Saturday, March 31, 2012

This looks potentially troublesome...  

The newly announced possible link between corn insecticide treatments and bees is a cause for concern.
In Thursday’s issue of the journal Science, two teams of researchers published studies suggesting that low levels of a common pesticide can have significant effects on bee colonies. One experiment, conducted by French researchers, indicates that the chemicals fog honeybee brains, making it harder for them to find their way home. The other study, by scientists in Britain, suggests that they keep bumblebees from supplying their hives with enough food to produce new queens.
The authors of both studies contend that their results raise serious questions about the use of the pesticides, known as neonicotinoids. [More]
The reason I am going to watch this is the possible mechanism by which this occurs - a catalytic effect on fungicides given to the bees for other reasons.
Both Goulson and Mace Vaughn, pollinator program director at the Xerces Society, an invertebrate conservation group, said neonicotinoids won’t be the only cause of colony collapse disorder.
“If it was as simple as that, the answer would have been discovered a long time ago,” said Goulson. “I’m sure it’s a combination of things. I’m sure that disease is a part of it, and maybe the two interact.” He noted a study in which honeybees exposed to neonicotinoids were especially vulnerable to a common bee parasite. Another study found that neonicotinoids dramatically increase the toxicity of fungicides. [More]
That's the kind of complicated chain of events that has made the search for a cause of CCD so difficult. For that reason alone it strikes me as plausible.

Coupling that with issue with the planter-talc problem recently suggested, and you have the beginning of a complex theory of cause and delivery.


 FWIW, we're planting. Central IL has made the drought map, as we have known for months now, and I worry about moisture levels dropping in worked ground faster than new roots can chase them. Also, we're running out of days for a frost, albeit historically, it could still happen, I know. There is no hint on any longer range forecast, however.

If the year turns out to be hot, I'd just as soon be pollinating in June. Soil temps at 4" are an astounding 68℉. If it weren't for the calendar, anyone would swear it was past time to plant.

With all those rationalizations, were going to put it in the ground. The idea of a significant Aug/Sep premium due to short supplies certainly seems possible after yesterday, too. If the season turns out to be great growing conditions, it might be the high for the crop.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Good listens...  

Haven't done this is a while, but I can vouch for and highly recommend the following Great Courses (which you can download as a podcast for planting season)
Also I'm working on Lost Christianities: Christian Scripture and the Battles over Authentication. This is deeply troubling information delivered clearly by an authoritative biblical scholar. It makes you think about why and what you believe. 
The unexpected president, ctd...  

I'll let Josh Barro, whose conservative credentials are impeccable, say what I have struggled to comprehend about race and the right and this campaign:
There has been a clear strategic calculation here among Republican elites. Better to leverage or at least accept the racism of much of the Republican base than try to clean it up. I remember a moment in the 2008 campaign where John McCain argued with a voter who said that Obama was “an Arab.” This time around, either the candidates don’t care about standing up to racial misconceptions or have decided they can’t afford to.
And on a more substantive policy issue, you have Gingrich’s rejection of the idea that there is even a racial matter to discuss in the Martin case. You don’t have to assume that George Zimmerman is guilty of murder (Julian Sanchez has a good piece on this) to recognize that Trayvon Martin would likely to be alive today if he were white.
The question of what to do about that is complicated, but it’s clearly a public policy concern. Instead, Gingrich commits an error that is common on the Right—jumping from the fact that race relations have improved to a claim that black Americans no longer have special policy concerns worth discussing.
It’s disgraceful that Gingrich would call bringing up Trayvon Martin’s race disgraceful. It also undermines everything else that conservatives say about race, no matter how valid. How are Republicans supposed to be taken seriously when they say they understand black Americans’ policy needs when Newt Gingrich is spouting nonsense like this?
My challenge to conservatives who feel they get a bum rap on race is this. Stand up for yourself and your colleagues when you feel that a criticism is unfair. At the same time, criticize other conservatives who say racist things, cynically tolerate racism in the Republican base, or deny the mere existence of racial issues in America today. The conservative movement desperately needs self-policing on racial issues, if it ever hopes to have credibility on them. [More worth reading]
And at that, I'll let go of this thread.

