Saturday, October 31, 2015

Breeders' Cup Weekend Links

American Pharaoh closed out his racing career by winning the Classic.  I've got the World Series and Notre Dame football on TV, and a fridge-load of Pumpkin and Oktoberfest beers to finish before November comes.  Here are some stories for your reading pleasure:

Goodnight and Thank You, Grantland - The Atlantic.  I'll miss that site.

Blades of Glory - Grantland.  One last story from them.

The State v. Robertson - SBNation

Kentucky's Horse Country Opens Barn Doors to Fans Before Breeders' Cup - Wall Street Journal

Early 2016 to bring 'wave' of crop selling, says Bunge CEO - Agrimoney. Not surprisingly, I'm also a bear.

Young Farmers Don't Need Taxpayers' Help - Bloomberg

Why Is It So Hard To Save Gulf Of Maine Cod? They're In Hot Water - The Salt

The Most Haunted Road in America - Longreads

Mary Fields: Former Slave, Pioneer Woman, Certified Badass - Priceonomics

The astronomer and the witch - how Kepler saved his mother from the stake - The Conversation

Utopias, past and present: why Thomas More remains astonishingly radical - The Guardian

Ask Citylab: What's the Deal with Steam Rising from NYC streets? - Citylab.  What a massive system.

The 'Electronification' of Everything - Bloomberg.  Gallium?

Oil Producers Curb Megaproject Ambitions to Focus on U.S. Shale - Bloomberg

Hopes for 'Golden Age of Gas' Evaporate - Wall Street Journal

Clinton Foundation Faces Revisions - and Possible Reckoning - 100 Reporters.  Damn, they are crooks.  Between Hillary and the Republican shit show, that socialist is looking pretty good.

Inside the Secretive World of Tax-Avoidance Experts - The Atlantic

We Mapped the Uninsured. You'll Notice a Pattern - The Upshot

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Wisdom of Pessimism

The Wisdom of Pessimism from Claudio Salas on Vimeo.

I generally agree, but I don't understand the reference to William James. If happiness equals expectation over reality and you lowered your expectations, you'd experience less happiness. I don't think that is what either James or the maker of the video intended?

Budget Deal Cuts Crop Insurance Subsidies

The two-year budget deal produces savings from one of the most popular programs in farm country — federally subsidized crop insurance — and farm state lawmakers are furious.
Senators and House members said Tuesday they weren't notified of the cut before the deal was struck, with Republican leaders pushing for a vote this week on the budget pact. The crop insurance companies that depend on federal subsidies said in a statement that the proposed $3 billion in cuts over 10 years could be devastating to the industry.
Budget-writers in Washington have long eyed the crop insurance program, which costs more than $9 billion annually, as a pot of available money. But farm-state lawmakers have fought to protect it, saying it makes more sense than other farm subsidies since it pays out when farmers suffer losses.
Congress got rid of other types of subsidies in a wide-ranging farm bill last year, including payments that went to farmers regardless of crop yield or crop price. In turn, they increased federal support for crop insurance.
The budget deal would create the savings by lowering the rate of return for companies that sell crop insurance to farmers. The federal government partially subsidizes those companies and insures some of their losses.
The Republican chairmen of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees, Texas Rep. Mike Conaway and Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts, issued a joint statement along with the top Democrats on the panels objecting to the cuts, which they said would "undermine a critical risk-management tool for American agriculture producers and consumers."
Both said they would vote against the bill.
I'm sure I'll hear some farmers complain that these cuts make it hard to do long-term planning or some other crap, but I'm also sure I've heard some farmers complain that the government subsidizes health insurance premiums under Obamacare.  I'm not sure I see the differences in those subsidies.  Anyway, farm state legislators who are ready and willing to target government spending they think goes to minorities in cities ought to consider whether the rural voters who elect them aren't the real minorities.  I can guarantee that if blacks, Hispanics and other city voters turned out for elections, many conservatives would have to look for jobs outside of the public sector.

