Saturday, February 23, 2013

A Bad Idea

The outsourcing of the 787:

Some things don't work out according to theory.

Coronal Rain


Eruptive events on the sun can be wildly different. Some come just with a solar flare, some with an additional ejection of solar material called a coronal mass ejection (CME), and some with complex moving structures in association with changes in magnetic field lines that loop up into the sun’s atmosphere, the corona.
On July 19, 2012, an eruption occurred on the sun that produced all three. A moderately powerful solar flare exploded on the sun’s lower right hand limb, sending out light and radiation. Next came a CME, which shot off to the right out into space. And then, the sun treated viewers to one of its dazzling magnetic displays – a phenomenon known as coronal rain.
Over the course of the next day, hot plasma in the corona cooled and condensed along strong magnetic fields in the region. Magnetic fields, themselves, are invisible, but the charged plasma is forced to move along the lines, showing up brightly in the extreme ultraviolet wavelength of 304 Angstroms, which highlights material at a temperature of about 50,000 Kelvin. This plasma acts as a tracer, helping scientists watch the dance of magnetic fields on the sun, outlining the fields as it slowly falls back to the solar surface.
Pretty cool.

The Blue Blazer

That is pretty cool, but why burn off all that alcohol? The fire looks like when I took the Germ-X they passed out at work, squirted some on my desk and set in on fire. This wasn't the time when I told a telemarketer that I had to hang up because my desk was on fire, this time it was actually true. Germ-X is almost the same percentage of alcohol as Sterno. Cool stuff.

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Baseball Jackpot

Jonah Keri:

Major League Baseball, which has hoarded its old archives and clips like Scrooge Freaking McDuck, suddenly released a treasure trove of amazing old highlights. You can find the main archive here. Some of my favorites: Jheri-curled, young Pedro Martinez hitting Reggie Sanders with a pitch, causing Sanders to charge the mound. In related news, Pedro was working on a perfect game at the time and clearly had zero intention of hitting anybody. Hate you, Reggie Sanders.
I remember that game.  I was in college, and I spent the evening walking around campus with a walkman, barely able to pull in Marty and Joe broadcasting the game.  I hated Pedro for that for a long time.  I'll have to think about what some of my favorite highlights have been, and see if they are available.  One would probably be Bo Jackson throwing out Harold Reynolds from the warning track when Reynolds was rounding third as Bo threw the ball.  It is around the 1:30 mark of this video.  Also, Mel Allen:

No Fucking Way

The New York Times features the slang of Sommeliers (wine experts who work at restaurants, apparently) and had this tidbit (h/t Ritholtz):
Sommeliers use a range of words and phrases to describe diners, based on their spending on, or interest in wine. For example:
A serious drinker who will regularly DROP more than $1,000 on a single bottle. When on a furious spending spree, a WHALE is said to be DROPPING THE HAMMER. BIG WALES – or EXTRA BIG BALLERS (E.B.B.) – can spend more than $100,000 on wine during a meal.
Wait, $100,000 spent on wine during a meal?  Are they buying for an infantry division?  Seriously?  And people will say that rich folks are taxed too much? That is criminally absurd.

A Grim Forecast

From Agweb, via nc links:
Commodity prices will fall "significantly" in 2013 due to strong corn and soybean production in 2013, USDA’s chief economist predicted today at the agency’s annual Agricultural Outlook Conference in Arlington, Va.
Joe Glauber predicted that corn prices will average $4.80 a bushel in 2013/14, down 33% from the marketing year before. Soybean prices, he estimated, would fall 27% to $10.50 per bushel. A return to normal weather conditions, he predicted, will result in higher production that will depress prices.
"There’s no reason to believe that we won’t be looking at normal yields this year," said Glauber, noting recent improvement in drought conditions, particularly in the eastern Corn Belt. "Historically, there’s little correlation between rainfall one year and the next."
Better weather, combined with more planted acres, should result in strong farm incomes in 2013, he said. Net farm income, according to ERS data released earlier this year, will equal $128 billion, the highest level in real terms since 1973.
Livestock producers, on the other hand, won’t feel the beneficial impact of lower feed prices until later in the year. Net cash income for the livestock industry, according to ERS’s forecast, will fall in 2013 due to a 6% increase in feedstock prices.
With those prices, I wonder if income will be enough to sustain $400 an acre cash rent.  I would think that would bite into your bottom line, but luckily, I don't have to worry about it.