The president, ctd...  

Thanks for the great comments. I'll respond in this separate post, as linking is a bear in the comments.

"From VA":
1. For most objectors I know, it is more about the appropriate role and size of government. Not withstanding the many previous encroachments, if Obamacare stands, there is nothing in my life that the feds cannot dictate. The concept of limited government is gone completely and many of us find this a travesty.

2, Your own source says "The number of significant federal rules, defined as those costing more than $100 million, has gone up under Obama, with 129 approved so far, compared with 90 for Bush, 115 for President Bill Clinton and 127 for the first President Bush over the same period in their first terms." This is more than a 40% increase in the most burdensome regulations. Also, for aggies, think GIPSA, dust, child labor, and TMDL. I very definite pattern of increasing regulation impacting agriculture.

3. I have witnessed this administration "vetting" of very routine, perfunctory, commodity board appointments where they have indeed used Chicago tactics, and have confronted the most minor appointee with their record of campaign contributions.

4.I agree, no jamming.

5. I think it is not Obama as a person many aggies find repugnant, but it is his view of government and his belief that government always knows best that most of us reject.

Okay, in similar order:

1. Your objection to the mandate as THE line in the governmental size stand is typical.  It has been nicknamed the "broccoli argument"  as it requires an affirmative commercial action. There are two answers to this. First, we said the same thing about Kelo and imminent domain. I thought that was dumb decision as it trampled private property rights, but so far we haven't seen cities, etc. seizing land will-nilly. Second,
 The law’s critics, for instance, do not challenge rulings like Wickard vs. Filburn, which allowed Congress to forbid a farmer from growing his own wheat that he did not plan to sell. Of course, growing wheat for personal consumption is an elemental act of human civilization, a definitive act of a person who wishes to provide for himself and be left alone. Not coincidentally, some of history’s most monstrous tyrannies denied individuals the right to grow their own food unmolested – think of Stalin’s Russia, inducing a famine among the productive farmers of the Ukraine, who were forbidden from using their own time to grow their own food.
Indeed, if we imagine a reverse situation – in which conservatives were conceding the government the right to regulate “inactivity” but not “activity” – their hyperventilations over the perilous state of freedom in America would be more persuasive. The line between the laws legitimized by Wickard and real communist tyranny is actually quite thin. Instead they have managed to whip themselves into a frenzy by painting fantastical, concocted stories about the government forcing people to eat broccoli – as if they truly cannot imagine a legal or philosophical principle that would allow the government to enforce a health care mandate (that conservatives invented!) and not allow the government to force-feed broccoli to its population. [More]
2. Note the source (thanks for reading the link, BTW) does not compute any benefits, only costs. What does preventing another well blow-out count? The EPA and other regulators tackled some hard problems like finance reform that have already cost us billions. We can complain regulations cost us but as ethanol supporters like to shout, "Look at all the benefits!"  Regardless, I simply disagree with the perception there has been a "tsunami" of regulation. More, perhaps, but it is a matter of degree.
3. I think those type of tactics are now pretty standard across both parties, Look at how slow the Senate has been to confirm appointees.
4. N/A
5. I'm glad you are on a different e-mail spam list than me, VA. You might visit ag talk blogs or listen to Rush. I appreciate your objection is based on policy, but after three years of bad jokes when with other farmers, my opinion is as I stated.

But a truly insightful comment with which I agree followed (albeit mislocated):
Ed Arndt Rich. Co ND said...

