Saturday, November 9, 2013

Is Facebook Just Trolling Me?

I never quite filled out most of my biographical information on Facebook.  So right now, Facebook is asking me where I grew up.  The screen says, " [A Farmer], where did you grow up?:

Clifton, NJ (1 friend)

Conover, OH (9 friends)

Brooklyn, NY (1 friend)

This would seem ridiculous just considering that 95% of my friends are from Miami County, Ohio, but they are listing Clifton ,NJ, which is a pretty damn big suburb of New York City, and Brooklyn, and I only know one person from each (and the one from Brooklyn was one of my high school English teachers) when Clifton has 84,000 people and Brookly has 2.4 million.  Meanwhile, I have 9 friends from Conover, Ohio, and the township Conover is in has less than 1,600 people in it.  Hmm, let me give this a little thought.......anyway, I'm not from Conover, but I'm not from far away from there.

Now That's a Bad Day

The “Squirrel Cop” story from Jack OnFlickr on Vimeo.

One Day at Fenway

One Day at Fenway from DGA Productions on Vimeo.

Whitest Jobs in America

From Derek Thompson:

I thought engineer might make the list, but I forgot about all the Indians and Asians who would bring that average down.  That's mainly because there weren't that many minority civil engineers in West Central Ohio, unless you count George Hernandez, the Hawaiian civil engineer with the Hispanic name.

The Benefits of Polymathy

Robert Twigger looks at how knowledge in one field can lead to breakthroughs in another (h/t Ritholtz):
Polymaths such as Da Vinci, Goethe and Benjamin Franklin were such high achievers that we might feel a bit reluctant to use the word ‘polymath’ to describe our own humble attempts to become multi-talented. We can’t all be geniuses. But we do all still indulge in polymathic activity; it’s part of what makes us human.
So, say that we all have at least the potential to become polymaths. Once we have a word, we can see the world more clearly. And that’s when we notice a huge cognitive dissonance at the centre of Western culture: a huge confusion about how new ideas, new discoveries, and new art actually come about.
Science, for example, likes to project itself as clean, logical, rational and unemotional. In fact, it’s pretty haphazard, driven by funding and ego, reliant on inspired intuition by its top-flight practitioners. Above all it is polymathic. New ideas frequently come from the cross-fertilisation of two separate fields. Francis Crick, who intuited the structure of DNA, was originally a physicist; he claimed this background gave him the confidence to solve problems that biologists thought were insoluble. Richard Feynman came up with his Nobel Prize-winning ideas about quantum electrodynamics by reflecting on a peculiar hobby of his — spinning a plate on his finger (he also played the bongos and was an expert safe-cracker). Percy Spencer, a radar expert, noticed that the radiation produced by microwaves melted a chocolate bar in his pocket and developed microwave ovens. And Hiram Maxim, the inventor of the modern machine gun, was inspired by a self-cocking mousetrap he had made in his teens.....
One could tell similar stories about breakthroughs in art — cubism crossed the simplicity of African carving with a growing non-representational trend in European painting. Jean-Michel Basquiat and Banksy took street graffiti and made it acceptable to galleries. In business, cross-fertilisation is the source of all kinds of innovations: fibres inspired by spider webs have become a source of bulletproof fabric; practically every mobile phone also seems to be a computer, a camera and a GPS tracker. To come up with such ideas, you need to know things outside your field. What’s more, the further afield your knowledge extends, the greater potential you have for innovation.
Invention fights specialisation at every turn. Human nature and human progress are polymathic at root. And life itself is various — you need many skills to be able to live it.
It is a wonderful piece.  Personally, I think lots of things can be discovered by studying how things interact in the natural world.  I mean, looking at cockle burs under a microscope gave us velcro.  An understanding of physics and fluid dynamics gives one a pretty good understanding of the dynamics of traffic flow.  An understanding of human psychology can be extremely beneficial for engineers dealing with politicians, salesmen and the public (although it will take a real salesman to convince engineers of this).  Anyway, I am a firm believer that there are very few areas of study that can't be beneficial for some one in their daily lives.  Unfortunately, many people give up on learning new things when they learn what they have to do for their job.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Is Chris Farley Still Alive?

And is now the mayor of Toronto?:

Rob Ford appears before the press on November 7 at City Hall in Toronto after the release of a video showing the mayor making death threats.
 Man, that dude looks like an old, world-beaten Chris Farley.  And the drunken stupors and crack smoking?  Actually, that is totally unfair to Farley, because I can't see him ever being as big of a douche as Rob Ford.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Marking the Distance

Marking the Distance from StoryCorps on Vimeo.

