Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 In Review - Good Riddance

I figured I could list out the positives and negatives of 2016, and it just reminded me how I'm not going to miss this year.

My employer was profitable
Best calf crop ever (14 calves out of 11 cows, 13 survived).
I bought a farm (I'm still not sure if this is all that positive).
A couple positive things on the personal side, sort of.
Survived this otherwise shitty year.

Drought pummeled corn and hay crops.
President-elect Donald Trump!?
World Champion Chicago Cubs.
Everything else.

Thank God this year is over.  Unfortunately, based on crop prices and the upcoming inauguration, 2017 is set to be even worse.  Maybe it will rain more between June 15 and August 15 next year.

Happy New Year and be safe.  I'll drink a few for you.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

The War on Christmas Mapped


In both years, white evangelicals strongly favored “merry Christmas,” while secular respondents prefer “happy holidays” or “season’s greetings.” But the “War on Christmas” does not divide people simply along religious lines — there are also regional differences. In both 2013 and 2016, the weakest support for “happy holidays” and “season’s greetings” was in the Midwest (42 percent in 2016), not the South (50 percent), as you might have guessed. Although both regions have large evangelical populations, the South is also home to a large percentage of the country’s African-American population, and that group strongly prefers “happy holidays” (72 percent in 2016) despite their high levels of Christian religiosity. Support for “happy holidays” decreased somewhat in both regions this year compared to 2013.
Looks like the Battle of the Corn Belt is the final struggle in the War on Christmas.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Festivus Links

Happy Festivus!  Before I enter into the airing of grievances, I'll share some news stories with you:

The Trials of a Boxing Romantic - New York Times

'Thanks for saving my life': Dennis Rodman's heartfelt tribute to Craig Sager - Washington Post

This Is Without  A Doubt The Best Obituary I've Ever Read.  It's Not Even Close. Outstanding, Outstanding Obituary - Barstool Sports.  Via the sister.

How an Idaho football player became a bank robber - USAToday.  Via the old boss.

For Cash-Strapped Monks, Selling Fruitcakes Is A Saving Grace - The Salt

Inside Quebec's Great Multi-Million-Dollar Maple Syrup Heist - Vanity Fair.  I can't get enough stories about the Strategic Maple Syrup Reserve, or the the heist from it.

The Inside Story of Apple's $14 Billion Tax Bill - Bloomberg

All-American Huckster: The Untold Story of Napoleon Hill, the Greatest Self-Help Scammer of All Time - Gizmodo

Columbus-Chicago passenger rail moves ahead, slowly - Columbus Dispatch

Teachers in Wealthy Districts Get Bulk of Indiana's Performance Payouts - Education Week.  Stupid Republican policy.

'It Makes You Human Again' - Politico.  Interesting piece on Albequerque's homeless program.

The U.S. is no stranger to interfering in the elections of other countries - Washington Post. What's good for the goose...

How Trump's White House Could Mess With Government Data - Fivethirtyeight

Trump's Pick for Interior Secretary Was Caught In "Pattern of Fraud" at SEAL Team 6 - The Intercept

Why the Nazis studied American race laws for inspiration - Aeon 

How the Obama Coalition Crumbled, Leaving an Opening for Trump - The Upshot

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Waters of the U.S., Regulatory Overreach and Republican Propaganda

I was half asleep this morning when I heard an exchange on NPR that brought up the Waters of the U.S. rule:
Rand Paul:....So yes, I'll continue to advocate for Congress asserting its role, for not letting the president run amok through executive order. Domestically, most of that has been an overreach by President Obama, though, instituting regulations that could have never gotten through Congress. And I am confident that I think in the first hundred days we'll get dozens and dozens, hopefully, of onerous job-killing regulations removed.
GREENE: What's one regulation that would give people an idea of what you're talking about, a single regulation that you can really point to and you think limits jobs?
PAUL: There's a regulation called Waters of the U.S. There was a cattle rancher, Andy Johnson, out in Fort Bridger, Wyo. He was fined $37,000 a day for building a cattle pond that he had a local permit for. You should not have to get a federal permit to build a cattle pond. This is the kind of thing that has kind of run amok in our country is the federal government trying to regulate individual local issues like land use.
 I honestly thought Senator Paul said that the rancher spent $37,000 building a cattle pond, and that he ran afoul of regulators under the Waters of the U.S. rule.  Based on my limited experience applying for Section 404 (Army Corps of Engineers) and Section 401 (EPA) permits, I guessed that the rancher either dammed a stream to create the pond, or turned a wetland into a pond.  Both were seriously frowned upon under the Nationwide Permit format for Section 404 permits.  My first thought beyond that was that even if this was a massive ranch, I can't imagine very many jobs were killed based on not allowing said pond.  An also, that the Waters of the U.S. rule isn't born of Barack Obama, but has been an object of conflict for over 40 years.  The final rule that was issued in 2015 claimed the same jurisdiction for the WOTUS rule that I worked under over 10 years ago.

I figured I ought to do a google search on the case cited by Senator Paul, since I had the rancher's name and location.  I managed to turn up this New York Times story:
The sun was sinking and the brook trout were biting, so Andy Johnson and his daughter Aspen, 6, stepped onto their sun-bleached pier, hooked some mealworms and cast their lines into the most infamous pond in the West.
It is just a splotch of placid water amid endless ripples of grazing land here in western Wyoming. But in the two years since Mr. Johnson dammed a small creek running through his front yard to create the pond, it has become an emblem for conservative groups and local governments that are fighting what Senator Michael B. Enzi called a “regulatory war” with the Obama administration over environmental issues ranging from water quality to gas drilling, coal power plants to sage grouse....
 In a January 2014 violation notice, the agency said Mr. Johnson had violated the Clean Water Act by digging out Six Mile Creek and dumping in tons of river rocks without getting necessary federal permits. The agency ordered him to take steps to restore the creek under the supervision of environmental officials, or face accumulating fines of as much as $37,500 a day.
Mr. Johnson refused.
He argued that he had gotten full approvals from Wyoming officials, and said the federal government had no business using national water laws to make decisions about the creek that meanders through the family’s eight-acre property. Mr. Johnson and his wife, Katie, had spent $50,000 — most of their savings, they said — to create the pond to water their 10 head of cattle and four horses. Dismantling it now would be ruinously expensive and destroy what has become a tiny oasis for birds and wildlife, they said.
While I'm not going to try to justify the regulations on dredged and fill material in waters of the United States (because I never understood them enough to be able to make that case), I think it is a stretch to say that Mr. Johnson is a rancher who built this pond to water his cattle.  I'm pretty sure he built this pond for recreational use, but justified it by claiming it was a stock pond, either when he applied to the state, or after federal officials sent him the violation notice.  Nobody would spend $50,000 to build a pond to water 10 head of cattle and four horses.  For example, I keep 11 brood cows, a bull and a heifer, along with 13 calves at one farm.  To water these cattle, I have 3 100-gallon stock tanks that each cost about $100.  If I was smart, I'd plumb in one of the Ritchie cattle fountains that sit in the barn, instead of using the 3 tanks.  Plus, the guy owns 8 acres.  Building a pond on 10 percent of his land just so he can water his livestock doesn't make any sense whatsoever.  I would guess this is why the EPA went after the guy so hard.  They knew he was using an agricultural loophole to justify a pond that made no sense whatsoever as an agricultural use.  Just look at the pictures in the New York Times article.  Would you want cattle walking down those rocky shores all day every day to get water?  My experience is that EPA will generally work with you as best as they can, as long as you try to follow the law, and don't try to pull a fast one on them.  This especially applies when jobs are at stake.

