Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Difference a Job Makes for Marriage

That's a tweet which I probably could have better incorporated in this post.  Anyhow, the graph shows the marriage rates for whites, Hispanics and blacks, divided between "ever enlisted" and "civilians".  What caught my eye were the rates for enlisted blacks, very much the same as enlisted whites, and enlisted Hispanics, significantly higher than enlisted whites and blacks.  The rates for all enlisteds were significantly above those for civilians.

What I take from this is that secure jobs enable marriages.  I may be wrong, there may be significant differences between the men and women who enlist and those who don't.  But I like the idea that a steady salary leads to marriage.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Habituation in Everything

AP reports a study of interest in Trump's tweets:
"His "FAKE NEWS" tweets don't rocket like they once did. His exclamation points (!) don't excite quite the same old way.
Donald Trump's 140-character volleys helped define the first 100 days of his presidency. But the traction on his medium of choice has slipped a bit as his tone and button-pushing tendencies have cooled."
Psychologists have the concept of "habituation" , meaning our (i.e., animals) response to a repeated stimulus diminishes over time.  We get bored. We look for the next new thing.

Is it too much to hope that process is operating with Trump's tweets, and that declining responses will lead to fewer of them?

Friday, April 28, 2017

Saint Jimmy and Bad Barack

Barack Obama is taking some heat from the left for giving a speech for $400,000.  As usual I've mixed feelings:

On the one hand I wish the Obamas had followed the example of the Carters in sending their daughters to a public DC school.  They didn't.   I also wish the Obamas would follow the example of the Carters in "rarely" giving paid speeches.  They won't.

On the other hand where do you draw the line?  Is a $10,000 fee for a speech at an alumna mater okay while $400,000 would be wrong?  Or is the issue who the speech is to?  We don't want the Obamas talking to "bad" people but it's okay to talk to "good" people?  Won't "bad" people benefit more by listening to them?

On the third hand, I disdained Reagan's speeches in Japan.

My bottom line is while I wish we were a nation of saints, and I wish the president were the highest-paid, best compensated American executive, neither is true, so we live in the world we have.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Dirty Jeans

Paul Mirengoff at Powerline repeats and expands on the Nordstrom dirty jeans (for $425), which Sen. Ben Sasse has called the end of the American experiment.
"Nordstrom advertises the jeans this way:
These heavily distressed medium-blue denim jeans embody rugged, Americana workwear that’s seen some hard-working action with a crackled, caked-on muddy coating that shows you’re not afraid to get down and dirty.
Sen. Ben Sasse tweeted that selling dirty jeans signals the end of the American experiment. Mike Rowe describes the dirty jeans as “a costume for wealthy people who see work as ironic.”

Paul's not a whippersnapper, but Sasse is, so he doesn't know the true end of the American experiment was not selling dirty jeans, but pre-washing jeans, particularly stone-washing, where people paid a premium for jeans with an artificially shortened life. It's been down-hill ever since.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Influence of the Past

Social scientists, usually not historians, are investigating the influence of the past on the present.  More accurately, they're finding correlations between conditions in the past and current conditions.  A couple examples are the beer/wine division of Europe and the influence of past slavery on current political institutions (i.e. the US South).

Here's another in a tweet.--tracing the vote division in France to 12th century political divisions.

It's an interesting subject; I'd like to see something theorizing about the mechanics of such influences.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Learning Who You Are

I blew it.  Had a nice quote, I think from the novelist Zadie Smith, quoting something from I think Salmon Rushdie, to the effect that we learn who we are from our actions. But I lost the citation, by which we can conclude that my identity is partially that of a slapdash reader with poor note-taking skills and worse memory.

