Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Two Airborne Command Centers?

This Defenseone piece says the AF wants to replace the Air Force 2 planes and the Doomsday command center planes.

Did any one know the Navy also runs a Doomsday command center plane?  Next thing I'll learn that the Marines and the Army each have their own plane.  After all, they each have their own air force.

Imagining the Future--the Founders

John Fea comments on Sen. Mike Lee's Am history--good read.  Lee wrote that Alexander Hamilton could never have imagined the sort of big government we have today, implying that therefore such government was somehow illegitimate.  Fea points out that neither Hamilton nor the other founders could have imagined the society and economy we have today.  I'll go on to note that while Franklin and Jefferson IIRC wrote about the U.S. filling the continent and the expansion of the populace, as is usually the case they just imagined more of the same: more people, more farmers, etc. 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Cut My COLA?

If I understand the Trump budget, he would decrease the COLA's (cost of living adjustment) for those in the Civil Service Retirement System (like me) by .5 percent each time.

I can handle that, though I'd rather see a graduated decrease: say .1 for those with smaller annuities, 1.0 for those with larger ones.

Monday, May 29, 2017

All the Farmers Are Above Average?

It's hard to be above average.

USDA Reorganization

You can comment on the proposed reorganization here.

Apparently USDA had problems with some of the comments received, because OFR shows 9 received, but only displays the text for 3.  The process is described here:

This count refers to the total comment/submissions received on this docket, as of 11:59 PM yesterday. Note: Agencies review all submissions, however some agencies may choose to redact, or withhold, certain submissions (or portions thereof) such as those containing private or proprietary information, inappropriate language, or duplicate/near duplicate examples of a mass-mail campaign. This can result in discrepancies between this count and those displayed when conducting searches on the Public Submission document type. For specific information about an agency’s public submission policy, refer to its website or the Federal Register document.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Hay and Peas

We've had a rainy May. It's raining again right now.  It's good for our garden peas but I can't help thinking of the farmers trying to get their hay into the barn.  One of the most frustrating parts of dairy farming was encountering a long stretch of rainy weather, particularly back before we had good weather forecasting.  Cut hay, get it rained on, rake it,get it rained on, turn it over, more rain and then you had nothing worth putting in the barn except it needed to get off the field so it wouldn't kill the grass.

How the Bureaucracy Copes

Trump supporters believe there's a "deep state" composed of Democrats in the bureaucracy who will take every opportunity to sabotage the administration by illegal and/or unethical leaks, obstruction, and delay.  It may be so. Sometimes they resign as described in this Grist piece.

However the bureaucracy is also composed of careerists, who want to preserve their careers, remain in their jobs, keep their functions going.  To that end, they may over-conform, as obsequious panderers to what they perceive as the administration's wishes. The Post has an article
describing "re-branding" efforts: "While entire departments are changing their missions under Trump, many of these rebranding efforts reflect a desire to blend in or escape notice, not a change in what officials do day-to-day — at least not yet, according to 19 current and former employees across the government, and nonprofit officials who receive federal funding."

Or, as Mr. Comey did when in the fed law enforcement Oval Office meet and greet, they try to fade into the woodwork and avoid the notice of administration offices  Hope it works better for them than for Comey.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Canadian Dairy and the Effects of Supply Management

This is an interesting piece by a Canadian dairy farmer, which shows how differently that country manages dairy industry.  Canada uses a supply management system, which sounds similar to the system ASCS managed for our tobacco industry until this century.

To me the bottom line is that supply management can work for a number of years, as it did for Canadian dairy and American tobacco and peanuts, if "work" means maintaining smaller producers. It doesn't work if the priority is innovation and efficiency over the long range.

How To Influence Congress: Townhalls

The Congressional Management Foundation has a helpful post.

An Understatement of the Month?

Keith Hennessey (GWB's former economist) is commenting on the Trump budget and apparent disagreements between OMB Mulvaney and Treasury Mnuchin:

"Two trillion dollars is a lot of money..."

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Ukrainian Skippers--Really??

