Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Full Snow Moon Links

I'm not going to use the title supermoon, because that is a bunch of media hype, but here are some super links:

What happens to Loogootee water tower when Jack Butcher's wins record falls? and Doyel: State's winningest coach had no intentions of leaving home and J.R. Holmes will soon become second boys basketball coach in state to reach 800 wins – Indy Star.  80% of the decent stories I get from the Star are about high school basketball.  The rest are about stupid Indiana laws.

Should a Catholic priest be fighting in a boxing tournament?America.  As a Bengal Bouts alum, I say hell yes.  (Career record 0-4. 0-5 counting the novice matches in the fall of freshman year)

‘It Will Cause a Scandal.’ The Pope and a Trusted U.S. Cardinal Clash Over Sex-Abuse Crisis – Wall Street Journal 

Massive Loss Of Thousands Of Hives Afflicts Orchard Growers And Beekeepers - The Salt

‘Food and the Wisconsin Idea’ talk discusses Wisconsin farming, solutions to dairy crisis – The Badger Herald  and Food Banks Are Overflowing With Milk - Weekend Edition Sunday

Private Mossad for HireThe New Yorker  

In Need of Workers, the Midwest Recruits From Puerto Rico - Wall Street Journal (h/t cmoore)

Alabama newspaper editor calls for Klan return to 'clean out D.C.' - Montgomery Advertiser

Bolsonaro’s Brazil - London Review of Books

How the US has hidden its empire - The Guardian

Research, Extension, and Related Matters: Title VII - USDA ERS

Friday, February 15, 2019

Chart of the Day: Manufacturing Employment Edition

From Bloomberg:

While the number of manufacturing jobs is up from the low set during the Great Recession, the total is still lower than any other time since 1950.  Unfortunately, I believe it will plumb new lows in the next recession, and will almost certainly never get back to pre-2008 levels.  A few of the reasons for that are that manufacturing is hard, it is extremely capital-intensive, and new technology is eliminating the need for some employees.  It is a lot easier to make money in advertising or mergers and acquisitions or technology. 

Monday, February 11, 2019

Early February Links

Some of my favorite stories from the previous week:

After the abuse Jackie Robinson endured, Frank Robinson refused to take it - Chicago Tribune

Farmers nearing crisis push back on Trump trade policies – Politico and ‘This One Here Is Gonna Kick My Butt’—Farm Belt Bankruptcies Are Soaring – Wall Street Journal

Is Fear Driving Sales Of Monsanto's Dicamba-Proof Soybeans? - The Salt

Long, strange trip: How U.S. ethanol reaches China tariff-free - Reuters

A Water Crisis Is Growing In A Place You'd Least Expect It - NPR

In Era of Drought, Phoenix Prepares for a Future Without Colorado River Water - Yale Environment 360.  Part 4 in a series.

CNX reports suspected cause of Utica Shale well problem near Beaver Run Reservoir - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

How ‘Interior Landmarks’ Redeemed New YorkThe American Conservative and  Architectural history hidden by Detroit ceilings for years - Detroit Free Press

Fight the Ship - Death and valor on a warship doomed by its own Navy. – ProPublica

The Five Families of FecesNew York Magazine  

Abuse of Faith - Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News.  This is Spotlight-level investigative reporting.

A Tennessee clinic swindled the military out of $65M. This is how it got caught – The Tennessean

Simon Institute research shows state funding disparities benefit downstate - SIU News.  According to this, the suburbs, and to some extent Chicago, get hammered to benefit rural areas.

‘My whole town practically lived there’: From Costa Rica to New Jersey, a pipeline of illegal workers for Trump goes back years - Washington Post

The hypocrisy of Trump’s jobs claims, in one chart - Vox (chart from Aaron Sojourner)

Sunday, January 27, 2019

End of January Links

More interesting stories from the previous week or so:

The Fight Over the Future of Football Has Become a Battle for California’s Soul - The Ringer

20 old Cleveland Rams photos to remind you L.A.'s Super Bowl-bound franchise began here - The Plain Dealer

Brianna Decker Will Get Her Prize Money After All, Just Not From The NHL [Update] - Deadspin

James Harden’s Transcendent Step-Back - The New Yorker 

Colorado a hotbed for North American yak ranching – Denver Post 

The 500-Year-Long Science Experiment - The Atlantic 

Particle physics may have reached the end of the line - Backreaction 

No One Is Prepared for Hagfish Slime - The Atlantic  

“Venture capital money kills more businesses than it helps,” says Basecamp CEO Jason Fried - Recode

How a retired couple found lottery odds in their favor - 60 Minutes.  Also featured here.