First Game

The Reds play their first spring training game this afternoon.  Spring is on it's way.  Play ball!

Do Children Make People Happier?

Shankar Vendantam reports on a recent study:
VEDANTAM: And she often finds that things that people think they can happy actually don't. So she said when I looked at the 2004 study, people reported that they were happiest when they were having sex. But there was a catch.
LYUBOMIRSKY: People didn't report having sex very often. So if you're really, really happy when you have sex but you don't have it that often, it's actually not going to affect your happiness that much overall.
VEDANTAM: And she just finished a series of studies looking at this parenting and happiness question. She looks at a more representative sample of people - both men and women - and she finds that actually parents are slightly happier than non-parents. And not just when they're at work and away from their kids, but actually when they're with their kids and looking after their kids. She also finds a very interesting gender difference. Parenting appears to make men happier than it does women.
INSKEEP: This is part of what you're telling me, is it not, Shankar, that when you are doing some menial task, it might get very dull and repetitive - you have to do the laundry then you have to do the laundry again, you have to do the laundry again - you're going to be unhappy with a lot of specific tasks. But the broader picture may cause you to feel a different way, and if you're able to focus on the broader picture.
VEDANTAM: Yeah. I think, Steve, you've missed your calling as a researcher because I think this is what Lyubomirsky has looked at. She says there's a difference between happiness measured on a moment-to-moment level and happiness measured at a larger level. Parents report significantly more meaning in their lives than non-parents, even though on a day-to-day basis parenting may be a grind.
I think that last point gets at it pretty well.  Parents report more meaning in their lives than non-parents.  What does that boil down to?  When parents are dealing with the day-to-day bullshit we all deal with, they've actually got more of a motivation to deal with it.  They've got a child to provide for, so they have a reason to put up with a shitty job.  I, on the other hand...

Where We Just Miss Love

A map of where people saw their "missed connections" that they try to find on Craigslist:

Andrew Sullivan on the map:
Now look at the South – more people spy love at Wal-Mart than anywhere else, from Florida all the way to New Mexico. And that thread runs all the way through deep red America. Only Oklahoma cites the state fair as a mixer. The rest see each other under the merciless lighting of the giant super-store. This is how we fall in love or lust, where we flirt and look back: when we’re shopping. The big cities – like NYC and DC – showcase the random human interaction on the subway or metro. The Northwest has it all going on on buses.
A few more gems: California is an actual self-parody (as is Nevada). Rhode Island does not disappoint in sketchiness: parking lots are where love is suspected most often there. But the saddest state of all has to be Indiana. There, the majority of “missed connections” were “at home”.
Ohioans said Walmart?  WTF?  And bar was the number one answer in just 3 states?  I am definitely not surprised that Wisconsin is one of the three. And the Indiana deal is just too funny.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

$7 Billion at Work

The Atlantic features photos from the New York MTA's "East Side Access" project:

Coming soon(ish) to New York, the “East Side Access”! Set to open in 2019, the $7 billion project is one the greatest infrastructural works currently underway in urban America. Every day for nearly seven years now, giant machines and teams of workers buried deep in the ground excavate tunnels through Manhattan’s bedrock core. These tunnels will house the future trains that will traverse the length of the new Long Island Railroad (LIRR) line, connecting Sunnyside, Queens, to Grand Central Terminal. At peak times, the line will route 24 trains per hour and ferry 162,000 trips in both directions.
At present, 5.6 miles of tunnel have already been dug. The MTA recently posted images of the construction progress, which finds workers toiling away in a giant crater beneath Grand Central. This cavernous space will be home to a large platform that will terminate the line.
Pretty cool.  The Sandhogs do some pretty cool work.

