Saturday, November 24, 2012

From The Splendid Table

A professor at NYU has attempted to read the entire 2012 Farm Bill, and teach its contents to her students.
It ain't pretty. 

Go here for the whole thing

Lynne Rossetto Kasper: You decided to teach the farm bill. Why?

Marion Nestle: Well, I didn't know anything about it. I knew that I would be asked about it by reporters, because I'm asked by reporters about everything and they think I know everything. In 2006, when the previous farm bill was under discussion, I actually tried to read it. I opened up the file that was on the Internet and the table of contents was 14 pages long. The entire thing was 663 pages and it's totally incomprehensible.

So, I've decided to take it on, and I must say I've had moments when I've regretted it deeply. But it's been absolutely fascinating and the class is enormously exciting. I've got 45 students who are jumping out of their seats because what they're finding out is so absolutely amazing and none of us knew any of this before. We're learning it together.

LRK: What's making them jump out of their seats?

MN: Well, it's so astonishingly irrational it just takes your breath away. This is a bill that started in the 1930s and has been added onto incrementally without anybody sitting back and saying, "[What would we do] if we wanted to promote farm policy -- a rational farm policy we all agree would feed everybody, would make a living for farmers, would protect farm workers, would protect the environment and would promote health?"

The bill does anything but that. It is designed to protect certain parts of the food supply but not others: commodities, not fruits and vegetables. With today's concerns about obesity, the idea that the farm bill does not promote production and consumption of fruits and vegetables seems bizarre.

Some things are so completely irrational they just take your breath away. For example, if a commodity producer decides to grow vegetables, that producer will either lose all of the subsidies he's getting or will have to plow the vegetables under. They are required by the way this law works to plow them under, treat them with Roundup and kill them, or let them freeze. But they're not allowed to actually grow and sell them.

There are real discouraging things in it that actually discourage the production of fruits and vegetables. You would think that somebody in Congress would sit back and say, "OK, let's take a look at this and let's try to get agricultural policy aligned with health policy." But that is so far from the political reality that what this course is really about is the political realities and what you have to do if you want to change those realities.

LRK: Is there any way for the consumer to get any kind of say on any of this?

MN: One of the things that's most disturbing to me about the bill is that it is so absolutely incomprehensible that nobody can understand it. It is so vast and includes the most astonishing details about the most astonishing number of programs -- dozens and dozens and dozens. I've not yet been able to identify them all.

Each section of the farm bill covers different kinds of programs. These range from tiny earmark programs that affect only a few people, to things like food stamps and the SNAP program, which affects 45-50 million people.

What the food assistance programs are doing in the farm bill is another thing. Neither one of them could be looked at rationally because they're completely linked. The reason that they're linked is the senators and House members who have interest in one or another aspect say, "I'll vote for yours if you vote for mine."

So, the food assistance programs are held hostage to farm subsidies and the farm subsidies are held hostage to food assistance programs. You cannot read the farm bill because each aspect of it refers to amendments to previous bills. So unless you know the 30 different previous bills that have been passed, you really can't. It doesn't read like a text.

One more point: Nobody in Congress can understand it either.

LRK: That's ... scary.

MN: That's scary.

The Whited Sepulchre: No, having a Department Of Agriculture, with Food Bills and Farm Bills and an "Agricultural Policy", all at the mercy of political contributors....That's what's scary. 


Friday, November 23, 2012

The Hollywood Holocaust. Not !!

Go here.  I hope you'll read the whole thing.  It's about the "Hollywood Holocaust", when a lot of Hollywood screenwriters lost their jobs because of their communist sympathies. 

And then contemplate this quote from one of my heroes, Glenn Reynolds:

Leaving aside the obscenity of comparing out-of-work screenwriters with gassed Auschwitz inmates, there’s this: Communists are no better than Nazis. Refusing to hire Communists is on the same moral plane as refusing to hire Nazis. Which is to say: It’s a good and admirable thing, not a sin. Go broke and starve, commies. It’s what you deserve for being eager, willing servants of totalitarianism.

That's kinda harsh, considering that there are major differences between the Nazis and the Communists. 

The Commies killed a lot more people. 

