Saturday, November 4, 2017

Sabotaging U.S.D.A.



Michael Lewis covers the Trump Administration's (and overall GOP's) hostile takeover of the federal government by focusing on the Cabinet Department that has the largest impact on the rural voters who foisted these clowns on the rest of the country.  One of the main points of the article is that most people don't have any idea what U.S.D.A. does:
One day in his new job he was handed the budget for the Department of Agriculture. “I was like, Oh yeah, the U.S.D.A.—they give money to farmers to grow stuff.” For the first time he looked closely at what this arm of the United States government actually does. Its very name is seriously misleading—most of what it does has little to do with agriculture. It runs 193 million acres of national forest and grasslands, for instance. It is charged with inspecting almost all the animals people eat, including the nine billion birds a year. Buried inside it is a massive science program; a bank with $220 billion in assets; plus a large fleet of aircraft for firefighting. It monitors catfish farms. It maintains a shooting range inside its D.C. headquarters. It keeps an apiary on its roof, to study bee-colony collapse.
A small fraction of its massive annual budget ($164 billion in 2016) was actually spent on farmers, but it financed and managed all these programs in rural America—including the free school lunch for kids living near the poverty line. “I’m sitting there looking at this,” said Ali. “The U.S.D.A. had subsidized the apartment my family had lived in. The hospital we used. The fire department. The town’s water. The electricity. It had paid for the food I had eaten.
 And a little more along that thread:
There’s a drinking game played by people who have worked at the Department of Agriculture: Does the U.S.D.A. do it? Someone names an odd function of government (say, shooting fireworks at Canada geese that flock too near airport runways) and someone else has to guess if the U.S.D.A. does it. (In this case, it does.) Even people who have worked at U.S.D.A. for years wind up having to chug. So it’s no use pretending that I can actually explain to you everything the place does.
Lewis ends up focusing on several areas where Trump will likely do the most damage.  The folks who used to be at U.S.D.A he talks to come up with food aid for the poor, scientific research (especially related to climate change), food safety and rural development.  I think they are correct in that assessment.  Here are a couple of the most enlightening quotes from these sections:
“The food-stamps program,” he says, instantly, when I ask him for his biggest concern. The Trump budget had proposed cutting food stamps by more than 25 percent over the next 10 years and more or less abandoning the notion that the country should provide some minimum level of nutrition to its citizens. The Trump budget was just an opening bid and unlikely to become policy, at least not right away, because Congress could always fight it. But it signaled an intention and, perhaps, a shift in public attitudes. “Why is it that people channel so many of their hang-ups about people who are poor or unsuccessful into the food-stamps program?” asks Concannon as we settle into our chairs, then answers his own question. “No one really knows when you go to the doctor and the government is paying. But people see you with this card or coupon and react. People would say to me, ‘I saw someone buying butter with food stamps.’ And I would say, ‘Well, yes.’”...As the head of Oregon’s nutrition programs he learned that the country’s willingness to feed people who are hungry does not mean that hungry people are always fed. The federal government makes the benefits available, but then leaves it to states to administer them. “Where you live in this country makes a huge difference if you are poor,” says Concannon. “And it’s not just the weather. You have states with these 60- or 70-page documents people have to fill out to get benefits. Poor people are easy to wear down.” Georgia was usually a problem. Texas too. “If they ran any of their football teams the way they ran their food program, they’d fire the coach,” said Concannon. A Wyoming legislator, proud of how badly he had gummed up the state’s nutrition programs, told him, “We pride ourselves on doing the minimum required by the federal government.” An Arizona congressman proposed that the card used by people receiving food-stamp benefits be made prison orange, conferring not just nutrition but shame. In 2016, after several counties in North Carolina suffered severe flooding, the state tried to distribute federal disaster-relief food-benefit cards on the day of the presidential election, to give poor people a choice between eating and voting. In Kansas, Concannon had explained to an executive who oversaw the state’s food-stamp program how he had made it easier for people in Oregon who were going hungry to access their program. “He said, ‘Jeez, if we did that we’d have more people coming in the door.’ And I said, ‘Yeah, but isn’t that the idea?’”
This gets at the heart of the crazy experiment that is federal government in these United States.  Just like with the Affordable Care Act, and throughout our history with slavery, Jim Crow, segregation, the New Deal and environmental and safety regulations, state and local governments can actively oppose and intentionally undermine the best efforts of the federal government  to achieve the lofty goals set by the founding documents of the nation.  Promoting the general welfare is often not what states, especially in the American South are trying to do.  Do you know which states are seeing some of the worst financial strains on rural hospitals?  Well, Georgia and Texas are two of them.  And this article gets at one of the strangest divides in American politics-that rural voters whose communities and infrastructure are most dependent on federal spending are most hostile to that federal government.  To that point:
By the time she left the little box marked “Rural Development,” Lillian Salerno had spent the better part of five years inside it. The box’s function was simple: to channel low-interest-rate loans, along with a few grants, mainly to towns with fewer than 50,000 people in them. Her department ran the $220 billion bank that serviced the poorest of the poor in rural America: in the Deep South, and in the tribal lands, and in the communities, called colonias, along the U.S.-Mexico border. “Some of the communities in the South, the only checks going in are government checks,” she said. And yet, amazingly, they nearly always repaid their loans....
As the U.S.D.A.’s loans were usually made through local banks, the people on the receiving end of them were often unaware of where the money was coming from. There were many stories very like the one Tom Vilsack told, about a loan they had made, in Minnesota, to a government-shade-throwing, Fox News-watching, small-town businessman. The bank held a ceremony and the guy wound up being interviewed by the local paper. “He’s telling the reporter how proud he is to have done it on his own,” said Vilsack. “The U.S.D.A. person goes to introduce herself, and he says, ‘So who are you?’ She says, ‘I’m the U.S.D.A. person.’ He asks, ‘What are you doing here?’ She says, ‘Well, sir, we supplied the money you are announcing.’ He was white as a sheet.”
Salerno saw this sort of thing all the time. “We’d have this check,” said Salerno. “We’d blow it up and try to have a picture taken with it. It said, UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT, in great big letters. That was something that Vilsack wanted—to be right out in front so people knew the federal government had helped them. In the red southern states the mayor sometimes would say, ‘Can you not mention that the government gave this?’” Even when it was saving lives, or preserving communities, it remained oddly invisible. “It’s just a misunderstanding of the system,” said Salerno. “We don’t teach people what government actually does.”
I enjoy listening patiently to farmers bitch about how much money poor people are given by the government and then asking them how many poor people they think have been given more money by the government than they themselves have been given.  Surprisingly, they often think most poor people do, which is laughable.  However important all the economic damage the Trump and GOP clowns can do to poor people and rural areas, the threat to important scientific research is the most dangerous, because it is the hardest to recognize by everyday people.  When the funding for the water system doesn't come through or when the folks you go to church with are having to get food from the church food pantry, you tend to notice, and changes can be made.  But when research into climate change or contagious disease isn't getting done, we won't find out until it is too late:
We don’t really celebrate the accomplishments of government employees. They exist in our society to take the blame. But if anyone ever paid attention they would note that Woteki’s department, among other achievements, had suppressed the potentially catastrophic 2015 outbreak of bird flu. They’d created, very quickly, a fast new test for the disease that enabled them to cull the sick chickens from the healthy ones. Because of their work the poultry industry was forced to kill only tens of millions of birds, instead of hundreds of millions. In the early 1990s, the U.S.D.A. had also dealt with the outbreak of ring-spot virus in papaya trees, when the papaya industry in Hawaii faced ruin and extinction. Inside the little box marked “Science,” the U.S.D.A. helped genetically engineer a papaya tree that was resistant to ring-spot virus....
His (Sam Clovis, who has since withdrawn from consideration) appointment as the U.S.D.A.’s chief scientist felt like a practical joke to those who had worked there: this was the place that, back in the early 1940s, had taken Alexander Fleming’s findings and effectively invented penicillin. It had triggered the antibiotics revolution. It had coped with endless blights and outbreaks. The consequences of the science it funded—or did not fund—was mind-boggling. The person Clovis was replacing had taught at universities, worked in the White House, and, along the way, been inducted into the National Academy of Sciences....
 In recent years, much of the department’s research has dealt with the effects of climate change. The head of science directs nearly $3 billion in grants each year. Woteki directed the science that leads to nutritional standards for schoolchildren. She set research priorities. Hers had been food security; domestic and global nutrition; safety of the food supply; and figuring out how best to convert plants into fuel. “All of that has to be done in the face of a changing climate,” said Woteki. “It’s all climate change.” It might sound silly that the U.S.D.A. funds a project that seeks to improve the ability of sheep to graze at high altitudes—until you realize that this may one day be the only place sheep will be able to graze. “We’re going to become even more reliant on the efficiencies that come from the investment in science,” she said. One-quarter of the arable land in the world is already degraded, either by overfarming or overgrazing. “Changing temperatures and changing rainfall patterns will force changes in the way crops are grown and livestock are raised,” she said. “The changing climate brings new risks of food-borne disease. Even the pathogens are influenced by temperature and humidity.”
If the Trump administration were to pollute the scientific inquiry at the U.S.D.A. with politics, scientific inquiry would effectively cease.
The Trump Administration and Republican control of the federal government is going to do a lot of damage to the United States, and rural areas, while most responsible for putting them in charge, are going to be hurt the worst.  Unfortunately, the damage done to scientific research, both at U.S.D.A. and in other areas of the federal government, are going to negatively impact all of humanity.  This should be the first thing you should complain to your Congressperson about.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Monster the GOP Created

