Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Saturday, September 27, 2008
"Bush isn't impressed.[by 192 economists opposing the plan] ‘I don't care what somebody on some college campus says,’ Bush says. Instead, he says he trusts Hank Paulson, who, he says, has more than 35 years of experience and access to more information than those academics on Shelby's list."
Friday, September 26, 2008
That's my opinion too, based on no economics knowledge but my history in the bureaucracy. Of course, that's also why I backed the Iraq war initially. Sometimes bureaucrats are right, sometimes they have tunnel vision. You pays your money and you takes your chances.
For some reason my thoughts turned to the late 60's, when some inner-city blacks were very angry, angry enough to riot and burn down their neighborhoods.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
- A dog is a dog
- All dogs think in terms of packs
- Dogs don't understand English
- Dogs are not spiteful
- What makes some dogs aggressive
- Body language is a dogs primary mode of communication
- You can teach an old dog new tricks
- Bad behaviors may be natural, but they don't have to be normal
- What is the right way to discipline a dog
- Do dogs sense the world differently than humans
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Via Powerline, Tony Blankley says: "[Obama] lived a mere quarter-mile from former terrorist Bill Ayers" (as part of an argument of sinister, or at least unexplored connections between the two). Both were in NYC, according to wikipedia, Obama as a student at Columbia, Ayers wasn't at Columbia, as one might think, but at the Bank Street College, getting an M.Ed. (Ayers went to Columbia apparently after Obama graduated.)
So there's no institutional link between the two during the time they both lived in NYC. And a simple check of wikipedia reveals that NYC has 27,000 people per square mile. Put Obama at the center of a circle with a radius of .25 miles and he has roughly that many people in his neighborhood.
"The number of immigrants coming to the United States slowed substantially in 2007, with the nation's foreign-born population growing by only 511,000, compared with about a million a year since 2000, according to Census figures released today. "
Say the housing industry was building 400,000 housing units for immigrants since 2000, and selling them, either to immigrants or to landlords who rented them out. All of a sudden, the demand is halved. I believe the housing market is probably inelastic--takes a big change in price to get someone to downsize or upsize. So the change in immigration probably took the pop out of the housing bubble. Once the bubble burst, the Ponzi-style nature of the securitization of debt that the smart boys on Wall Street had engineered made the consequences much worse than they should have been (as they were when the housing bubble burst back in the 80's.)
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Forgive my sarcasm, at least he's addressing the performance assessment problem. From a comment I posted:
"If McCain, when he inveighs against waste in DC, would say he would end all problems that rate ineffective on PART it would be a start. If Congress would say the same, it would be a start. Even if OMB is able to impose some order on the executive, it doesn't mean much unless Congress and the appropriations committees buy in. And they don't. Until then, neither McCain nor Obama's promises mean much."
- it's not true this is the biggest thing since..[whatever]. Memory is fallible. I can remember Truman seizing the steel companies (and strikes in wartime). And Sputnik. And Bay of Pigs. And riots in the cities. And Nixon taking us off the gold standard, which seemed maybe the end of the world. And the stagflation of the late 70's. And the S&L crisis. Maybe 100 years from now historians will see this month as the biggest pivot point since 1929, but probably not. After all, just over 7 years ago we were saying 9/11 "changed everything". Did it?
- 700 billion is a lot of money, but I'd bet the net cost is lots lower. It's my memory of the S&L, RTC mess that the net loss was much lower than the figures tossed around earlier. [Correction: looked up RTC on wikipedia which led to this report. Bottom line is people were way off in their estimates of the problem and costs. So it's probably correct to say today we are very uncertain of the size of the problem and the cost. Of course, I'm also making the mistake of assuming the S&L parallels the subprime problems, which it doesn't.]
- Everyone has their own axe to grind. Best to let them grind away.
There's suspicion over the figures voiced both in the post and the comments. I suspect myself that you have to get into the boondocks of the data to really understand.