Still I'll riff a bit on the idea: 
  •  Identity comes after we act.
  • As I grow old, I discover more things about myself, as I reconsider my memories, including whether they can be trusted.
  • Or maybe it's not "identity" but constructing the narrative of your life, like a childhood puzzle with a bunch of numbered dots on the page, where if you drew lines linking them in order you'd see a picture.
  • Perhaps typically "American", focusing on action, the pragmatism of acting as if you believe, which creates belief.
[Updated: found it at the World Bank, of all places.  Here's the post.  The Bank is actually linking to a Financial Times report.  The text:

“There is a line of Salman Rushdie’s, I think it’s an essay, where he says: our lives teach us who we are.| And I think that’s the case. It’s not that you have a set identity, it’s that by your actions you find out what sort of person you are. And the news is not always…lovely.”  ]

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Nostalgia: Small Pot Farms, Lesbian Bars, and Segregated Schools

Nostalgia is a seductive emotion, often the result of remembering a past with more niches than today's society/economy, even when the niches result from social barriers, like discrimination and prohibition.  See:

lesbian bars
industrial pot
segregated schools

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Rural Life: Improvements

The Rural Blog has a post on seven ways rural life has improved. The items:
  • water service
  • trash service
  • private phone lines
  • paved roads
  • satellite TV
  • Internet
  • Apple, Amazon, Netflix
I agree with the items, though they may not be present in all rural areas.  For example, some roads in the Mid West are reverting to gravel because there's not enough traffic and taxes to support asphalt. And I'm sure pumped wells are still common in many places.

Friday, April 21, 2017

A Tale of Two Lakes

"Syracuse water comes in a gravity-fed line from Skaneateles Lake, a Finger Lake about 30 miles southwest of the city, and is considered by some to be one of the cleanest lakes in the U.S. Miner’s press secretary Alexander Marion notes that newcomers are offered a glass of “Skaneateles on the rocks”—tap water, in other words.
A quick reality check, though: Syracuse is also adjacent to Lake Onondaga, which the New York State Department of Energy and Conservation has named the “most polluted lake in America,” thanks to industrial waste related to the city’s salt-mining history and years of untreated sewage dumping."
From Politico

The article is about an effort in Syracuse to record data on underground utilities, water mains, etc. and use data analysis ("big data") to predict problems and improve the process of maintenance.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Blast From Past: Tractor [Cades]

Interesting piece here from FiveThirtyEight, comparing the upcoming science march with other collective action protests, especially the "tractors on the mall" protests.  I remember them well.  This was the time period when I moved from directives to programs, specifically the "normal crop acreage" concept (i.e., a base for the whole farm rather than crop specific, intended to give more flexibility to farmers) and a disaster payments program which was, in effect, competing with crop insurance to see which approach would become the one for the future (crop insurance won over the next 15 years).

It's significant, I think, that the 538 post links to the American Agriculture Movement website; the AAM was the organization behind the tractor cades, but in fact the website is defunct, with nothing updated since 2015. While commodity prices are down and have been down for the last few years, the farmers who are left aren't in as bad shape as they were at the end of the 70's.

[Tweaked the title and fixed the link]

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Decompressing from Taxes: the Draft

Just finished doing taxes, so a few random thoughts:

There's a survey out showing that Americans have a sense of social cohesion from doing their taxes.
There's also a theory about the benefits of national service, including a thread today on Twitter.(I'm not  sufficiently up on it enough to include a url but this tweet from Lyman Stone may help:"@tylercowen @dylanmatt @hyperplanes 1. it's not inherited, 2. you get paid a market wage, 3. it's temporary, 4. you can't be sold, 5. you can't be bought, 6. working conditions") 

As someone who was drafted and didn't like it, I do recognize some benefits from it: in a sense it's creative destruction, disrupting established patterns and possibly promoting social mobility.  It also might promote social cohesion, giving people a shared experience. 

Unfortunately for its promoters a good bit of the possible benefits is bound up in the military aspect: the social cohesion bit derives from the pain the military inflicts, the basic training and the regimentation.  It's like a fraternity, conventional wisdom probably says that the greater the hazing, the greater fraternal feeling.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Kudos for Carson

Not for his policy views nor for his managerial expertise at HUD, but for setting an example, as noted by Politico's Daybook:

" HUD Secretary Ben Carson sitting in a middle seat in coach from Palm Beach to DCA Sunday evening"

Examples aren't the only thing, but they are a thing.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Is Our President Learning II

Trump has reversed his positions several times this week, suggesting that maybe he is learning.(See this previous post.)  At least he got a 10-minute history lesson from President Xi, which caused him to become more sympathetic to China's position on controlling North Korea.