Chicago billionaire Ken Griffin just bought the most expensive U.S. home ever: A $238 million New York penthouse - Chicago Tribune and Daniel Snyder’s new $100 million purchase is the first superyacht with a certified Imax movie theater - Washington Post.  I don't think a higher top tax bracket would hurt anything.  It beats the guillotine.

Advances in weather prediction - Science.  "But, as the American Meteorological Society celebrates its 100th anniversary, the improvement in forecasting stands out. Modern 72-hour predictions of hurricane tracks are more accurate than 24-hour forecasts were 40 years ago (see the figure), giving sufficient time for evacuations and other preparations that save lives and property." It amazes me how accurate rainfall forecasts can be, with the timing of the beginning of the storm down to the hour.

Monday, January 21, 2019

MLK Day Links

Interesting stories from the last week:

Don’t Worry, MLB — Hitters Are Killing The Shift On Their Own – FiveThirtyEight

Government shutdown puts ranchers in a bind – Rapid City Journal

What Life Is Like When Corn Is Off the TableThe Atlantic (h/t Kaye)

Is Trump Trying To Politicize Agricultural Data? Some Former USDA Officials Suspect Yes. – FiveThirtyEight

Quinoa Whiskey? Modified Crop List Spurs Distilleries To Try Alternative Grains - The Salt

On Prohibition's 100th anniversary, Supreme Court tackles state liquor laws - USA Today
How the Klan Fueled Prohibition – New York Times

In Rural America, There Are Few People Left to Drive the Ambulances - The New Yorker

A Farmer Found a Trojan Horse Inside an Insurance Contract.  Now He Might Bring Down the Canadian Insurance Industry. - Institutional Investor.  Bwahahahahaha

Welcome to Tax Breaklandia - Bloomberg.  This is going to blow a large hole in the U.S. Treasury.

Europe’s Most Important River Is Running Dry – Bloomberg

Farms, More Productive Than Ever, Are Poisoning Drinking Water in Rural America – Wall Street Journal

CovCath, Twitter, the Trump Presidency and a Nation Unhinged

Saturday afternoon and evening, I got sucked into the apparently fake controversy in which a kid in a MAGA hat appears to be standing in the path of a Native American protester from the Indigenous Peoples march, while his classmates surround them laughing and jeering.  I watched the video, and my initial reaction was, "man, these MAGA folks are assholes."  Then I saw this video from another angle.

My reaction to the second video perspective was a little different.  It hit a little closer to home.  First off, seeing the guy in the Covington Catholic  sweatshirt made me realize these kids were from the local area, and also Catholic.  Secondly, I saw a kid in the background wearing a Notre Dame cap.  That is my alma mater.  Finally, assuming these kids were ultra-conservative Trump supporters spouting racist crap about foreigners (build that Wall), I felt like I was looking at myself in high school.

I tried to write a post late Saturday night entitled, "In Partial Defense of the Worst Kid In America."  The gist of it was going to be that, I, like that kid, was once a super-conservative supporter of the GOP who held some pretty racist beliefs, so there is the real possibility that the kid will grow up to hold totally different views as an adult.  That pretty well describes my arc from high school kid who listened to WLW around the clock and believed the United States was being taken over by the Japanese, to an adult who finds conservative politics to be generally racist arguments that Democrats and minorities are moochers, and that social welfare programs should be slashed so that tax cuts can be given to the wealthy.  I gave up on it because it was late, I was tired and half-drunk, and I wasn't sure how in-depth I wanted to be about a few of the things I'm most ashamed of from my youth.

Come Sunday, when additional video came out, and it now appears that the supposed showdown was staged by the handful of Native American protesters, I ended up feeling bad that I was quick to assume the kids were being assholes, and that the furor raised by the Twitter mob could end up benefiting Trump's bid for re-election.  It is a pretty good example of how easily we can be swayed to believe the worst in our fellow citizens who happen to be in the opposite political camp, and how we can dramatically overreact. Even on Saturday afternoon and evening, when I assumed the kids were being assholes, I felt bad for the school administrators who were caught up in this political firestorm.  They were suddenly being overwhelmed with terrible publicity and national media attention because a group of kids were involved in a public incident, and the school was being overwhelmed with vitriol.  The administrators had to try to get out in front of the news even though they didn't really have any idea what had happened.  After the additional footage came out, the case for feeling bad for the administrators and students is overwhelming. 

