Tuesday, April 11, 2006

OK, but can you use your cell phone?...

Stretch-Hummers are soooo 2005, dude. Here is the latest Prom Ride for PSTF's [Pot-smoking trust-funders].

[via BoingBoing]

Protect this...

Has globalization hit a wall? Have nations realized their very relevance is threatened by global economics and turned to protectionism?

I have no idea. The best I can say right now is, "Maybe".

It could be that the pace of global competition is unsustainable for the wealthy sector, like the US and EU.

The infamous Doha round of trade negotiations... wait..

Pop Quiz:

Doha is*

1. A small socialist country in SE Asia

2. The capital city of Qatar [the land without a "u"]

3. An eastern meditation practice

4. A seaside resort city is Azerbaijan

Anyhoo, the latest round of trade negotiations are in serious trouble. It is largely to do with agriculture in the developed world. But in the past few months further liberalization has run into stiff opposition from environmentalists, labor unions, and other political groups which would embarrass older farmers to be seen among.

Globalization may be inevitable, but it can be slowed down considerably. What we forget in the West is that power is a function of people, not wealth. Just between China and India is sufficient human horsepower to reshape world economics. This will occur, I believe regardless of trade barriers or even military might.

In fact, the rising power of China is suddenly a huge issue for US policy makers inasmuch as they are loosely allied with Iran. And in case you haven't been paying attention, our government seems to be determined to attack Iran, for reasons that oddly enough are far more sound than the Iraq rationale. The China connection may be the one thing preventing this next military - even nuclear - confrontation. Hence I think we can reasonably expect serious China-bashing in the near future.

But back to business. My guess is with EU knees buckling on immigration and free trade, we should able to keep our ag protectionism intact just long enough to ensure American Program Farmers are both few and non-competitive. Indeed we may sacrifice the very industries that the US has world leadership in an arguably vain effort to keep 500-acre farmers going.

Services, which include everything from finance to law and insurance, are America’s strongest export sector. In documents released last week Portman points out that America runs a $56 billion surplus in trade in services despite barriers erected by developing countries, and that liberalisation of such trade “could account for fully 72% of the economic gain from the Doha round”. But the developing countries are about as ready to open their insurance and other markets as the French are to abandon agricultural protection.
[Rest of article here]

Whether protectionism will work is not the point. The point is will it delay global competition long enough for me to make my exit?

*Answer here.

Monday, April 10, 2006

"DNA" for roadside trash?...

Wouldn't you love to be able to identify that guy who left the washing machine in your ditch? If RFID tags become as common as predicted, authorities might be able to:

The fear is that what we buy will be forever linked to us. In the nightmare scenario, an innocently discarded soft drink can could end up in what later becomes a crime scene.

RFID could open a whole new field of forensics where the tag on the can removes any reasonable doubt.

If the low-cost producers can't make money...

All is not well in our main soybean competitor. Land prices in Brazil are plummeting, according to this report by the Delta Farm Press. Some will see this as justification for our farm policy, since our producers do not experience prices below about $5.50.

I see something else - their system is adjusting. Unlike subsidy-fueled land prices here, soybean acres in Brazil are priced according to their true investment potential, and adjust up and down. These acres aren't going away.

They may be going to some type of ethanol production, but many of them really are best suited for soybeans.

Stay tuned.

Global warming feedback...

Just thought you might like to know that the world has a process of removing CO2 from the atmosphere. The CO2 dissolves in water and forms carbonic acid (a weak acid), this acid falls on rocks, breaks the rock down, and combines with the calcium. The calcium and carbonic acid combine to form calcium carbonate, also know as limestone. Its been a few years since I had geology at the University of Illinois, but I do remember this quite clearly. My professor (Dr. Anderson, he was from Australia) considered global warming to be complete bunk. Just thought you might like to know this.

Matt Gusse

Here is a counter point to the global warming argument that i think you should put up for your viewers.


I have much less belief that human factors are affecting the warming trend that we are in. The global system is much more monolithic and resistant to our tiny inputs versuses the path it was already on. We are coming out of an Ice Age obviously we are warming up nad CO2 is much lower now than is geologically the norm. I think we give ourselves too much credit. Just my take.


Thanks for the input, guys. The reason human-caused global warming is controversial is reasonable arguments can be made on both sides. What I have noticed is that both sides also revert to "conspiracy theories" and dark motives.