This story is an example of what makes the Waters of the U.S. rule so controversial, but also of how Republicans generally overstate how damaging environmental regulations are.  I do struggle over the limits of how small of projects EPA and the Army Corps ought to regulate, but this example is probably the worst possible one that Republicans could use for "job-killing regulations."  Also, my experience ten years ago would have been that this project would not meet the qualifications for a Nationwide Permit, so the fact that Wyoming issued it a permit calls into question the ability of the state to manage the permit process.  It would seem that the EPA action was extreme, but Senator Paul claims the EPA fined Mr. Johnson $37,000 a day, while the New York Times article states that EPA didn't issue any fines.  The threat of fines is an important part of a carrot and stick approach EPA has to use to ensure compliance with regulations.  Taking that threat away makes it unlikely that EPA would be able to enforce regulations that are current law.  Likewise, various politicians and lobbyists are quoted in the Times article saying that the feds overstepped their bounds in this case.  But, like I mentioned earlier, building the pond violates regulations that have been on the books for 15 years or so.  The whole issue about the Waters of the U.S. rule is about trying to redefine an established rule that was thrown out by the Supreme Court because they thought it was unclear.  But it is a basic jurisdictional definition.  It has to be clarified to make the law work.  I'm all for Republicans making the case for changing the regulations, but if they are going to roll back the rule to only applying to navigable waters, they will allow tremendous damage to be done to the environment.

 In the end, I think Republicans need to make their case without exaggerating the facts in the examples they present.  Don't claim that a pond is constructed to water livestock, when it almost certainly isn't, or it is likely that stock pond exemption will go by the wayside.  This would hurt farmers and ranchers who actually are building stock ponds.  Don't justify scrapping a law as job-killing, when the example you give involves zero jobs.  I'm surprised that after thirty years of blaming regulations for a shrinking middle class, Republicans have so few concrete examples of "job-killing" regulations.  I'm also surprised by how effective their poorly-defined and poorly-reasoned arguments are.  This case is one which is one of their best examples of a regulation that can be considered over-reaching, but it is one of the worst examples of a regulation that is killing jobs.  Please, Republicans, do a better job of arguing your case.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Trump's Massive Need To Overstate His Victory

James Fallows destroys the Trump transition team's propaganda:

Translation: “A long time ago” is actually one month, and “one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history” is actually one of the least impressive. Here are the facts:
  • In terms of his Electoral College margin, which will probably end up at 306 to 232, Trump will rank #46 among the 58 presidential elections that have been held, or just above the bottom 20%.
  • In terms of his popular vote margin, Trump will probably end up with the third-worst popular vote result ever, or if you prefer 56th ranked of the 58 winning candidates in history. (Obviously the 58 elections have produced 45 presidents, some of them winning two terms and FDR winning four.) This ranking is based on Trump’s losing the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by a little more than 2 percent, or a little less than 3 million votes. John Quincy Adams lost the popular vote by 10 percent in 1824 to Andrew Jackson, and also came in second in the electoral vote—but became president when the race went to the House, since none of the four candidates had an Electoral College majority. He is #58 out of 58, in terms of popular-vote mandate for winners. Rutherford B. Hayes, who won the electoral college while losing the popular vote by 3 percent to Samuel Tilden in 1876, is #57. Donald Trump, losing by 2 percent, is #56. Every president except J.Q. Adams and Hayes came to office with a stronger popular-vote mandate than Trump.
The amazing part of that press release from the transition team is that the most truthful part of the whole thing is the attack on the CIA, and the least truthful is in quotations ("Make America Great Again").  Trump will never be able to handle the fact that he won fewer overall votes than Hillary Clinton, even though he was elected president.  Even more amazing is that he won more electoral votes than George W. Bush did in either of his election victories, even though Bush won the popular vote by 2.4% in 2004.  The fact is, Trump didn't win a landslide victory no matter how you look at it, but just like when W was in office, that will in no way mitigate the damage done to the country by Republicans while he is in power.

Mid-December Weekend Links

Here are some interesting stories from the last couple of weeks:

Mount Union kept out of DIII championship for 1st time since '04 - ESPN

"Gosh, It's Beautiful" - ESPN.  On how a boring video game became the most valuable ever.

Battle lines in California's water wars are redrawn in Trump era - Financial Times.  Mass-scale agriculture in California is doomed to failure in the era of climate change, but that won't stop it until it does too much damage to be corrected.

Big Farms Are Getting Bigger And Most Small Farms Aren't Really Farms At All - Fivethirtyeight.  I never knew that any property with enough land to be able to produce $1000 in farm revenue was counted as a farm.  That is a stupid and useless governmental definition.

After A Sour Decade, Florida Citrus May Be Near A Comeback - The Salt.  Scientists make inroads against citrus greening.

Emerging land use patterns rapidly increase soil organic matter - Nature

If Waffle House Is Closed, It's Time To Panic - Fivethirtyeight

How Statistics Solved a 175-Year-Old Mystery About Alexander Hamilton - Priceonomics

Mass Extinction and Mass Insanity - The Automatic Earth

How the Twinkie Made the Superrich Even Richer - New York Times.  Private equity sucking away money that used to be shared with workers.

American Hustle - Epsilon Theory

Trump's Chumps: Victims of the Old Bait and Switch - Counterpunch.  Trump's Cabinet is especially horrible for working-class voters.

Rationale for Texas' Largest Corporate Welfare Program was a 'Typographical Error' - Texas Observer.  Growth in Texas won't continue forever.  When it slows down, Texans will wish the state had taxed businesses and invested those revenues in education and infrastructure.

Religious Right Reinvigorated by Donald Trump - Wall Street Journal.  The continued link between anti-gay religious figures and take-from-the-poor-and-give-to-the-rich politicians is a guaranteed loser for Christianity and the country.  Expect religious attendance to continue to decline.

The Rust Belt Needs a Bailout.  A Big One. - Bloomberg.  I don't think that bailing out the Chicago and Illinois pension systems is the best place to throw money at the Rust Belt, but some crazy person does.

Why Blue States are the Real Tea Party - New York Times.  This will be more important as the rural economy continues to struggle despite Donald Trump's useless promises.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Why Are Voters Mad?