Update:  Farm state legislators are pissed:

Ag-state lawmakers, farm groups and the crop-insurance industry were flexing their muscles Tuesday to push back against plans to cut $3 billion from crop-insurance companies over eight years.
The budget bill would reverse a provision in the farm bill and effectively require USDA to renegotiate the Standard Reinsurance Agreement with crop insurance companies in 2016. The bill also sets a hard cap of 8.9% as the overall rate of return crop-insurance companies can receive. Under current law, the overall rate of return is 14.5%.
The bill doesn't make any changes in crop insurance the cost of policies or protection levels for farmers.
Several congressmen and senators took to social media to vent as details about the budget plan made the rounds on Tuesday.
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., ‏@SenatorHeitkamp -- See statement on how I'm looking 4 path to prevent cuts to #cropinsurance & avoid reopening #FarmBill in #BudgetDeal…
Senate Ag Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, ‏@SenPatRoberts -- I will oppose the budget deal. Farmers should not be forced to shoulder the nation's financial burdens.…
The battle immediately raised the profile of crop insurance in the budget arguments with Republicans loudly defending higher spending for a government program.
Roberts, along with Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., House Ag Chairman Michael Conaway, R-Texas, and Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., issued a joint statement, "Ag Committee Leaders State United Against Reopening Farm Bill to New Crop Insurance Cuts."
Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., placed the blame for the crop-insurance provision on the White House with the "intent to re-open the Farm Bill and create a single payer 'Obamacare of Crop Insurance,' " which Cramer said was unacceptable. Cramer then stated he was "committed to working with House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway and his committee to find the $3 billion in savings in other areas of the government."
Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Texas, also issued a statement that included, "While this is unacceptable, it is of particular concern for cotton producers in my district as crop insurance is now the sole means of risk management available. Furthermore, the House Agriculture Committee was not even consulted during this process, and the Committee has overwhelmingly rejected similar proposals at every recent occasion—America’s farmers deserve better."
Now, if one were to listen to conservative talk radio (and not suffer brain damage), that person would probably be told that the solution to any problem is less government subsidy and more free market.  I'll just throw a rhetorical question out here and ask why that wouldn't be the case here.  I'll be interested to hear if any of the GOP candidates for president reference this while campaigning in Iowa.

Monday, October 26, 2015

California Strawberries vs. Midwestern Corn

It's not even close:

Growing strawberries in California is 9796% more profitable than growing corn in the Midwest, Gladstone Land said, in the latest evidence of underperformance in row crop land.
High value fruit and vegetable land was "more profitable and less volatile than those growing commodity crops", Gladstone said.
Based on data for 2013, the most recent year with verified data, the US land investment company said the an acre of price corn land yielded gross revenues of $757, while the gross revenue of an acre of prime California was $53,067, assuming a market price of 80 cents a pound for strawberries. 
The difference in rent, meanwhile, was more modest. Based on 2014 figures, Gladstone pegged the average rent for prime Midwest corn land at $201 an acre, compared with around $4,000 an acre for strawberry land.
And since 2013, corn prices have been weakening, while Gladstone says that prices for strawberries have actually "risen modestly".
Gladstone saw net profits per acre for strawberry farmers in California at $4,570 an acre, compared to just $48 an acre for Midwestern corn farmers, excluding crop insurance and government payouts.
"A farmer with 10,000 acres in corn in the Midwest would only need approximately 143 acres of strawberry ground in California to generate the same amount of revenue," Gladstone said.
Of course, this comes from a company pushing investment in leasing land for fruit and vegetable production, so they are just talking their book.  However, the numbers are pretty amazing, and corn production budgets will be even uglier for the next few years.