These United Regions


Colin Woodard looks at how the eleven regional "nations" of North America that he laid out in his book, American Nations:A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America relate to today's politics in Tufts Magazine (h/t Kaye).  He describes the historical roots of each region and how those historical traits affect relations in group and between groups.  Here is the description of the Midlands, where my home county is on the borderland with Greater Appalachia:
America’s great swing region was founded by English Quakers, who believed in humans’ inherent goodness and welcomed people of many nations and creeds to their utopian colonies like Pennsylvania on the shores of Delaware Bay. Pluralistic and organized around the middle class, the Midlands spawned the culture of Middle America and the Heartland, where ethnic and ideological purity have never been a priority, government has been seen as an unwelcome intrusion, and political opinion has been moderate. An ethnic mosaic from the start—it had a German, rather than British, majority at the time of the Revolution—it shares the Yankee belief that society should be organized to benefit ordinary people, though it rejects top-down government intervention.
That seems pretty realistic, although the area is smaller than I would expect.  I personally would lump Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota in there, too, but I think the greater Liberalism in those regions cause Woodard to lump them in with New England.  So what seems to be the driving force of the American culture?  Jim Webb's Scots-Irish:
More recently, researchers have begun to probe beyond state boundaries to distinguish among different cultural streams. Robert Baller of the University of Iowa and two colleagues looked at late-twentieth-century white male “argument-related” homicide rates, comparing those in counties that, in 1850, were dominated by Scots-Irish settlers with those in other parts of the “Old South.” In other words, they teased out the rates at which white men killed each other in feuds and compared those for Greater Appalachia with those for Deep South and Tidewater. The result: Appalachian areas had significantly higher homicide rates than their lowland neighbors—“findings [that] are supportive of theoretical claims about the role of herding as the ecological underpinning of a code of honor.”
Another researcher, Pauline Grosjean, an economist at Australia’s University of New South Wales, found strong statistical relationships between the presence of Scots-Irish settlers in the 1790 census and contemporary homicide rates, but only in “southern” areas “where the institutional environment was weak”—which is the case in almost the entirety of Greater Appalachia. She further noted that in areas where Scots-Irish were dominant, settlers of other ethnic origins—Dutch, French, and German—were also more violent, suggesting that they had acculturated to Appalachian norms.
American gun culture and violence compared to Europe seems to be rooted in the folks who tend to describe themselves as American when asked their national origin:

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Schedule Makers

God's Cricket Team

The Vatican cricket team is working on ecumenalism:
Some 500 years after England's King Henry VIII broke with the Roman Catholic Church, the Vatican is vowing to defeat the Church of England — not in the pews, but on the cricket pitch.
The Vatican has launched its own cricket club — a move aimed at forging ties with teams of other faiths.
Rome's Capannelle Cricket Club is hosting training matches that will lead to the creation of the Vatican team, the St. Peter's Cricket Club.
The Catholic Church has long championed sports as good for mind, body and soul. And one of the players, Sri Lankan seminarian Antony Fernando, says sports are particularly important for those aspiring to the priesthood.
"Learn a lot of things in sports, to accept both victory and defeat, in life of priesthood we need to accept things, because in the future as a priest we know that things are not going that easy," he says.
The Vatican already has its Clericus Cup soccer tournament, which pitches the Swiss Guards against seminarians. Now, its cricket team will sport the official colors of the tiny city-state, yellow and white, and players' jackets will have the seal of the papacy, two crossed keys.
The image some people have of cricket is that of the well-to-do in white playing on country estates. But sponsors of the Vatican initiative say that image is very dated. Today, cricket is one of the world's most popular sports, with a mass following in Asia and Oceania.
I know nothing about cricket, but this still entertains me.

Election 2013

I've got to say that the breathless overage of fatass Chris Christie and the battle between "Bring Back Anti-Sodomy Laws" Ken Cuchinelli and"I'm as crooked as the day is long" Terry McAullife distracts me from things in Tuesday's election that I consider more important.  First off, my township had a competitive election for the first time in over 30 years.  We have gotten two new township trustees (out of three) within 6 months.  That is a sea change, but I think we'll have a peaceful transition (especially considering I was drinking beer with all three upcoming trustees this evening).  Besides that, you have the Chamber of Commerce beating the Tea Party candidate in Alafuckingbama.  Honestly, I feel funny rooting for the business interests in that Battle Royale.  I generally curse the business folks, but the tea partiers are so insane that rooting for the rick fucks seems like the wise choice.

