Sunday, March 1, 2015

Gerrymandering Visualized


First of March Links

For the shortest month of the year, February seemed awful long.  Now it is over, and here are some stories you can check out to welcome in March:

Is the College of Faith For Real? - SBNation

Life's Rich Pageant: Meet a Florida Man - Grantland

Most Central Valley farmers unlikely to get federal water, again - LA Times

Engineer Brews A Lovely Wheat Beer With Milwaukee Wastewater - Modern Farmer

How Mice Turned Their Private Paradise Into A Terrifying Dystopia - io9

The Scarlet B: A Brief History of Buggery in Colonial America - Priceonomics.  Homer Simpson, for attempted insecticide and aggravated buggery, I sentence you to 200 hours community service.

The disappeared: Chicago police detain Americans at abuse-laden 'black site' - The Guardian. 

Dark Leviathan - Aeon.  On Silk Road and the unworkability of libertarianism.

Will America's Shale Boomtowns Bust? A Report From the Heart of North Dakota's Fracking Country - Fortune.  Also see, Texas shale boomtown 'hurting bad' in oil slump - Financial Times

Why the Reagan wing of the GOP is worried - Washington Post.  The Kudlow quotes are ridiculous.  If there is a more worthless person to listen to than Larry Kudlow, I'm not sure who it would be. And Old Man Bush was right about trickle-down economics back in 1980.

A twofer from the Texas Tribune: Ag Commissioner Says Consumers Being "Screwed" and Signs of Neglect, Wear and Tear in State Government.  Small government in all its glory.  If things are this bad when the state's economy has been booming for a decade, how terrible will they be when the economy slows down?

Map: Do you live in Sheeptopia or Goatlandia - Washington Post.  The interactive map at the link gives populations of sheep and goats for each county.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

A Slight Delay

Due to the fish fry and other considerations, the links will be delayed.  Probably until tomorrow.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Farmers Sympathize with Undocumented Workers but Fear They'll Leave With Amnesty

Morning Edition:
According to surveys, about half of all farmworkers in the country lack legitimate documents and live in what's often described as a "shadow world," without legal rights. The farmers who employ those workers, meanwhile, are deeply ambivalent about this situation.
"They present bona fide documents that show that they're a legal worker. Do I believe that they're 100 percent correct? No," says Stephen Patricio, president of Westside Produce, a big melon packer in California's Central Valley.
Patricio is frustrated with federal immigration policies that make life difficult for his workers. Those feelings are partly rooted in self-interest because he needs them. But they're mixed with sympathy.
"They're just trying to feed their families," he says. "And to punish people for seeking a better life, which we've held up as our mantra throughout the world, is wrong!"
So one part of Patricio was happy when, last fall, President Obama promised more protection for millions of immigrants, such as those who have children who are U.S. citizens. This executive action probably covers hundreds of thousands of farmworkers — but it is now in limbo, because a federal judge in Texas has blocked it, at least for now.
Patricio, however, also has another reaction, one that illustrates deeper conflicts over U.S. immigration policy.
He says that giving more legal rights to those workers is probably bad for his business. He believes that some of these workers are in the Central Valley, working in agriculture, because it's a good place to hide from the authorities.
If those workers gain legal status, "that pressure is off. Now they can go to the cities and look for construction jobs, or manufacturing jobs," he says.
In the late 1980s, millions of immigrants gained legal status. Patricio believes that as a result, many left agriculture.
But back then, employers had an alternative. The border was more porous than it is now, and employers were able turn to a fresh wave of immigrants. That flow has now slowed to a trickle, and Patricio says this has created a real shortage of farmworkers.
Traveling around the Central Valley, I heard same argument from several different employers. Among the most vocal was Manuel Cunha Jr., who is president of the Nisei Farmers League, based in Fresno.
Many workers who get legal protections "are going to go find full-time jobs, because now they're safe," Cunha said. "And I have nothing to replace them with. Nothing!"
However, many farm workers say they'd keep working in the fields. It tells you a lot about what farmers think of the work migrant workers do that they fear those workers leaving if the workers had other options than working on the farms, and they don't believe they could replace them with new workers if the migrants left.