Seriously, would you hire a skinhead who came into your place with swastika tattoos? 
I didn't think so. 
How about the kid who comes in with a Che T-shirt? 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Dallas Cowboys 31, Washington Redskins 38, and the reason that Jerry Jones is cursed

God hates Jerry Jones. 
The Dallas Cowboys just lost to the Washington Redskins.  RG3 went into the Debt Star and autographed the place. 
The Dallas Cowboys, America's Team, God's Team, and one of the teams picked to go to the Super Bowl this year, well, they won't even be going to the playoffs. 

They've gotten one playoff win in 16 years. It's about to be 17 years. Dallas is 5 and 6 for the year.  

It is because God hates Jerry. 
And that's because Jerry is a freakin' thief. 
There is no other way to explain it. 
Jerry Jones and the city of Arlington, Texas, stole some houses to build their new stadium, the Temple Of Baal.  They used Eminent Domain, and it was all legal.  Jerry obeyed all the laws that Arlington wrote.  But they're still thieves.
They must atone. 

What needs to happen?  Well, let's look at some history. 

The Cowboys franchise got its start in 1960.  Tom Landry was head coach.

When Landry was fired by Jerry Jones, Landry had a career record of 270-178-6.  However, Landry (before the start of the 1989 season) had not won a playoff game since 1983.  That's five years.  It was probably time for a change. 

When Jerry Jones purchased the team, he made himself General Manager.  He has supposedly been in charge of all personnel decisions since 1989. 

Jerry put the great Jimmy Johnson in as head coach.  Johnson had been coaching at the University Of Miami, and was familiar with many of the players soon to be drafted by the NFL.  We'll never know who made the decisions that led to the Cowboys era of greatness in the 1990's, but my money is on Jimmy. 

Jimmy Johnson coached his Cowboys to Super Bowl victories in 1992 and 1993.   But he couldn't get along with Jerry and left after the 1993 season.  

The details remain shrouded in a late-night haze, but it seems the trouble started when Jones toasted the Cowboys and was offended when Johnson reciprocated but did not invite Jones to join his table. A few hours later, Johnson alleges, Jones told a group of reporters in a bar that he planned to fire Johnson and replace him with Barry Switzer, an old foe of Johnson's from his college coaching days.
Then General Manager Jerry Jones....

....appointed Barry Switzer as Cowboys head coach. 

Using Jimmy's players, Switzer was able to win a playoff game in 1994, and he won the Super Bowl in 1995. 

The Cowboys won a single playoff game in 1996 (a year soon to be known as "the good old days), but went a disappointing 6-10 in 1997. 

General Manager Jerry Jones.....

....knew he had to do something after his head coach didn't win a playoff game in 1997.  He fired Switzer, and replaced him with Chan Gailey. 

Gailey went 10-6 in 1998, and then 8-8 in 1999.  He didn't win any playoff games. 

So then, Jerry Jones, who was supposedly still making all of the personnel decisions....

 ...fired Chan Gailey and replaced him with Dave Campo.  (Gailey is now doing a good job in Buffalo, BTW.)

Campo was head coach in 2000, 2001, and 2002, and had a won/loss record (respectively) of 5-11, 5-11, and finally, 5-11.  No playoff wins. 
So General Manager Jerry Jones, who was still in charge of ALL personnel decisions....

....fired Campo and replaced him with Bill Parcells. 

Despite winning a couple of Super Bowls with the Giants, and an AFC Championship season with The Patsies, Parcells was unable to do anything with Jerry's Kids in Dallas.  There were lots of discussions about "They want you to cook the dinner, at least they ought to let you shop for some of the groceries."  Some former Parcells players got signed, and Parcells had some small authority over the team. 

From 2003 through 2006, the Dallas Cowboys went 10-6, 6-10, 9-7, and 9-7.  They didn't win any playoff games. 

(It was at the beginning of the Parcells era that I discovered that God hates Jerry Jones, and I started making a small fortune betting against Dallas.  That has nothing to do with the matter at hand.  I wasn't worth a crap at left guard at North Sunflower Academy, but I can tell who God doesn't like.)

Parcells retired. 

Then Cowboys General Manager Jerry Jones, who hadn't won a playoff game since 1996....

...thought that he could improve the situation by bringing in Wade Phillips.

