Sunday, May 31, 2009
The twist, of course, is that convenience foods save neither money nor time. As Marion Nestle pointed out in her 2006 book “What to Eat,” prewashed romaine hearts cost at least $1.50 a pound more than romaine heads. And the 2006 U.C.L.A. study found that families saved little or no cooking time when they built their meals around frozen entrees and jarred pasta sauce.Ms. Hesser neglects the critical saving, at least for the old geezers and the lazy: effort. And most convenience foods save effort, if not money.
On a sidenote, have we had any spouses in the White House who enjoyed cooking to the extent they sat the chefs down? (If I remember, Calvin Coolidge did some of his cooking, at least according to Backstairs at the White House.)
But today in the Times Nicholas Kristof has a list of 15 things to do to stay safe in the sorts of countries he visits and in number 9 he disagrees with the great Will:
9. When you arrive in a new city, don’t take an airport taxi unless you know it is safe. If you do take a cab, choose a scrawny driver and lock ALL the doors — thieves may pull open the doors at a red light and run off with a bag.I'm glad to know skinny is getting some respect.
Saturday, May 30, 2009
But, given this sentence from the Times profile on Judge Sotomayor, I'm ready for her to be on the Court: "One incident that figures largely in firm lore was a seizure in Chinatown, where the counterfeiters ran away, and Ms. Sotomayor got on a motorcycle and gave chase."
This was when she was with a law firm that was trying to protect trademarks from counterfeiters, particularly high-end pocketbooks. It's the urban equivalent of Justice O'Connor's youth on her Arizona ranch.
Friday, May 29, 2009
According to the most recent data from the Office of Management and Budget, in January 2009, governmentwide delinquency rate for centrally billed card accounts -- those paid by an agency rather than an employee -- was 19.23 percent. The average delinquency rate for individually billed cards was 6.25 percent, data showed.USDA was one of the worst agencies, though apparently DOD distorts the picture.
One of the problems the organic people run into is the math of a niche market. Generally speaking, the bigger the market, the more fluctuations will damp themselves out. (Unless, that is, you have a bubble like the subprime or dot-com ones--then the bigger the market the harder the fall.) So the article mentions the possibility of selling milk into the conventional milk market, or trying to sell locavore/raw milk.
One result of the problems will be the less efficient organic producers will fail, meaning the average size will increase, moving organic dairy further away from the organic ideal.
[Updated: Of course things aren't good for conventional dairy either, as this LA Times story says.]
[Updated II: John Phipps comments on the same article. I'm struck by the fact that even for organic dairies the cost of [bought, I assume] feed is 50 percent or more of total costs.]
- EWG says they could improve the job they're doing with EQIP in the states in the Mississippi watershed. "We found that, up to now, EQIP has not been deployed as effectively as it could be in these 10 states. The methods used to decide how to spend EQIP dollars within a state and which farmers will get those dollars are more likely to result in diffuse and fragmented efforts to reduce pollution from farms, rather than the focused and coordinated effort needed to clean up the Mississippi River and its tributaries."
- Farmgate reports on a court case USDA lost in Iowa, having to do with the definition of "wetlands" under swampbuster rules:
In his summary of the case, Iowa State’s McEowen says, “So, in essence, USDA harassed the plaintiff with bogus wetland violation claims for many years which placed the plaintiff within the potential peril of bankruptcy and continued to maintain its bogus claims in an attempt to avoid paying the plaintiff’s attorney fees.” He says that is not new, and quotes another case, in which the court said, “…there is no worse statute than one misunderstood by those who interpret it.”