Maybe another question is whether he starts to learn what he doesn't know, as in considering the idea there's another couple hours of discussion to go before he truly understands 2000 years of Korean/Chinese history?

Friday, April 14, 2017

Farm Bill--Cotton Issues

Cotton producers are pushing for changes in the program when the 2018 farm bill is written.  Oilseed coverage for cottonseed production, which was denied by Sec. Vilsack as being beyond his authority, is an issue, as is converting "generic" base acreages to cotton acreages to provide a basis for a new program.All this according to Keith Good's post here.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Blast from the Past: Beyer Car Ads

Don Beyer is now a Representative from Northern Virginia, pushing science.

Way back when, he was a car dealer featuring some of the most unique radio ads I've heard.  His brand was Volvo, so to appeal to the sort of eggheads who might buy such vehicles, his ads specialized in word play, an announcer reading a script which made its points but by an unending series of puns.

Every thing is not on the Internet: I've searched for the ads and can only find this , a TV ad of a different sort which ran on The Americans recently.  The ad's fine, but the radio ads were great.

[Updated: This ad has some of the word play I remember, but it's not the same.]

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

George Washington's Meager Salary?

The NYTimes blew one today, in an article discussing the renumeration clause of the Constitution, the authors wrote:
"But in a brief expected to be filed this month, Justice Department lawyers will counter that the framers of the Constitution meant only to rule out gifts and compensation for services, not ordinary, arm’s-length commercial transactions with foreign governments. Otherwise, they argue, the framers would have had to confront the potential effect of the ban on the nation’s earliest presidents, including George Washington, who supplemented his meager presidential salary partly by exporting flour and cornmeal to England and elsewhere."
 Problem is, George got $25,000 a year in 1789.  Depending on what measure you use, that's $694,000 or millions of dollars in today's values, hardly a "meager" salary.  By most measures he was one of the wealthiest of Americans, perhaps nearer the top than our current president (comparing wealth is the only way in which the two can be put in the same sentence) and his salary was certainly the highest (not many people drew a salary then--they drew profits from their enterprises).

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Those Stupid Middle East Autocrats

<tongueincheek> I can't understand why rulers in the Middle East can't understand the thinking of our Presidents, which seems to me to be entirely logical and eminently comprehensible to anyone. First Saddam Hussein thought he could bluff his regional enemies by pretending to have chemical weapons without affecting Pres. Bush's thinking.  Now Assad thinks he can intimidate his rebellious subject by using chemical weapons without affect Pres. Trumps thinking [sic]. </tongueincheek>

Seriously, it's always good to remember that other people don't understand you as well as you do, which assumes you understand yourself, which can be an erroneous assumption.

Wind Farm Off Mar-A-Lago? Definition of Zero

What's the chances that the Interior Department will permit an offshore wind farm in viewing distance of Mar-A-Lago?  (The link discusses the administration's leasing of areas for such farms.) I think the answer to the question is "zero".

Monday, April 10, 2017

Pulitizer for Ag/Water Editorials

2017 Pulitizer Prize for editorial writing in Storm Lake Times (IA) on nitrates in the water.

The UK's Approach to IT

I've posted before, but not recently, about the differences between British and American governmental use of IT.  Briefly, as would be implied by the UK's civil service setup, the Brits are much more uniform, much more top down, while the US is (excessively) fragmented and siloed, much more bottom up.

Here's the website of the Government Digital Service:

Sunday, April 09, 2017

FSA Reg Writers Breathe Sign of Relief

From an OMB document on procedure for the 2 for 1 regulation:

" In general, Federal spending regulatory actions that cause only income transfers between taxpayers and program beneficiaries (e.g., regulations associated with Pell grants and Medicare spending) are considered "transfer rules" and are not covered by EO 13771. Additionally, an action that establishes a new fee or changes the existing fee for a service, without imposing any new costs, does not need to be offset; nor does an action that establishes new penalties or fines or changes those already in existence."
 The way I read this most if not all FSA regulations are excluded.