There are also intense political overtones to this otherwise scientific debate. Conservatives will likely never agree because they perceive changing your mind as a weakness (flip-flopping). The problem is when new information becomes available after the decision, conservatives usually cannot employ it to alter strategy.

My position was based not on a profound understanding of climate science, but the now widely-held opinion of the scientific community. While this many true experts could be wrong, I really doubt they are being deceived or coerced into their position.

While you might call this an act of trust, I prefer to think of it as choosing an answer based on the better odds of success. At the very least, I think taking actions to lower greenhouse gas emissions won't do great harm climate-wise or economically. And if I am wrong, I will stand in very good company and have a reason to celebrate.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Global warming - another topic to avoid with in-laws...

Thanks perhaps to a shift in media coverage, as well as media consensus, the Great Global Warming Debate has been re-energized. Interesting to note is that the debate now is less scientist vs.scientist and more economist/politician vs. scientist.

Like many, I have poised on the brink of an opinion for a long time. My feeling was this was an argument that could wait. Lately however, I have found myself reluctantly agreeing with the overwhelming majority of the scientific community, as explained lucidly here.

Another good source for new entrants into this fray is here (I found it to be even-handed and well-documented):

Her review of all 928 peer-reviewed papers on climate change published between 1993 and 2003 showed the consensus to be real and near universal. Even skeptical scientists now accept that we can expect some warming. They differ from the rest only in that they believe most climate models overestimate the positive feedback and underestimate the negative, and they predict that warming will be at the bottom end of the IPCC's scale

If the skeptics are to be believed, the evidence for global warming is full of holes and the field is riven with argument and uncertainty. The apparent scientific consensus over global warming only exists, they say, because it is enforced by a scientific establishment riding the gravy train, aided and abetted by governments keen to play the politics of fear. It's easy to dismiss such claims as politically motivated and with no basis in fact - especially as the majority of sceptics are economists, business people or politicians, not scientists (see "Meet the sceptics"). But there are nagging doubts. Could the sceptics be onto something? Are we, after all, being taken for a ride?

I think much of my reluctance was the risk of being categorized as a tree-hugging eco-freak in an industry that claims deep environmental commitment (We were the first environmentalists!) but is strangely averse to cooperating others who seem to have similar goals. Global warming skeptics have become increasing strident and ad hominem attacks are now routine (never a pleasant anticipation either).

Mostly I think we just want to farm as we please until forced by economics to reconsider.

Complicating the debate has been the recent discovery of global dimming:

Global dimming? Does that have something to do with decreasing IQ scores and the proliferation of reality TV? Not quite, but if you missed the story, you would not be the only one. Until Ohmura poked his nose into the radiation record, nobody had noticed that between 1958 and 1988, a whopping 10 percent of solar radiation had disappeared.

At first, I thought, hey, this is good news - it will offset the warming. But, I thought too soon, as usual:

Lohmann explains that clouds change as we emit more particles into the atmosphere. Clouds are made of cloud droplets, which form by latching onto tiny particles called condensation nuclei. These occur naturally in the atmosphere, but by emitting more particulate pollution into the atmosphere, humans help make even more condensation nuclei. The result: Instead of fewer, larger water droplets forming, many, smaller water droplets form. In effect, this is like the difference between two sieves, one coarse and the other fine. Like a coarse sieve, the cloud with fewer, larger particles lets more solar radiation through to the ground, whereas like the fine sieve, the cloud with lots of very small particles lets less sunlight pass through. The result is darker days.

[Rest of helpful article here]
For me the tipping point was the NOAA scientist whose views were "muzzled" by the administration, and the information that flooded out after that fracas. Regardless, I now believe that human action is causing climate change.

OK, I said it. But it may be more than just another policy argument for agriculture. If warming is occurring rapidly (from a climate perspective) it will change the way I farm this year and every succeeding year.

For example, I may need to push slightly longer in maturities or factor in earlier harvests. If storms will pack extra punch due to heating extremes and altered moisture habits, standability will move up as a priority

Ditto for rootworm control. For that matter,
milder winters may mean a whole host of new over-wintering pests.

I'll let the skeptics bet their crops on Michael Crichton's global warming conspiracy theory. It costs me little to respond logically, and could save me some lessons learned the hard way.