Overall, though, the most interesting story to me, other than the local township trustee story, is the Colorado secession story.  In the end, 6 of 11 counties voted to leave Colorado to form their own state.  However, in a population of 350,000 in the 11 counties, the 6 couties that voted yes had a population of less than 33,000.  That is your clueless rural vote in action.  Some of these counties were losing population from 2000 to 2010, but they think it is in their best interest to vote to leave the state that has taxpayers from other parts of the state funnel money to them.  What the fuck?  I don't get it.  There's a lot more analysis I'd like to do on this vote, but honestly, I'm just too lazy to write it up.

Rock, Paper, Scissors

Hey Matt, who needs an algorithm to play rock?


Rock Paper Scissors from weAREmedienkuenstler on Vimeo.

Monday, November 4, 2013

What the State of Northern Colorado Would Look Like


 Pacific Standard:
 North Colorado would contain just over 350,000 people, making it by far the smallest state in the union. (Neighboring Wyoming has over 550,000.) About 1.6 percent of its residents would identify as African American; 15 percent would be Latino. The state would have a median income of about $24,000. Its most populous city would be Greeley, with fewer than 100,000 residents.
This state would be overwhelmingly rural and not terribly wealthy. It would lack many of the attractions (ski resorts, waterways, mountains, etc.) that bring tourist dollars to Colorado, and it would be cut off from various forms of public support the region now receives from Denver. So why build it?
Because this is what frustrated minority party activists do when they see the other party taking control of the state government and moving the state in a direction that seems alien to them. In this case, it is a response to the Democratic-controlled state government enacting firearms restrictions and renewable energy requirements.
What a ridiculous idea.  Manhattan has five times as many people in a 26 square mile area.  And yet, if this were to become a reality, which it won't, these 350,000 people would have the same representation in the Senate as the approximately 38 million people in California.  That makes a fuckload of sense.

Across the Country in a Car in Under 29 Hours?

Apparently:
That's right: Alex Roy's familiar cross-country driving record, set in his now-famous LeMans Blue 2000 BMW M5 during the fall of 2006, no longer stands. It was allegedly broken by a three-man team consisting of Ed, a co-driver, and a passenger, in a 2004 Mercedes-Benz CL55 AMG.
But we'll get to all that.
First, we should address the term "broken." When I think of a record that's been "broken," I imagine beating something by a second, or a minute, or maybe a few RBIs. If what Ed says is true, the record wasn't broken: it was shattered. In 2006, Alex and company completed the transcontinental journey in 31 hours and 4 minutes. Two weeks ago, Ed and his crew say they managed to do the deed in 28 hours and 50 minutes. Google says it takes 40 and a half.
They averaged 98 miles an hour:
The run was over, and the watches were stopped. According to those involved, they all said the same thing: 28 hours, 50 minutes. The team covered 2,813.7 miles at an average speed of 98 miles per hour. They stopped for fuel just three times. Based on that number, Alex Roy's 31:04 record had been beaten by two hours and 14 minutes.
That is nuts, but it sure would be fun to try.

Cathedral on the Plains Renovates Stained Glass Windows

 
 St. Fidelis Church, Victoria, Kansas.

Wichita Eagle:

The rose window is one of the stained-glass windows of St. Fidelis Catholic Church that has beenundergoing restoration since August. (Travis Heying/Wichita Eagle)
St. Fidelis Catholic Church in Victoria is one of the most iconic buildings in Kansas, with twin towers soaring 140 feet above the plains and featuring exquisite stained-glass windows.
Most people know it as the Cathedral of the Plains, a nickname bestowed by former presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan after he visited the town in 1912, shortly after the church was dedicated.
Now the church, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971, is getting a new look.
The church has undertaken a $155,000 project to protect its 48 historic stained-glass windows. Installed in 1916 by Munich Studios in Chicago at a cost of $3,700, the windows are now valued at more than $1 million.
Members of the rural church, which serves 480 families, are paying for the project through donations and fundraising projects.
A little history of the church:
Built by Volga Germans who settled the area in the late 19th century, St. Fidelis was actually their fourth church. The parishioners kept quickly outgrowing each previous church.
Fashioned in the Romanesque style, the current church was built to last by the parishioners themselves using local hand-quarried stone. They used block-and-tackle and wood scaffoldings to hoist and place the stone.
“I think when people come here, they are most impressed by those Volga German farmers who could mostly with their own labor and with no machinery of any kind – with just themselves and horses – could construct an edifice of this nature without very much help,” Windholz said.
“When you look at how high those towers go, you have to ask, ‘Who would dare to go up there and lay stone?’ ”
According to the church history, each member of the church who was 12 or older was asked to give $45 a year and six wagonloads of stone to help construct the building. Some families brought as many as 70 to 80 wagonloads of stone.
When it was dedicated in 1911, it was considered the largest church west of the Mississippi River.
More on the Volga Germans here.  As the article points out, it is amazing how much the immigrant communities sunk into their churches, when they were struggling to get by as it was.  I've stopped by the Basilica of St. Francis Xavier in Dyersville, Iowa, and have toured many of the churches in West Central Ohio, and went to numerous masses at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at Notre Dame, and each of these places is amazing, especially considering when they were constructed.  That they were built by immigrants on the margins of their society is all the more impressive.

Read more here: http://www.kansas.com/2013/11/02/3093400/kansas-cathedral-of-the-plains.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.kansas.com/2013/11/02/3093400/kansas-cathedral-of-the-plains.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.kansas.com/2013/11/02/3093400/kansas-cathedral-of-the-plains.html#storylink=cpy

A Small Town Wrestles with Immigration

Fremont, Nebraska deals with whether to repeal an ordinance to require renters to prove their citizenship status and making it a crime for landlords to rent to illegal immigrants.  The town is home to a Hormel packinghouse, and a large Hispanic population.  The debate centers around teaching English as a second language in the schools and social costs of the undocumented immigrants.  However, some of the talking points don't really hold up well:
Their influx drove the Hispanic population in this part of Nebraska from less than 1,000 in 1990 to nearly 16,000 today, roughly 20 percent of the population in the state’s northeastern corner. (Fremont’s population in 2012 was 26,167.)
But other facts about the Hispanic presence in the region are less cut-and-dry. Proponents of the ordinance point to Washington Elementary as evidence that overwhelming numbers of Fremont preschoolers arrive unable to speak English, but the school’s former principal told me that by the time those students are fifth graders, they’re score highest among the city’s elementary schools on statewide reading comprehension exams. Similarly, the CEO of the Fremont Area Medical Center said that while it’s true Hispanics account for roughly half a million dollars in unpaid medical bills each year, uninsured Hispanics actually pay up at a higher rate than uninsured white patients.
My experience has been that Hispanic immigrants are extremely hard-working, and contribute to making their community better, with strong families and family ties.  I would like to see immigration reform which would allow many more legal immigrants, and would allow more of these workers who are already here come out of the shadows and participate more in society.  The Fremont ordinance will hopefully go by the wayside.

The National Pastime, the Sport of Kings and the Sweet Science

After spending the weekend at the Breeders' Cup, Charles Pierce weighs in on why of the most popular sports of the early 20th century, only baseball maintains much of its prestige:
I wondered at the beginning of the day, as I walked from the parking lot up toward the baroque fa├žade of the old racetrack, Philip Marlowe in my own mind, looking both ways for a blonde in a Packard, why horse racing hasn't been able to weaponize and monetize nostalgia the way baseball has. Back in the day — back when J. Edgar Hoover and Clyde Tolson used to (allegedly) whisper sweet nothings to each other in a box at Santa Anita — baseball, boxing, and horse racing were the three major sports in the country, Pete Rozelle having not yet created the universe. Only one of them truly survives today, and I think it's because the other two have the element of mortality. Every boxer can theoretically become Sugar Ray Leonard or Duk Koo Kim. Every thoroughbred can become New Year's Day (who won the Juvenile) or Secret Compass (who broke down and had to be euthanized on the track in the Juvenile Fillies). The people who train them know that. The people who watch them know that. You send a fighter or a thoroughbred out there, in every competition, knowing that you can be sending them out to die. We are far too civilized today for the mortal stakes in our games to be that obvious.
While there is something to that point, what about auto racing?  And what about the risks of football.  We know now that guys are suffering traumatic brain injury, and I think it is only a matter of time before a college or pro player dies on the field.  Anyway, it does take a lot out of a day of horse racing when a horse has to be put down.  It is especially tough when it is the biggest showcase of racing of the year.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Hurricane Sandy Aftermath and Recovery Roundup