The No Shit, Sherlock Study of the Day

The driving force of income inequality is capital gains and didvidend income that is taxed at lower rates than regular income:
The new study was performed by Thomas Hungerford of the non-partisan Congressional Research Service. Though the study is not a CRS product, Hungerford’s data is widely cited on both sides; he’s an impeccably objective analyst.
Here’s what Hungerford found: The single greatest driver of income inequality over a recent 15 year period was runaway income from capital gains and dividends.
This finding is directly relevant to the current debate, because Obama and Democrats want to offset the sequester in part by closing loopholes enjoyed by the wealthy, such as the one that keeps tax rates on capital gains and dividends low. Dems want to do this in order to prevent a scenario where the sequester is averted only by deep spending cuts to social programs that could hurt a whole lot of poor and middle class Americans. Republicans oppose closing any such loopholes and want to avert the sequester with only deep spending cuts.
Hungerford’s report, like all serious examinations of inequality, is very complicated. He looks at a bunch of recent data on inequality from the period from 1991-2006 — measured by the so-called “Gini index” — and calculates the degree to which various factors exacerbated it. Hungerford found that over that period, the rise in the Gini index (a story that’s been widely told elsewhere, one that’s largely been driven by the runaway wealth of the top one percent and top 0.1 percent) was driven mainly by the rise in capital gains and dividends income.
It doesn't take a genius to figure out that taxing wealthy folks at 15% of dividend and capital gains income (even if it is millions of dollars) while taxing folks making $400,000  35% would lead to greater income inequality isn't very hard to figure out.  If a person makes $1,000,000 in dividend income, they probably have at least $20 million invested, and they would pay $150,000 in taxes, while a person making $500,000 would pay 35% on every dollar above the $400,000 or so that starts the top rate, who's going to end up with more money?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


Monolation from Jess Dunlap on Vimeo.

Reviewing Books on Washington, with Humor

Sarah Marshall and Amelia Laing compare David McCullogh's 1776 and Ron Chernow's Washington: A Life.  From Sarah:
Reading 1776 instead of a million-page-long biography isn't cheating, it's getting creative—just like in high school. Well, okay, maybe not exactly like high school, because I didn't just read the first 30 pages and try to base all my opinions off them. Which is why I won't spend all my time here talking about George III and the House of Commons, which is what McCullough focuses on in his first section-—a move that I love, and not just because historical House of Commons shenanigans are always entertaining. You may think the House of Lords was a party, but the House of Commons boasted the always memorable Edmund Burke—who, despite his sympathy for the Americans and his belief that England should attempt to make peace, still referred to them as "our" colonies—and Burke's brilliant, foppish protégé, Charles James Fox, who, like the smartest kid in your AP History class, never did his homework and always dazzled everyone in the room. As Britain was still reeling from its losses at Bunker Hill, Fox said of the coming war that he could not "consent to the bloody consequences of so silly a contest about so silly an object, conducted in the silliest manner that history or observation has ever furnished an instance of."....
And perhaps it's because we see the Revolutionary War in such a positive light that the Founding Fathers have become so iconic and beloved. Here is Benjamin Franklin, brilliant, soused, and slutty, flying a kite and a lightning storm with one hand and pushing a wheelbarrow through the streets of Philadelphia with the other—the Founding Fun Uncle. Here is John Adams, vinegar-lipped, articulate, uncompromising, and wise. And here is George Washington, enormous and bewigged, uniform immaculate, face hewn out of marble, the noble, flawless leader without whom the war could never have been won.
What McCullough and Chernow both do is challenge that view, both of Washington and of the war as a whole, and show them, instead, as what they were: a desolate, often miserable slog in which defeat seemed to loom at every corner, and a confused, unprepared man whose experience in war was a trial by fire—as well as ice, mud, disease, and incompetent troops.
The whole thing is humorous, but I really liked the part about Franklin.  He's by far my favorite founding father.