Maybe Jerry Jones had discovered the source of his problems.  Maybe this coach would be the one who could properly use Jerry's draft choices. 

The first year, 2007, it almost worked.  The Boys went 13-3, but didn't win a playoff game. 
The next year, they went 9-7, but didn't make the playoffs. 
In 2009/2010, perhaps to illustrate the old proverb that "even a blind hog can sometimes find an acorn", Jerry's draftees went 11-5, and beat the Philadelphia Eagles in a playoff game.  The curse was lifted. 
The next week Minnesota beat the tar out of them 34-3. 

And on and on and on.  Then Jerry Jones, the worst G.M. of the last 17 years....

 fired Wade and promoted in Jason Garrett on 11-8-2010.    Garrett is something like 16-17 since his promotion. 

Jerry's Kids barely beat a pitiful Cleveland team last week, and just got their asses handed to them by lowly Washington in front of a national Thanksgiving audience. 
Jerry Jones, the Cowboy's General Manager has fired the following Dallas Cowboys Head Coaches: All of them but Garrett. 
Once more for Google....  Who are the coashes that Jerry Jones has fired?  They are Tom Landy, Jimmy Johnson, Barry Switzer, Chan Gailey, Dave Campo, Bill Parcells (resignation), Wade Phillips, and (soon) Jason Garrett. 
It's impossible for an owner who cares to go for 16 years without more playoff wins than one.  It cannot happen.  The way NFL parity works is that you get higher draft picks and an easier schedule if your team is a loser.  What we've seen simply cannot happen. 

That's where God comes in. 

Jerry Jones and the city of Arlington have taken people's homes by force, bulldozed them, and built the greatest sports facility on this planet on the site of their theft.  All to host this mess.  That was like tearing down the Taj Mahal to put up a movie theatre that only shows "Sex And The City". 

God now hates Jerry Jones. The Lord God Jehovah hates Jerry Jones with the white hot passion of a thousand dying suns. And Jerry must atone. Now. Unless he wants to spend another decade with fewer playoff wins than any current NFL General Manager over a 15-yearyear period.

Here's the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel, speaking out on the subject of Jerry, The Cowboys, and Arlington:

Ezekiel 22:29 The people of the land have used oppression, and exercised robbery, and have vexed the poor and needy: yea, they have oppressed the stranger wrongfully.

Ezekiel 22:31 Therefore have I poured out mine indignation upon them; I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath: their own way have I recompensed upon their heads, saith the Lord GOD.

I don't think there are any Eagles, Redskins, Giants, or Packers fans who could've said it any better.

So what do we do?

Here is a purification ritual that Jerry could undergo. This comes from the Holman Bible Dictionary.

A cleansing agent (to atone for sin) was required: water, blood, or fire (Numbers 31:23). Water, the most common purifying agent, symbolized cleansing and was used in the rituals related to a waiting period. The person was to wash the clothes and bathe the body (Leviticus 15:7). Blood was used to cleanse the altar and the holy place (Leviticus 16:14-19). It was mixed with other ingredients for cleansing from leprosy (Leviticus 14:1) and contact with the dead (Numbers 19:1).

The final element of the ritual of purification is sacrifice. Purification from discharges required two pigeons or turtledoves, one for a sin offering and one for a burnt offering (Leviticus 15:14-15,Leviticus 15:29-30). A lamb and pigeon or turtledove were offered after childbirth (Leviticus 12:6). Sacrifice in the purification ritual for lepers was quite complicated, indicating the seriousness of leprosy as a cause of impurity (Leviticus 14:1). The priest also touched the person's extremities with blood from the offering and with oil, cleansing and life-renewing agents. The poor were allowed to substitute less valuable animals for use in their sacrifices.

To cut to the chase: If we're ever going to have a succesful NFL franchise in Tarrant County, Jerry Jones must strip down to his skivvies, wash one of his suits on the 50-yard line of his gaudy Temple Of Baal, mop the field with the blood of Jason Garrett, and perform a ritual sacrifice by slaughtering some of his worst draft picks in the City Of Arlington's luxury suite.

That should do it.

But what about all the little people, Jerry's victims, the refugees who were dispossesed by Eminent Domain ?