So nearly 40 years of lying and brainwashing their base has finally caught up with Republicans. Apparently, the saner office holders realize that their base is completely out of its collective mind, and they are retiring in droves to keep from being whipped in the primaries by the craziest loons on the ballot.  Aren't they just profiles in courage.  They and their donors whipped up the regular folks with bullshit about the tyrannical federal government and taxes as theft, and watched as the craziest idiots possible got elected to the local school board and city council.  Then those folks moved to the state legislature.  Then to Congress.  Now they control a large minority of the Senate, and the prototypical 71-year-old Fox News viewer is President of the United States.  The country club set that controlled the Republican Party for years has now realized they no longer can control the lunatic base they used since 1980 to get the votes to overturn regulations and give themselves tax cuts and screw the poor and minorities.  And things are going to get much worse.  40 years is a long time to lie to folks and promise them you are going to help them out, only to enrich yourselves and screw them, over and over and over.  The base wants revenge because even though they can't see Donald Trump is a lying, useless dumbass, they've come to figure out the establishment has been screwing them forever.  All I'm sure of is that I'm going to get very drunk on election night 2018 and that the nation I grew up in is never going to be the same.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Interstate Highway System As Transit Map

Via Ritholtz, this map from Visual Capitalist is awesome:


What is a 179D Deduction?

The Des Moines Register has some interesting information about an obscure tax rule.  The craziest part is that if a government building installs energy-saving building features, the architect, engineer or builder could score a tax deduction paid for by taxpayers.  That is incredible. 


Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Professor Gets TV Time

My former roommate, fellow amateur boxer, occasional commenter here, and Townie was featured at halftime of Notre Dame's loss to Georgia on Saturday.  This video reminds me that maybe I should have gone and studied at the library with him instead of staying back in the dorm and watching TV.  However, if I'd have done that, I'd have missed countless Big Ten basketball games and quite a few good episodes of the Red Green Show.  Anyway, enjoy:


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Chart of the Day - Religious Demographics Edition

Fivethirtyeight:


Bad news for (white) conservative Christians. Just a tip: It might pay off to be inclusive.  Like that Jesus guy seemed to be.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Post-Labor Day Links

Here are some stories I intended to highlight this weekend, but I got a little lazy:

What Does It Cost To Start A New Farm? - Fast Company.  You really don't want to know.

The Myth of the Skills Gap - MIT Technology Review.  Business leaders are full of shit? Nooooo......

Why are New Zealand's waters so polluted? - Al Jazeera.  Spoiler: dairy farms.

It’s Time To Ditch The Concept Of ‘100-Year Floods’ - FiveThirtyEight

Harvey Wasn’t Just Bad Weather. It Was Bad City Planning - Bloomberg Businessweek  Note: Nobody was prepared for 50 inches of rain, but considering how much of Houston was built in the past 25 years, the drainage was still terribly planned.

How Washington Made Harvey Worse - Politico

Houston: A Global Warning - Rolling Stone

The Chemical Plant Explosion in Texas Is Not an Accident. It's the Result of Specific Choices. - Esquire

If you listen closely, you can hear Trump's tax plan shrinking - LA Times.  Good, it is a bunch of poorly packaged stupidity.

10 Things Most Americans Don't Know About America - Mark Manson.

Why a Republican Pollster Is Losing Faith in Her Party - The Atlantic.   Because it is a flaming pile of dog shit?