Hot Prospects

Jonah Keri looks at the prospects most likely to make an impact on the big league level this year.  The big one for the hometown team:
11. Billy Hamilton (Reds)
Hamilton has no power, has played just 50 games above Single-A, and per Reds GM Walt Jocketty, is definitely starting the season at Triple-A Louisville, where "he'll be playing center field and working on his offense and his overall game." Bet on him cracking the big leagues this year anyway. Shin-Soo Choo likely isn't a big league–caliber starting center fielder, nor is anyone else on the projected Opening Day roster. Granted, Hamilton only started transitioning to center field from shortstop last season, but the defensive reports on him from the Arizona Fall League were positive, with Hamilton using his blazing speed and athleticism to make up for a lack of experience on outfield routes. Oh, about that speed: All Hamilton did last season was steal 155 bases, an all-time record for any level of professional baseball. We'll see exactly how much impact he offers the 2013 Reds. But if nothing else, give the guy a spot on your fantasy roster. You'll kick yourself if you don't.
155 steals is just insane.  He may not be able to hit, but he'll be fun to watch.

A Brief History of the Antichrist

Daniel Burke, via the Dish:
Revelation, which never actually uses the word "Antichrist," is one of the first Christian texts to cast its rivals as Satan's spawn. Many scholars say phrases like "the mark of the beast" and "666" are coded references to the Emperor Nero, who persecuted Christians.

For many early Christians, however, the Antichrist was not a particular person. It was spiritual figure who lurked in the hearts of all believers, luring them toward sin and heresy, said Shuck.

By the 12th century, the Antichrist – often seen as a human inhabited by Satan – had become a tool for identifying an enemy, fomenting fear and assembling an army.

"The Antichrist moves a long way from Augustine's view of something that we all face inside us," Shuck said, "to being very much an external battle with concrete figures."

Popes used the Antichrist to rally Crusaders. Reformers used the Antichrist to battle popes. Northerners saw the Antichrist in the slave-holding South, and Southerners saw the same specter in the abolitionists.

In the modern era, Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, U.S. presidents, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, England's Prince Charles, and even megachurch pastor Rick Warren have all made the Antichrist list.

Apocalyptic Christianity always needs an enemy, scholars say, and the Antichrist is nothing if not adaptable.
So it went from something within each of us to whatever Democrat becomes President?  Or just about anybody else some rural folks find scary, or brown? People make me laugh.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Funds Back Out of Commodities

Bloomberg, via Ritholtz:
Investors cut wagers on a rally in commodities by the most since November as signs of improving U.S. growth reduced demand for gold and rains in South America added to signs that crop harvests will be bigger.
Hedge funds and other large speculators reduced net-long positions across 18 U.S. futures and options in the week ended Feb. 12 by 15 percent to 757,060 contracts, the largest decline since Nov. 13, U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission data show. Bets on higher gold prices fell to the lowest since December 2008, while a measure for 11 farm goods slumped the most since November 2011..... Combined soybean production in Argentina and Brazil will increase to a record and rising output of corn will help replenish global inventories after drought last year sent prices of both crops to a record.
“As confidence is building in an economic recovery that’s sustainable globally, you could lose a bid to gold,” said James Paulsen, the Minneapolis-based chief investment strategist at Wells Capital Management, which oversees about $325 billion of assets. “Agricultural commodities to me are going to have a pullback year as weather normalizes.”
That sounds like it could be bad news for farmers paying $400 an acre in cash rent, or buying farm ground for $9000 an acre.  If the western corn belt has good crops this year, things could get really ugly.