McEowen suggests that USDA should send its staff and attorneys to some wetland education classes, and if courts keep making USDA reimburse land owners for their attorney fees, then USDA may learn what the law is.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
I'll try to do better in checking FSA, because I'm breathlessly awaiting the posting of further details of the expenditures for stablization and MIDAS.$50 million in funding has been provided to support FSA IT stabilization and modernization. $31 million is planned for stabilization and $19 million is planned for modernization (MIDAS).The Stabilization effort includes improving the management, monitoring and performance of the current web-based system networks, hosting environments, applications, databases and reporting capabilities needed to support customer business transactions on USDA's Common Computing Environment.MIDAS is an initiative to "Modernize and Innovate the Delivery of Agricultural Systems." Its objective is to streamline FSA business processes and develop an effective long-term IT system and architecture for FSA farm program delivery.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
And via Government Executive, this Nextgov article outlines the government's use of social media and plans for the future.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
"The bill would eliminate a mandate for states to create a national information-technology system for sharing data. Instead, state departments of motor vehicles would have to "take appropriate steps" to determine a person does not have a license from another state."Meanwhile this Federal Computer Weekly piece covers attempts to improve the ID's of first responders.
And Equifax has its own proposal:
Federal Emergency Management Agency officials hope a pilot program demonstrated today to make first responders' credentials interoperable across jurisdictions will expand nationwide.Run by FEMA’s Office of National Capital Region Coordination (NCRC), the program encourages state and local officials and the companies that run critical infrastructures to ensure that their credentials comply with Federal Information Processing Standard 201.
Personally, as a confirmed bureaucrat, I'd like one Federal ID card. But that's not possible in our society; we're too paranoid.
Equifax, the big credit agency that already knows more about your flea count than you do, wants to help.It is developing a service that will let you create an online identity that can assert various “claims” that it will back up. To an online wine merchant, it might back you up when you say you are of legal age. If you are applying to open a bank account, the company might vouch for your entire profile, including name, address, birthday and Social Security number.
Would anyone doubt that a successful dairy farm requires a team effort? Silly question? Not at all. Most dairy farms have groups of people or collections of individuals rather than teams.It shows how things have changed since my childhood.
Monday, May 25, 2009
A year ago, NARA announced plans to build an Electronic Records Archive, but "has been passive [in] trying to update records management practices at most federal agencies," said Meredith Fuchs, general counsel for The George Washington University's National Security Archives. She referred to a report from the Government Accountability Office that found NARA no longer performed inspections of agency records management programs for e-mail and has not conducted any since 2000.
Sunday, May 24, 2009
Saturday, May 23, 2009
I may have to try to reconsider, given this quote from a NASCOE report:
"In my county office I have 2 employees who are each traveling over 86 miles a day." (I wouldn't be surprised if one of the employees had transferred from a closed office, but I don't know. Whatever the cause, 43 miles is a long commute.)
Friday, May 22, 2009
That's why we need a certain number of classic bureaucrats, those who self-righteously want everyone to obey the rules, to the letter.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
North Dakota has been locked in a wet cycle since 1992, said Dale Ihry, program specialist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency. Devils Lake has risen more than 20 feet in that time, he said, taking tens of thousands of farm acres as it grows.
The SF Victory Garden was de-installed in early December, because the cost of security guards to keep it from "becoming a toilet" for the local homeless population was about $14,000 a month.The piece has a couple photos of the White House garden.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Ironically, given the pasting USDA's taken over discrimination (Pigford), USDA scores considerably better among black employees than among all employees. And it's fourth! on "support for diversity". Bet that doesn't make many news articles.
"Nowadays, very few French girls seem to go topless"I think the world has grown more conservative, at least in some ways, since my youth.
From the Ipswich, MA election reporting. Shows public spirit hasn't vanished in MA. (And for the historians amongst us, who woulda thought we still had "Feoffees" in these United States.)
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
After reading the book, I got the "The Coming of the Third Reich", which covers events from the end of WWI to the Nazis assumption of power. And now I'm in the middle of "Third Reich in Power".