This:


The Rider And The Storm from RYOT on Vimeo.


and this:


A Year of Recovery After Hurricane Sandy from The New York Times - Video on Vimeo.


and this, from someone who was slated to run in the New York Marathon and ended up volunteering in the aftermath: 
DeAngelis asked if we minded taking general care packages door-to-door. As for how to find the homes where the real need was, we were instructed to drive around sniffing out desperation.
“Look down a street and if it’s a disaster, go there.”
A short, friendly, high school senior advised me on the best approach: just thrust a bag at them and say, “This is for you.” Asking if they need it means they’ll say no, she said.
“Is it a pride thing?” I asked. She shrugged. “I think they just think other people probably need it more.”
It was just past 4:30 and already dark in the powerless section of the borough. The temperature was dropping fast, and not the healing, ice bath kind of cold. Harsh and getting harsher.
All we could see was what was illuminated by the headlights as we wound around trash, furniture, and mystery objects. It was hard to distinguish between what was dismantled during clean up and what the storm destroyed, and I didn’t try for long, because I was squinting for upward facing nails.
When we detected human-size movement, we hopped out. Christine mastered the art of getting people to accept the care packages: Beg them.
“We have a ton of food and supplies, will you please take some, for our sake?”
It wasn’t true. Garbage bags, diapers in the right sizes, and flashlights were scarce. But the residents kept claiming they weren’t the worst off. “Give it to those people over there. They need it more,” we heard from men and women standing in front of frames that used to hold up walls.
The exceptions were gloves and socks—no one turned those down. One woman shook her head at me, saying, “I’m fine,” but as I put the socks in her hand, it closed around them.
At one house where men were working below ground level, a tiny cloud of light from a lantern glowed up from the basement. I yelled, “Does anyone in there need socks?” They cheered.
Back at the car, I found a woman nodding as Christine listed what we had left. The woman didn’t say anything, she was just nodding. Christine handed me items and once my arms were full, she finally spoke. “I don’t know if I need it—I will need it—I just don’t need it now—I can’t think.” I asked if I could take the stuff inside and she nodded again. I walked in and set it in a corner of a dimly lit kitchen. Then I looked up to see four people at a table, a candle flickering between them, all watching me silently.
Wow.  It is hard to imagine such devastation, and yet people didn't want to take any assistance.

NASA Photo of the Day

From yesterday:

Jupiter's Triple Shadow Transit
Image Credit & Copyright: Leo Aerts
Explanation: This webcam and telescope image of banded gas giant Jupiter shows the transit of three shadows cast by Jupiter's moons in progress, captured in Belgian skies on October 12 at 0528 UT. Such a three shadow transit is a relatively rare event, even for a large planet with many moons. Visible in the frame are the three Galilean moons responsible, Callisto at the far left edge, Io closest to Jupiter's disk, and Europa below and just left of Io. Of their shadows on the sunlit Jovian cloud tops, Callisto casts the most elongated one near the planet's south polar region at the bottom. Io's shadow is above and right of Jupiter's Great Red Spot. Of course viewed from Jupiter's perspective, these shadow crossings could be seen as solar eclipses, analogous to the Moon's shadow crossing the sunlit face of planet Earth.

Asian Carp Found In Lake Erie Watershed

Here's some bad news:
Lake Erie has its own problems. There, a chain-link fence separates a flood-prone wetland between two rivers—one that flows toward the Mississippi and another that flows into Lake Erie.
Several grass carp (one of the Asian carp species) have been caught in or near Lake Erie in recent years. However, the ones that were discovered were sterile. Sterile fish are used to control plant growth, and they can't reproduce because they are triploid—having a triplicate set of chromosomes.
In October of last year, four smallish grass carp were caught in a river just a couple miles upstream from Lake Erie. The results of tests performed on the fish have now been published, and the news isn’t good. The fish weren’t sterile like the others, and they were only about a year old.
To determine where the fish had come from, researchers measured the amount of strontium in a bone inside the fish’s ears. The river in which the fish were found happens to have higher than average levels of strontium in it, and that’s what they found in the ear bones as well. In fact, the inner part of the bones, which formed early in life, contained significantly more strontium than the outer portion. That matched up with strontium in the river, which was high during a wet 2011 and low during the drought in 2012.
That means the grass carp appear to have hatched in the river, making this the first documented instance of Asian carp reproducing in the Lake Erie watershed.
The researchers write, “The implications that grass carp have spawned and recruited in the Great Lakes Basin are profound.” In habitats like Lake Erie, grass carp populations are capable of grazing lake-bottom plants basically down to nothing. If they can establish a population, it would mean trouble for the rest of the Lake Erie ecosystem, including the native fishes and birds that rely on those plants.
What’s more, it had been thought that grass carp required a longer river than this one for spawning. The apparent success in this instance means that grass carp—and the other species—might have an easier time establishing a foothold in Lake Erie than expected.
Looks like the invasion may have begun, at least in the eastern part of the Great Lakes.