The Corrosion of Union Membership


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Bar Talk

Bar Talk (short film) from Lowell Northrop on Vimeo.

The Revitalization of OTR

The New York Times takes a look at commercial development in Cincinnati, including major projects in Over-the-Rhine:
Much of the focus of that interest is in Over-the-Rhine where 1,100 to 1,400 new residential units are either under development or planned over the next two years, said Anastasia Mileham, vice president for marketing and communications at 3CDC, the neighborhood’s principal developer.
That surge in interest follows $335 million in investment by 3CDC to renovate or construct new buildings for 176 apartments, 17 restaurants, 23 new offices, and 14 retail stores. The total includes $48 million to restore Washington Park, and build a parking deck underneath, a project completed in 2012.
Additionally, 3CDC is supervising the $130 million restoration of Music Hall, a 136-year-old, 3,300-seat performing arts theater in the district and home of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. The project is financed by tax credits, city investments, grants and donations.
Over-the-Rhine, which a decade ago had 500 vacant buildings and 700 vacant lots, has become one of Cincinnati’s choice residential neighborhoods for young professionals, and is now a busy downtown office, retail and entertainment district.
On Martin Luther King Day a year ago, the People’s Coalition for Equality and Justice, a civil rights group, organized a demonstration to attract attention to housing displacement fostered by climbing real estate prices in Over-the-Rhine. Property values climbed over 25 percent in 2014, faster than any other Cincinnati neighborhood, according to Hamilton County figures.
City officials responded that the 40-square-block neighborhood has 1,000 units of affordable housing. Executives from 3CDC added that their projects incorporated space for subsidized work force housing. For instance, 30 of the 67 rental apartments in the four-year-old, $55 million Mercer Commons project are designated for families earning $26,000 a year or less.
Over-the-Rhine was such an under-invested and underutilized potential treasure for the city for so long.   It is great to see the area being renovated and becoming the go-to neighborhood for entertainment, and one which convinces more people to move into the city core.  After decades of fleeing downtown, it is good to see people coming back.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Breaking Ice on the Hudson

Farmers Start to Walk Away from High Rents


Across the U.S. Midwest, the plunge in grain prices to near four-year lows is pitting landowners determined to sustain rental incomes against farmer tenants worried about making rent payments because their revenues are squeezed.
Some grain farmers already see the burden as too big. They are taking an extreme step, one not widely seen since the 1980s: breaching lease contracts, reducing how much land they will sow this spring and risking years-long legal battles with landlords.
The tensions add to other signs the agricultural boom that the U.S. grain farming sector has enjoyed for a decade is over. On Friday, tractor maker John Deere cut its profit forecast citing falling sales caused by lower farm income and grain prices....
"As cash rent collections start this spring, I expect to see more farm operators who have had difficulty acquiring adequate financing either let leases go or try and renegotiate terms," said Jim Farrell, president of Farmers National Co, which manages about 4,900 farms across 24 states for land-owners.
Take an 80-acre (32 hectare) farm in Madison County, Iowa, owned by a client of Peoples Company, a farmland manager. The farmer who rented the land at $375 an acre last year offered $315 for this year, said Steve Bruere, president of the company. The owner turned him down, and rented it to a neighbor for $325 -- plus a hefty bonus if gross income tops $750.
There are growing numbers of other examples. Miller, of the Iowa Farm Bureau, said he learned about a farmer near Marshalltown, in central Iowa, who had walked away from 650 acres (263 hectares) of crop ground because he could not pay the rent. Just days later, he was told a north-central Iowa farmer breached his lease on 6,500 acres.

6500 acres?  Wow.  As the story notes, financing is coming back with a vengeance.  The whole time land prices were going up, we were told farmers had never been in better shape financially.  I think we'll see in the next year or two whether that was true or was hype.