The operation of the human mind (at least my mind) is a puzzle.  I was reading this NYTimes piece this morning, which describes how richer people can hire boats and skippers to smuggle them into Europe:
"The family of six had paid about $96,000 to travel from Afghanistan to Turkey. The last leg of their journey, a cramped week’s sail through the Aegean and Mediterranean seas aboard a cerulean 15-meter yacht, the Polina, piloted by three Ukrainian skippers, cost $7,000 a head. It dropped them in Sicily in relative style."

What struck me was the "Ukrainian" bit, which was the only nationality of skippers described in the article.  I was sure that the Ukraine was this land-locked country, so how in the world would they have people with expertise in navigating smaller boats?  

The short answer is: the Black Sea.  Ukraine is one of six countries with ports on the Black Sea.

I don't know whether I was confusing Ukraine with Belorussia, which is indeed landlocked, or just had a poor mental image of the map of Eastern Europe.

Factoid: did you know you can sail from the North Sea to the Black Sea (Rhine-Danube canal).

Post Readers Are Knee-Jerk Liberals?

Not so, at least on this evidence.  The background: Christine Fair is an activist who was at an exercise club where she saw Robert Spencer also exercising.  She raised a stink and the club banned Spencer. Today she has a post in the Post defending her actions.  When I checked about 1 pm she had drawn more than 450 comments.  When looking at the comment threads sorted by "likes", the top threads (maybe 5 or 6, didn't bother to scroll down through all of them) were all anti-Fair.

Count me in their camp--as long as Spencer was lifting according to the club rules, he should be left alone.  You want to protest his views, which are terrible, fine, but do it at his office or his speeches, etc.  And even his speeches, I'd follow the recent Notre Dame precedent, attend then walk out, or vocally protest for 10 minutes, then allow him to talk. 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Is Perdue on Board With Trump Budget?

The answer, it appears, is "no", according to this piece on his testimony today to the House appropriations.

Beer in Chinese Tanks Via Erie Canal

Via Northview Diary, here's a newspaper piece on the travels of Chinese beer tanks.

Apparently the US can no longer fabricate the large fermentation tanks needed for an expansion of a brewery, the Genesee brewery in Rochester.  So they were made in China, shipped through the Panama Canal, up to Albany, then on the Erie Canal (where the Northview blogger took photos) to Rochester.  The tow, carrying 2 tanks, is over 400 feet long. In total there are 12 tanks, which will make a lot of beer. 

Drink Genny.  Be a real man.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Trump Budget for USDA

Tim Mandell at the Rural Blog copies the gist of Chris Clayton's early analysis of the Trump budget--big cuts, including  payment limitations on crop insurance and farm programs.  USDA takes a 20.5 percent cut in discretionary, the biggest of any agency except State.

Dead on arrival and already starting to smell.

Monday, May 22, 2017

It's Always More Complicated

That's my rule in approaching generations about humans--society or history, at least it's the rule I try to remember.

Lyman Stone has a post here in which he challenges and complicates the story of immigrant groups outearning whites, which Mark Perry of American Enterprise Institute has pushed based on census data.

You need to read it all, if you're at all interested in the subject, but a quick and possibly flawed summary has two points:
  1. "ancestry" and "race" are separate categories and shouldn't be used in the same comparison because of the way the data are collected. 
  2. for many ancestry groups the comparison being made is flawed because it's based on "household income" and there's wide variation in the size of households among the different groups.
Based on some calculations Stone did it seems the best generalization is that immigrant Russians do have an exceptional record in earning, but otherwise it's complicated.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Overstaffed Congress

" "People think Congress has all these resources and staff. In fact Congress hasn't increased its resources since 1974, and the House of Representatives cut its budget by 20 percent since 2011 for each Member office."

From Congressional Management Foundation 

Part of the problem is the (mostly Republican) Congressional desire to be seen as responsible trustees of the taxpayers' dollar. The one thing they can control is the staff and their salaries.  And then they complain about lobbyists and the power of the bureaucracy. 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Importance of Height

I speculated to Ross Douthat that height was important, that Comey's 5 inch margin on Trump was significant in his firing.

Sometime later Kathleen Parker agreed with me.

(If he can select people based on looks, he can fire people who make him feel uncomfortable.)