I am absolutely no fan of President Trump, and I hope he suffers a landslide defeat in two years.  I equate MAGA hats with racism.  When I saw stories that the additional video showed the kids to be innocent and the Native American protester sparked the incident, I didn't want to believe it.  And yet, at the height of the Twitter freakout, when I thought the kids were the assholes in the situation, I was feeling badly for the school administrators and could look at the kid in the center of the incident and empathize with him.  If I was feeling that then, you can imagine how Trump supporters will see all of this.  It is a massive own-goal for everyone who wants to see Trump defeated. 

Yesterday was the second anniversary of Trump's inauguration.  We have two more years of this pressure-cooker political environment which will be played out in a brutal election campaign.  The events of this weekend will most likely not be the most divisive we'll see.  It is going to be miserable, and I'm afraid the wounds to our civil society are going to be even deeper than I believed before.  Everyone, myself included, needs to take a deep breath and try to back down the rhetoric. 

Thursday, January 17, 2019


VAST: ICELAND from Sean Stiegemeier on Vimeo.

The latest in a series I call, "places I've seen videos of, and my sister has visited." Averaged together, we travel quite a lot compared to the average person.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Mid-January Links

Interesting stories from the last week or two:

Mike Trout is the God of WAR - FiveThirtyEight. Video. 

Female Ranchers Are Reclaiming the American West – New York Times 

Court Strikes Down Iowa's 'Ag-Gag' Law That Blocked Undercover Investigations - NPR

Meet The Granary Weevil, The Pantry Monster Of Our Own Creation - The Salt (via my old boss)

Fire, Floods and Famine: The Pessimist's Guide to 2019 - Bloomberg.  Even I hope this is too far-fetched.

Small Weasel-Like Animals Are Taking Down Big CatsNational Geographic  

Norway Embarks On Its Most Ambitious Transport Project Yet – NPR.  Floating bridges and tunnels?  I'll let somebody else design those.

This GIF shows how far the 100th Meridian has shifted since 1980 – Grist

This is how Canada’s housing correction beginsMcLean’s     

Meet The Woman Turning The Payday Loan Industry On Its HeadForbes.   Trying to work up a low-interest payday loan replacement was one of my not-for-profit goals.

The French Burglar Who Pulled Off His Generation’s Biggest Art HeistThe New Yorker

Taleb the Philosopher – First Things

The Grand IllusionLapham’s Quarterly

After the Storm – The Baffler

Learn about the Iowa district that re-elects Steve King year after year - Des Moines Register

Monday, January 7, 2019

Early January Links

It looks like the National Championship game might end up 54-52 or something.  Here are a few links for your reading pleasure:

The Ball Family Circus Comes To Ohio - Deadspin

Chicago Catholics struggle to build future with fewer priests as parishes shrink, cash dwindles – Chicago Tribune.  Not surprising, but kind of sad anyway.

St. Louis city and county: Divorced in 1876. Remarried in 2020? – St. Louis Post-Dispatch.  The massive number of municipalities in St. Louis County is crazy.  One only has 13 residents.

Wettest-Year Records for 2018, Take Two – Weather Underground.  So much rain.

Scientists Have 'Hacked Photosynthesis' In Search Of More Productive Crops - The Salt

Putin says Russia will supply soy beans, poultry meat to China – Reuters.  Probably just bullshit to rock the boat politically, but we really are shooting ourselves in the foot. 

The Farm Bureau: Big Oil’s Unnoticed Ally Fighting Climate Science and Policy – Inside Climate News

Fracking’s Secret Problem—Oil Wells Aren’t Producing as Much as Forecast – Wall Street Journal

Trump Has Promised to Bring Jobs Back. His Tariffs Threaten to Send Them Away. - New York Times.  The steel and aluminum tariffs just punish metal consuming manufacturers.  More foot-shooting.

How Mark Burnett Resurrected Donald Trump as an Icon of American SuccessThe New Yorker  

Donald Trump Was Never Vetted - New York Magazine.   When people are voting for him because The Apprentice convinced them that Trump is a genius businessman, I'm not sure more vetting was going to convince them he's a fuckup.

American Exceptionalism Is a Dangerous Myth – New York Magazine. 

The Businesspeople Who Have Helped Enable Steve King’s Rise - Iowa Informer.  Looks like a who's who of Iowa business.

This Map Shows Where in the World the U.S. Military Is Combatting TerrorismSmithsonian.  It would almost be easier to show where the U.S. military isn't.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Cellulosic Ethanol Holy Grail?