Because the pre-tax incomes of the bottom 50 percent stagnated while average national income per adult grew, the share of national income earned by the bottom 50 percent collapsed from 20 percent in 1980 to 12.5 percent in 2014. Over the same period, the share of incomes going to the top 1 percent surged from 10.7 percent in 1980 to 20.2 percent in 2014.7 As shown in Figure 2, these two income groups basically switched their income shares, with about 8 points of national income transferred from the bottom 50 percent to the top 1 percent. The gains made by the 1 percent would be large enough to fully compensate for the loss of the bottom 50 percent, a group 50 times larger.
To understand how unequal the United States is today, consider the following fact. In 1980, adults in the top 1 percent earned on average 27 times more than bottom 50 percent of adults. Today they earn 81 times more. This ratio of 1 to 81 is similar to the gap between the average income in the United States and the average income in the world’s poorest countries, among them the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, and Burundi. Another alarming trend evident in this data is that the increase in income concentration at the top in the United States over the past 15 years is due to a boom in capital income. It looks like the working rich who drove the upsurge in income concentration in the 1980s and 1990s are either retiring to live off their capital income or passing their fortunes onto heirs.
Trump's policies are just going to worsen these trends.  He can jawbone companies into keeping some decent paying jobs in the States, but overall, there is downward pressure on the middle class, and messing with Medicare and cutting taxes for rich people aren't going to change that.  Even decent paying public sector jobs are getting squeezed out, and the Republicans elected with Trump are all for strangling them further:
Back in 2009, Rick Erickson was happy with his job as a teacher in one of the state’s northernmost school districts on the shores of Lake Superior. He made $35,770 a year teaching chemistry and physics, which wasn’t a lot of money, but then again, he received stellar healthcare and pension benefits, and could talk honestly with administrators about what he needed as a teacher every two years when his union sat down with the school district in collective bargaining sessions.
Then, five years ago, Wisconsin passed Act 10, also known as the Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill, which dramatically limited the ability of teachers and other public employees to bargain with employers on wages, benefits, and working conditions. After Act 10, Erickson saw his take-home pay drop dramatically: He now makes $30,650. His wife is a teacher, too, and together they make 11 percent less than they did before Act 10. The local union he once led no longer exists, and so he can’t bargain with the school district for things like prep time and sick days. He pays more for health care and his pension, and he says both he and his wife may now not be able to retire until they are much older than they had planned....Data suggests that Erickson is by no means unique. Total teacher compensation in Wisconsin has dropped 8 percent, or $6,500 since Act 10, according to an extensive study by Andrew Litten, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Michigan who used state data showing compensation of all teachers in the state of Wisconsin. What’s more, he found that the most experienced and highest-paid teachers experienced the biggest reduction in benefits.
This will continue, and voters will continue to be mad.  Trump won't solve anything.

The Big Cloth

The Big Cloth from Dog Leap on Vimeo.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

U.S. Megaregions

National Geographic:

To try to solve this geographical problem, Garrett Nelson of Dartmouth College and Alasdair Rae of the University of Sheffield used census data on more than four million commuter paths and applied two different analyses, one based on a visual interpretation and the other rooted in an algorithm developed at MIT. Their results and maps appear today in the open-access journal PLOS ONE....But where should planners draw the edges of a megaregion encompassing this activity? Which connections are statistically significant? Which are important for regional transit planning? Should they focus on the cities surrounding the bay, or is Sacramento just as important to the Bay Area economy?
 For answers to these questions, Nelson and Rae turned to an algorithm-based tool designed by MIT’s Senseable City Lab to mathematically recognize communities. The algorithm only considers the strength of connections between nodes (more than 70,000 census tracts in this case), ignoring physical locations. This made for a nice test of Waldo Tobler’s “first law of geography”: that things that are near each other are more related than those that are farther apart.... 
One of the decisions the researchers made was to limit the algorithm to 50 megaregions, which can be seen in the map above, where every node is colored according to the region it belongs to. This made the map more plausible visually. While 50 may sound like an arbitrary number, it makes sense mathematically because a very high percentage of commutes lie entirely within a megaregion relative to paths that cross boundaries between regions.
I would guess selecting the number 50 explains the region I live in, which covers Cincinnati, Dayton, Lima, Columbus and areas down to southern West Virginia.  Regardless, that is a pretty cool map.  If one were to make a map of my drives, it would be dominated by a small triangle between my house, my job and the farm where my cows are, with a few small detours for feed, food and beer.  It would dominate a small portion of my county.  I honestly can't imagine a daily commute to Columbus.  I thought 20 miles to the next county's seat was pretty long.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

The Rural/Urban Divide Illustrated

The Economist, via Ritholtz:

As our map (above) of America’s voting patterns on a county-by-county basis going back to 1952 makes clear, Mr Trump’s gains were concentrated in rural areas across the northern United States. Republicans have long held the edge in America’s wide-open spaces, but never has the gap been this profound: a whopping 80% of voters who have over one square mile (2.6 square km) of land to enjoy to themselves backed Mr Trump. As the scatter plot below demonstrates, as counties become increasingly densely populated, fewer and fewer vote Republican. American politics appear to be realigning along a cleavage between inward-looking countryfolk and urban globalists. Mr Trump hails from the latter group, but his message resounded with the former. A uniquely divisive candidate, he is both perhaps the least likely politician in the country to build bridges across that gap and also the only one who has the capacity to do so.
I don't see Trump uniting the nation.  I honestly think that the appreciation of civil government increases with the number of people one is surrounded by.  Alternatively, based on farmers and business people I know, maybe the more government money you receive, the more you hate government. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Last Steps - A Really Great Big Story

The Last Steps | A Really Great Big Story from Great Big Story on Vimeo.

End of November Mini-Links

It's been a while, but I'll try to link to a few of the good stories I've seen recently:

Trump's Infrastructure Plan Could Be A Giant Sports Welfare Giveaway - VICE Sports.  Or pipeline giveaway, or outdoor mall giveaway.  I doubt we'll see many century-old water mains replaced.

Choke Point of a Nation: The High Cost of an Aging River Lock - New York Times.  More on the Olmstead Lock and Dam project here and here and here.

A Blade Strikes Steel, and the Blast Shocks a Nation's Energy System - Bloomberg

The Road Ahead - American Scientist

The Desert Rock That Feeds The World - The Atlantic 

Farmers Are Courting Trump, But They Don't Speak For All Of Rural America - The Salt.  Shorter farmers: where's my Obamaphone free shit.

How Drug-Resistant Bacteria Travel From the Farm to Your Table - Scientific American

Trump's Economic Plan: This Isn't Going To Work - Counterpunch

Behind "Make America Great," the Koch Agenda Returns with a Vengeance - Talking Points Memo.  Government of the billionaires, by the billionaires and for the billionaires, as Trump's cabinet attests.

Democrats Don't Have an Easy Answer for the Rust Belt - The Atlantic

Carrier Reaches Deal With Trump to Keep About 1,000 U.S. Jobs - Bloomberg.  I can't wait to hear the details about how much this will cost.  What's to keep lots of other companies from threatening to move jobs to Mexico to get their free money, too?  How about Rexnord?

In Short Strike, Jim Beam Workers Crush Two-Tier and Beat Grueling Hours - Labor Notes

Disgorge the Cash - The New Inquiry.  "Maximizing shareholder return" has done more damage to American workers than anything else.

A philosopher’s 350-year-old trick to get people to change their minds is now backed up by psychologists - Quartz

The 2016 election pitted booming cities against stagnant rural areas - Vox

Saturday, November 26, 2016

It's That Time Again

Time for Bob Wojnowski's Michigan-Ohio State column.  There are a couple of good OSU jokes in there.  Hopefully it is a good game, and hopefully, the team that doesn't go to the Big Ten championship game doesn't go to the college football playoff.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Chattanooga Bus Crash and Privatization

When I heard about the bus crash in Chattanooga, my first thought was to wonder if school busing there had been privatized, like they have in several school districts in this area.  All I had heard about the accident had mainly been racist or borderline racist comments from neighbors about the bus driver and how it was rumored he had asked the kids if they were ready to die.  I finally did read a story, though, and lo and behold:
The Hamilton County Board of Education confirmed in a statement Wednesday that it had received complaints recently about Walker "and the way he operated his bus."
It said the complaints were forwarded to Durham School Services, the private company that is contracted to provide bus services for the school system, for whom Walker worked.
Hart, of the NTSB, said Durham was operating under a "conditional" federal safety rating, meaning some unspecified problems had been uncovered in the past, but that they had been resolved satisfactorily, in August 2015.
He said investigators were going back over Durham's oversight and crash history.
While politicians and citizens love to complain about overpaid government workers and their lavish benefit packages, it should be patently obvious that the only way privatization can allow the private company to make a profit and save the government entity money is by paying the employees as little as possible.  This leads to high turnover, lack of commitment by employees, high error rates and other problems, many of which are seen in other low wage areas of employment.  Privatization also creates another layer of interference between the public and the oversight of the operating company and troublesome employees.  As the article says, the Board of Education forwarded the complaints to the private company, but mentions nothing about any actions taken by the company.