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Future Is Now: Amphib Warfare

Born before US entry into WWII, I grew up with a lot of military history available.  I didn't like the military when I served, but retain some interest.  Here's an excerpt from a Bloomberg piece on Trump's problems with our new aircraft carrier:
Last week, at Camp Pendleton in California, I watched a Marine landing exercise. First, drones came in to map out what was on shore. Then an amphibious landing vehicle hits the shore, but the first thing off it was a machine-gun-armed robot, not a human. Then the human Marines arrive. But they are being resupplied by drones. One quadricopter drone comes down to drop an MRE. Then, a Marine changes that supply drone into a strike one, by now putting on board it a grenade and flying it off to hit the enemy. Sounds science fiction? Islamic State is doing similar things with jury-rigged drones in Mosul, Iraq, right now.
 Back in the late 19th century the new thing for navies was the torpedo.  So we had torpedo boats intended to launch them.  And then the navies developed "torpedo boat destroyers", to counter torpedo boats, a name then shortened to "destroyers".  The article notes that our new destroyer is now comparable to a heavy cruiser of WWII.

How soon will we have "drone destroyers"--inquiring minds want to know?

Monday, May 15, 2017

Comments on USDA REorganization

An article at Progressive FArmer.

Majority-Minority: Love When I'm Right

Herbert Gans has an op-ed on the prospect for a majority minority nation by 2050.  He doubts it, as did I in this post.

Getting Customer/Client/Citizen Feedback

Sens. Lankford and McCaskill introduced " the bipartisan Federal Agency Customer Experience Act (S.1088), a bill to roll back a federal requirement that makes it difficult for agencies to get feedback from the public concerning their satisfaction with agencies’ customer service."

That's from the press release  but it seems to me the bill does something more and different.  I think I've seen agency websites use a standard web feedback form (from Foresight, or some such company) and I doubt they've cleared such collection of data through OMB.  No doubt the clearance requirements for public data collections are an obstacle, but the more important thing they require is annual publication of the data collected.  Way back in the early days of this blog I think I recommended a similar process, though I was suggesting a running total, like the data Google Analytics gave to bloggers. 

The missing piece though in the Act is something explicitly tying the data back to Congressional oversight--it's fine to collect data but if the bosses (i.e. Congress) don't use it, it's simply an exercise. 

Hattip: FCW

Friday, May 12, 2017

USDA Reorganization

A post here on it at ThinkProgress.

The USDA report to Congress on the proposal.

Basically it would move NRCS, RMA, and FSA under one new Undersecretary, leaving FSA and FS each with their own Undersecretary.

This sentence from the USDA post perhaps hints that there will be more attention to the consolidation/cross-agency work that has been going on over the last 26 years:
Locating FSA, RMA, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service under this domestically-oriented undersecretary will provide a simplified one-stop shop for USDA’s primary customers, the men and women farming, ranching, and foresting across America.
 The proposal gives more prominence to the FAS and international trade, which is strongly supported by the ag interest groups, which may be enough to overcome concerns among the conservation types over a possible/perceived downgrading of conservation.

We'll see.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Cottonseed Again

Illinois extension has a post on the cottonseed issue.  As it says, in greater detail than I have the brain cells to waste on, it's complicated, involving both the base acreage/"generic base" issue and WTO.  From the conclusion:

Much depends on the final details of any Congressional response but cotton farmers are currently receiving significant assistance from the 2014 Farm Bill and adding cottonseed may provide a windfall to them, including one recoupled to cotton planting decisions. Congress, if considering adding cottonseed, may also have to consider further revisions to the 2014 Farm Bill such as precluding payments on generic base acres for any covered commodities planted on them.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

I May Be Wrong

On the Comey-Russia thing:

I doubt there's much going on between the Trump campaign and the Russians.  Most likely the Russians wanted to undermine Clinton and Trump wanted to beat her, but I doubt any real collusion.  People in Trump's campaign might have been more aware of Russian hacking than the general public, but I don't see them colluding.