Monday, September 22, 2008
By delaying, they're probably complicating the problem, given there's some one-time decisions (as on ACRE) that farmers need to make.
[Updated--cattlenetwork has some more.
[Actually, once you read the article, the colonel is mostly concerning about poorly structured emails, too many emails, personal use of emails, etc.)
Sunday, September 21, 2008
- they were too rushed to think of a snappy title for the legislation, preferably one that forms a snappy acronym. (Gretchen Morgenson uses "TARP"--troubled asset relief program.) That means things were really hectic.
- one problem they'll have is in normal times we have a million or two foreclosures a year (too lazy to check the rate, but the point is there's some level of foreclosures that's "normal".) So, do they just take over all securities regardless, knowing they're going to eat the normal stuff, or do they have some way to weed it out. (New bureaucratic programs usually have this sort of problem--it's like paying kids to study, do you stiff the kids who don't need the incentive?)
- the draft legislation makes it not reviewable in court (as has been noted by other bloggers)
- there's no exemption from the Administrative Procedure Act, though I guess the preceding bullet makes this unnecessary. But what it says is there's no legal requirement for transparency (not that Administrative Procedure Act provisions provide that much transparency).
- Paulson apparently plans to use Treasury Department to run the program, rather than establishing a special corporation/agency. Might be wise, because it avoids a bit of administrative overhead. But regardless, I hope his administrative people right now are working on outfitting offices, etc. One of the biggest obstacles to doing things quickly in government is the housekeeping functions (where do people work, on what, and how do they get paid).
Saturday, September 20, 2008
But, time mellows even old loyalties, so here's an article on the founding father of SCS, an example of the difference the right person in the right place can make.
(I particularly liked the quote from the woman who talked about learning programming with punch cards--ah, those were the days.)
Quite a life for a dedicated bureaucrat.
Friday, September 19, 2008
Without knowing anything about it, I can give IRS a break on the first issue--"backward compatibility" is always an issue when you do a new system, and not always desirable. Presumably over time the problem will be resolved as the current year's data migrates to the prior year, etc. But the second issue--that's a problem. With costs of storage always dropping, the problem has to be in the software. Granted that you always want more (designing software is like a country boy going to a mall for the first time--you keep seeing more and more possibilities) but after this many years of designing systems we ought to be able to do better estimating.
Several issues, however, could pose challenges to the project in the long term. For example, while the goal is for CADE to house all taxpayer information permanently, the system stores the data used to process returns only for the current year. Historical taxpayer account data, such as prior year tax assessments and outstanding tax liabilities, are maintained in a separate database not compatible with CADE's format.
In addition, CADE is approaching maximum capacity in terms of data storage. With the expectation that the taxpayer population will increase significantly, the IRS must decide whether to reduce CADE capabilities, or invest in new technology or alternative resources to satisfy demand, the IG recommended.
the Chinese continue to struggle with their milk scandal--dairies putting melamine in milk to boost the protein count. Problems of this sort remind of the government milk inspector who used to visit our farm. And also of Thoreau's famous quote on circumstantial evidence: "as when there's a trout in the milk" was good evidence the farmer had been adding water to the milk.
the Times reports on a study that: "Giving people ownership rights in marine fisheries can halt or even reverse catastrophic declines in commercial stocks, researchers in California and Hawaii are reporting." Who "gives" the rights? The government.
Derivatives are linked to this week's financial problems.
The point I'd make is government has a role in establishing and enforcing rules, rules of identity (what is milk), rules of property (who owns what right). Our history is government is usually tail-end charley, people discover something new, crisis happens, and sometime later government comes along to establish rules.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
The best thing the coalition could do is put on tours of their operations--try to drown the PETA expose in a sea of transparency. But that assumes a routine tour wouldn't upset tender-minded undergraduates.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
I guess, having gently mocked them, they deserve their link.