On Obama. I didn't vote for Obama but was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. I had hoped he would stop the shredding of the constitution started by George W. Bush with the Patriot Act. However,under Obama and his attorney general Eric Holder, the process has been accelerated. Under sections 1021 and 1022 of the National Defense Authorization Act the government can indefinitely detain terrorist suspects. The suspect has no right or opportunity to defend himself or make an attempt to refute the governments action. Are we to believe the government will never make a mistake? Think about that for a bit.

Now consider this. On Mar. 5th, in a speech at Northwestern University, Attorney General Eric Holder made the astounding statement (astounding to me at least)that the constitution guarantees due process of law, but it does not guarantee judicial process. For all of my adult life I had always believed that due process of law included a public trial before judge and jury. Not according to Holder. Under Holder's version due process becomes whatever the government says it is, not open to public or even congressional scrutiny. Holder's remarks were referring to the killing of Anwar al Awliki by drone strike, and various arguments can be made in defense of this action. However, the precedents set by Holder's speech are terrifying. How long until some other branch of government decides that it is not obligated to provide judicial process and instead provides whatever due process the government decides will suffice? Under this scenario, what we have commonly held to be constitutional guarantees become null and void.

These things have not been much reported in the mainstream media. Why? Is the media keeping it a secret? Or does the media think(I fear correctly) that the public is not interested?

You can google "Eric Holder's speech at Northwestern University" for background on this subject.

I was irate when habeus corpus was decimated under Bush, and am dumbfounded that Obama has doubled down on this insidious attack on personal liberty. What is more profoundly troubling is this is still not invasive enough for the Republican party excepting the sane voice of Ron Paul. They are cheering him [Obama] on!

This matter is far and away more devastating to me than Obamacare, but that is the issue that the public wants to debate. In fact, the public seems OK with killing suspected terrorists, even if they are American citizens, under the thinking I guess it wouldn't happen to someone named Phipps, of course.

Until you are targeted by the president to be killed (as just a suspect), I suppose.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The president we didn't expect...  

Obamacare (and yes, I guess that's what it will be called) has truly brought to light the myriad complaints of the right with his presidency. The comment below on a previous posts is helpful for my arguments about why these strong reactions exist.
 John, We sent them to Washington to repeal Obamacare and the massive Administrative regulations he put into effect day 1 along with being sickened by the Chicago tatics that HE brought to Wasington. I remember the "read it later" bills HE jamed thru w/o the "compromise" HE now wants. We are and will continue to pay for OBAMAS rotten leadership. He was the mistake.
Let me unpack this as evenly as I can, because "anon" shares a viewpoint I have heard frequently at farmer gatherings and in other conversations.

1. Repealing Obamacare: This remains the largest objection for most, I believe, yet it is rooted in remarkable confusion about what it does. Aside from the mandate, most of the major provisions - covering children until 26, guaranteed coverage, community rating, closing the "donut hole", comparison shopping, etc. - enjoy widespread popularity. The mandate itself will be very popular among health insurers should the law be upheld as it is one of the best ways to make make the other provisions affordable. The idea Obamacare is a government takeover is also unsupported by facts. It relies on private insurance but regulates how it will be packaged and sold. To the disappointment of many, there is no public option, which most associate with government intrusion.
2. There were no massive regulations passed on Day 1. At least, I can't find any. This is hyperbole that now passes for evidence. In fact, there is evidence the Obama administration is not keeping up with the regulations added by other administrations.   
3. Chicago tactics. Rep. Darrel Issa was widely expected to investigate every move by the White House to prove corruption, etc. He has struggled to make any news. Compared to previous administrations, this one does not stand out as remarkably worse, could even be rated better. There is no smoking gun despite unprecedented efforts by opponents. 
4. "Jamming through" legislation: I assume this means Obamacare, since it passed by one vote. First, this accusation is unfounded in reality. No president jams through legislation. Congress writes legislation in consultation with the White House, but even with a veto threat, the bills are Congressional products. If it passes by one vote in either house it is not jammed through - it is sent to the President like any other law. Many bills pass by the narrowest of margins. We call them laws. If the commenter refers to the party line nature of recent votes, I wonder if he/she would agree that no bill should pass without a vote from the other side, and propose an amendment to that effect. The 60-vote threshold (3/5) in the Senate is so hard to reach, it is very common for this to occur. As for pressure from leadership, this is normal practice and was used for Medicare D, the Iraq War, and other contentious bills like farm bills.
5. Finally, the tone of the comment, the capitalization of "HE", the argument by assertion rather than by fact or reason makes my point, I would suggest. It is Obama many despise, not his actions which have been surprisingly centrist.