Today's News Of The Obvious

The War On Coal is a farce:
During the presidential campaign last fall, a single message was repeated endlessly in Appalachian coal country: President Barack Obama and his Environmental Protection Agency, critics said, had declared a “war on coal” that was shuttering U.S. coal-fired power plants and putting coal miners out of work. Not so, according to a detailed analysis of coal plant finances and economics presented Feb. 17 at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Instead, coal is losing its battle with other power sources mostly on its merits. Although the United States has long generated the bulk of its electricity from coal, over the past six years that share has fallen from 50 percent to 38 percent. Plans for more than 150 new coal-fired power plants have been canceled since the mid-2000s, existing plants have been closed, and in 2012, just one new coal-fired power plant went online in the United States. To investigate the reasons for this decline, David Schlissel, an energy economist and founder of the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis in Belmont, Massachusetts, dove deeply into the broader economics of the industry and the detailed finances of individual power plants.
Schlissel, who serves as a paid expert witness at state public utility board hearings for both utilities and advocacy groups that oppose coal plants, found several reasons for coal’s decline. Over the past decade, construction costs have risen sharply, he said. For example, when the Prairie State Energy Campus in southern Illinois, which opened last year, was first proposed, its then-owner, Peabody Coal, said it would cost $1.8 billion to build. Instead it cost more than $4.9 billion, Schlissel said.
In addition, since the mid-2000s, the price of natural gas has plummeted, and Schlissel found that when coal-fired power has to compete with natural gas on its economic merits, it struggled. For example, profits from the subset of the nation’s coal-fired power plants that sell electricity on the open market plummeted from $20 billion in 2008 to $4 billion in 2011, Schlissel said.
And at the giant, 1.6 GW Victor J. Daniel Electric Generating Plant in Escatawpa, Mississippi, which is run by Mississippi Power, has two coal-fired generator and two natural-gas-powered generators. In 2006, the plant got most of its power from the coal generators, which produced 80 percent of the power they could have if they had been running around the clock at full capacity. Meanwhile, the plant’s two natural-gas-fired generators produced just 30 percent of the power they were capable of. By 2012, those percentages were reversed: the coal generators produced just 25 percent of their possible power, while the natural-gas generators produced 84 percent.These trends indicate that the company profited by burning natural gas more and coal less, Schlissel said.
The Industrial Boiler MACT won't help things, but record low natural gas prices are just kicking coal's ass.

One of Those Days

Right now, I feel as if I am caught in a mashup video of Office Space and some sad country music video.  First, I noticed the glass window on the door of my wood stove door was loose, and after investigating, I realized I had to make a couple of sheet metal tabs to hold the window in place.  But I didn't have time to get this finished before it turned wicked ass cold, so, while I got everything back together, my house is an ice box.  Then, last night as I was feeding the livestock, my dog ran away.  I had noticed two days ago that he was missing his name tag, with my phone number on it.  I am sure he wandered off to another road and walked up to somebody's door, so they'd let him in, but now I don't really have any way of finding him until he turns up at the dog pound or somebody puts an ad in the paper.  Nothing like getting abandoned by man's best friend.  Then, today, I got to see the new office I'll be moving into in a few weeks.  It is a windowless, soulless hellhole, which, if it had a big black glass window along one side, I'd be sure it was a police interrogation room.  I won't even get into all the other screwed up epic fails which make up the rest of my recent work experience.  Then, finally, I went over to the other farm to feed the cows, and found out that not just one, but both hoses sitting outside had froze up, so I had to haul it inside to thaw out.  I am now nearly exhausted from yelling profanity.  But, tomorrow's another day.  Oh, that's right, I've got a parish council meeting tomorrow. Shit.