As for the firing, I'd expect an investigation but the major effect will be a continuing distraction from other issues, no impeachment or anything similar.  Trump had the authority to fire the FBI director, however poorly it was handled.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Habituation II

I've suggested that maybe over time we'll get bored with President Trump.  In that spirit:

"From fiveThirtyEight

10 percent

During President Trump’s first 50 days in office, 62 percent of his tweets got more than 100,000 likes. In the following 51 days, just 10 percent of his tweets passed that benchmark. [Bloomberg]"

Monday, May 08, 2017

Billy Beer and Kushner

"Billy Beer".  That's an American icon, symbolic of the long time problem presidents have had with their relations.  Jimmy Carter's younger brother Billy got himself into trouble several times, most notoriously by endorsing Billy Beer.  Just within my memory, LBJ, Nixon, Reagan, Clinton, all had problems with siblings or children.  Going further back, Lincoln had in-law problems and Adams had children problems.

So all in all I don't take the problem of Jared Kushner's sister pitching EB-5 visas in China too seriously. It's unseemly, but we can't expect saintliness.

Sunday, May 07, 2017

What Happened to Make Some Conservatives Smart?

For some strange reason I'm finding the reasoning of some conservatives much more impressive these days.  People like George Will, Charles Krauthammer in the Post and Kevin Williamson in the National Review actually can write columns with which I agree, or at least engage with.

There was a science fiction story in my younger days, something about a dumb person becoming smart, then reverting.  Flowers for Algernon, that's the story.   Did these conservatives have that operation last fall?  Will they revert back to their unenlightened ways at some time in the future?  Inquiring minds want to know.

Friday, May 05, 2017

Dirty Cows

Seen a couple pictures of dairies recently.  Always interested in them.  Here's a tweet, leading to a Post article on the Canadian dairy flap, but the article doesn't have the tweet's photo.

IMHO the cows shown are dirty.  Since it's a conventional setup and the focus of the article is Wisconsin dairy, and it's only April, my guess is that the cows mostly stay in the barn, as our cows did, and that's why they are dirty.  But our cows would get dirty because they lay down, got their tails in the gutter with the manure, and spread the manure to their flanks and legs.  In the setup shown, the cows are raised up on a platform, so the manure can spread across the lower driveway behind them.  (Likely have a skid-steer small tractor to doze the manure.)

Do I have a point?  Not really.  Given the realities, cows are going to get dirty part of the time. Perhaps for the big dairies where they never get to the pasture they're going to be dirty all the time.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Paragraph of the Day: Mirengoff

At Powerline, Paul ends his commentary on the passage of the 2017 spending bill with this:
Candidate Trump liked to say that under his presidency, he would win so much on behalf of America that we would get tired of winning. As yet, I don’t feel remotely tired.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Big Chickens: Taste and the Globe

Interesting piece in today's Times on chickens.  Scientists are trying to develop a chicken which tastes better and grows more slowly, and also is more active:
Today’s conventional broiler chickens have been bred over the years to produce the most amount of meat in as short a time as possible, reducing a farmer’s costs and increasing profits. In 1935, the average broiler chicken reached the slaughter-ready weight of 2.86 pounds in 98 days, according to the National Chicken Council. Today’s broilers are an average of 6.18 pounds at the time of slaughter, when they are about 47 days old.
 My uncle was a research scientist at the ARS Beltsville MD center, working on nutrition, which adds to my youthful exposure to chickens on the farm.

The food movement faces a conflict here:  on the one hand this fits the current emphasis on moving from "industrial agriculture" to more focus on taste and nature; on the other hand a slow growth chicken means a bigger impact on the environment because it eats more grain over its lifespan.

Monday, May 01, 2017

Trump's Achievement?

Trump will end with at least one undeniable achievement--he is disrupting institutions and norms.  He may and likely will become less disruptive as time goes on, but disruptive he has been.

The economists have a favorite concept for market economies: "creative destruction".  Among the things it means is the corporations and technologies dominant in 1950 are mostly gone by now: United States Steel, Bethlehem Steel, AT&T, Kodak, A&P, Sears and Montgomery Ward, etc. etc.

There's an easy parallel to make: creative disruption.  Is Trump triggering a political realignment?  We'll see.