Finally, it is no longer impossible to ignore the racist overtones in the opposition to Obama. It's out there. It is my belief that our nation was simply caught off-guard by a young, black President. He was not supposed to get the nomination and not supposed to be able to be elected, so when he arrived we had not prepared for the change.

For many it is a change too far. The second black President will be no big deal, but with the First, just like women at the Naval Academy, or Jackie Robinson, or countless other "firsts", we usually outlive the reaction. We don't adjust in real time or change many initial responses.

The commenter captures this "change weariness". As someone once remarked about globalization, "I don't have anything against it - it's just gone on too damn fast and too damn hard for too damn long". There is seldom a smooth pace to cultural shifts, but trying to pass off personalized animosity as well-reasoned policy arguments isn't working that well.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Graph of the Day...  

We've got the room.
Tea regret...  

I have been mildly amazed at the anti-government ferocity in rural America, even while we were cashing many forms of government checks. I still think the majority of the virulent anti-Obama hatred (and that is a reluctant assessment) arises from who he is rather than his policies.

In fact, anyone could have seen how this would play out. With the Ryan budget, it has suddenly become undeniable.
It must have been a lot of fun to show up at meetings in the summer of 2010 and bash your sitting congressman or senator. No one knows how many video clips were shot of Tea Party members shouting down members of the U.S. House and Senate, some of whom had put their careers on the line for farmers.
Now the chickens are coming home to roost, so to speak, and, for the first time in decades farmers are faced with the very real possibility of not having a new farm bill or much chance of an extension of the current legislation when the 2008 law expires later this year.
By now, most of you have seen reports of the new federal budget proposed by Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee. The proposal would cut $33 billion from federal farm programs or about $10 billion more than the House and Senate Agriculture Committees proposed last fall.
Unlike previous years, this time the House of Representatives is filled with freshman members who have little or no sense of the purpose of farm programs or the stability they provide to agriculture. All most of them know is they think they have a mandate to cut federal spending. [More]
The curious thing for me is I am not alarmed by budget cuts to ag, so don't have a dog in this hunt, so to speak. But the Ryan budget is rapidly becoming the Republican budget, and as he is forced to fill in details, you can hear the gasps.
Of course, it is impossible to know what tax expenditures Ryan plans to eliminate; we can only guess. But it is worth knowing that just the top 6 tax expenditures account for more than half of the dollar cost of all tax expenditures. These include the exclusion for health insurance and the deduction for mortgage interest. Among those not in the top 6 are the deduction for charitable contributions and the deduction for state and local taxes.
In other words, it will be impossible to achieve Ryan’s revenue target without pretty much wiping the slate clean of every tax preference except for a handful of the most popular ones. This may be worth doing, but will be very difficult. The Tax Reform Act of 1986 reduced tax expenditures by about 2.7 of GDP, according to the TPC. If it could be duplicated, that would only get Ryan to his absolute minimum level of revenues as a share of GDP. Getting to the upper end of his target range would require a tax reform one third larger.
In short, looking only at the tax side of Ryan’s plan, he is anticipating enactment of an extraordinarily ambitious tax reform on top of the most ambitious budget cutting effort ever enacted. He would sharply cut outlays for every major program except Social Security and national defense. Every governmental function one can think of would be virtually abolished except for Medicare, Social Security and defense. A key reason for the severity of these cuts, of course, is that Ryan would cut taxes at the same time he is cutting spending. To achieve balance with lower than projected revenues requires even larger cuts in spending. [More]

The harsh rhetoric of the last 3 years hasn't left the majority of farmers much room to maneuver on policy. These are THEIR representatives, whom they sent to Washington to mandate concealed carry, shut down the Fed, obstruct any compromise, and spot Muslims under every bush. And they may be about to send some more.