Where Corn Pollutes America Most, and Who’s Responsible - Bloomberg



Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Yes, I've Been Terrible At This Lately

Sure, I haven't posted anything in over a month, but I have composed parts of a number of posts in my head.  Usually, it is after some terrible Trump action, and after a little while I get the feeling that if I posted every time he pisses me off, it is really going to be a long three and a half years.  I must say, though, that the Democrats have also been fairly frustrating this summer.  They appear to be trying to position themselves to lose to Lord Combover the Fuckup.  All is not lost,though.  Bannon (although I did find myself agreeing with him somewhat on taxes, Afghanistan and North Korea) and Gorka (ding dong the Douche is gone) are out of the White House, and not a moment too soon.  Anyway, I figured I would throw up a post to prove I'm not dead, and to share a few of the interesting stories I've seen recently.  Here you go:

Robert E. Lee at West Point - Andrew Bacevich.  Bacevich does a good job laying out the case for dealing with Lee's name at the service academy.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio is no conservative and no hero, no matter what President Trump says - USA Today.  He is, however, a sadist and a total asshole.

These Sugar Barons Built an $8 Billion Fortune With Washington’s Help - Bloomberg.  Corporate welfare at its finest.

A Big Tobacco Moment for the Sugar Industry-The New Yorker.

A flood of problems - Washington Post.  On the danger posed by Peru's melting glaciers.

Climate change will likely wreck their livelihoods – but they still don't buy the science- The Guardian

Hell and High Water - Texas Tribune and ProPublica.  An investigative series from last year on Houston's lack of preparation for a direct hit from a hurricane.

The Moneyman Behind the Alt-Right - Buzzfeed.  Could be titled, "Reason #1 for an estate tax and higher income taxes."

The Critic Who Refuted Trump's World View - In 1916 - The New Yorker

How Moldy Hay And Sick Cows Led To A Lifesaving Drug - Joe Palca


Monday, July 24, 2017

The Day the Fire Came

I highly recommend that you read this very well written story about three of the victims of this spring's Great Plains fires.  It is very moving. Well done, Skip Hollandsworth and Texas Monthly.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Townball in Minnesota

This is something I wish we had here:
The uniqueness of the Stearns County League is that it dates to 1950 in what is basically its present form. Regal was an early member, as was Freeport. Meire Grove and Greenwald were Green-Grove until separate teams were formed in 1959.
For nearly six decades, it has been those two, plus Farming, Lake Henry, St. Martin, New Munich, Richmond and Roscoe. Of course, 1983 saw the admission of Elrosa and Spring Hill.
“Those teams had to come up with the expansion fee,” Schleper said. “They each had to buy a case of beer for the league’s board of directors.”
The 10-team Stearns County League forms a family, both in spirit and in reality. Herman Lensing is a reporter from Star Publications, the publisher of weekly newspapers such as the Melrose Beacon, Sauk Centre Herald and Albany Enterprise.
Herman is among the 222 residents of Greenwald. He’s famous for having his camera always at the ready. He has been chronicling the exploits of this league and other area townball teams (29 total in Stearns County) for decades....
There are generations of names associated with every team in the league. That’s a tribute to the large Catholic families of farmers. The farms are fewer and the families are smaller in current times. Still ...
“To be a true Stearns County town, you need a Catholic church, two bars and a ballfield,” Schleper said....
What astounds is standing at a ballpark in Farming, Spring Hill or Elrosa, looking across the prairie, and trying to figure out how Stearns County League teams renew themselves. Richmond is near Cold Spring and close to 1,500 in population, but the rest of these little places are a Catholic church, two bars (or one) and a ballfield.
The basic radius rule for player eligibility is 6 miles. The old saying was, “You should play where you go to church.”
The four 15-mile exceptions to the radius rule are still low by state amateur standards.
Most important, the SCL runs Little Dipper (Little League age) and Big Dipper (Base Ruth and Legion age) programs as a feeder system. Parents pay no fee, and the kids swing with wood bats to get ready for the town team.
Many of the bills are paid through pulltab sales at local bars, where the ballclub is the charity. There are also offseason fundraisers.
That is awesome.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Hot Dog Eating Record

On a lighter note, but no less a sign of American dysfunction, FiveThirtyEight gives us this:


Idiots At The Gates - The Future of the United States

I recommend this New Yorker article on the recently concluded session of the Texas legislature.  The second-most populous state in the union is almost under the control of complete morons.  Only a few somewhat sensible elected officials prevent them from riding roughshod over reason and logic.  As I sit here on the eve of Independence Day and contemplate the immediate and medium-term future, I have little faith that the sensible folks will win out.  I'm pretty sure we will see these cultists foist their ignorant bigotry and witch doctor economics on the rest of the nation, and only after their policies are complete disasters will we be able to vote them out of office.  In the meantime, I am concerned we will end up seeing unacceptable amounts of violence as regular citizens suffer under their doomed-to-fail rule.  I wish I could be more optimistic, but the last two years have rendered that almost non-existent characteristic in my personality extinct.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Qatar Airlift

This probably isn't the best idea for a desert country with no rain-fed agriculture, but it is notable:
The showdown between Qatar and its neighbors has disrupted trade, split families and threatened to alter long-standing geopolitical alliances. It’s also prompted one Qatari businessman to fly 4,000 cows to the Gulf desert in an act of resistance and opportunity to fill the void left by a collapse in the supply of fresh milk.
It will take as many as 60 flights for Qatar Airways to deliver the 590-kilogram beasts that Moutaz Al Khayyat, chairman of Power International Holding, bought in Australia and the U.S. “This is the time to work for Qatar,” he said....
Most of the fresh milk and dairy products for Doha’s more than 1 million population came from Saudi Arabia up until a week ago. That milk is getting scarce after the kingdom, the United Arab Emirates and two allies cut transport links with a country that spends $500 million a week to prepare stadiums and a metro before the soccer World Cup in 2022.
Al Khayyat, whose main business is a construction firm that built Qatar’s biggest mall, had been expanding the company's agricultural business at a farm 50 kilometers (31 miles) north of Doha. Food security is part of Qatar’s government strategy to steer the economy away from petrodollars, known, like in Saudi Arabia, as “Vision 2030.”
On a site covering the equivalent of almost 70 soccer fields, new grey sheds line two strips of verdant grass in the desert with a road running through the middle up to a small mosque. It produces sheep milk and meat and there were already plans to import the cows by sea. Then Qatar was ostracized, so the project was expedited.
I would say that trying to produce cow milk isn't the best investment of resources in the Middle East, but Saudi Arabia's investment in a war on Shiite Islam and anyone who supports the Shiites is even worse.  I don't understand how Obama supported the Saudis' war on Yemen, and it is scary as hell that Trump feels the need to encourage the ultimate terror sponsors to start even more shit.  Hopefully we manage to avoid the idiotic war with Iran so many morons in this country want us to pursue (such as the commander-in-chief).  I'll be rooting for Qatar in the current fight.