Monday, February 18, 2013

If Only

Another Valentine's Day Video

This is pretty sweet, but I didn't expect to see the second couple in the video:

Return to Labor

Another interesting chart, via nc links:

So all you economists out there, tell me why this doesn’t show what I think it does: whenever labor’s share of income rises a bit, they hold a recession. Which takes care of that problem quite nicely.
I think it is interesting that the chart peaks out in 1980, right as the "Reagan Revolution" took place.  The tech bubble is also pretty interesting.  I think the 2012 bottom is as far down as things can probably go, and we'll eventually have to move back into the 64 to 66% range.  However, productivity investments and robotics may lead us to test the feasibility of staying below that range.  I doubt that that is feasible. 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Broner Wins Easily

Broner (26-0, 22 KOs), 23, of Cincinnati, was in command in the fifth round when he landed a digging left hand to Rees' liver. Rees dropped to a knee and was clearly winded. He made it to his feet and was game, but as Broner was teeing off, Lockett climbed up the steps and threw in the white towel, prompting Brown to call off the fight at 2 minutes, 59 seconds.
Lockett is familiar with Boardwalk Hall and knockout losses. He was knocked out by Kelly Pavlik in the same ring in a 2008 world middleweight title fight.
Not exactly the toughest test, but his claim to be the future of boxing isn't yet clearly incorrect.

Chart of the Day

From a very thoughtful conversation about urban gun violence:

Based on the coverage Chicago has gotten in the last year or so, I was wondering if things were as bad as the bad old days of the early 90s.  I would assume this is because it is bucking the national trend of continuing decline of murder rates in this country, and the fact that Chicago is the president's adopted hometown.  Not that 500 murders is not ridiculous, but I remember reading the Tribune when I was in college, and in 1992, I believe the city had something like 75 or 100 kids under 10 killed.  It was crazy. 

NASA Photo of the Day

February 12:

Reflected Aurora Over Alaska
Image Credit & Copyright: Todd Salat (AuroraHunter); Sky Annotation: Judy Schmidt
Explanation: Some auroras can only be seen with a camera. They are called subvisual and are too faint to be seen with the unaided eye. In the above image, the green aurora were easily visible to the eye, but the red aurora only became apparent after a 20-second camera exposure. The reason is that the human eye only accumulates light for a fraction of a second at a time, while a camera shutter can be left open much longer. When photographing an already picturesque scene near Anchorage, Alaska, USA, last autumn, a camera caught both the visual green and subvisual red aurora reflected in a lily pad-covered lake. High above, thousands of stars were visible including the Pleiades star cluster, while the planet Jupiter posed near the horizon, just above clouds, toward the image right. Auroras are caused by energetic particles from the Sun impacting the Earth's magnetosphere, causing electrons and protons to rain down near the Earth's poles and impact the air. Both red and green aurora are typically created by excited oxygen atoms, with red emission, when visible, dominating higher up. Auroras are known to have many shapes and colors.

More on Rural Politics

I said I would eventually write a little bit more about the opportunity to hear a state representative speak at a local farm group dinner.  Now, I'll get into it a little deeper.  I went to the dinner last Tuesday, and it was a very nice event.  There was great food and friendly people.

Before the dinner, a county official gave the invocation (all quotes are based on my memory, and are not verbatim, they are meant to capture the gist of what was said).  It featured the typical, "Thank you God for this food, and the chance to come together" stuff, and also included the now all-too-common, "and thanks for our men and women overseas, who defend our right to meet together and eat together."  This burns me up.  I agree that we should pray for all the soldiers in harm's way, but let's not pretend that if they weren't halfway around the world as targets for residents of those countries to shoot at (and assorted bad guys who go to those countries to shoot at them), we wouldn't be able to have a Cattlemen's dinner in Nowheresville, Ohio.  The freedoms enshrined in the Constitution have to be defended by everyday Americans, right here.  The real threats to those freedoms come from within, as an invasion of this country by a foreign dictator is less likely than my being rewarded in Heaven with 72 virgins.  Any suggestion that what our soldiers are doing around the globe protects our freedoms here is a gross misrepresentation of what their work is doing (of which I really am not sure what it is doing).  I just know it isn't the thing standing between us and tyranny.  Anyway, I think this is just one of those things we do when most of us don't have any personal interest in participating in our military activities around the globe, thanks to the all-volunteer military.