What did they expect?

There is some parallel here with raising pit bulls, but I won't go there.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Google to the rescue...  

This is about the tenth time this has happened in the last few years. I need a unique, particular device, tool or part, and after checking local sources, professionals, and dealers, I draw a blank.

The problem was attaching our JD 1770 planter to a Case MX315 tractor. We needed all 5 hydraulic outlets (including the mysterious "Power Beyond" set). Only they weren't regular 1/2", #8 BOSS O-ring tips. Cobbling NPT adapters and ORB fittings only slowed the leak to a dribble.

In desperation I googled "hydraulic hose fittings" and arrived promptly here:

The name alone made me laugh - how typical is that for the Internet age! But not only did they have exactly what I needed, but it was about half the price I could find comparable fittings - even after rush delivery.

This is what I mean by the oncoming productivity that will be boosting our bottom line via the "Borg Effect".  (I have trademarked that, BTW). This is the effortless ability to connect to information and resources that Aaron will use as second nature, and I am continually and happily surprised by.

From bizarre fasteners to appliance parts to unimagined services, my farm is much closer to the hub of the universe than ever before. In fact, we are slowly erasing all the social and cultural penalties for rural living.

Now if we can just get a rural water district...

Junkbox, Episode ILLINOT...  

Things are not going well in the Land of Lincoln
Multiple issues here on the farm, including working to get a rural water district started, speeches. field work, and the now-incredible complexity of hooking a green planter with a red tractor and third-party electronics. No excuse, but posting came in last.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The kids are home...  

Apparently to stay. Young people are not moving around much.
In the most startling behavioral change among young people since James Dean and Marlon Brando started mumbling, an increasing number of teenagers are not even bothering to get their driver’s licenses. Back in the early 1980s, 80 percent of 18-year-olds proudly strutted out of the D.M.V. with newly minted licenses, according to a study by researchers at the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute. By 2008 — even before the Great Recession — that number had dropped to 65 percent. Though it’s easy to blame the high cost of cars or gasoline, Comerica Bank’s Automobile Affordability Index shows that it takes fewer weeks of work income to buy a car today than in the early 1980s, and inflation-adjusted gasoline prices didn’t get out of line until a few years ago.
Perhaps young people are too happy at home checking Facebook. In a study of 15 countries, Michael Sivak, a professor at the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute (who also contributed to the D.M.V. research), found that when young people spent more time on the Internet, they delayed getting their driver’s licenses. “More time on Facebook probably means less time on the road,” he said. That may mean safer roads, but it also means a bumpier, less vibrant economy.
All this turns American history on its head. We are a nation of movers and shakers. Pilgrims leapt onto leaky boats to get here. The Lost Generation chased Hemingway and Gertrude Stein to Paris. The Greatest Generation signed up to ship out to fight Nazis in Germany or the Japanese imperial forces in the Pacific. The ’60s kids joined the Peace Corps.
But Generation Y has become Generation Why Bother. The Great Recession and the still weak economy make the trend toward risk aversion worse. Children raised during recessions ultimately take fewer risks with their investments and their jobs. Even when the recession passes, they don’t strive as hard to find new jobs, and they hang on to lousy jobs longer. Research by the economist Lisa B. Kahn of the Yale School of Management shows that those who graduated from college during a poor economy experienced a relative wage loss even 15 years after entering the work force.
Perhaps more worrisome, kids who grow up during tough economic times also tend to believe that luck plays a bigger role in their success, which breeds complacency. “Young people raised during recessions end up less entrepreneurial and less willing to leave home because they believe that luck counts more than effort,” said Paola Giuliano, an economist at U.C.L.A.’s Anderson School of Management. A bad economy can boost a person’s weighting of luck by 20 percent, Ms. Giuliano found.
Notice how popular the word “random” has become among young people. A Disney TV show called “So Random!” has ranked first in the ratings among tweens. The word has morphed from a precise statistical term to an all-purpose phrase that stresses the illogic and coincidence of life. Unfortunately, societies that emphasize luck over logic are not likely to thrive. [More]
I'm not sure this is as big of a problem as the writer asserts, but it does bear contemplating.  If there is some cause-effect factor with the Internet, faster service and better gadgets will accelerate this trend. 

