13 Oct 2011

Anything but water

  • All watched over by Machines of Loving Grace [more info] is a three-part BBC series on the interaction of self-organizing computer networks, ecosystems with their feedback loops, crashes and evolution, and the struggle between conservative and radical political movements. I recommend highly this deeply profound series.

  • Singapore's government bans the "Singapore Complaints Choir" for... complaining singing? Listen!

  • USDA criticizes a report critical of biofuels (yawn) with a total disregard for facts. Tell me, again, what the USDA does for the American People?

  • A TEDx talk on Bhutan's pursuit of Gross National Happiness, a goal that does not necessarily require consumption and economic growth.

  • An analysis of the bad judgement (good corruption?) inherent to "investments" by the US government.
    Related: The Economist points out how dangerous governments are for innovation on the internet (showing, once again, that governments should leave the D in R&D to the market)
    Also related: EF tells me his local development authority says they are "Investing in the future today." His analysis: "I may be missing something but I am pretty sure that you can no longer invest in the past or the present so the future is the only thing left." Touché.
H/Ts to CC and MR


Mr. Kurtz said...

We need a USDA for a few important things:
1) Uniform grading standards for farm products
2) Food safety standards (in conjunction with FDA or other specialists)
3) Protection of US from invasive plant, insect, or animal pests, insofar as these might affect agricultural production.
4) Primary research on plants, water use, soils, etc. and disseminating that research in a manner lay people can understand.
5) Gathering statistics on agricultural production, exports, imports, and usage; and making supply/demand projections for the principal US crops.

I might have forgotten something, but the 5 items above are pretty legitimate functions. The rest of the stuff they do can generally be eliminated entirely. The USDA has been tasked with administering the school lunch program (important) and some mish-mash of nice-sounding things called "rural development". Some other agency or private company company could probably do school lunches more effectively. Rural poverty is a vast, complex problem in the US. But many of the poorest places, like rural Alaska, have no agriculture to speak of; and in the poor areas where agriculture is important, it is rarely the farmers who need the help.

David Zetland said...

@Kurtz -- I'll agree to those 5, which implies that we can dump most -- if not all -- of the farm bill (no need to revisit "research" every 5 years).

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