equal, cops simply shoot more people if there isn't any push-back from (to over-generalize) blacks and liberals and media and anti-police protesters. Call it the Al Sharpton Effect, if you will. Basically, in many places, police organization and culture do need to be pressured into changing for the better.

2) Police can be recruited, trained, and taught to less often use legally justifiable but not-needed lethal force less. The state variations in police use of lethal force are huge. Some states (and particularly jurisdictions within states) do it better than others. Instead of saying "police are the problem" we could look at the states and cities and department that are doing it better and learn. 

Friday, January 04, 2019

Inbred Economist Professors?


A day after I noted the possible inbreeding of law professors, Tyler Cowen posted this, excerpts from an interview:
He [Cowen] said that he agreed with the idea that influence of economics comes from a relatively small number of institutions, and he thinks the number is shrinking. “What used to be something like a ‘top six’ has over time become the ‘top two,’ namely Harvard and MIT.”
I've not checked to see how many of the Harvard/MIT economics professors graduated from those universities--I suspect a lower proportion than with women law professors at Harvard, but it looks as if they're on the same path.  It's a logical extension of trends: education is important, so the best education is very important, so it's best to hire only those with the best education.

Thursday, January 03, 2019

What City Folks Don't Know

This post doesn't cover everything city folks (as my mother would call them) don't know, but just one thing.

Got a new biography of Benjamin Rush from the library the other day. (Rush was the prominent doctor in PA and a founding father and abolitionist.)  Just read a few pages, since I'm behind my reading of other books.  It looks good, well-written.

But, and there's a but.  Rush was born when his parents had a farm outside Philadelphia, though they moved to the city where his father soon died, leaving his mother to support the family.  Anyhow, the author writes about the work of "cutting and baling hay".  That's wrong--they would have cut the grass with a scythe, but they would not have "baled" it--that's a 19th century innovation--they would have likely stacked the hay, possibly stored it in a barn.


Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Inbred Law Professors?

I engaged in comment threads on Powerline--commenting on a Mirengoff post about Sen. Warren and the DNA test--asserting she had a false story.  As one might expect from my earlier post on the subject, I defended the test and, as you'd expect from the leanings of the website, got a lot of pushback from its devotees.

One point made was that Warren graduated from Rutgers Law.  I did a quick check of the (most of) women professors in Harvard Law and was a bit surprised by the results.  Some professors didn't include their education in their backgrounds, but most did.  Almost all of those I checked graduated from Harvard or Yale.  There was one graduate from Chicago and one from Texas in addition to Warren.

The predominance of Harvard/Yale bothers me--looks as if the system is rather inbred, at least at the law school level, less so at the undergrad level.  Also relevant is this: I noted in passing several cases where the professor had background in other fields, like history or math.

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Loss Aversion Equals Fear of Change?

Economists have the theory of "loss aversion"--people fear losing what they have more than they want to gain more. From wikipedia:
In cognitive psychology and decision theoryloss aversion refers to people's tendency to prefer avoiding losses to acquiring equivalent gains: it is better to not lose $5 than to find $5. The principle is very prominent in the domain of economics. What distinguishes loss aversion from risk aversion is that the utility of a monetary payoff depends on what was previously experienced or was expected to happen. Some studies have suggested that losses are twice as powerful, psychologically, as gains.[1] Loss aversion was first identified by Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman.[2]
Also see wikipedia on the  status quo effect, which includes this:  " Loss aversion, therefore, cannot wholly explain the status quo bias,[4] with other potential causes including regret avoidance,[4] transaction costs[5] and psychological commitment.[2]"

I wonder whether part of the effect is the narrative difference between what you have and what you might get.  The latter is naked, so to speak.  It has no history, no web of memories, no particular narrative.  What you have, whether it's a coffee cup or whatever, is clothed with a past, with a skein of memories, a place in a narrative.