One of the things which struck me in this book was Evans' casual mention of torture, which the Nazis used, particularly on the Communists and Social Democrats as they were destroying the two parties. Now the book was published in 2005, so it was well before the current controversies over torture. What I took away was the Nazis assumed that torture worked, and Evans assumed it worked sometimes. I think that' right, at least in terms of a definition of "worked" as bending the subject to one's will. That's not necessarily the same as getting valuable information. (Remember, the North Vietnamese tortured their prisoners and some, including McCain, bent but it didn't do them much good.) But maybe I'm still reacting to the aftereffects of WWII, but we're the good guys, not the Nazis, and we don't torture. If holding to our principles costs lives of some good guys, that's the way it is. As John Wayne would say in some movie, "do you want to live forever".
But this week the Congress Party, which has led the government, won a surprise victory, which is interpreted as pro-industrial, pro-modernization. I was struck by sentences like this one, in the descriptions: "In his last term, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh oversaw a costly initiative to guarantee employment to the poor in rural India and alleviate farmer debt."
I wonder whether the Congress victory means Indian farmers aren't in as rough shape as Ms Shiva claims, or at least they feel the system is responding to their concerns.
"Without full staff support, few lawmakers are equipped to make difficult legal and policy judgments about secret programs, critics say."Wonder what that says about lawmakers.
Monday, May 18, 2009
“People familiar with the situation who spoke to DTN said that [not mentioning agriculture much in the cap and trade bill] doesn’t necessarily mean Waxman sees no role for agriculture, but that Waxman may leave agriculture’s role in the bill to the House Agriculture Committee to add to the legislation. An amendment for agricultural offsets also could come up in Waxman’s full committee debate next week.”Since Peterson is threatening to kill cap and trade unless ethanol is protected and promoted, that sounds as if there's a deal in the works.
In the Post there's an overview article, mostly from anonymous sources, on Geithner's management of Treasury:
Government officials, inside the Treasury and out, say the unresolved issues are piling up in part because of vacancies in the department's top ranks. But some of the officials also cite the Treasury's ad-hoc management, which is dominated by a small band of Geithner's counselors who coordinate rescue initiatives but lack formal authority to make decisions. Heavy involvement by the White House in Treasury affairs has further muddied the picture of who is responsible for key issues, the officials add.That last sentence, which no doubt originated with Treasury bureaucrats, shows some of the problems of having lots of White House staffers, particularly with the clout of Larry Summers.
Meanwhile, the retrospective on Rumsfeld in GQ draws some comment--I've particularly read the Political Animal posts. There's enough quotes from the GQ piece so I haven't spent my time there. See here on slow walking nonproliferation, where an anonymous source said Rumsfeld tried, by "slow-walking" its implementation, to undermine a nonproliferation agreement Bush and Putin had made. Also here on his lack of action on Katrina. That shows one of the reasons to have White House staffers--the bureaucracy doesn't like to implement stuff that's not invented here or is risky. You need staff to ride herd on the bureaucrats (who will fight back by leaking to the media if the staff doesn't do it well).
Meanwhile Sally Quinn, in the Post (she gets my back up, but she's made a career of developin sources) writes the knives are out for another White House staffer, national security adviser Jim Jones. She wants Obama to support him or fire him.
So the question now is, how well is Obama doing with the bureaucracy?
Sunday, May 17, 2009
I remember reading something once about the evolution of offices. I think the writer started with Britain, which has a long history, and traced the evolution of the cabinet and various positions. (For example, Lord Privy Seal used to be the monarch's "body" man, carrying the official seal of office. Then it evolved to a more bureaucratic position and lost its eminence. )
Part of the argument was to the effect an effective cabinet needed to be small. A "Decider" will abide only a handful of close advisers. George Washington started with a cabinet of four people, secretaries of State, War, Treasury and Attorney General. (Maybe 5--Postmaster general.) And Hamilton and Jefferson were his early advisers. But, gradually, the cabinet offices became more bureaucratic and, by the time of Andrew Jackson we had the "kitchen cabinet" developing--a handful of people, some with official positions and some without, who worked with Jackson.
That trend has continued--Presidents aren't about to risk their reelection and legacy to the abilities of their cabinet officers, so they create more assistants and offices in their own office. (Clinton campaigned against the trend, promising to cut the EO by 25 percent, a rash promise that contributed to his early problems.