President-elect Trump announced his choice for Secretary of Education, and she is Betsy DeVos:
DeVos has been a vocal supporter of school choice, which is something Trump backed on the campaign trail. DeVos, who heads up the pro-charter and pro-school-voucher nonprofit American Federation for Children, has said parents should have the ability to choose the best schools for their children, whether they are traditional public schools, charters, or private schools. Trump has proposed creating a $20 billion federal voucher program for families to use to send their kids to the school of their choice.....According to Chalkbeat, DeVos’s family poured $1.45 million into an effort to prevent Michigan from adding oversight for charter schools. That effort ultimately failed. DeVos and her husband have been supporters of charter schools for decades and longtime opponents of regulation. And according to Chalkbeat, around 80 percent of the state’s charter schools are run by private companies. The lack of oversight has prompted concern from the Obama administration that some bad charters were being allowed to operate without improving or being forced to close.... DeVos, 58, is married to Dick DeVos, who ran unsuccessfully as a Republican for the governorship in Michigan. He is the former president of Amway, which his father co-founded, and of the Orlando Magic NBA team. Her brother, Erik Prince, founded Blackwater, the controversial security firm.
I expect Trump and Republicans will rush to privatize as many government services as they can.  This will be bad for the general public, but good for wealthy investors, who will be allowed to loot the treasury and provide poor services for traditionally public-run operations, such as schools, prisons and infrastructure.  Trump has already made private investment the keystone of his much-anticipated infrastructure plan.  They may even expand into new areas, such as regulatory oversight and law enforcement.  Notice that DeVos's brother founded Blackwater, the malignant contractor providing mercenary services to the federal government in Iraq. As the need for reform of police services becomes more acute, expect some to push for privatization.

When turning over public money to private companies to provide public services, the services become profit centers, quality and oversight go down, and good jobs disappear as the positions are turned into unattractive, low-wage jobs.  Back in my day, bus drivers worked seemingly forever, with very little turnover.  These jobs were often filled by farmers and the wives of farmers, who got much-needed steady income and health insurance for part-time jobs.  Unfortunately, as health insurance costs have skyrocketed (not just because of Obamacare, you right-wing jackasses out there) and resistance to taxes has increased, such jobs have started to be privatized.  With privatization, employees no longer stick around for years, and never get to know the families they are serving.  The supposed savings from privatization never really materialize.  However, workers have crappier jobs for crappier pay, wealthy investors get even more wealthy.  We need to push back against privatization and the crapification of employment and government services at this time when more and more pressure will be coming to contract the services out.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Net Migration of College Graduates

Interesting map:

Actually, this would be even more interesting if broken down to the county level like those Red vs. Blue maps we see every election.  I would bet a large number of the red counties in Texas on those maps would be red here, too.  And New York state would also be interesting.  Honestly, population density explains hell of a lot, politically, and I would guess is also self-reinforcing in this map.

Headline of the Day

Suriname Will Tow a Giant Bag of Water to Fight the Caribbean's Drought

To be honest, when I first saw it, I thought it said "Giant Bag of Dicks." Yes, I am a terrible person.


VOYAGEURS 8K from More Than Just Parks on Vimeo.

Monday, November 14, 2016

NASA Photo of the Day

November 13:
Super Moon vs. Micro Moon
Image Credit & Copyright: Catalin Paduraru
Explanation: What is so super about tomorrow's supermoon? Tomorrow, a full moon will occur that appears slightly larger and brighter than usual. The reason is that the Moon's fully illuminated phase occurs within a short time from perigee - when the Moon is its closest to the Earth in its elliptical orbit. Although the precise conditions that define a supermoon vary, tomorrow's supermoon will undoubtedly qualify because it will be the closest, largest, and brightest full moon in over 65 years. One reason supermoons are popular is because they are so easy to see -- just go outside at sunset and watch an impressive full moon rise! Since perigee actually occurs tomorrow morning, tonight's full moon, visible starting at sunset, should also be impressive. Pictured here, a supermoon from 2012 is compared to a micromoon -- when a full Moon occurs near the furthest part of the Moon's orbit -- so that it appears smaller and dimmer than usual. Given many definitions, at least one supermoon occurs each year, with another one coming next month (moon-th). However, a full moon will not come this close to Earth again until 2034.
Is it just me, or has this Super Moon hype seemingly come out of nowhere in the last few years.  I don't remember hearing about this phenomena in the past.  I remember recent hype about eclipses, planetary alignments and meteor showers being similar to past buzz, but I just don't remember the Super Moon hype before about 3 or 4 years ago.  Oh, wait, here is some data:

So the first real mention of a super moon took place approximately 2 months after this blog started.  How did we get by without hyping the size of the full moon prior to 2011?

President Trump and the GOP Congress. Frenemies?

Since the Democratic Party has been gutted by anti-Obama sentiment in the middle of the country, along with gerrymandering and the extremely pro-rural setup of the Senate, the most likely check on the power of President Trump (almost a week in, and I still can't believe I am typing that crazy shit.  Thanks, neighbors.) will be Republicans in Congress.  Looking over what actual policy proposals Trump has laid out, I think we can guess which ones are likely to actually happen. There are two areas in which Trump and Congress will almost certainly find common ground: taxes and military spending.  
On taxes, we are almost certain to see ridiculous tax cut plans put into place.  All the squabbling will be over details.  Here is the Wall Street Journal on possible tax cuts:
“Because Mr. Trump has made it clear he wants to do tax reform in the first 100 days, House Republicans are going to be ready,” Rep. Kevin Brady, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said in an interview Wednesday. “I’m confident that this blueprint will grow the economy significantly, simplify the tax code for families and lower their tax burden and bust up the IRS, redesign it so it’s focused on customer service.”...
Republicans in Washington expect swift action on the most significant proposed tax-code changes since 1986, which offer what they see as an accelerant to U.S. economic growth. They would lighten tax burdens on high-income individuals and multinational corporations and repeal the 100-year-old estate tax.....
Mr. Trump called for reducing the top tax rate on individuals from 39.6% to 33% and for cutting the corporate tax rate from 35% to 15%. Businesses that now report their profits on their owners’ individual returns would get the 15% rate and would likely pay a second layer if the owner takes money out of the business.
He would also eliminate personal exemptions and the head-of-household filing status used by single parents, and his proposed breaks for child-care costs wouldn’t be enough to prevent a net tax increase for millions of families...
The House plan, by contrast, sets the corporate tax rate at 20% and the rate for other businesses at 25%. Either plan needs rules to prevent individuals from making their wages and other ordinary income look like lower-taxed business income, a problem that Mr. Trump’s campaign acknowledged and said Congress would solve.
The House plan would also create a international-border-adjusted corporate tax that applies depending on the location of sales, not profits. That is complicated, and it may face objections from retailers and financial-services companies as well as a potential challenge from the World Trade Organization.
Both plans would significantly increase budget deficits and give the largest tax cuts to high-income households. Mr. Trump’s plan would reduce federal revenue by $6.2 trillion over a decade, according to the Tax Policy Center, a project of the Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute. The top 1% of households would get a 13.5% boost in after-tax income, compared with a 4.1% rise for the entire population.
Republicans say their plans would spur growth due to the tax-rate cuts and the ability to write off capital expenses immediately instead of depreciating them over time.
Ok,so on the tax cut side, it looks like a lot will get done, and very little of it will be beneficial to the regular voters in struggling Rust Belt states who foisted President Trump on the rest of the nation.  However, business people will reap a massive windfall, and Republicans are going to make sure that the IRS is powerless to stop massive tax evasion.  I'm especially curious about the elimination of depreciation.  Maybe it is just me, but something like that would seem likely to make things such as rental properties a nearly perfect tax shelter.  Any simple purchase which ties up tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars of a year's profit, and promises positive cash flow going forward would seem like a no-brainer.  Currently, I believe a rental property is depreciated over something like 27 1/2 years.  Maybe they are only talking about capital equipment, but it is hard to tell by the way the article is written.  Besides, Congress has been pretty consistent in extending Section 179 bonus depreciation annually since the Bush stimulus plan back in 2001.  Recently, that has been capped at $500,000, which to me seems like more than what the average small business profit would amount to.  I would think that expanding that to all business would be a tax loophole that would be massive enough that most businesses wouldn't have to pay taxes almost any year.  If that were the case, I'll let you guess where that tax burden would fall.