After the dinner (excellent prime rib), the local state representative got a chance to speak.  He started out with a couple of corny (and I'll grudgingly admit, funny) jokes about government, and then quickly got the attention of the room. (paraphrasing) "The agricultural way of life in West Central Ohio is under threat.  The meat-production (soon to be changed to protein production in his speech) industry is under threat.  That threat doesn't come from Washington.  It doesn't come from Columbus."  Here, I thought he might say it came from the phosphorus pollution of Grand Lake St. Mary's and Lake Erie, or from the homeowners on those lakes, instead, "It comes from the Humane Society of the United States."  What?  I think the animal industry already worked out a deal with those guys.  He continued, "They declared war on protein production.  They want to turn all of us into vegetarians.  They want to end our way of life.  They reached a deal with Governor Strickland (evil Democrat) and the industry groups, and demanded 6 things.  We've done 5 of those things.  We regulated exotic animal ownership (only after the legislature tried to renege on that deal, and only after some crazy guy let out all his lions and tigers and shit he owned and killed himself.  No shit).  The only thing we haven't done was make cockfighting illegal.  Cockfighting is still legal (Technically, I believe HSUS wanted cockfighting to be made a felony, as it is already illegal, but don't let that get in the way of an 72-year-old in the midst of a stem winder).  If we give them all six things, they are going to come back and want more stuff."  Now based on what I've seen, it is much more likely that Republicans and ag groups will be the ones coming back to renegotiate.  His point was that the head of  HSUS was a crazy loon, but I think his negotiation of the deal he got indicates he is very rational, and very patient.  But, hey, we need some evil people not like us to hate on, right.

Moving on to other people not like us, he said that people in Cleveland think milk comes from Kroger, and that we need to educate them about the value of agriculture (which I agree with) and how necessary battery cages and gestation crates are (which I'm not so sure about).  Then he moved on to how this was the greatest place in the world to live (I think it is pretty nice).  He talked about how excellent our local schools were, then said half the folks in Cleveland don't know who their fathers are, and half of them drop out of school.  At this point, I could envision a giant thought cloud over the room with images of black people in it.  He went on further about how much better this area was to anywhere else and how important protein production was, and eventually wound up his speech.  I was hoping he would open the floor to questions because I wanted to find out about the HSUS's war on protein production.  I realized they didn't like the animal industry, but I never knew they had it out for soybean and peanut production.  Alas, he didn't.

I find this retail brand of politics, so often practiced by both parties, but definitely mastered on the rural side by Republicans, to be repugnant.  I'm not going to claim that West Central Ohio isn't a very nice place to live, or that urban areas in Cleveland don't have serious social and economic problems.  But the self-congratulatory flattery and playing to already rampant racism is absolutely poisonous to the body politic.  It is writing off  half of the population as degenerate and a threat to our way of life, which is about as true as the idea soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan are protecting our right to assemble in Western Ohio.  It allows us to look away from our own shortcomings and encourages us to blame other people for structural changes which are undermining our middle class.  It prevents us from looking for solutions to to the problems we face and the problems folks in urban areas face in a communal manner which has been of service since civilization started.  And in the end, it is all intended to keep rich people rich and protect their (and my) standard of living, while allowing the standard of living of everybody else to slide in the direction of the rising emerging market economies as we seek a sustainable equilibrium with the rest of the world.  I hate to see rural folks buy into it, but buy they do.  I watched as the local extension agent nodded her head in agreement with almost every point the politician made.  She reacted in a way like what I would expect to see from a cult member in Jonestown.  Thank God they had Old Milwaukee Light to drink at the dinner, and not cyanide-laced Kool-Aid.  Somehow, though, I think, the poison was still presented for us to drink.  And I expect that most of the people in the room drank it.

Update: One other thing happened that I wanted to comment on.  During dinner, one of the guys at my table was talking about how valuable ag education was, and he said that they learned more about genetics in ag class than they did in biology.  I really wanted to say that that was because in ag class they could teach how inbreeding led to some genetic weaknesses, but that parents might see teaching the same thing about humans to be an attack on their way of life.  I passed on that opportunity.