Once again, let's see what the Holy Scriptures have to say:

Leviticus 6: 1-7 : "The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “If anyone sins and commits a breach of faith against the Lord by deceiving his neighbor in a matter of deposit or security, or through robbery, or if he has oppressed his neighbor or has found something lost and lied about it, swearing falsely—in any of all the things that people do and sin thereby— if he has sinned and has realized his guilt and will restore what he took by robbery or what he got by oppression or the deposit that was committed to him or the lost thing that he found or anything about which he has sworn falsely, he shall restore it in full and shall add a fifth to it, and give it to him to whom it belongs on the day he realizes his guilt... "

It's fairly simple, isn't it? Jerry and Arlington must determine the current value of the stadium, the parking lot, the team, along with the value of having God on their side. They must give that amount of money, plus 1/5th, to the people they stole the land from.

Until that happens, we will labor under an Old Testament curse.

You have violated the decrees of God, Jerry Jones.  And you....will....atone....

Happy Thanksgiving, thanks to The Invisible Hand!!

Hope everyone is having a good Thanksgiving, and that the Turkey Czar successfully got a bird to your house despite the shortages, waiting lines and quotas.
Oh, wait....  The ObamaCare mentality doesn't apply to turkeys yet.  Never mind. 

But on the same subject...  Here's the best thing that Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe ever wrote.  Hit the link to read the whole thing:

Isn’t there something wondrous — something almost inexplicable — in the way your Thanksgiving weekend is made possible by the skill and labor of vast numbers of total strangers?

To bring that turkey to the dining room table required the efforts of thousands of people — the poultry farmers who raised the birds, of course, but also the feed distributors who supplied their nourishment and the truckers who brought it to the farm, not to mention the architect who designed the hatchery, the workmen who built it, and the technicians who keep it running. The bird had to be slaughtered and defeathered and inspected and transported and unloaded and wrapped and priced and displayed. The people who accomplished those tasks were supported in turn by armies of other people accomplishing other tasks — from refining the gasoline that fueled the trucks to manufacturing the plastic in which the meat was packaged.

The acivities of countless far-flung men and women over the course of many months had to be intricately choreographed and precisely timed, so that when you showed up to buy a fresh Thanksgiving turkey, there would be one — or more likely, a few dozen — waiting. The level of coordination that was required to pull it off is mind-boggling. But what is even more mind-boggling is this: No one coordinated it.

No turkey czar sat in a command post somewhere, consulting a master plan and issuing orders. No one forced people to cooperate for your benefit. And yet they did cooperate. When you arrived at the supermarket, your turkey was there. You didn’t have to do anything but show up to buy it. If that isn’t a miracle, what should we call it?

Adam Smith called it “the invisible hand” — the mysterious power that leads innumerable people, each working for his own gain, to promote ends that benefit many. Out of the seeming chaos of millions of uncoordinated private transactions emerges the spontaneous order of the market. Free human beings freely interact, and the result is an array of goods and services more immense than the human mind can comprehend. No dictator, no bureaucracy, no supercomputer plans it in advance. Indeed, the more an economy is planned, the more it is plagued by shortages, dislocation, and failure.

It is commonplace to speak of seeing God’s signature in the intricacy of a spider’s web or the animation of a beehive. But they pale in comparison to the kaleidoscopic energy and productivity of the free market. If it is a blessing from Heaven when seeds are transformed into grain, how much more of a blessing is it when our private, voluntary exchanges are transformed – without our ever intending it – into prosperity, innovation, and growth?”

So if you're the praying type, don't just thank The Almighty for the bird and for Mama's cooking.  Be thankful for the millions of people who want to leave the market alone and let The Invisible Hand work! 

Death To The Turkey Czar !!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving !!!

“Any man worth his salt would fight for his home but only a damn fool would fight for his boarding house.”
                                                                    -Mark Twain

Here's a story that I first heard in China several years ago, and I'm probably going to re-run this post about it every Thanksgiving until I die.  The best online account I've found is on the World Socialist Website (chuckle chuckle).  It's about some Chinese farmers who got tired of starving. 