As for defense spending, the only thing that will hold Republicans back from throwing crazy money at defense contractors will be the massive deficits created when those tax plans go into place, although St. Ronnie proved that Republicans don't care about deficits when it comes to tax cuts and defense spending.  I would expect the next four years to be Christmas for defense contractors and the Wall Street banks that handle Treasury security sales.

Things get a little more interesting when it comes to infrastructure spending.  Here is a place I somewhat agree with Trump.  The U.S. does have a massive need for spending on infrastructure improvements.   We have a massive amount of infrastructure put in place in the early and mid-20th century that is reaching the end of its useful life.  Unfortunately, I see Trump spending billions to turn JFK airport into a massive version of one of Saddam Hussein's palaces, as opposed to replacing failing century-old water and sewer lines in Rust Belt cities.  Likewise, Republicans in Congress have consistently avoided locating the over $2 billion in outlays required to fully-fund the Brent Spence Bridge in Cincinnati, for example, which Trump promised to fund at a campaign stop immediately before the election.  According to Trump, those funds may come from money currently paid by the United States to the United Nations.  A quick google search indicates that would be about $8 billion dollars a year, so if Trump made very many promises like the one in Cincinnati, Congress is going to have to find significant funds.  They have not been willing to do that, but maybe that was because Obama was evil.  That or they just don't give a shit about infrastructure spending outside of the regular Highway Bill, which, while massive, is still tremendously underfunded, and all-to-often neglects more expensive repairs and replacements in favor of shiny new things, and by its nature only funds transportation projects without addressing utilities.  This will be one of the most interesting things to watch in the Trump-Congress interactions.  Based on where votes for president came from and what Congressional Republicans' priorities are, I would expect mass transit to suffer badly.

As for the border wall, I'm not sure what if anything will happen here.  Private property owners will probably be the most resistant to expansion of the border fence, and there are already hundreds of miles of wall and fence in the areas where it is easiest to build.  After 15 years of talk about border security, I really don't expect to see much if anything done here.  However, the desires of voters who put Trump in office may outweigh common sense.

Finally, there are entitlements.  Paul Ryan and the Freedom Caucus really are chomping at the bit to generally destroy Social Security and Medicare, while Trump has promised to make them more generous to beneficiaries.  Trump's plan is wildly expensive, while the Ryan plan is ridiculously unpopular, especially with the elderly white Rust Belt voters who put all these clowns in office.  I would see little to nothing done here, except possibly some change that takes place far down the line and screws over my baby bust generation instead of the boomer cohort.

To wrap things up, expect President Trump and Congress to agree to a ridiculous tax plan which widens income inequality and creates huge revenue holes in the budget, and adds to them a sizable increase in defense spending and cuts to programs intended to benefit the poor.  These changes are popular with Trump, with the GOP Congress and with the suburban and rural white voters in the South, the Rust Belt and the Plains and Mountain West states.  Expect much less on infrastructure spending, border security and entitlement reform/destruction.  In the end, I expect this President and Congress to be able to enact plans which benefit the wealthy and businesses, while punishing the poor and protecting the elderly from budgetary pain.  Pretty much, Republican business as usual.  Don't expect any of these policies to benefit the rural and Rust Belt voters mentioned above.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

President Trump

So far, one can't get a very warm feeling about what a Trump presidency will be like.  It is looking like Trump may have no actual interest in governing, and that he is going to turn that over to the loony part of the Republican party.  That may, in essence, mean that as far as day-to-day activity goes, Mike Pence will be President.  God help us.  Pence is not a smart man.  As far as the law-and-order side of things go, Rudy Giuliani and Chris Christie keep popping up.  Geez.  Then you've got Ben Carson and Sarah Palin. And the guy in charge of them all, Donald Trump.  Holy shit.

My main intention with this blog has been to point out that Republican attacks on government are tremendously counter-productive.  While government often is wasteful and poorly-run, it is also necessary for a functioning society.  Republicans, instead of working to make government better, have been working to destroy it.  That is the worst possible thing that could happen, if your goal is a civil society.  The forces unleashed by the Presidential campaign are going to be very hard to bottle up.  The mood of white folks in the middle of the country is very ugly.  The shock and anger in the big cities is building.  My fear is that instead of fizzling out, the protests against Trump will keep slowly building, and eventually breaking out into civil unrest.  Then you'll have a government run by Trump and his rather incompetent minions cracking down on big city protestors, while rural folks cheer them on.  The rural/urban divide could potentially become the front for a low-level civil war.

However, if that terrible outcome doesn't actually occur, you still have a likely best case scenario of an incompetent administration screwing up an already damaged economy.  As I've said previously, folks in the middle of the country have suffered as factories have closed and jobs have disappeared.  No matter what Trump said he'd do on the campaign trail, fixing that is a damn near impossible task.  If we are supposed to take comfort in Trump's business record, I think we are in serious trouble.  His whole career has been made up of a bunch of grandiose plans and over-the-top bluster followed by miserable failure.  Finally, he gave up on actually selling products and real estate, and sold his image as a loud-mouthed blowhard.  Somehow, he was able to sell himself to nearly half the population to be President of the United States.  By fueling racial resentment and making ridiculous claims about bringing the post-war industrial economy back to the Rust Belt, Trump has again massively over-promised, and will almost certainly fail. His scapegoating of minorities for America's problems reinforces the mindset already flourishing in rural areas. I can't see anything good coming of his Presidency.  For four years, the government will become weaker and more incompetent, while anger and internal resentment will build.  What happens when somebody strikes a match to the massive pile of dry tinder? 