Regardless this does shed some light on the gasoline consumption drop, for one thing. It could be younger people will form a less intense consumer group, preferring experiences to stuff

Whatever the reason, the cultural impact will be considerable as Boomers loudly leave the stage.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Biological fodder...  

For your next casual conversation. A "Sheldon" factoid that will amaze your friends:
The vampire bat emerges from its cave at the darkest hour of night, after the moon has set. It flies low across the landscape, hunting by smell and sonar. Once the bat finds a victim—and it can feed on most warm-blooded animals, from songbirds to cattle—it starts stalking its prey. The bat lands silently a few feet away, then runs on its wings toward the sound of a pulsing vein. A pair of teeth sharper than a scalpel cut into the flesh. Blood leaks from the wound; the bat laps it up. Sometimes, the bat consumes its weight in blood during the night.
Although the vampire bat has traditionally been seen as a ghoulish predator, it interests biologists for a very different reason: it is deeply altruistic. The bats live in expansive colonies, with hundreds or thousands sharing the same dark cave. Bats must feed constantly—they starve to death within sixty hours—and this has led to the evolution of an unusual way of sharing food. If a vampire bat fails to find a victim during the night, it will begin licking the wings and lips of a chosen colony member. The animals then lock mouths, while the successful hunter starts vomiting warm blood. If such sharing did not take place, scientists estimate that more than eighty per cent of adult vampire bats would die of starvation every year. [More]
I almost starved to death in 60 hours once. Actually, it can happen between breakfast and lunch.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Junkbox, Episode CIVIC...  

How can I be behind already? It's March 6, fer Pete's sake!
Why can't we get SmartBox frames?  How much rootworm insecticide is going on this year?

Monday, March 05, 2012

Not all pennies are the same...  

A truly curious economic research finding: we react differently to a gas price increase when it is caused by taxes than when it is simply supply/demand driven. In fact, we cut consumption more for a penny increase in taxes compared to a penny in intrinsic gas price.
That's from a new NBER working paper by Shanjun Li, Joshua Linn, and Erich Meuhlegger. As the authors note, this has some interesting implications. It suggests, first, that estimations of the revenue that can be raised from petrol tax increases that are based on elasticities with respect to petrol prices will overstate assumed revenue gains. On the other hand, it means that reductions in consumption driven by tax changes should be less painful than those driven by movements in the price of oil. If America is interested in cutting its dependence on oil, then weaning consumers off petrol via tax rises will be easier on the economy than simply letting market-price variation do the work.
The paper suggests that more work is needed to understand the causation, but they point toward one logical factor: consumers may be more likely to read tax changes as permanent. A household that observes what looks like a permanent increase in petrol costs due to tax rises will quickly adjust its behaviour to minimise the burden—by driving less or purchasing more efficient vehicles. The household may delay such action when market movements send prices up as it waits to see how persistent the change will be. That delay represents more profit for producers and more of a hit to other household consumption than we'd get with a straightforward tax hike. [More]
Regardless, I think we are learning we will cut consumption when the cost increases. In fact, between Boomers slowing down, young people driving less and later, and better cars we may surprise ourselves how low we can go.

On the other hand, that's not good news for volume based gas taxes, unless we raise them commensurately.