Will Beef Become a Luxury Item?

The Des Moines Register asks:
Beef prices are expected to increase as much as 10 percent by summer, leading beef producers and sellers to worry that their product might become a luxury.
“We can’t let beef turn into lobster,” said Ed Greiman of Garner, the president of the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association.
Retail beef prices have risen by an average of $1 per pound since 2007. Prices for cattle have jumped by as much as 25 percent in the past two years as the nation’s herd dropped to its lowest level in six decades while foreign export demand boomed...
“The cattle producers are caught between a rock and a hard place,” Sweeney said. “The price of corn is high, so cattle producers can’t afford to keep as many animals. So you have fewer animals and high demand, and that creates high prices.”
Corn prices have averaged $7 per bushel in the past 12 months.
“Beef is in danger of becoming a luxury item,” Sweeney said. “That won’t be good.”
Thank ethanol, amongst other factors.  Actually, beef has been a luxury throughout much of our history.  Here's a quote from the story:
 Ladell Gossen of West Des Moines finished a ground beef patty lunch. “When I was a kid growing up in Rock Rapids, I didn’t have much money. I envied people who ate good beef,” he said. “Now I can afford it, and I eat as much beef as I can.”
Consider a few numbers.  Sows can have 2 litters of pigs a year, with about 10 pigs per litter, and a pig will gain around 1 pound of weight on 3.5 pounds of feed, while cows generally have one calf a year and it takes 7 pounds of feed for 1 pound of weight gain on the calves.  What is going to be cheaper?  We won't even get into chicken arithmetic.  It is pretty clear that beef is already somewhat of a luxury.

The Oil Abundance Myth

Slate looks at the American Geophysical Union's case against shale oil boosters (h/t Ritholtz):

The market is not laying the foundations for an era of unending oil-based prosperity. The market is pushing inexorably toward investment in expensive technologies to extract the last drop of profit through faster depletion of a resource that's guaranteed to run out. If we're going to invest in expensive energy technologies, it would be better to pick long-term winners rather than guaranteed losers.
The flaws in the abundance narrative for fracked natural gas are much the same as for tight oil, so I won't belabor the point. Certainly, the current natural gas glut has played a welcome role in the reduced growth rate of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions, and the climate benefits of switching from coal to natural gas are abundantly clear. But gas, too, is in a Red Queen's race, and it can't be counted on to last out the next few decades, let alone the century of abundance predicted by some boosters. Temporarily cheap and abundant gas buys us some respite—which we should be using to put decarbonized energy systems in place. It will only do us good if we use this transitional period wisely. We won't be much better off in the long run if cheap gas only succeeds in killing off the nascent renewables industry and the development of next-generation nuclear power.
Does all the new American oil give us yet another way to fry ourselves? At 0.1159 metric tons of carbon per barrel of oil, the oil in Bakken and Eagle Ford amounts to a carbon pool of 81 gigatons, and the Green River shale adds up to 232 gigatons. Given that burning an additional 500 gigatons of fossil fuel carbon is sufficient to commit the Earth to a practically irreversible warming of 2 degrees Celsius, these are scary numbers.
I don't believe the shale oil optimists' claims, but I'm still waiting to see the peak in production in the Bakken.  It may be a few years off, but once that comes, I think the boosters will have a much tougher case to make.  As for the Green River shale, I don't think we'll see any positive benefit from that.  If people think the oil sands are an environmental disaster, Green River is even worse.

College Hockey at Soldier Field

Notre Dame meets Miami, and Wisconsin plays Minnesota. The sportscaster on the video calls Wisconsin Wisco. Is that common? I've never heard that before.

Also, for all of those who didn't notice, NBC says today is Hockey Day in America.  There'll be a doubleheader on NBC and a game after that on NBC Sports Network.