Hopefully, I am completely wrong about all of these possibilities.  Hopefully, the Trump presidency will be a model of government efficiency and civility, and the economy will flourish.  Hopefully, all the people I thought were racist will actually be correct, and that the whole cause of increased racial tension in the country welled up from President Obama personally, and when he retires from public life racial harmony will ensue.  But I don't believe any of that will happen, and I fear that the late 20th century and early part of the 21st century will be seen as a turning point in American history.  The Trump presidency could make the Bush and Obama administrations look good in comparison. 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Some Thoughts on the Election

The election of Donald Trump has been a long time in the making.  Since the oil embargo in 1973, there have been tremendous stresses placed on the U.S. economy.  First, it was dependence on domestically produced petroleum to fuel our economy.  This quickly morphed into an inflationary spiral.  The inflation pressure destroyed or greatly pared down mature manufacturing industries such as steel and the domestic auto industry.  While this was occurring, Ronald Reagan brought anti-union politics to the forefront in the Republican Party.  Throughout the 80s and early 90s, the U.S. economy was guided away from manufacturing and toward finance.  Bill Clinton came in and leveraged what remained of union political strength, along with changing demographics to get elected.  When he finished the push to enact NAFTA, he made it a bipartisan coalition to undermine the manufacturing economy.  Meanwhile, the U.S. economy was supported by massive borrowing in all sectors, corporate, personal and government.  This debt-fueled economy, which continued to shed manufacturing jobs and was governed by a bipartisan coalition that promoted income inequality, hurt manufacturing employment and cut taxes on the wealthy, came crashing down at the end of the Bush presidency.  Obama decided to try to address this with a Republican-based health insurance subsidy plan, new regulations on finance, mild tax increases on the wealthy, and otherwise trying to hew to the bipartisan consensus that had held since the time of Reagan.

Republicans have cynically played on the decline of the white middle class by claiming that environmental regulations and taxes have wrecked the economy while poor people, mainly minorities, have supposedly benefited.  They have conveniently overlooked 100 years of Republican support for free trade and opposition to organized labor.  Meanwhile, Democrats have joined with Republicans to overhaul the tax code to the benefit of the wealthy and abandoned the working class while claiming that only the Republicans favor the rich.  Donald Trump sensed an opportunity to roll up deep ambivalence toward minorities and outright racism amongst white Americans while positioning himself as anti-free trade and pro-manufacturing.  It is an interesting, if massively cynical, position to take.  It has played on a rural-urban divide that has grown under the bipartisan coalition that saw manufacturing decline while national demographics have shifted.  The challenge for Trump is that he will be working with a legislature that is solidly aligned with the Republican party's free trade, anti-labor, anti-tax dogma.  Trump appears to be trying to play to racial animosity while also playing to struggling blue-collar workers and anti-government sentiment, while also repealing the modest reforms to a failing health insurance system which Obama undertook.

Trump's play has highlighted a number of contradictions in our existing political coalitions.  Democrats have increasingly grabbed support from the professional classes in U.S. cities by supporting diversity and secularism, pushing for a strong central government and mouthing support for the working class and unions while doing nothing for them.  Republicans have built a coalition based on white racial resentment, wrapping themselves in religion, championing free trade and tax cuts , attacking government and regulations and destroying unions.  Trump has tried to combine the anti-government policies of the Republican party with the anti-business positions mouthed by Democrats but completely abandoned by the bipartisan coalition, but tied them together with a more vocal racial resentment.

Looking back at the 2016 campaign from the beginning, it appears that the most logical political movement for the times, in a perfect world, would have been Bernie Sanders' campaign.  Sanders combined all of the the economic ideas antithetical to the bipartisan coalition that has reigned for 40 years and led to the hollowing out of the middle class and also fought against the racial resentment of whites toward an increasing diverse population.  Trump, on the other hand grabbed at anti-trade policies while also clinging to the failed tax cut and anti-regulatory and anti-climate change policies of the Republican party, while turning up the racial resentment to 11.  Clinton and the power brokers in the GOP tried to cling to the bipartisan consensus.

Trump is the result of the elites in both parties dividing the lower 80% of the population and giving the gains to the top 20%.  The urban portion of the 20% overwhelmingly supports the Democrats, while the rural portion supports Republicans.  Meanwhile, the urban and rural portions of the 80% are also split between the parties.  I don't see how this division will allow our economic problems to be effectively addressed.  It appears more likely that racial and rural/urban divisions will be made worse, and the illogical combination of policies Trump has supported will lead to further income inequality and unrest.  I'll expand on these ideas more going forward.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Morning in America

This morning, Americans in cities will wake up to a country they can't understand and don't recognize.  They will see that a reality TV star was elected President of the United States.  A man who made outlandish promises he will never be able to keep, and maybe never will try to keep.  They will struggle to understand how this happened, and the answer they will come up with is that rural Americans overwhelmingly elected this loudmouthed, blowhard overgrown child.  Will he bring steel mill jobs back to Youngstown and Pittsburgh?  No.  Will he overturn the economics of shale gas and bring coal jobs back?  No.  Will he dismantle Obamacare and make a dysfunctional health care system even more dysfunctional? Yes.  Will he allow Republicans in Washington to run wild with tax cuts and social spending cuts? Yes.  Will he continue to be a complete buffoon? Certainly.

If Republicans do push forward their tax and spending plans, rural Americans will suffer.  Even worse, whenever the inevitable backlash against Trump and Republicans come, there will be no interest in helping out rural areas which need help but obviously don't want it.  Do not expect the heroin epidemic to let up.  Do not expect the rural economy to improve. As the farm economy tanks, do not expect help to come from Washington.  People in cities just aren't going to care.  They see hateful assholes who gave them the finger and celebrated doing it.  Rural Americans did a stellar job choosing the worst possible candidate, and the worst possible legislature, and all Americans will suffer because of it.  Don't expect the Democrats in the House to bail out the Republican leadership when the do-nothing idiot Freedom Caucus holds out against the budget.  The Republican Party owns everything that happens from here on out, and it won't be glorious.  Sure, the statistics showed that the Bush administration was horrific, but you couldn't tell a Trump voter that.  Going forward, they have no one else to blame.  Patent medicine salesmen loved to move from town to town and rip off the rubes.  Trump continued that long tradition.  It's morning in America.  We'll move on.  We won't improve, at least for the time being.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Election Live Blog

I just cracked a beer and I'll be here all night.  So check in regularly.

5:59  The Farmer News Network has breaking news: We are projecting that Indiana, the Alabama of the Midwest, will award its electoral votes to Donald Trump.

6:35  Just finished some leftover wings, and now ready to get to work.  First off, I'll make a prediction for the results for my home county.  I think it will be 65% Trump, 31% Clinton, 4% other.  Check back about 9:30 for the actual totals.

6:41  I would expect that the Indiana Senate race won't be declared for a while, but the first results I saw had Todd Young's current lead being smaller than Trump's.  That can't be a good sign for him.

6:49  Honestly, I think several election cycles from now, whatever takes the place of the Republican Party will look back at 2016 and curse the fact that the GOP base selected the candidate who doubled down on favoring the dying demographics while attacking growing populations in the country.  Much of the age group that will most strongly support the GOP will be dead in 2028.

6:54  I'm not sure how farm state Congressmen will be able to go to their colleagues in the next 2 years leading up to the renewal of the Farm Bill, and make the case that despite the fact that farmers don't think anybody else deserves welfare, farmers deserve welfare. And, most likely, it will be at a time when farmers really need welfare.  We'll see what happens there, but I think farmers will be depending on the kindness of liberals.