Our Health Care System Sucks

So says conservative apostate Josh Barro:
And while we enjoy those high costs and middling quality, we leave one in seven U.S. residents without a good way to pay for health care they might need — care that is drastically more expensive here than it would be anywhere else on a pre-insurance basis.
In a sane world, "This health reform plan will make America like France!" would be praise, not a dire warning.
But instead, politicians run around talking about how wonderful American health care is. Republicans have a de-facto agenda of opposing any reform to the health insurance system. Democrats are reduced to lying and saying their reform efforts won't change anything for people who like the coverage they have, because huge numbers of Americans have decided for some insane reason that they like the crazy expensive, often spotty, not-especially-effective coverage they have.
I support Obamacare because I believe it will improve our terrible health care system on the margins. Subsidies will tend to be shifted toward people who need them and away from those who don't. More people will be covered. Modest cost control improvements will be implemented, such as through a tax on high-cost plans and new payment systems that encourage providers to focus on producing good outcomes rather than providing expensive treatments.
But the real problem with Obamacare is that it does not change the American health care system enough in the direction of other countries' systems. Republicans are wrong to warn that Obamacare will turn America's health care system into a European-style one. I wish they were right.
Amen.  We have a health care system.  It isn't the best in the world.  It is the most expensive in the world.  It would probably help if we took a look at how other first-world countries ran their health care systems and tried to emulate them.  Instead we've got to pretend our system is great because we are morons.

I'm Outta Here

That's what rural areas in some liberal states are saying:



The map says this is northern California, so mapmakers and visitors might be a bit confused about a sign claiming this is the State of Jefferson.
"The State of Jefferson, as originally envisioned, would be the same size as, say, New Mexico," said Geri Byrne, Chairman of the Modoc County Board of Supervisors, which passed a resolution in September to leave California and help form the State of Jefferson. "It would be, like, the 44th largest state, and the 44th largest by population, too."
A newspaper poll in Siskiyou County next door showed overwhelming support after that county's board also voted to leave California: 66 percent for secession, 22 percent against, 11 percent not sure.
And the sentiment is spreading to other counties across northern California.
It is fed by anger across rural America . . . a mood of us-against-them, against big cities that increasingly dominate state legislatures, passing laws some say ignore rural needs.
Bryne said that regulations on agriculture and timber harvesting have a direct impact on their community. "Our local economies in rural California are basically dependent on ranching, farming, timber, hunting, fishing. And every time, you know, we make bureaucratic decisions that impact that, we destroy the economies of northern -- the North State."....
Listened to or not, these modern-day movements are popping up from Maryland to the upper peninsula of Michigan to northern Colorado.
In northern Colorado this Tuesday, voters in 11 counties will decide about letting their county commissioners explore breaking away from the state. Opinions are mixed.
"It's divisive," said one man. "Pretty soon, we'll have 100 states, potentially."
Joy Beuer told Petersen the Colorado counties should be allowed to secede. "Because we are not getting heard," she said.
A forum, sponsored by the League of Women Voters, drew a full house in Weld County.
"Something's changed in the last decade," said county commissioner Sean Conway. "The Colorado we grew up in, the Colorado we love, has changed."
Chuck Sylvester's family started a farm in 1869, which he and his wife, Roni, still run. Now he lives in a Colorado with legalized marijuana, new gun control regulations, and civil unions for gays.
"In my job that I had, I had many people of different sexual preferences," Sylvester said. "And some of them were like sons and daughters to me, I thought so much about. But it is defined by God in the Bible that marriage is between a man and a woman. Don't change that."
"So that wasn't your culture when this was being dealt with, as in your beliefs?" asked Petersen.
"Yeah, that's very correct," he replied.
Petersen asked Brinkley, "When I hear the word 'values' by people in rural areas, is this part of what's at play, that our culture has really changed dramatically?"
"Absolutely," he replied. "Anybody who's a hardened secessionist, in the end, you're going to find just doesn't like 'the other.' And 'the other' tends to be people with different colored skin or different cultural values than the ones they grew up with in their particular county."
I hate to break it to them, but most of these areas would be worse off on their own.  They get lots of money for their roads and schools from people in the other parts of their states.  They pay less in taxes than what they get back in spending.  And they want out mainly because of the gays and the blacks.  Well these rural folks have to realize, they are a minority, too.  Suck it up.  A couple laws you don't like aren't enough to screw yourself over about.  I was hoping that one positive outcome (the only one) from the flooding in Northern Colorado would be a realization that we're all in this together, and that while we might not agree on everything, at least when we need something, people are there to help.  Apparently, that wasn't an outcome of the flooding.  What would be interesting is if, say Research Triangle said screw all these rural idiots in North Carolina, we're setting up our own state.  That would highlight how dependent rural areas are on the more prosperous and populous areas of their states, and that dissatisfaction with a political majority cuts both ways.