Back to the question--as a bureaucrat I'd define a "silo" as an organization which hires, trains, and promotes its own people. The Marines are a silo, NRCS is a silo, etc. People imbibe the culture and drink the Kool-aid when their career is spent within an organization. That isn't likely the case with the EO people, even though the proliferation of offices is likely to lead to other bureaucratic problems.
Saturday, May 16, 2009
"Mrs T broughtt the social mobility to the UK that is still somewhat lacking in France." [I just realized, I might need to explain that's Mrs. Thatcher, given there's many adults for whom she is ancient history.]My impressions of Thatcher derive from BBC programs (and US news reports) of the time, mostly anti, in that she was shown as driving unemployment and poverty up. So the image of her as freeing up social mobility and pushing higher education surprises.
Also interesting: "It seems almost natural to go to university."
Friday, May 15, 2009
I'm skeptical these acquisitions will be terrible. It's not clear how they're going to be farmed. My prejudices say a big farm of 1,000,000 acres is not the way to go. I'd guess the Chinese aren't going to sell off 500 acre farms to Chinese farmers, although China has some recent experience with the problems of communally owned land operated as one enterprise. Assuming the countries can figure out how to manage the enterprises and the land effectively, things could work out. There would be an investment in infrastructure, which many places in Africa lack, and in equipment, fertilizer, and pesticides which African agriculture needs.
Of course the greens would argue organic agriculture in Africa has proven its ability to out-produce the methods currently used in African agriculture. The investments by the countries mean a different model of agriculture (I assume, but maybe the Koreans and Chinese are going for the organic model ;-). We'll see what works.
Mr. Petrini points out that Italians used to spend 32% of their income on food. Now they spend 14% on food and 12% on their mobile phones.(I missed commenting on a report showing that people in nations who ate slowly were less obese than those who eat fast. I wonder if the slow eating was the result of lots of talking.)
Thursday, May 14, 2009
The yields are high: 482 tons of tomatoes per acre isn't bad at all.
I'd point out the story describes an innovation which sits on a potential fault line between global warming people and foodies. On the one hand, the greenhouse complex has a low impact on the environment, creating electricity through a solar panel farm, reusing water, cutting water and fertilizer use. But there's some parallels to CAFO's, in the attempt to measure and control all the inputs and outputs. And there's certainly no locavore aspect or organic farming, at least in the romantic, living with nature branch.
Based on the limited information available, the average time needed to complete a rulemaking across our 16 case-study rules was about 4 years, with a range from about 1 year to nearly 14 years, but there was considerable variation among agencies and rules.As far as I can see, the focus seems to be on the differences among agencies, the lack of data on the process, and the role of OMB's review body (the one Cass Sunstein is to head). Nothing on the impact, or lack thereof, of new technology and regulation.gov. Note if it takes 4 years to do a reg, a new President doesn't impact regs until he's almost out the door, or reelected. So much for fantasies of how oppressive the government is--we just can't act that fast.
I'd also cite this bit:
The Alaskas formed the heavyweight tier of a three-tiered cruiser family conceived in 1939 (the other two tiers eventually becoming the Baltimores and the Clevelands.) They were an utterly unnecessary design, doing nothing that an Iowa did not do better, and doing most things much worse; and, at $75 million apiece, they were not that much cheaper than the Iowas. They were originally a response to rumors that the Japanese had something similar in the works, which the Japanese did not.
Allied interrogators did not as a rule employ any form of torture. They did not need to. Because the Japanese military code of honor absolutely forbade surrender, Japanese soldiers received no instruction on how to behave in captivity, and those captured felt such shame that they had little psychological resistance to interrogation. Many sang like canaries. However, the fact that officers almost never surrendered meant that almost all prisoners were enlisted men with little or no high-level information to impart.