Your U.S. Open Host Origin Story

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel has a really interesting story of how this year's host course Erin Hills was built, and how it came to host the U.S. Open.  It is hard to believe.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Planting 2017

Well, we finally finished planting (at least the first time) for the season.  May as well watch it rain some more:


FRACTAL - 4k StormLapse from Chad Cowan on Vimeo.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Small Towns As The New Inner Cities

The Wall Street Journal goes to Kenton, Ohio to look at the demographic challenges facing many small towns:
In Hardin County, where Kenton is the seat, factories that once made cabooses for trains and axles for commercial trucks have shut down. Since 1980, the share of county residents who live in poverty has risen by 45% and median household income adjusted for inflation has fallen by 7%.
At the same time, census figures show, the percentage of adults who are divorced has nearly tripled, outpacing the U.S. average. Opioid abuse is also driving up crime.
Father Dave Young, the 38-year-old Catholic priest at Immaculate Conception, was shocked when a thief stole ornamental candlesticks and a ciborium, spilling communion wafers along the way.
Before coming to this county a decade ago, Father Young had grown up in nearby Columbus—where for many years he didn’t feel safe walking the streets. “I always had my guard up,” he said.
Since 1980, however, the state capital’s population has risen 52%, buoyed by thousands of jobs from J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co., plus the growth of Ohio State University. Median household income in Columbus is up 6% over the same span, adjusted for inflation. “The economy has grown a lot there,” said Father Young. “The downtown, they’ve really worked on it.”
Meanwhile, as Kenton—population 8,200—continues to unravel, he said he has begun always locking the church door. Again, he finds himself looking over his shoulder.
There are definitely some similarities between the current struggles of many small, isolated towns and the challenges faced by inner city neighborhoods fifty years ago.  Both areas lost jobs and hope while drug use and family failures spiraled up.  Currently, we haven't seen the spike in violent crime in small towns, and hopefully we won't, but I expect that part of the inner city collapse rose up with the feeling of hopelessness that grew up out of the utter lack of opportunity and impact of drugs.  It very well could crop up in today's seemingly abandoned small towns.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

House GOP Obamacare Repeal: Robbing From The Sick and Giving To The Rich

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Chart of the Day: Word Cloud Edition

Quinnipiac asked, "what is the first word that comes to mind when you think of Donald Trump?":

The most common responses, in order:
1. idiot, 39 times
2. incompetent, 31 times
3. liar, 30 times
4. leader, 25 times
5. unqualified, 25 times
6. president, 22 times
7. strong, 21 times
8. businessman, 18 times
9. ignorant, 16 times
10. egotistical, 15 times
It is good that we only did the top 10, because the 11th most-common word is not suitable for a family newspaper. It rhymes with “mass soul.” And actually, it’s only tied for 11th … with “stupid.”
I would have probably used moron or dumbfuck.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Western Subcontractors Help Chinese Plane Business

Bloomberg:

China is making its boldest attempt yet to break the stranglehold that Airbus SE and Boeing Co. have on the market for big commercial airliners. After years of delays, the nation’s first modern large jet is expected to make its maiden flight....
The 158-174 seat C919 is made by state-owned Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China Ltd. and follows Comac’s development of a smaller, regional jet, the ARJ21, that was flown by a Chinese airline for the first time last year. The C919 brings Comac to the table in one of the most lucrative sectors of commercial aviation, competing head-to-head with Boeing’s ubiquitous 737 and Airbus’s A320....
The Chinese jet demonstrates the extent globalization has taken over the manufacture of major engineering products. Just as the jet relies on systems from firms based around the world, many of those systems are built with components that originated in China.
The C919’s engines for example are made by CFM. CFM’s parents, GE and French manufacturer Safran Aircraft Engines, in turn buy more than $500 million of Chinese-made parts a year for the company’s single-aisle jet engine series, the company said.
Hmmm....looks like a who's who of my stock portfolio.  I wonder how long it will be before all that technology is pirated by mainland companies.  I'm guessing not very long.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Cincinnati May Have A New Mayor

If it is Yvette Simpson, she will bring a unique biography to the job.

Every Town For Itself In Climate Change Era

St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
About 40 percent of levees along the Mississippi River in the Army Corps of Engineers district north of St. Louis are built higher than their authorized heights, according to the agency’s own findings.
The Corps’ Rock Island District, which covers an area beginning about 60 miles upstream from St. Louis, reports that about 80 out of 202 miles of levee systems it surveyed are improperly high, based on data yet to be publicly released.
“Some of those were between 2 and 4 feet above their authorized elevation,” said Scott Whitney, the Corps’ Rock Island District flood risk manager and chief of project management. “The revelation is out there that levee districts throughout this region have taken, in some cases, some pretty extreme measures to protect themselves.”
That protection, he notes, has come “at the cost of others,” with the added levee height leaving other areas more vulnerable to redirected floodwater. Whitney said the district is still developing a hydraulic model to understand how far-reaching the levees’ combined impact on flooding has been, including whether the St. Louis area has been affected....
 Complicating matters further, stronger flood protection is increasingly coveted, with an unusual number of major floods taking place in recent years — a symptom consistent with more erratic trends in precipitation predicted by climate change.
“We’re in an extremely wet period,” said Whitney, noting that several of the region’s top flooding events on record have occurred in the last decade. “We’ve had a number of those in the last several years. People think, ‘My God, I’ve had three 100-year flood events in the last five years.’”
Expect more frequent floods, more damaging winds, more violent tornadoes and hurricanes, and other dramatic weather events in the future.  And expect communities that can to try to protect themselves, even as it hurts their neighbors.  Things are going to be difficult in the future.

Chart of the Day: Corn Products

From Brian C. Colwell:

Lots of interesting historical corn facts there, too.  Here are a few:
  • 1847: Robert Reid, by accident, created Reid’s Yellow Dent.
  • The western corn rootworm was first collected in 1867 while surveying for a railroad extension from Kansas to Fort Craig.
  • From 1865 to 1935, average corn yield in the United States was essentially unchanged.
  • Corn cob pipes were first manufactured in the United States in 1869.
  • By 1878, Iowa led the US in corn production, followed by Illinois and Missouri.
  • In the late 19th century, pellagra reached epidemic proportions in parts of the southern US.
  • Dr. W.J. Beal conducted experiments with corn hybrids at Michigan State in 1878. He called his hybrid mule corn since the corn was the result of a cross, just as are mules.
  • In 1892, the Corn Palace was built in Mitchell, South Dakota, with corn murals as a way to prove to the world that South Dakota had a healthy agricultural climate.
  • James Reid, son of Robert Reid, won a blue ribbon with his Yellow Dent at the Illinois state fair in 1891 and then a gold medal at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893.
  • 1893: George Morrow proposed new corn production methods, which were similar to those used today.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Trump Tax Cuts In One Chart

Via The Atlantic:

Take a wild guess which column Donald Trump would be The whole, tax break for pass-through income is ridiculous.  Pass-through entities were set up to avoid corporate income taxes.  Now they get treated at the state level in several cases, and in this proposal at the federal level, as somehow better than wage income, which is stupid.  Why should I as a farmer and a member in a farm partnership pay less in taxes on that income than I do for schlepping away at my town job working for The Man?  What if I became a contractor for the company I work in town for, and get paid through a pass-through entity.  This example of how that works is a doozy:
Take a real world example. The state of Kansas does not tax pass-through income, and its highest-paid public employee, Bill Self, the coach of the University of Kansas basketball team, is paid $4.8 million per year through an LLC. Under current federal law, a typical head of household earning $4.8 million might have to give more than a third of his income, or about $1.8 million, to the IRS. Under Trump's plan, somebody like Bill Self could save about $1 million in taxes by setting up a pass-through business, thus paying the same marginal rate as a household making about $50,000.
The highest-paid public employee in the state has his salary paid to an LLC, and thus he pays zero dollars in state income tax.  Brilliant, Sam Brownback, brilliant.  It just blows me away that so many people who are struggling to get by are more than happy to support a billionaire who is going to massively cut his own taxes while destroying the federal budget.  And those same struggling people will get negative returns once budget cuts to stem massive deficits are factored in.  

Sunday, April 23, 2017

NASA Photo of the Day

April 9:

Comet Hale-Bopp Over Val Parola Pass
Image Credit & Copyright: A. Dimai, (Col Druscie Obs.), AAC
Explanation: Comet Hale-Bopp, the Great Comet of 1997, became much brighter than any surrounding stars. It was seen even over bright city lights. Away from city lights, however, it put on quite a spectacular show. Here Comet Hale-Bopp was photographed above Val Parola Pass in the Dolomite mountains surrounding Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy. Comet Hale-Bopp's blue ion tail, consisting of ions from the comet's nucleus, is pushed out by the solar wind. The white dust tail is composed of larger particles of dust from the nucleus driven by the pressure of sunlight, that orbit behind the comet. Comet Hale-Bopp (C/1995 O1) remained visible to the unaided eye for 18 months -- longer than any other comet in recorded history. This year marks the 20th anniversary of Comet Hale-Bopp's last trip to the inner Solar System. The large comet is next expected to return around the year 4385.
The dark legacy of Hale-Bopp - Heaven's Gate. What a fucked-up mess.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Pre-Planting Links

Yeah, that's right, we haven't started planting, and it's really eating at me.  Anyway, here are some of the interesting stories I've come across since the last time I did enough work to post links:

Club Team Thrives in the Shadow of the Frozen Four - New York Times

The Mariners are Selling Too Many Toasted Grasshoppers - VICE Sports

Mazanec: A Czech Easter Tradition Fighting To Survive In The U.S. - The Salt and Runza: The story of one of Nebraska's most treasured foods - Omaha World-Herald

To feed Upstate NY beer industry, state's barley growers need U.S. aid, Schumer says - Syracuse Poat-Standard

Science Should Not Be a Free Market Endeavor - Slate
 
In Kiron, Iowa, pop. 229, the meaning of a life, a death and another cup of coffee - Washington Post.  This is kind of how I feel every day.

How a gritty Midwestern city is emerging as a model for civility - Christian Science Monitor.  I think this could be done outside of charter schools.

Coal is on the Way Out at Electric Utilities, No Matter What Trump Says - DealBook

Preparing for Chemical Valley - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.  Honestly, how economically depressed does a municipality have to be to wish to be more like Ascension Parish, Louisiana?

Confronting the New Urban Crisis - CityLab.  Personally, I think rural folks are going to make sure city denizens are unable to fix these major problems.

Why Cops Shoot - Tampa Bay Times.  The Times have done a couple of great investigative pieces in the past few years.

Unspeakable Realities Block Universal Coverage In America - Forbes.  How fucked up does the U.S. health care economy have to be to have this article published in goddamn Forbes?

Trump's base turns on him - Politico.  Too little, too late.  Like the patent medicine buyers turning on the salesman after he leaves town.

J.D. Vance, the False Prophet of Blue America - New Republic

A history of global living conditions in 5 charts - Our World In Data.  A much brighter view of the world than what I am normally focusing on.  Actually 6 charts here, but I won't be too picky:



Blood Money

If you don't read anything else today, I recommend reading this.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Republican Party, In Summary

Alex Pareene goes over many of the things that make the Republican Party such a dysfunctional governing party:
If you want to understand intra-GOP warfare, the decision-making process of our president, the implosion of the Republican healthcare plan, and the rest of the politics of the Trump era, you don’t need to know about Russian espionage tactics, the state of the white working class, or even the beliefs of the “alt-right.” You pretty much just need to be in semi-regular contact with a white, reasonably comfortable, male retiree. We are now ruled by men who think and act very much like that ordinary man you might know, and if you want to know why they believe so many strange and terrible things, you can basically blame the fact that a large and lucrative industry is dedicated to lying to them....
The bottom-feeding amorality of the sorts of people who sponsored the right-wing press, and the crummy nature of the products and services sold, shows exactly who was supposed to be consuming it: suckers. Or, more specifically, trusting retirees, with a bit of disposable income, and a natural inclination to hate modernity and change—an inclination that could be heightened, radicalized, and exploited....
Rather rapidly, two things happened: First, Republicans realized they’d radicalized their base to a point where nothing they did in power could satisfy their most fervent constituents. Then—in a much more consequential development—a large portion of the Republican Congressional caucus became people who themselves consume garbage conservative media, and nothing else.
That, broadly, explains the dysfunction of the Obama era, post-Tea Party freakout. Congressional Republicans went from people who were able to turn their bullshit-hose on their constituents, in order to rile them up, to people who pointed it directly at themselves, mouths open.
The radicalization of the base actually occurred earlier than Pareene lets on.  He pinpoints it to the election of Obama, but, at least around here, it occurred before that.  I ran for office in 2006 because I saw a Republican party being taken over by know-nothing idiots who believe all kinds of non-factual bullshit.  That year was an election year for all of the statewide executive offices, and when there is a contested Republican primary election for Governor, my county's Republican party holds a County Convention.  As one of the candidates for office, I was invited to speak, or I otherwise wouldn't have attended. The opening address was given by John Boehner, who, at the time, was House Majority Leader (he would become Minority Leader after the 2006 election).  He rolled out a lot of red meat, but over the course of the day, his speech was one of the tamer ones given.  Also present was House Freedom Caucus founder and do-nothing government paycheck thief Jim Jordan, who was leaving the Ohio Senate to run for Congress that year.  I don't think he spoke, but if he did, it was while I was trying to keep from puking due to nerves before my speech.  I gave my speech, which didn't stick to my script, but generally focused on the need for more spending on education.  Not surprisingly, I was the only speaker who didn't mention guns, terrorism or abortion, and the only one who mentioned additional spending for education.