6:56  Frank Luntz, father of labeling the estate tax the death tax, is calling the election for Hillary.

7:00 CNN joins the FNN in calling Indiana for Trump

7:02 Trump jumps out to an early 19-3 lead according to CNN.  Of course, the Browns often jump out to an early lead, too.

7:04 Bad news out of LA:

7:06 Hopefully this isn't a domestic terrorist attacking our election process.

7:08  I haven't seen anything about this shooting on CNN or Fox News, nor heard it on NPR.

7:26  Lots of interesting ballot issues voted on today.  I'm watching the death penalty referendum brought by Governor Pete Ricketts to overrule the legislature's ban on the death penalty.  The Ricketts family is a major reason I was rooting for the Cubs to lose the World Series.

7:29  If Clinton wins Florida, this race is over.

7:31  The FNN calls the congressional races for Jim Jordan and Warren Davidson in Western Ohio.  The do-nothing caucus secures 2 wins.

7:37  Trump needs Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Iowa and someplace else.  He's probably going to do pretty good with the first four.  Apparently, though, Frank Luntz must have different information.

7:42  It's kind of hard to gauge anything about the races soon after the polls close.  The crazy conservative rural areas tend to turn in their results quicker, since it doesn't take long to count a dozen votes, skewing the early projections.

8:03  A growing rural-urban divide, combined with greater representation by do-nothing jackasses like Jim Jordan bodes very poorly for rural areas.  We are kind of baking in further decline and greater dysfunction like the current heroin epidemic.

8:06 It will depressing if Florida goes for Clinton but Ohio goes with the Donald.  Ohio, don't make Buckeyes look like jackasses.

8:10  Honestly, this election make Obama look so much better than a decent election would.

8:17  Thank God

8:22 Florida is ridiculously close. Trump has to win this to have any chance. Clinton is leading Ohio. Western Ohio results must not have been tallied yet.

8:27  We could use a marijuana referendum result to lighten things up a little.

8:33  Looks like Evan Bayh may blow the Indiana Senate race.  Governor may still be interesting.  It would have been more interesting if Pence was still in it to reap the whirlwind from "defending religious freedom" to hate gays.

8:39  Virginia is really showing the exploding rural-urban divide.  Not good for rural areas long-term.

8:48  Being out-of-touch with the rest of the country is not a good thing

8:51 Third time's the charm.

8:52 Fox News is cheerleading right now, really building up the rural landslide for Trump. I think the population centers will win out, but Fox will keep the rubes locked in.

9:04  Early on, Pete Ricketts is winning his campaign to bring back the death penalty, according to the Omaha World-Herald.  I sure hope that asshole loses.

9:12  My county went 68% Trump, 27% Clinton, 5% other.

9:18  If Trump holds leads from rural votes in Virginia and Ohio, but urban votes come in to top him, the Fox News viewership is going to lose its shit about voter fraud.

9:21  It may come down to Nevada.

9:23 If Trump wins, expect the market to to take a shit tomorrow.  And for weeks afterwards.

9:27  Virginia is the biggest surprise so far.

9:29  If you are actually reading this and want to add something, please comment.

9:36  Now Michigan and Wisconsin become interesting.  There may be a lot of people with hangovers tomorrow.

9:39  There is panic in the liberal Twitterati.  Bad news for Clinton, but maybe just a major scare for them.  Pretty early yet.

9:45  Oops, more votes still coming in in my county.  More going for Trump.

9:47  If Trump wins Virginia, this may be over.  Revenge of the rural voters.  W may be off the hook as the worst president of the century.

9:49  I'm into the can beer.  May as well start saving money.   My stock portfolio is going to get pretty ugly.  I doubt that this will inspire corporate America, either.f

9:54  Checking Fox News to see how giddy they are.

9:58 Wow, Fox just called Virginia for Clinton

10:03  Wow, Trump is winning 80% of the vote in Mercer County, OH, 79% in Auglaize and 78% in Shelby.  That is crazy, even for extremely racist areas.  This is heavy government farm payment country.

10:14  Trump vote totals in West Central Ohio are insane.

10:17  Brexit 2.0?  The whole lesson of 2016 may be that rural areas can fuck entire nations at will.

10:19  In other words, showing up matters, even if you are crazy.

10:23  Ohio is probably gone.  Clinton is done without Michigan and Wisconsin.  If she wins those, everything comes down to Nevada.

10:33  NPR is reporting that evangelicals are going 80% for Trump.  WTF?  Christianity is dead.

10:37  If you thought W was bad, you haven't seen nothing yet.  If you thought W was good, you were wrong, and now you are even more wrong.


10:52 Holy shit. Ron Johnson won easily. The man is a bump on a log in the Senate and never should have gotten elected in the first place. I honestly think Clinton is done now. It looks like the Midwest is going to carry Trump to the Presidency. We are going to get punished for this stupidity.

10:59  It is over.  Trump wins.

11:02  Wow.

11:04  This is Brexit 2.0, and it will be a disaster.

11:10  Fox is talking about the ins versus the outs, and how people are voting for Trump because they don't like the establishment.  This is true.  The thing is, the outs are pissed off because the ins weren't sharing productivity gains.  And yet, Trump's tax plan is to reward the ins for stealing the productivity gains.  The outs are going to continue to be pissed off, and even worse, the Trump crew will slash the social programs that keep the real poor from getting completely pissed off about how badly they get fucked.  This is the worst possible outcome.

11:18  My prediction at this point is that Trump will win Wisconsin, Michigan and the presidency.  The stock market is going to crash tomorrow.

11:24  My point isn't that a Hillary Clinton victory would save America from disaster.  My point is that the economic and tax policies Hillary Clinton would support would be more likely to counter-balance the inequalities that are causing working-class people to be pissed off.  Cutting taxes and regulations will not improve the standing of the working-class.  These policies will only make their standing worse.  I wish that wasn't the case, but it is.


11:48  The problem throughout the economic struggles, especially those felt in the manufacturing field, over the past 40 years has been that the U.S. had to deflate an economy that saw 5% of the population consuming 15 to 20% of the world's resources.  What we needed was a fairly equal sacrifice amongst the wealthy and the working class.  We didn't get anything like that.  Hell, we haven't even quit consuming that 15 to 20% of the world's resources.  We just quit sharing the gains from that economy.  This election will make that tension worse, even if the working class feels like it won.  That is what scares me.  Well, that and Donald Trump as President.

11:56  God, this just makes things worse for rural areas

12:18 Trump will win Pennsylvania and Michigan.

12:25 How in the fuck is this possible?

12:37 Fuck you, CA Technologies

12:49 This is going to be a mess.

12:52 It looks like sane people were incorrect. Donald Trump could just win with white marks, er, voters.

1:02 Fuck you, Pete Ricketts. You make the world a worse place.

1:14  Well, the sun will come up again in a few hours. I and financial markets will just have a hell of a hangover when it does.  Have a good day tomorrow.  Things are going to get interesting.

1:30  Fasten your seat belts.  Come January 20, the Republicans will control the House, the Senate and the White House.  And soon enough, the Supreme Court.  This will not work out well for average people.