Forget about the economic crisis, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and saving Social Security: An online opinion survey released by the White House this week ranks legalizing pot, playing online poker and cracking down on Scientologists as far more important issuesIt reflects the limits of the public involvement campaign by the Obama administration.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
As far as I'm concerned, USDA's failure to get FSA's basic farmer and farm data moved completely to the Internet shows Secretaries Glickman, Venneman, Johannes, and Schafer were not good managers. (I'm sure they're all greatly concerned about my lack of regard for them.)
This is a result of GAO criticism of USDA's current records, which are based on visual inspection of the farmer.This notice announces the OASCR's intention to
request approval for a new information collection aimed at
standardizing and consolidating the race, ethnicity, sex, national
origin, disability and age (RESNODA) data for agencies within the U.S.
Department of Agriculture (USDA) that serve agricultural producers and
I plan to write on this some more later. Comments are open through July 13.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
In other words, suppose FSA issues a payment to a tax ID. It reports the payment to IRS. IRS expects the tax ID's 1040/tax return to reflect the FSA payment.
In my experience, asking IT people to do a batch match of two files was easy, and that seems to be what we're talking here. Yes, it'd be nice to avoid problems upfront, which is why FSA is supposed to be checking estate ID against death records and asking IRS to verify AGI is under the limits. But if the local landlord of an FSA/NRCS office forgets to report a rental payment, or the person who transcribes an appeal hearing forgets to report the services check, I've no problem with an after-the-fact check. People should pay their taxes, period, whether it's Wesley Snipes or Jane Doe.
Monday, May 11, 2009
"Why did no establishment media company create a Craigslist, a Huffington Post, a Google News, a Twitter, or other sites that have altered the boundaries of news and information?"The answer is twofold:
- With the possible exception of Huffington Post, which I've never visited, the creators of the other sites were doing something different, but not trying to create "Craigslist", etc. Craigslist as it exists today is the result of a long evolution, it wasn't created in one go.
- Established media companies, just as for any bureaucracy, spend their energies doing their established job. The publisher of the NYTimes doesn't come to work every day asking himself/herself: what are we going to do differently today? The workday is shaped by the expectations of his/her employees, advertisers, etc. The creator of Craigslist came to work everyday with no web of expectations--no one had ever seen a craigslist, so he was free to create it. (See the Christensen books for expansion of the point.)
Sunday, May 10, 2009
Just 50 percent of people eligible for food stamps receive them in California, compared with 98 percent in Missouri. Nineteen percent of the unemployed get jobless benefits in South Dakota, compared with 67 percent in Idaho.
Fifteen states rank among the top 10 in providing one form of aid and the bottom 10 in another. California ranks second in distributing cash welfare but last in food stamps. South Dakota, last in jobless benefits, is first in subsidized housing.
That's another example of why our government, which the right thinks is too powerful and too oppressive, is in my mind too weak.
(In one of the stories he traces amid the statistics, a foodstamp applicant finds misunderstanding among the agencies, and finally an erroneous USDA web page.)
Saturday, May 09, 2009
It's perhaps more telling that a person who prides himself on looking across agencies (that would be moi) hadn't visited the latter two sites until today.
Friday, May 08, 2009
This proposal would limit farm commodity payments to $250,000 per person to direct payments to those farmers who most need them. This would be accomplished by maintaining the 2008 Farm Bill payment limits for Direct and Counter-Cyclical Payments ($40,000 and $65,000 respectively), but capping marketing assistance loan gains (price support payments) at $145,000 per person. The 2008 Farm Bill eliminated all caps on marketing loan gains, which were previously capped at $75,000 per person ($150,000 if you had multiple farms). According to the Department of Agriculture's 2007 Agricultural Resource ManagementSurvey, roughly 16 percent of farms had sales of greater than $250,000, yet they collected about 57 percent of all commodity payments.1I may be missing something elsewhere in the fine print, but I think this is different than Obama's proposal earlier (limiting payments to farmers who have gross income over $500K). [Updated--removed last sentence--I don't think the newspapers were the ones who said Obama was holding to his original proposal--sometimes it's hard to remember what you read where.]