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Prediction for a Democratic Congress: Reverse Congressional Review Acts

This article on the President's accomplishments notes that several of the bills he's signed into law are revocations of regulations as provided by the Congressional Review Act. The CRA provides if the Congress revokes a regulation, the agency cannot later issue a new regulation on the same subject.  There is an exception, however: Congress can specifically authorize the agency to regulate the subject.

My prediction is this means that CRA revocations will become like the Mexico City rule (no federal money for population control info):  each new administration (change of control of Congress) will result in legislation switching the revocations.  That is, when the Democrats regain control of Congress they'll pass a law(s) authorizing agencies to reissue the regulations killed this spring by the Republican Congress.  An interesting question: under the Administrative Procedure Act would the agencies be able to bypass the proposed rulemaking process if the regulation is reinstated verbatim?

Friday, April 07, 2017

Farm Bill Time

Congressional Research Service has a report apropos of the 2018 farm bill.  This is an excerpt from a table of the projections and actual expenditures under the current law.

Farm Bill Titles (sorted)

Projection for FY2014-18 Share Actual FY14-16; Proj. FY2017-18 Change since enactment
IV Nutrition 390,650 79.9% 364,837 -25,813
XI Crop Insurance 41,420 8.5% 30,533 -10,887
II Conservation 28,165 5.8% 24,378 -3,787
I Commodities and Disaster 23,555 4.8% 36,040 +12,485

Thursday, April 06, 2017

And What Do You Really Think?

"In short, the problem is Trump’s personality. His presidency doesn’t suffer from a failure of ideas, but a failure of character."

That's from an article in the National Review--color me dumbstruck.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Organic Dairy

Extension has a long and detailed study of an organic dairy operation, favorable in most respects, but this jumped out at me:
"Compared to when he was farming conventionally, Joe finds that organic farming requires 50% more labor and twice as much management. Describing his farm as organic by design, Joe continuously evaluates and adjusts his farming practices, striving to design a system where everything works together."
Does conventional production agriculture substitute capital (i.e., machinery and inputs) for management?

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Not Truly a Divided Country

Three of the blogs I've followed for a long time are: Kevin Drum, Life on a Colorado Farm, and Northview Dairy.  

They're in California, Colorado and New York; Kevin's a liberal, the two farm women are more conservative (though they don't mention politics much).   Kevin seems to be urban, the other two rural.  So you assume they don't have much in common?

Wrong.  All three of them like photography and photography of hummingbirds, as you can see by the links above.  Kevin, however, has the advantage of  a new and expensive camera, but all three appreciate the same thing.

Monday, April 03, 2017

The Possible Impacts of Autonomous Vehicles

Via Technology Review here's a good review of these impacts from Ben Evans.

The Wooing of the Powerful: Swamp Creatures Attack

Too lazy for links today but two comments on the wooing of the Trump administration:
  • the Pentagon is wooing Jared Kushner by one of the best tricks in the book: take him on a trip to Iraq.  The academics say the way to create friendship is for people to engage together in an effort towards a common objective.  Nothing better than a trip to create togetherness, which is one reason why teleconferencing can never fully replace the real thing.  Remember that Clinton and McCain bonded together when as senators they went on trips and drank vodka together?
  • the Chinese are wooing both Kushner and Trump, partly through the vehicle of Henry Kissinger.  A comment in the Post story this morning was to the effect that Chinese knew about dynastic politics, since President Xi is himself the son of a founder. 

Sunday, April 02, 2017

No Purity Here

I agree with Jonathan Bernstein's lecture to Democrats on what their priorities should be, notably creating primary challenges to Heitkamp and Manchin as lowest.

I've no problem if my senators Kaine and Warner support Gorsuch--if you can't win a fight, IMHO there's not much point in fighting.