On one night in Nov. 1978, 18 villagers of Xiaogang, including (leader) Yan Jinchang, risked their lives to sign secretly an agreement, which divided the then People's Commune-owned farmland into pieces for each family to cultivate.

This was a bold move, as it was seen as "capitalist" and might have led to severe punishment from the government at that time.

Thus, on that secret agreement covered with villagers' seals and red fingerprints, there was a wobbly line saying that "If any word about this is divulged and the team leader is put in prison, other team members shall share the responsibility to bring up his child till he (or she) is 18. "

The original copy of this agreement is now in a museum someplace in China.  It had a huge influence.  Instead of farming the land together, and putting up with slackers, loafers, regulatory parasites and the other inevitable Socialist baggage, this brave group of Chinese farmers decided that each family would be responsible for a certain section of the land. 

That clause about agreeing to care for each others' children was a simple insurance policy.  To the best of my knowledge, none of the farmers agreed to care for the families of those who didn't share their risks.  In other words, you couldn't waltz into the agreement AFTER losing your head of household.  There's not even a hint of Obamacare in this document. 

The facts proved that it's worthwhile to take the adventure. Allocating farmland to each household, also known as "household contract responsibility system", fired the locals' enthusiasm for agriculture production, which had been contained in the outmoded planned economy, and helped poverty-stricken locals out of starvation.

That's just what happened when they agreed to stop the collectivist nonsense.  Think of what could happen if they'd been allowed to own the land, instead of having it allocated to them by their "leaders".   

The grains that a local farmer turned over to the state in the following year almost totaled what he did in past two decades, recalled Yan Hongchang, one of the 18 Xiaogang villagers who initiated the contract system.

Their practice was later supported by Deng Xiaoping, chief architect of China's reform and opening-up drive, and recognized by the Chinese government. Xiaogang has since been labeled as the pace-setter of the nation's rural reform.

Here's a similar story, from the Volokh Conspiracy.  This one hits closer to home.

Many people believe that after suffering through a severe winter, the Pilgrims’ food shortages were resolved the following spring when the Native Americans taught them to plant corn and a Thanksgiving celebration resulted. In fact, the pilgrims continued to face chronic food shortages for three years until the harvest of 1623. Bad weather or lack of farming knowledge did not cause the pilgrims’ shortages. Bad economic incentives did.

Time to quote Thomas Sowell for the 10,000th time.  Laws and policies should never be evaluated by their stated goals and objectives, but by the incentives they create. 

In 1620 Plymouth Plantation was founded with a system of communal property rights. Food and supplies were held in common and then distributed based on equality and need as determined by Plantation officials.

Like we're about to do with healthcare. 

People received the same rations whether or not they contributed to producing the food, and residents were forbidden from producing their own food. Governor William Bradford, in his 1647 history, Of Plymouth Plantation, wrote that this system was found to breed much confusion and discontent and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort. The problem was that young men, that were most able and fit for labour, did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men’s wives and children without any recompense. Because of the poor incentives, little food was produced.

In other words, when the hardest-working, most creative Pilgrims realized that they were working themselves to death for people who didn't want to work as hard?  They started Going Galt.   

Faced with potential starvation in the spring of 1623, the colony decided to implement a new economic system. Every family was assigned a private parcel of land. They could then keep all they grew for themselves, but now they alone were responsible for feeding themselves. While not a complete private property system, the move away from communal ownership had dramatic results.

This change, Bradford wrote, had very good success, for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been. Giving people economic incentives changed their behavior. Once the new system of property rights was in place, the women now went willingly into the field, and took their little ones with them to set corn; which before would allege weakness and inability.

Once the Pilgrims in the Plymouth Plantation abandoned their communal economic system and adopted one with greater individual property rights, they never again faced the starvation and food shortages of the first three years. It was only after allowing greater property rights that they could feast without worrying that famine was just around the corner.

And what have we learned from this? 

Nothing.  Absolutely nothing. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


Sorry for the lack of posts for the last few days. 
We've not had many orders coming in at Jukt Micronics, and have cut staff accordingly this week.  The salaried folks are scrambling to keep everything covered. 
We'll probably do the same thing the week of Christmas. 

Elections have consequences.
If something can't last forever, it won't. 
The problem with Socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's money. 

We're living it.  Good luck, everyblody.