[5-8-09 Correction--I've found the basis for reports that Obama's budget persists in the elimination of payments to farmers getting over $500K--page 86 of the terminations and reductions. So I was wrong, stopping too fast in my research. Apologies for misleading anyone.]
If you sign up for ACRE, FSA offices will require historical farm yield information. At this time, USDA has not released the rules on what documents are required, and what happens if you don’t have them, says IL Extension economist Nick Paulson. Those rules may come soon, since the announced sign-up period for ACRE begins on June 1.I think this notice covers pulse crop evidence and handbook 1-DCP covers ACRE generally. (I'm interested in the idea that at least some extension people don't follow the FSA website--it takes a long while to convert everyone's habits.) It also looks as if some county offices have put out a newsletter containing a summary of the rules--do a search for "ACRE production evidence" on the website and you get a list of county letters with titles indicating relevance.
Wanting to help dairy farmers learn more about this to maximize their milk production, Oregon State University has launched research to study the factors that influence dairy cows' comfort level. To do this, the OSU dairy center is using an Israeli-made ankle bracelet that senses when a cow is lying down by determining the angle of her leg to the ground. When a cow lies down, the blood flow to her udder increases, which produces more milk.
Thursday, May 07, 2009
Wednesday, May 06, 2009
In addition, the "In the News" section, which displays news items seems to have some problems--when I checked it displayed 3 items from Brownfield, including one which seemed likely to be on the Pigford issue, but when I clicked on it there was a long list of news items, but not the one I clicked on.
This bill will make 3 changes to the farm bill. First it will allow the claimants to access the $100 million already appropriated in the farm bill, but once that is expended gain access to the Department of Treasury permanent appropriated judgment fund. Second, it will allow reasonable attorney fees, administrative costs, and expenses to be paid from the judgment fund in accordance with the 1999 consent decree. Finally, it includes a section making fraud related to claims a criminal offense with punishment of a fine or up to 5 years in prison or both.
Tuesday, May 05, 2009
Of course, the Assistant Secretary for Administration is a former head of NRCS, which means NRCS alumni have an edge at the upper echelons of the department.
"The USDA Customer Statement is a special focus of the eGovernment initiatives that Agriculture."
That's the first sentence on the explanation, with no verb after "Agriculture". It might be a false start, because the next sentence and the rest of page reads okay. But you'd think in 3 years someone would have noticed and corrected the error.
Thus I take particular pleasure from this small item in the Post: a former contract worker for GAO was able to steal 89 laptops from them over a period of 16 months! Sounds as if they need to improve their controls.
Monday, May 04, 2009
Sunday, May 03, 2009
“If you are comfortable in the toilets, then everything is comfortable.”Truer words were never uttered.
And if you're interested in the subject, read The Big Necessity. (The foodies pay lots of attention to the front end, but they're mostly whippersnappers and will find the back end more interesting as they age.)
Whereas the old facilities were dingy concrete latrines, state-of-the-art urinals line the men’s rooms along with high-tech hand dryers built into the bright blue and white tile — the team colors. But the main attractions are the new toilets with TotTo’s Warmlet seats in stalls with floor-to-ceiling doors.Each stall in the women’s bathrooms holds a Toto Washlet, a toilet and bidet in one unit. These $1,500 fixtures provide a luxurious experience for fans, who may spend their time in the restrooms contemplating the full extent of Matsuzaka’s legacy with the Lions.
Saturday, May 02, 2009
"Many of us get unique subsidies for keeping our body temperature close to 98 degrees"
From John Phipps re: cap and trade/environmentalism and farming.
Friday, May 01, 2009
Imagine if the National Dialogue first enabled submission of ideas with examples on an equal basis. Then it enabled a simultaneous consideration with an ability of public comment. Then the ideas were vetted based on the public comment received. And finally, the final ideas were then submitted with an alternative analysis based on meritocracy. The final ideas could credibly be considered by the broader audience, based on merit.