And what is success? Success is an edible future, when local populations are fed by local fields and sensible nutrition is affordable and accessible. Where we address poverty and hunger, not with biotechnology, but with long-term access to the means of production, and with proximity to that productive plenty which we can achieve only with careful stewardship of our soil and land base -- a wealth immeasurable in dollars. Success is a smooth energy transition, a satisfying daily bread, a culture in which we have restored honor, and respect to the profession of farming.
Call to arms
Arms strong and hands calloused, eyes open to the beauty of every morning, spirits prepared for the long row still to hoe, hearts full with the support of family and community, let us unite, young farmers, and fight for the right to farmable land, the pursuit of an equitable marketplace, and for recognition from society that we are here, indispensable, a cornerstone of our food future. Let us welcome many new entrants into agriculture, striving to share our lessons, seeds and stories with generations to come. Now is the time for action.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
One mention calls him a "faceless bureaucrat", while using his death to push the idea of a rural renaissance in Missouri (which he'd first identified in the 1960's). A somewhat belated story in the Post today adds more human interest, among which is this:
What may be even more remarkable is that Mr. Beale never charged his trips to a government expense account. He paid for everything -- airline tickets, car rentals and hotels -- out of his own pocket. He also scrupulously arrived at his office desk 30 minutes early each morning, so as not to waste the government's time while eating his breakfast of half a muffin.Here's a link to his photos of courthouses. (It seems as if a plurality of courthouses were built in the two decades 1890-1910, which was the same time period Andrew Carnegie was financing his libraries.)
The Daily Yonder has an article on him
At farmgate, the UofIll site, comes a paper on the pricing of seed corn--an excerpt:
"The WI trio examined seed corn pricing in Illinois in 2004 to illustrate how stacked traits were actually priced:At Grist, Tom Philpott pushes an interview with an author:
• Conventional seed corn averaged $88.33 per bag.
• The Bt corn borer trait added $20.49
• The Bt rootworm trait was alone worth $27.28.
• One herbicide tolerant trait was priced at $14.51, another at $6.83.
• Double stacking of corn borer and rootworm traits added $35.51.
• Triple stacking of corn borer, rootworm, and herbicide tolerance added $37.30.
• Quadruple stacking added $39.45 for corn borer, rootworm and both herbicide tolerant traits.
• The market power of the seed company added over 8% to the price."
"...the relationship between organisms and individual genes is much more complex and mysterious than researchers originally thought. And that, Kimbrell says in this interview, helps explain why after 25 years of R&D, the GMO industry has only managed to create a couple of viable traits. The main one, of course, is "herbicide tolerance," e.g., Monsanto's Round Up Ready corn and soy, engineered to withstand copious lashings of its flagship herbicide, Round Up."
It's not always easy to carry legislation into implementation, as can be inferred from a post at Whiskey Burn entitled "Amazingly Trivial Things" about "technical corrections" to the farm bill. Dan (formerly of Blog for Rural America) disdains the nit-picking objections of the good folks in the Office of General Counsel to language in the farm bill, a disdain commonly found in non-lawyers. (Rather like the disdain non-librarians have for the Dewey decimal system.) Dan thinks the intent is clear, so FSA ought to implement on that basis.
Monday, September 15, 2008
The "rebellion", as I'm calling it, was basically among the political appointees at Justice, deputy Attorney General and below, but fed by resistance from career lawyers in the military and finally affirmed by Attorney General Ashcroft.
To me, as a Democratic ex-bureaucrat, it's a story of the good guys (career people) winning a battle with the bad guys (Cheney--boo, hiss). Looked at another way it is an example the inevitable tension between bureaucracy and political chiefs. But I also suspect it's a failure at personal politics by Cheney and Addington--more tactful and personable types who were less obsessive about secrecy might well have won the tacit consent of the bureaucracy, simply by including them from the start, infecting them with a shared concern about the grave dangers of terrorism, etc. etc. (Concerns I don't have, BTW.) In my experience, knowledge is power in bureaucracy. And when you deprive usually powerful people of knowledge, they become resentful.