The Midwestern Bubble

John Mauldin is discussing financial bubbles, and points out corporate bonds and Midwestern farmland:

Another bubble that is forming and will pop is agricultural land in many places in the United States (although agriculture in other countries can be found at compelling values). The bubble really started going once the Fed started its Code Red policies. Land prices in the heart of the Corn Belt have increased at a double-digit rate in six of the past seven years. According to Federal Reserve studies, farmland prices were up 15 percent last year in the most productive part of the Corn Belt, and 26 percent in the western Corn Belt and high plains. Iowa land selling for $2,275 per acre a decade ago is now at $8,700 per acre. As you can see from Figure 9.2, the increase in farmland prices beats almost anything the United States saw during the housing bubble. A lot of banks in the Midwest will have problem with their lending.
Why are we seeing so many bubbles right now? One reason is that the economy is weak and inflation is low. The growth in the money supply doesn’t go to driving up prices for goods like toothpaste, haircuts, or cars. It goes to drive up prices of real estate, bonds, and stocks.
Excess liquidity is money created beyond what the real economy needs. In technical terms, Marshallian K is the difference between growth in the money supply and nominal GDP. The measure is the surplus of money that is not absorbed by the real economy. The term is named after the great English economist Alfred Marshall. When the money supply is growing faster than nominal GDP, then excess liquidity tends to flow to financial assets. However, if the money supply is growing more slowly than nominal GDP, then the real economy absorbs more available liquidity. That’s one reason why stocks go up so much when the economy is weak but the money supply is rising.
It is also why stock markets are so sensitive to any hint that the Fed might ease off on QE. Real players know how the game is played. You can listen to the business media or read the papers and find hundreds of “experts” saying that stock prices are rising based on fundamentals. You can take their talking points and change the dates and find they are essentially the same as 1999 and 2006–2007. (More on the implications of this in Part II when we talk about investing.)
The rise in real estate, bonds, and stocks does not count toward any inflation measures. On the desk in his office at Princeton, Einstein once had the words “not everything which can be measured counts, and not everything which counts can be measured.” Inflation happens to be one of the things that counts but can’t be measured (except in very narrow terms). Excess liquidity flows from asset class to asset class.
While the Fed has had a lot to do with the farmland price bubble, ethanol policy and rampant fund speculation in commodities has also had a very big effect.  The grain markets were really boominb in 2007 and 2008, and that was before the financial crisis and extraordinary measures by the Fed (although it is true the Fed's low rates in the run-up of the housing bubble drove inflation fears and the fund speculation in commodities).  Most farmland bubbles are based on market and policy imbalances, and this one was no different. 

Mauldin is going to make the case for a bubble in stocks, and while I can't argue with him, all I can say is that I've been expecting farmland prices to decrease ever since I bought land in 2007, and prices are up about 75-80% since then.  I've been pointing out the farmland price bubble intermittently since I started this blog almost 3 years ago, and it still hasn't poppled.  Before that, I was talking about outrageous stock prices in 1998, and that didn't pop until 2000.  After that, I was calling a house price bubble in 2002, and that one didn't peak until December 2006.  So while there is likely a stock price bubble, we could still see some serious price appreciation in the short term.