The delegates to the county convention were a mix of elected officials (especially township trustees), party volunteers and business people.  To best illustrate that the base had already been radicalized, all but two of the right-wing loon candidates for statewide office (State Attorney General candidate Betty Montgomery and Mike DeWine, who was the most sane candidate for U.S. Senate present-how times change) was endorsed by the delegates present.  Later that week, I stopped by the county Recorder's office.  He was the county political boss, and he confided to me that he and the other political wheel, the county Prosecutor, were terrified by how radical the base was, and how willing they were to back the morons who professed the greatest faith in the old-time right-wing media bullshit.  Those two were more in it for the power and the ability to hand out patronage, and they were shocked that the majority of the local party was drinking the Kool-Aid.

As Pareene points out, one of the main problems is that the true believers are now a substantial minority in Congress.  The problem is that they were already holding most of the positions at the state level.  Jim Jordan was, at that moment in 2006, making the leap from the state-level stage to the national stage.  My goal was to convince people that they shouldn't be electing morons like Jim Jordan and my opponent to government positions, but instead be electing people who were smart enough to vote for positions outside of the conservative dogma.  Unfortunately, I had a hard time telling my friends and neighbors that they had a lot of stupid political beliefs.  Instead, I tried to work my way around the edges of political discussions, and ended up absorbing a brutal shellacking from a rather dumb incumbent I ran against.

Pareene focuses on Trump's position as the Fox News viewer-in-chief, and how dangerous that is functional government.  The unfortunate thing is that this movement has been building for almost 40 years, and it has taken completely unqualified dumbfuck being elected President of the United States for most folks to realize that stupid people have gradually been filtering up from the grassroots, and now they control almost all the levers of power.  We've had plenty of time to realize what's happening, and the fact that I ran for office is evidence that it was completely obvious back in 2006.  Now we have to reap the whirlwind.

The Anti-Steve King Pulitzer Prize Winner

A small town newspaper editor in massive racist and total dimwit Steve King's birthplace won a Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing.  He frequently takes on King's anti-immigrant screeds, but his attacks on Big Ag won him the prize:
Reveling in the ethnic diversity of the high school football team, Cullen opined last fall: “How about those Tornadoes! The roster had all the colors of the rainbow, all races and creeds pulling together for the good of the team. Steve King wants to deport them because of their big cantaloupe calves, at least the Mexican ones.”
In another part of King’s district, such editorials might put a newspaper out of business. But in Storm Lake, the elementary school student body is nearly 90% children of color, and they speak 19 languages and dialects. The immigrant community here has come to feel a sense of protection that finds its clearest expression in the twice-weekly newspaper.
Cullen took on King again last month when the congressman asserted that America “can't restore our civilization with somebody else's babies,” a comment widely interpreted to mean the U.S. needs more children of Western European extraction. Cullen highlighted King’s college attendance — and failure to graduate.
“King said Monday that he is about defending Western civilization,” he wrote. “You remember that class in school? Neither does anyone else. King wasn’t at Northwest Missouri long enough to take it, I bet.”
That kind of straight talk won Cullen a Pulitzer Prize on Monday for editorial writing, with the award committee praising editorials “fueled by tenacious reporting, impressive expertise and engaging writing that successfully challenged powerful corporate agricultural interests in Iowa.”
More impressively, the newspaper is ridiculously young and is a non-daily:
The white-walled, flag-bedecked newspaper office also has a receptionist, sports writer, photographer and a desk where Cullen’s brother, John, runs the business side of the paper they founded in the early 1990s to compete with the local daily, the Storm Lake Pilot-Tribune. The town of 14,000 was once the smallest in the nation with two daily print newspapers before the Times switched to publishing only on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Steve King is an embarrassment for Storm Lake, for Iowa's 4th district, for the state of Iowa, for the nation, and for all of humanity.  I am thankful that somebody is out there pointing out that King is a jackass to the voters who give him the platform to spout his stupidity.

Monday, April 10, 2017

NASA Photo of the Day

April 5:

Filaments of Active Galaxy NGC 1275
Image Credit: Hubble Legacy Archive, ESA, NASA; Processing & Copyright: Domingo Pestana
Explanation: What keeps these filaments attached to this galaxy? The filaments persist in NGC 1275 even though the turmoil of galactic collisions should destroy them. First, active galaxy NGC 1275 is the central, dominant member of the large and relatively nearby Perseus Cluster of Galaxies. Wild-looking at visible wavelengths, the active galaxy is also a prodigious source of x-rays and radio emission. NGC 1275 accretes matter as entire galaxies fall into it, ultimately feeding a supermassive black hole at the galaxy's core. This composite image, recreated from archival Hubble Space Telescope data, highlights the resulting galactic debris and filaments of glowing gas, some up to 20,000 light-years long. Observations indicate that the structures, pushed out from the galaxy's center by the black hole's activity, are held together by magnetic fields. Also known as Perseus A, NGC 1275 spans over 100,000 light years and lies about 230 million light years away.

Monday, April 3, 2017

It's Opening Day

The weather may not cooperate, but hopefully the crowds enjoy the Findlay Market parade and the start of baseball season in Cincinnati.


Sunday, April 2, 2017

The 2017 George Will Opening Day Baseball Quiz

George Will:
Sportswriter: "You hit only two home runs all last year and already you've hit seven this year [1969]. What's the difference?"
Reds outfielder Alex Johnson: "Five."
WASHINGTON -- See? Baseball numbers aren't difficult. But be precise: As players say after a close play, "Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades." And don't be discouraged if some questions stump you. As Phillies manager Danny Ozark said in 1976, "Even Napoleon had his Watergate." And as Brewers manager Harvey Kuenn said after losing the 1982 World Series to the Cardinals, "We're going to hang our heads high." Now, name the player or players who:

1) Had 297 three-hit games and only one three-strike-out game.
2) Struck out only 23 times in 474 at bats against Hall of Fame pitchers.
3) Batted .415 in 94 at bats against Greg Maddux.
4) Had at least 100 hits from both sides of the plate in a season.
5) Has the lowest career batting average among players with 3,000 hits.
6) Are the three players who each had an OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) above 1.000 in their final season.
7) Are the four pitchers with more than three Cy Young awards.
8) Are the seven starting pitchers with two seasons with a sub-0.9 WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched).
9) Are the three hitters to have at least 40 home runs and 100 walks in a season before turning 23.
10) Have the three best OPS seasons at age 20 playing at least 100 games.
11) Are the four hitters with more than 500 home runs and 600 doubles.
12) Has the best stolen-base percentage with at least 500 steals.
13) Was the Hall of Famer who won three MVPs and finished second four times.
14) Was the youngest 20-game winner.
15) Set the rookie record for strikeouts.
16) Holds the record for most extra-base hits by a third baseman in a single season.
17) Among pitchers in the live ball era (post-1920) with at least 900 innings, had the lowest opponents' batting average and most strikeouts per nine innings.
18) Is the only player in the top 10 all time in runs, hits, home runs, RBI, total bases and extra-base hits.
19) Is the pitcher with the most strikeouts in his first 100 major league games.
20) Is the only first baseman to have 40 home runs and 30 stolen bases in a season (he did it twice).
21) Are the three pitchers with six seasons with at least 200 strikeouts and no more than 175 hits.
22) Had the longest hitting streak by a catcher.
23) In 1930, hit .386, had 250 hits, hit 40 home runs and drove in 170 but led the league in none of these four categories.
24) Had a higher batting average than Joe DiMaggio's .408 during DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak in 1941.
25) Was the MVP in two consecutive All-Star games.
26) Were the two to win rookie of the year, MVP and Cy Young awards (not all in the same season).
27) Lost no-hitters with two outs in the ninth inning in consecutive games.
28) Is the only player to finish first or second in MVP voting in his first five full seasons.
29) Are the five centerfielders elected to Cooperstown in their first year of eligibility.
30) Has the most World Series hits.
Bonus question: Which broadcaster said, "Ozzie Smith just made another play that I've never seen anyone else make before, and I've seen him make it more than anyone else ever has"? Hint: He also said, "There's a fly ball to deep center field. Winfield is going back, back. He hits his head against the wall. It's rolling toward second base."

Answers after the jump

Thursday, March 30, 2017

One Shining Moment

Revisiting the Carrier Plant

Bloomberg goes back to follow up on what currently looks like the high point of the Trump era (which actually occurred before the inauguration):
HVAC makers have left the U.S. for the same reason countless other businesses have: cheaper labor. Carrier’s unionized workers in Indy are paid, on average, about $23 an hour (though more recent hires earn $17). Their Mexican counterparts earn an hourly rate of $3. Absenteeism and turnover in Indiana are considerably higher than at the company’s Monterrey operations, Hayes says. He told the Council on Foreign Relations breakfast that his Mexican rooftop AC plant has “probably one of the best-performing workforces that we have around the globe.”
Which isn’t to say that Carrier’s Indy workers, represented by United Steelworkers Local 1999, aren’t productive. They produce 10,000 furnace or fan-coil units a day, or one every seven seconds. According to a 1993 Hartford Courant story, the Indianapolis plant back then produced 500,000 furnaces a year with 1,500 workers. Today it can make four times as many furnaces and fan coils with a slightly smaller workforce—and you don’t have to explain the significance of that to the members of Local 1999. Studies show that 50 percent to 90 percent of job losses at American factories are attributable to productivity gains linked to automation. Except for a blip during the 2008 recession, industrial production in the U.S. has been on a fairly steady rise for decades. Even if Trump struck three Carrier deals a day for the rest of his term, he wouldn’t recoup even half the 7 million American manufacturing jobs lost since that employment peaked in 1979.
Here is a gem that should be repeated anytime some businessperson trots out the "job-killing regulations" line:
The union offered concessions amounting to a third of the $65 million a year Carrier expected to save by moving. Indiana then-Governor Mike Pence and Democratic Senator Joe Donnelly met separately with Carrier and UTC executives. Pence told RTV6 of Indianapolis that the “rising tide of red tape” in Washington made it impossible for Carrier to keep the plant running.
Donnelly says he asked Carrier executive Nelson and Robert McDonough, who runs UTC’s Climate, Controls & Security division, to cite one regulation that figured in the decision. “They couldn’t,” he says. The executives did confirm that furnaces sent to the U.S. from Mexico would have to comply with the same rules. The company later told the union that regulatory costs didn’t figure into expected savings from the move.
“This is about Carrier chasing wages at $3 an hour,” Donnelly says. “They put together a $16 billion stock buyback and just went wherever they could to try to pick up a few extra pennies.”
So what was the outcome of the "deal"?  This:
Carrier struck a deal with the Indiana Economic Development Corp., a public-private agency chaired at the time by Pence. UTC had declined a similar arrangement in 2014 because, in part, it would have required the plant to add workers. According to the current plan, Carrier will receive up to $7 million in state tax credits and training grants over 10 years—about $1,000 per worker per year, a pittance for UTC, which offers to underwrite four years of college education for any employee.
UTC also pledged to spend $16 million on plant upgrades, including automation. That should make the plant more productive, which in turn could lessen the need to seek dirt-cheap wages. But technology tends to shrink payrolls, and that’s likely to happen at Carrier. “We will take a lot of those jobs that today require very low skill and … eliminate those jobs through automation,” Hayes says...He offers little comfort to the sorts of workers whose jobs he reluctantly preserved. “If you have a low-skilled job, they’re not safe no matter where you are,” he says. “The forces of globalization are not going to slow down.”
That’s painfully clear in Indiana. Not far from Carrier, Rexnord LLC is closing a bearings plant and shipping production to Mexico. Trump tweeted about it in December: “This is happening all over our country. No more!” Rexnord’s 350 workers are expected to be gone by summer. Elsewhere in the state, auto parts supplier CTS Corp. in Elkhart is sending production to Asia and Mexico, cutting 230 jobs. Welbilt Inc. closed its Sellersburg beverage systems factory in January and sent production to Mexico, eliminating more than 70 jobs. Harman Professional Solutions shifted some operations in Elkhart to Mexico, killing 125 jobs.
Layoffs at UTC’s Huntington plant began recently. The facility will be closed by early 2018. The Carrier fan-coil lines and related jobs will be gone by the end of this year.
Unfortunately, I don't think anything, especially a blowhard moron jackass President, can staunch the flow of job losses to low wage countries and to automation.  The truth is, we have locked ourselves into an unsustainable, resource-intensive way-of-life that we just can't afford to maintain.  It is just too easy for businesses to use wage arbitrage to make products in low-wage countries and sell them in rich countries.  It doesn't matter whether Trump's excise taxes or Paul Ryan's border-adjustment tax were to go into effect, because each would pummel the millions of Americans in low-paying service jobs, while barely assisting the approximately 9% of Americans who work in manufacturing.  The only thing that could maybe revitalize American manufacturing would be for investors to give up on squeezing more and more profits out of American companies, and settle for allowing workers to gain a much greater share of productivity gains.  You may as well wait for Donald Trump to show humility.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Charts of the Day: Coal in Ohio

From the Columbus Dispatch:

Miners represent just a fraction of 1 percent of the Ohio workforce. Coal companies employed 2,416 miners in the state in 2015, the most-recent number available, down 23 percent from 2009.
For some perspective, the state has more than 95,000 workers in auto, truck and related parts manufacturing. And Ohio's 2,825 florists outnumber the state's coal miners, according to figures from the Mine Safety and Health Administration and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
But for the Rosebud miners, it's not just a job. It's a legacy. And they share the hope that the new administration will fight to save their way of life.
It's going to take much more than a blowhard idiot President to bring back many mining jobs.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Trump Budget

FiveThirtyEight:


Idiots.  Note that Trump claims to want to fund massive infrastructure investment, but his cuts to the Ag Department hit investment in water and wastewater projects in rural areas.  Army Corps cuts are going to hit inland river navigation.  And DOT cuts? WTF?  He's the old-time patent medicine salesman ripping off the rubes.  Fuck that asshole.  He's going to be the worst President of my lifetime.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Lofoten Islands

The Lofoten Islands from Nick Kontostavlakis on Vimeo.