Having said all that, I still think the result was right. And it's a fine example of the wisdom of the Founders--as the Federalist talked about harnessing the passions of imperfect man to check and balance power.
John Sides at the Monkey Cage provides URL for the research.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
- recruiting millions of new farmers, ennobling farming so more people want to do it, and making it possible for them to make a decent living at it.
- end the free-market, capitalist system: All of those issues are the byproducts of a system built on competition rather than cooperation
- the foods available gave me a huge stomachache. Especially as a vegetarian who couldn’t have the meat, because it meant walking around for 4 hours gorging on beer, ice cream, and chocolate
- drink Red Bull to write theses: Red Bull is just a drink that works for capitalism because it gets you through the work day (and he confessed to drinking it night and day to get through his Ph.D)
Saturday, September 13, 2008
Friday, September 12, 2008
Thursday, September 11, 2008
He's gotten lots of comments, most of which lean towards being merciful and granting the request. It's nice to see the blogosphere is "Christian" in this sense. But as some point out, while you may be able to edit the past to make sins less visible, it's really impossible to change the past entirely, even on the Internet. That's always been true, I've a host of minor sins and faux pas wedged firmly in my memory which I can't drive out. Even though I may be the only one who remembers them, they're still part of the fabric of my life (changing metaphors there).
"Say a blogger posts an accurate story -- perhaps based on a news report or a court decision -- that discusses some minor misconduct by some person. The post names that person.Several years later, the person asks the blogger to remove the post, or to remove the person's name from the post. The person is not a government official or other important figure (at least at that point; one never knows what will happen in the future). The past misconduct was pretty minor, and doesn't suggest that the person will be a serious menace to his friends, neighbors, or others. But it's embarrassing, and the person doesn't like this story coming up whenever the person's name is Googled" [there's more]
But the Internet changes things--Slate has a post noting the ways in which both campaigns have edited the past with respect to Gov. Palin. It's harder and harder for politicians to construct a consistent facade. I think we'll learn the best way is, don't hide, reveal, for the politician and for the public, as difficult as it may be, accept that politicians are human.
So, the program seems to have been effective in keeping smaller farmers in tobacco, presumably well past the time when it was the most economically efficient method of production. And it didn't, at least in the short run, mean lower prices for consumers, as the anti-smoking people claimed. (Full disclosure: I smoked over 2 packs day for the first 10 years or so of my bureaucratic career. Fortunately I was able to quit in 1978.)
"By the same token, I hate when I hear some white people going on about 'those illegal aliens taking my job.' . . . Let me tell you something: If a guy gets here from another country, can't read, can't write, can't speak the language, has no technological skills and takes your job? You're a [expletive]."
Mysteries and History view for the top spot (47 and 44 boxes worth), with Romance and Children (can't have one without the other) fittingly tied at 33 boxes. But hardback fiction, a category I hardly ever read (I am, after all, a bureaucrat) comes in at 36 boxes!
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Now the agricultural policy sites, such as EWG's, are full of coverage of fights over what money gets appropriated. Because the old-line farm programs tend to be entitlements, and the newer stuff favored by the greens are not entitlements, guess who's screaming.
And then comes the unkindest cut of all. Remember, this is the demon jogger who switched to trail biking when his knee gave out and just spent the weekend with Jim Zorn, new Redskins coach (with an 0-1 record) going a fast 12 miles. And what does Bob Woodward say? He has a "noticeable paunch", which already has 4,700 hits on Google.
The latter article was the more interesting. PA used to be the breadbasket of the U.S. before rust (a disease of wheat) and the availability of cheaper land had their effects. (There's an old economic geography theory that puts different agricultural products at different distances from population centers--livestock and wheat tend to be further away than dairy and fruits and vegetables.)
