Friday, May 18, 2018

A Rocky Road for the Farm Bill

Apparently two sets of hurdles for the farm bill:

  • one is the fight over the provisions in the bill, most notably the tightened work requirements for SNAP, but also other issues.
  • the other is its status as close to must-pass legislation (it's not really must-pass--Congress could always kick the issue down the road by doing a one-year extension of the current farm bill.  But Congress doesn't have much going on, so the farm bill is the best bet to use for leverage on other issues, like the quest for a vote on immigration legislation.  That's what resulted in today's defeat of the bill.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Partisanship in the Past

Somewhere buried in my memory is an ancient view on partisanship, ancient meaning it dates to the Cold War or the rise of communism.  I think it was Graham Greene who said something like: "I'd rather betray my country than betray a friend."  Or maybe it was E.M.Forster who said "only connect"?

(Turns out it was Forster.)

I write this because in my twitter feed someone whose friend voiced support for President Trump denied the friend--threw him out of the house, maybe.  Quite a contrast of then and now (though I acknowledge Forster's sentiment was an outlier then, and now. )

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Why There Was No Collusion

The Senate Intelligence Committee has concluded that the intel guys were right: Putin ordered his people to hurt Clinton and help Trump.

We know that Donald Jr. at least wanted Russian help.

But the bottom line to me is the Trump campaign was too inept to collude with the Russians in any meaningful way.

Import Brains, Export Ideas

That's my formula to keep America great.

One quote, from AEI:
There is a stunting statistic that I almost always have to give these days since hearing it. If you look at all of the PhDs in the US in the STEM fields, 56 percent were foreign born. So we are able to attract very smart people from abroad, keep them here, and have them work.
Yes, a handful of those brains may spy for their original homeland, more of them will return "home" at some time or the other, but many of the brains will spend their most productive years in the U.S., years in which they do good science, create innovations and innovative enterprises, and generally make the  U.S. better, most importantly by making it a place where others want to come, to learn and maybe work. 

Other things being equal, it's better to export ideas and things, and to import people.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

"White" America

An excerpt from a  Vox piece on biracial identity in America:
"Before the election, we found that white people thought he [Obama] was “too black” and black people found him to be “too white.”
Those perceptions shifted significantly after his reelection. Only then did white individuals see Obama as being “white enough” for them and black individuals see him as being “black enough.” This switch suggests people did seem to understand that he was biracial but found it easier to claim him as a racial in-group member once he became a success story."
 The author goes on to say we have difficulty with ambiguity, so like to simplify.

What that means to me is that's one method by which America will remain "white": as members of current "minority" groups become successful, they'll be assimilated into "us". 

The Parable of the Forms

This paper is written by a law professor, so it's directed at legal procedures, but he uses the design and use forms as a way to make his point.   I'd say the logic applies as well to the design of agencies: one reason why we have recurrent efforts to simplify how USDA deals with farmers, and recurrent failures.  The view from on high is much clearer than the view at the grassroots, and the grassroots typically have more staying power. 

Recommended for bureaucrats.

Monday, May 14, 2018

What Are Barns Good For?

Abandoned barns are a fairly common site along I-81 in NY. Smaller farms are going out of business.  The old pattern of using summer pasture and winter hay is ending, so there's no need for a tall barn to store hay.  (I'm guessing today's big operations haul in feed as needed.)   So as one culture fades away leaving behind its unneeded structures, what do we do with barns?  One answer is to tear them down and use the barn siding wood to add a rustic feel to high-end houses.  Another is given here:
It’s wedding season, which means you now have a higher-than-normal chance of spending time in or in the vicinity of a barn. A survey from The Knot, which offers wedding services, reported that 15 percent of couples who got married in 2017 held their reception in a barn, farm or ranch, up from 2 percent in 2009. [

Sunday, May 13, 2018

The Value of a Curmudgeon

Bob Somerby is a character.  He writes the Daily Howler, a long lived blog (started last century), critical and skeptical of media.  He was Al Gore's roommate at Harvard, along with Tommy Lee Jones, and taught for some years in a Baltimore school.  His posts are colored by his past, as any regular reader can tell. (The mass media's mistreatment of Gore's candidacy, the failings of young reporters, particularly their math illiteracy, the fact that American education does better than many media reports have it, and the fact that American education fails black students, the willingness of liberals to buy into myths, etc.)  He's long-winded and, an admission, I often skim the first paragraphs and skip the last paragraphs.  But all that said, he's an invaluable corrective who drills down into the depths of an issue.  We could use a couple more like him, as long as they had different bees in their bonnet than he.

A sample--a post on NYC schools points out:
"Good lord! In New York City, a school which is 9 percent white isn't just a "segregated" school; it's intensely segregated, an even worse abomination. 
Meanwhile, a school which is 15 percent white represents the "desegregation" ideal! On such slender distinctions our liberal language now rests."

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Kenya and Space

President Trump supposedly doesn't think much of African countries.  He might be surprised, as I was, at the news Kenya has its own satellite in space.

Even more surprising, Kenya's not in the list of the top five African space programs (Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, Egypt, and Algeria.

Friday, May 11, 2018

The Secret of Current Trump Support

To me, it's found in this quote in a New Yorker piece on understanding Trump:
“The truth is, virtually everyone who claims to know what Trump is going to do has been wrong at some point,” one sharp analyst told me. “The best indicator, in my mind, is to go back and read his core campaign pledges and speeches. Those have been far more instructive than anyone in Congress, in the Republican Party, or on his own team.”