This makes me feel a little warmer today even though Old Man Winter is trying to remind me he's not dead yet.

Monday, March 13, 2017

NCAA Bracket

First Four: Mt. St. Mary's, Kansas State, UC Davis and Providence

East
First Round: Villanova, Wisconsin, UNC-Wilmington, Florida, Providence, Baylor, Marquette, Duke
Second Round: Villanova, Florida, Baylor, Duke
Third Round: Villanova, Baylor
East winner: Villanova

West
First Round: Gonzaga, Northwestern, Notre Dame, West Virginia, Xavier, FGSU, St. Mary's, Arizona
Second Round: Gonzaga, Notre Dame, Xavier, Arizona
Third Round: Gonzaga, Arizona
West winner: Gonzaga

Midwest
First Round: Kansas, Miami, Nevada, Purdue, Creighton, Oregon, Michigan, Louisville
Second Round: Kansas, Purdue, Creighton, Louisville
Third Round: Kansas, Louisville
Midwest winner: Louisville

South
First Round: North Carolina, Seton Hall, Middle Tennessee, Butler, Cincinnati, UCLA, Dayton, Kentucky
Second Round: North Carolina, Butler, Cincinnati, Kentucky
Third Round: Butler, Kentucky
South winner: Kentucky

Semifinals: Villanova, Kentucky

Champion: Villanova

The Financialized Economy

Via Downtown Josh Brown:






Then Steve King says something racist.

Delayed Time Change Links

If I were in charge, we would never fall back to standard time again.  But I'm not.  However, here are some worthwhile links to take a look at if you haven't already:

Angry Man Cuts President Trump's Balls Off - Deadspin.  The horse was gelded.

Wisconsin and Minnesota Await Latest Round in Ice-Melting Rivalry - New York Times

This small molecule could have a big future in food security - Phys.org.  A GMO corn that would prevent the production of aflatoxin.

Soils could release much more carbon than expected as climate warms - Science Daily.  If we weren't already completely screwed.

McM Inc lists $49.7 million in debts, $10.3 million in assets - AgWeek.  Ouch.

2 of a Farmer’s 3 Children Overdosed. What of the Third — and the Land? - New York Times

High-Tech Greenhouse Has Neighbors Throwing Shade Over Light Pollution - The Salt.  We have folks complaining about the same thing up the highway in Wapakoneta, Ohio.  There they are talking about building 200 acres of greenhouses (there are 20 acres under roof currently), which boggles my mind.  That would be a shit-ton of runoff on a big rain.

Official: Fire still burning hours after Iowa derailment - Des Moines Register.  Ethanol train.

Why Do We Have "Free Trade" For Televisions, But Not For Corn - JSTOR Daily

Caught Dead - The Ringer.  On fishing bluefin tuna to extinction for ridiculously priced sushi.

Donald Trump and the mansion that no one wanted. Then came a Russian fertilizer king- McClatchy.  The story is worthwhile just because it revolves around "the Fertilizer (potash) King,"and how stupid rich people can be.
 and how stupid
Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/article135243694.html#storylink=cpy

Proposed NOAA Budget Cuts Would Jeopardize Essential Tools - Pacific Standard.  Rule by right wing morons sucks.

The quest to crystallize time - Nature and Quantum Leaps - The Economist.  Quantum mechanics is too weird for me.  Also, Quantum Leap was a shitty TV show.

Is It Better to Be Poor in Bangladesh or the Mississippi Delta? and The Steady Destruction of America’s CitiesThe Atlantic

On Labor and Beyond, Trump Is Following Scott Walker's Playbook - Truthout.  I prefer Donald Trump to Scott Walker and Ted Cruz.  They are that bad.

GOP Health Plan Would Hit Rural Areas Hard - Wall Street Journal.  Hoocoodanode?

Republicans and the Constitution - The New Yorker.  Hopefully even Republicans aren't stupid and power-hungry enough to open up this can of worms.

The .300 Hitter Is Going Extinct - Wall Street Journal.  I know the Sabermetrics goons don't put any stock in hitting for average, but I still admire a .300 hitter.


Saturday, March 4, 2017

Demographic Change, It's A Comin'

At least in Northern Ireland:
Northern Ireland's snap election has left the rival extremes of politics virtually neck and neck for the first time — and facing a bruising battle to put their Catholic-Protestant government back together again in an increasingly polarized landscape.
The big winner from Saturday's final results to fill the Northern Ireland Assembly is the Irish nationalist party that triggered the vote, Sinn Fein.
Already the major voice for the Catholic side, Sinn Fein reduced its previous 10-seat gap with its erstwhile Protestant colleagues in government to a single seat in a 90-member chamber. Sinn Fein came within 1,168 votes province-wide of becoming the most popular party for the first time in a corner of the United Kingdom that its leaders long sought to make ungovernable through Irish Republican Army carnage....
In another first, the leading British Protestant party, the Democratic Unionists, won't have enough votes to block legislation on its own, a power long employed to block gay rights legislation backed by all other parties. Never before has the Protestant side's status as the in-built majority in Northern Ireland felt so precarious.
The outcome from Thursday's election, forced by a surprise Sinn Fein withdrawal that collapsed the previous unity government, caught other parties off guard. The Democratic Unionists finished with 28 seats, Sinn Fein 27. The political affiliations of smaller parties meant the new assembly will have 40 unionists committed to keeping Northern Ireland in the United Kingdom versus 39 nationalists seeking to merge the once Protestant-dominated north into the Republic of Ireland.
I am curious if Brexit was a large motivating factor in more people supporting Sinn Fein in this election than in previous elections.  The Unionist side is getting very old, and I would guess that some young Protestants see more of a future with Ireland and the EU than with Britain.  Previous elections showed a much slower rate of change in relative strength between Unionists and Nationalists.