The problems in reviving wheat growing include lack of the milling infrastructure and knowledge, the inconsistency found in flour produced in small batches, which screws up the bakers with consequent waste. We as consumers are used to consistent products, whether it be apples or bread. That demand means a competitive advantage for the bigger operation and, in some cases, the use of more food additives. All of which creates problems for the locavore
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
As for me, I'm not surprised (of course, how often does a supercilious blogger ever admit to surprise). A good part of the thing about modern society is there's more space for the individual, more room to "find oneself", to "self-actualize", or whatever other phrase is now current. That should mean there's more differences along all dimensions, not just the gender one.
Of course, that undermines the theory from the 1960's that a male-dominated society was responsible for creating the differences. Which may be why a semi-conservative like Tierney is open to these reports.
I buy it. A rural society with lots of physical labor is not stout. "Stout" is a word from the past. Of course many so-called farmers now have a pot, "so-called" because they just drive tractors and because I'm feeling grumpy today. Contra Professor Pollan, the key variable is not the diet, it's the labor.
(Decided since I'm fascinated by the Amish, I need to add a tag for them.)
Monday, September 08, 2008
What's amazing to me after coming back from vacation is how obviously insular and silly this supposed "national" conversation really is, when you just step back for one week and look at it. Whether on blogs, email, radio or television, a small group of us is basically screaming at ourselves, the rest of the public be damned. It's quite tragic, really.Of course, when you look at the picture of where he spent his vacation, you completely understand.
"The Framers never for a moment thought the president needed a Mondale-like adviser or a Cheney-like super-deputy. Their main concern was that they wanted electors from the states to be forced to vote for two people, and not from the same state. The reasoning, historians surmise, is that states would habitually throw their support behind a favorite son as the presidential candidate. Virginians would vote for a Virginian, New Yorkers for a New Yorker, etc. But if they had to cast a second ballot, that second choice, under the Constitution, couldn't be another favorite son.
Follow this logic to its conclusion: The Framers were thinking that the No. 2 pick of many of the electors would be a nationally recognized figure who would wind up with more votes, total, than any of the No. 1 picks. It's kind of like they wanted the vice president to be president."
Makes sense--in today's world the idea of a "favorite son" has faded, but that was a real fear in 1787.
Sunday, September 07, 2008
I went into this experiment fairly certain that it would require the cursory change of an odd habit or two. I learned that my dependence on Google runs deeper than that, encompassing not only my personal Internet use but the nested dependencies of the people and institutions surrounding me. This is perhaps less a celebration of Google's tenth birthday than it is the harrowing revelation of our tenth anniversary. So goodnight, dear Google -- congratulations, and sweet dreams.It led me to some other thoughts. Googling yourself may be a reason Google isn't as fearsome as it might be. You're on a par with all other users of Google--it doesn't play favorites. And that's somewhat true with the historical stuff--you can see your own web history, at least for a while. Granted there's stuff Google stores I can't see, but they claim, at least, the data is depersonalized--no connection to my name and ID.
Moving on to government--why shouldn't government operate like Google. Why shouldn't it be a principle: you can see anything the government has on you.
But those right wing blogs/economists who denied the speculation went too far.
"Keira is quite unassuming-looking in real life,"
Saturday, September 06, 2008
Now the McCain camp will defend this by saying she was only acting on behalf of Alaskans, doing just what we'd expect any elected official do to. Which is true. There are very, very few people who can retain elective office without bringing home the pork, I mean bacon.
Does she oppose federal earmarks?
Alaska has long been the recipient of astounding amounts of federal funding. While Palin slashed pork requests in half during her tenure, the state still requested $550 million in Palin's first year in office. This year she has requested about $198 million—$295 per person—which is still the highest amount per-capita in the country, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense. And when she was the mayor of Wasilla, Palin hired an Anchorage-based firm to secure $27 million in federal earmarks for the town.