University of Dayton Football vs. the Ku Klux Klan

Tom Archdeacon had a great story yesterday about how the UD football team busted up a Klan gathering meant to intimidate students, teachers and administrators at the Catholic school at the height of the Klan's strength in the 1920s:
According to a 1920 census, 28 percent of Dayton’s population was either foreign born or had foreign-born parents. Most were from central, southern and eastern Europe and the majority were Catholic.
Add to that the growing prominence of the University of Dayton — which had changed its name in 1920 from St. Mary’s College — and you had a Catholic presence in the city that became a real target for a xenophobic, white Protestant hate group.
During that time it was estimated that Ohio had the most Klan members of any state. Summit County was said to have the largest chapter in the United States, some 50,000 members who included the county sheriff, the Akron mayor, several judges and county commissioners and most people on the Akron school board.
Licking County used to host the Klan’s state conventions at Buckeye Lake, annual affairs that regularly drew over 70,000 people.
Dayton, Trollinger discovered, was one of six cities in the nation to be designated Klan-friendly ‘’hooded capitals.” There were said to be 15,000 Klan members here and while they often held rallies around the city, nothing matched that crowd that poured into the Fairgrounds on Sept. 21, 1923.
I went through microfilm copies of the newspapers from back then and found several stories on the rally that drew some 32,000 to the fairgrounds.
“Dayton Mecca For Meeting of Klansmen” read the front page headline in the Dayton Evening Herald.
Special trains brought thousands of participants to town.
There was a massive parade up Main Street from the fairgrounds through downtown to the river and back again. The sidewalks were filled with cheering crowds who watched the spectacle that included:
Some 25 robed and masked men on horseback, a white-robed 70-piece Klan band and numerous floats including one by the Junior KKK and some representing area schoolhouses. Klan contingents from as close as Springfield and Middletown, as well as Mercer, Miami, Warren and Greene counties marched in the parade alongside groups from as far away as Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Kentucky and Indiana.
Once back at the fairgrounds, a masked keynote speaker addressed the crowd. According to newspaper reports, he hammered home the same themes that again are popular with certain politicians today.
He warned of “the hordes of (immigrants) coming to these shores” and how the Klan was the one to stop all that....
One day, UD's football coach got a jump on the Klan:
Baujan recounted how he had gotten tipped that the Klan was coming to campus and was going to burn crosses on a hill in Woodland Cemetery just across the street from the school.
As Trollinger wrote, Baujan said he went “to the halls and called out my biggest football players.” He brought them to the cemetery and told them to wait until the Klan gathered around their burning cross and then to “take after them” and “tear their shirts off … or anything else you want to do.”
The Klan saw the football boys coming and ran through the cemetery without getting caught.
Baujan told Gaudet that soon after he was downtown and “some fellows at the Dayton Noon Luncheon Club” admitted they had been “among the Klan members who had been chased.”
He said “one of the best ones” was a well-known referee who regularly worked Dayton football games.
Notre Dame had a similar fight with the Klan back at that time.  It is hard to believe how almost nobody knows that the Ku Klux Klan, in its anti-black, anti-Catholic, anti-Jew incarnation in the 1920s, was a massive organization which essentially ran the Republican party in a number of states.  The Klan was allied to the Womens' Christian Temperance Union in support of Prohibition.  These groups were able to retain political power by preventing the 1920 census from being used to reapportion Congressional districts.  This would have yielded power to rapidly growing cities which favored the end of Prohibition, and granted equal representation to the large Catholic and Jewish immigrant populations these groups detested.  It is one of the less impressive periods in American history.

NASA Photo of the Day

October 20:

When Black Holes Collide
Video Credit & Copyright: Simulating Extreme Spacetimes Collaboration
Explanation: What happens when two black holes collide? This extreme scenario likely occurs in the centers of some merging galaxies and multiple star systems. The featured video shows a computer animation of the final stages of such a merger, while highlighting the gravitational lensing effects that would appear on a background starfield. The black regions indicate the event horizons of the dynamic duo, while a surrounding ring of shifting background stars indicates the position of their combined Einstein ring. All background stars not only have images visible outside of this Einstein ring, but also have one or more companion images visible on the inside. Eventually the two black holes coalesce. The end stages of such a merger may provide a strong and predictable blast of gravitational radiation, a much sought after form of radiation different than light that has never yet been directly observed.