A Very Bitter Vote

In a little while, I'll be heading to the polls to cast my vote to help bring this horrific toxic sludge dumpster fire of an election to an end.  Even though I can't stand her or her equally dishonest and corrupt husband, I'll be casting my vote for "Crooked Hillary," because, just as I anticipated ten years ago when I foolishly entered the political sphere as a candidate to try to head it off, the Republican party has become an insane, hate-filled death cult determined to undermine civil society and punish "those people."  Unfortunately, many of my friends and neighbors, whom I love and respect, will be supporting her opponent; the greatest buffoon, liar, con man, jackass, idiot and douche bag to ever win a major party nomination.  And considering the 17 candidates the Republicans had to choose from for the primary season, the GOP ably managed to select the very worst from an utterly disgusting field.

I will go to the polls, say hi to the poll worker I know from church, then show him my ID, because Ohio is one of the many states to pass a voter ID bill to try to suppress the vote of poor people and minorities.  Our ignoble politicians know these people usually vote in person, and they want to make it as difficult as possible for them to cast their votes.  If I would've voted absentee, I never would have had to show an ID and never would have to have been seen in order to cast my vote.  Those lying "public servants" will claim that is to prevent voter fraud, even though many more charges of voter fraud arise from absentee voting as opposed to in-person voting.  The difference is that more elderly Republicans vote absentee.  Keep that in mind when Republicans discuss voter fraud today.  After I get signed in, I'll cast my vote and head to work. After work, I'm going to feed the cows, pick up some food and a lot of beer, and settle in and watch the results and post my thoughts here and on Twitter.  I doubt that it will be pretty. Hopefully, the voting will be completed without any violence or massive errors.  But, come Wednesday, it will be morning in America again, and we'll somehow have gotten through this self-inflicted horror show and moved on.  Thank God!

Monday, October 31, 2016


Arctic from Tim Kellner on Vimeo.

A Scary Lack of Genetic Diversity

The Atlantic:
It started with a bull named Pawnee Farm Arlinda Chief, who had a whopping 16,000 daughters. And 500,000 granddaughters and more than 2 million great-granddaughters. Today, in fact, his genes account for 14 percent of all DNA in Holstein cows, the most popular breed in the dairy industry.
Chief—let’s call him Chief for brevity’s sake—was so popular because his daughters were fantastic milk producers. He had great genes for milk. But, geneticists now know, he also had a single copy of a deadly mutation that spread undetected through the Holstein cow population. The mutation caused some unborn calves to die in the womb. According to a recent estimate, this single mutation ended up causing more than 500,000 spontaneous abortions and costing the dairy industry $420 million in losses....
Amidst this progress, the USDA scientists also noticed something odd. To understand how odd, you just need to know that animals have two copies of every gene, one from each parent. As Chief’s genes took over the Holstein population, farmers would sometimes end up mating a bull and cow both originally descended from Chief. So a resulting calf could sometimes end up with two identical copies of a Chief gene, one inherited via its mother (perhaps a great-granddaughter of Chief) and one via its father (perhaps a great-grandson).
But there was one particular gene from Chief that never, ever showed up twice in any of his descendants. Plenty of cows had one copy of this Chief gene; others none; but never two. This defied probability. All the USDA team knew about this gene is that it corresponded to a series of genetic markers on chromosome 5, which could be traced back to Chief.
The logical conclusion to draw, if you’re a geneticist, is that these genetic markers corresponded to a vital gene that had become garbled. Cow embryos with one faulty copy of the gene and one working copy grew up just fine, but those with two faulty copies died in the womb. They were just never born, which is why the team could never find any. (Chief himself had one copy, which why he was a fine healthy, bull.)...Lewin and his post doc Heather Adams got to work. “Within 48 hours, we had a candidate,” he says. The stretch of DNA in question corresponded to the gene Apaf1, which had been well studied in mice. Brain cells in mice embryos with a faulty Apaf1 would grow out of control, until the embryo eventually died. “The reason we had a candidate so quickly was because of the tremendous investment in mouse genetics,” says Lewin. The scientists trudging through the mouse genome could probably have never known an obscure gene they isolated had such a huge effect on the dairy industry.
Luckily, genetic testing has allowed the dairy industry to get around this problem.  But the fact that so much of the Holstein herd is so closely related is rather scary.  But, in the end, dairy faces many other major issues.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Crop Glut Worsens

Wall Street Journal:

Harvests are under way of what are projected to be the largest corn and soybean crops in U.S. history, which soon will hit a global market already sitting on the largest-ever grain stockpiles.
Indeed, some farmers are hoping for a weather hiccup somewhere in the world to curb yields and breathe life into crop prices that recently hit multiyear lows.
They may be waiting a long time.
It is a dramatic turnaround from four years ago, when prices for many commodities were soaring to the highest levels U.S. producers had seen in their lives. Back then, extreme drought slashed production of major row crops, forcing ranchers to cull cattle herds as feed costs soared.But now farmers face a problem of the opposite sort. Prices for some crops are hovering near multiyear lows as storage facilities bulge with farm goods.
To make space for crops like corn after a massive wheat harvest last summer, Frank Riedl, general manager at Great Bend Co-op, a Kansas grain elevator and farm supplier, bought and leased extra land on which to build bunkers the size of football fields where he can heap millions of bushels of overflow grain.
“There’s an abundance of corn out here in the country and we don’t have the storage base for it,” he says. “Farmers are trying to find any place they can to dump their crops.”
Things are going to get ugly.  Farmers are still passably optimistic, but I think the next few years will probably beat that out of us.  Luckily for me, I've never been optimistic.

I Live In Yosemite

I Live In Yosemite from Megan Eleanor Clark on Vimeo.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Trump and the Rural-Urban Divide

2012 Presidential Results by county

Cracked has a good piece explaining some of what attracts rural voters to Trump:
These are people who come from a long line of folks who took pride in looking after themselves. Where I'm from, you weren't a real man unless you could repair a car, patch a roof, hunt your own meat, and defend your home from an intruder. It was a source of shame to be dependent on anyone -- especially the government. You mowed your own lawn and fixed your own pipes when they leaked, you hauled your own firewood in your own pickup truck. (Mine was a 1994 Ford Ranger! The current owner says it still runs!).....
The rural folk with the Trump signs in their yards say their way of life is dying, and you smirk and say what they really mean is that blacks and gays are finally getting equal rights and they hate it. But I'm telling you, they say their way of life is dying because their way of life is dying. It's not their imagination. No movie about the future portrays it as being full of traditional families, hunters, and coal mines. Well, except for Hunger Games, and that was depicted as an apocalypse.
I can appreciate the do-it-yourself mentality.  I was proud that I used an 8-pound maul to split all the firewood I used to heat my house for 15 years.  I can appreciate the feeling of emptiness one feels as he or she watches all the things one has held dear slowly die (for me, that includes American manufacturing, rural communities, the Catholic Church and the Republican Party).  I can appreciate the resentment toward "the big city."  I just dropped a large sum of money on a piece of land just so the neighboring town can't burn up more farm ground with big shit shacks for Citiots (yes, that is a combination of city and idiot).  However, I just can't understand how anyone can believe that Donald Trump is a trustworthy person, and not a flaming sack of shit. 

As I listened to this story on NPR tonight, I was thinking that it would be better for struggling white folks to notice that their Hispanic neighbors shared many of the same beliefs in family, church and hard work, and that they would each be better off working together to address the inequality and lack of opportunity they each suffered under.  Meanwhile, they are splitting their vote between two ultra-rich asshole crooks who play them off against one another.  I don't know that this is a divide that can be surmounted, but if it is, I better invest my retirement funds in torches and pitchforks.