60 Minutes:
Perhaps Medoff's most consequential discovery is how to extract the plant sugars and convert them into to environmentally-friendly biofuels: ethanol, gasoline and jet fuel. Lesley Stahl: And I'm told that you call this thing a still. Marshall Medoff: It is a still. Lesley Stahl: It is a still? Marshall Medoff: It's actually making alcohol right now. Alcohol that you can drink, or you can put in your car, or you can do both. Marshall Medoff: Here we are, on the road again. Lesley Stahl: So Marshall, I am driving a huge truck on biomass fuel. It doesn't feel any different than normal gas to me. Marshall Medoff: No. It wouldn't. No. Medoff's ethanol is much better than regular corn ethanol in terms of greenhouse gas emissions - 77 percent better, according to a study that was independently reviewed.
This is definitely worth watching. I have no idea if this can be scaled up, but it would seem to be more promising than previous efforts. Of course, there was no information about how much biomass would have to be harvested in order to produce 30% of petroleum used in the country, but it takes 30 to 40 million acres of corn to produce 10% of the gasoline we consume. I'd probably still take the side saying this won't work out.

Video after the jump.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Deep Tunnel, Deep Trouble?

credit: Lisa Larson-Walker

Slate has a nice piece which takes a look at the Chicago Deep Tunnel sewer project (formerly the TARP), and the challenges it faces keeping up with the greater intensity rains which appear to be a part of climate change.  The project scale is massive:
Altogether, 109 miles of subway-size tunnel lie beneath Chicago and its suburbs, covering more miles than the L, culminating in three suburban reservoirs (not the kind you drink from)...
Fitzpatrick drives me to McCook Reservoir, the mammoth holding pen, opened in late 2017, for the tunnels that run beneath the Chicago and Des Plaines rivers. We stand on the edge of a pit that can hold 3.5 billion gallons of wastewater, enough to fill the Empire State Building and then some. It doesn’t smell terrible, thanks to floating aerators and because the pool has dwindled to 30 feet deep—Friday’s leftovers from a half-inch of rain on Tuesday. At the far end we can see the circular tunnel mouth leading downtown. The city’s wastewater netherworld has its own Chicago-centric measurement system. Lake Michigan is elevation 0. The pumping-station control room, on a little hillock, is +25, or 25 feet above the lake. The roaring motors that empty McCook after the rain sit at -297, 30 stories below ground.
Behind us, the second section of McCook—which will more than double the holding capacity of the Mainstream Tunnel—is being excavated by gigantic mining trucks. Vulcan Materials, the country’s largest vendor of crushed rock, is digging millions of cubic yards of limestone out of the ground.
The gist of the project is that many of Chicago's sewers handle both sewage and stormwater.  When the city would get almost any rain, the sewers would be overwhelmed, basements would be flooded with sewage, and untreated waste would be dumped in the rivers.  So the city came up with this crazy project to build giant tunnels a couple hundred feet underground to divert the excess flow to giant reservoirs to hold it until it could be pumped through the treatment plant, where it would be treated and released. Obviously, the cost of such a program is astronomical.  On top of the cost, the changing climate has been a game-changer:
The large and costly deep tunnel-reservoir system in Chicago is not adequate” to handle 50-year storms, Changnon wrote of the impacts from a September 2008 storm that caused the evacuation of more than 10,000 homes in the region. The Chicago Tribune reported that in the four years after the tunnels were completed in 2006, the MWRD released nearly 19 billion gallons of stormwater into Lake Michigan compared to 12 billion gallons in the preceding 22 years. Similarly, there have been 24 incidents of sewer overflow in the lake since the first tunnel came online in 1985, compared to about 21 in the previous 40 years. Then, in February 2018, after McCook had opened, tripling the capacity of the main tunnel, a big rainstorm filled the new 3.5 billion-gallon reservoir and sent another 3.8 billion gallons of sewage into local waterways....By the time I visited in November, McCook Reservoir had filled to capacity five separate times. Chicago’s multibillion-dollar anti-flooding system is already struggling to keep up with the region’s larger and more frequent storms.
As the article notes, the change in storm intensity over the 50-year construction timeframe exceeded the designers' imaginations. The scary part is that the combined sewers were also a result of lack of foresight by their designers.  They were glad at that time to get the sewage out of the gutters and away from the city.  Later, they had to re-engineer the Chicago River so that the sewage wouldn't foul the water intakes and cause disease outbreaks.  Then, development caused massive flooding because the sewers weren't able to handle the increases in runoff from all of the pavement laid over the formerly pervious soil.  Now that they have designed a system to handle the overflows, climate change is causing more intense rainstorms with longer durations.  None of our storm infrastructure is built for it.  I've been out of the civil field for almost 10 years, so I'm not even sure if the powers-that-be have even tried to grapple with what our design standards should be under the new climate regime.  That should terrify people.  It sure does me.