The problem is similar to the base closing problem--the idea that every federal installation (i.e., military base, USDA office) must be retained because it benefits the local economy. DOD has bypassed the problem by setting up the periodic base closing commission, which makes recommendations which get an up or down vote in Congress. I'm not sure what you can do for earmarks that would work similarly.
This is from a long post at Sugar Mountain Farm, explaining the construction of earth air tubes and the "tiny cottage". (Not that I have any personal experience with 3-year olds, but "help of a ..." sounds like an oxymoron to me.)
Friday, September 05, 2008
(Yes, my tongue is in my cheek. My father's dairy milked 12 cows, I don't like a 12,000 cow farm. And neither does BRA.) But it's an example of the complexities of the current discourse. I'm assuming this move would get milk production closer to more people, cutting transportation costs and energy usage, reducing the carbon footprint, providing fresher milk, etc. But it's to be accomplished by a huge operation, non-organic and a CAFO. So what trade-offs do we accept? When is NIMBYism justified? Do we ever cap the size of business enterprises? Do we break up Microsoft or Google?
You'll note I'm good with questions, not so much with answers.
"France may be one country on paper, but the regional diversies and differenes are so great, that this is several countries in one. We speak one common tongue, share one basic set of republican ideals, but north and ssouth are almost two seperate countries.[sic to all errors--Dirk never bothers to spell correctly]Maybe our differences are as great, but I don't hear anyone talking of two countries (except maybe the Alaskan Independence Party).
Thursday, September 04, 2008
I understand the logic, and maybe even agree on an individual basis--emotions seem to serve the role of overcoming inertia: fear, love, hate, jealousy--they all counteract our tendencies to stay in ruts (particularly strong for me).
As a matter of fact, it's almost the same formula as revivalists use, you scare people with hell, with reminders of their own wickedness, loneliness, whatever, then you offer them hope with the grace of God. It's been working for centuries.
But on a social level I resist. Glen's formula can be generalized; politicians strive to stir emotion (whether it's mocking rivals or disrespecting them, as can be seen this week, and last week)
then offer hope. So it's the way the world works, and environmentalists have as much right to do this as anyone else.
I dislike conflict, which means I dislike emotion, which means I seek refuge in the Progressive's dream (actually the culmination of the Enlightenment) that reason can dissolve all conflicts and create the millennium. That's one reason why computers/software are/were so attractive to me; I have the idea that the proper system design can satisfy everyone. (And fail to remember the law of 2 out of 3: software can be cheap, good, or quickly done.)
So should we worry about vanishing ice? Yes. Should we act? Yes. But humans are going to muddle through for a while longer, even if we don't do exactly what activists want.
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
It's long overdue. If I weren't lazy I'd go back a couple years and find my argument for one. But trust me (I was from the government) on this.
The program, which DHS will test in the District of Columbia, integrates land mobile radio networks that police, firemen and emergency medical service workers use with cell phone broadband networks and wireless Internet devices, including laptops and personal digital assistants.
With the new technology, a public safety official can communicate with personnel in the field using a cell phone, land radio or computer all on the same network. The technology also allows them to contact colleagues in different departments or nearby municipalities without reprogramming their radios or having a dispatcher connect them.
Monday, September 01, 2008
As a confirmed Dem, I'd love to say this just reflects the fact that Bush's government hasn't done anything positive in 18 months. (And I just did.) But the reality, I suspect, is somewhat different. Sometime back in the recesses of time, someone in the White House got this great idea: "let's have a website devoted just to highlighting the good things that are going on." Others in the hierarchy nodded wisely and said: "Oh yes, that sounds great, you go ahead and do it, here's some money to get it up and running." So, the site was put together and put on the net. And two things happened:
- the original sponsor of the idea decided to leave for greener pastures, perhaps located along K Street in Washington, leaving no one behind who had really bought into the idea.
- it turned out the site was just a pimple on the body politic, just a haphazard extrusion which didn't really tie into any institution or ongoing effort.