The world’s 25 largest military budgets

The second best example of the invention of political correctness by American conservatives in the 1940’s. The War Department became the Department of Defense [1947/1949 in a couple of steps]. The military budget became the defense budget. Lying hypocrites rule American politics.

The best example? “In God We Trust” – which including adding “under God” to the American pledge of allegiance [1956/1957]. Again, the lead-in to full-blown rightwing domination of populist ideology in this nation in the 1940’s. Courtesy of the Republican Senator from Wisconsin, Joe McCarthy.

I don’t recall anyone since – in the Democratic Party – trying to reverse this political correctness, in the decades since their institutionalizing.

Thanks, Barry Ritholtz

Trump’s test for immigrants is hogwash! Of course.

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Donald Trump’s foreign-policy speech on Monday was more staid than some of his recent outings, but it didn’t necessarily make any more sense…In his speech, Donald Trump proposed an ideological test for immigrants, one that would allow in “only those who we expect to flourish in our country – and to embrace a tolerant American society.” Is it possible to implement a test like that, and would it be a good idea?

The practical reality is that you are dealing with people who, if they’re fairly sophisticated, are going to almost immediately learn what to say. So unless you intend to tie them to a polygraph, which is a notoriously uncertain device, you’re assuming that you are basically only going to catch the inexperienced or the stupid…

With groups like ISIS or al Qaeda or any of its offshoots, they’ve gotten very, very sophisticated in training. So you are essentially focusing in many ways on the innocent and ignoring the guilty.

Are there more effective ways to screen out people who might be terrorists?

Usually the only way you can really know is through background checks and by tying the data uncovered in intelligence efforts that track terrorists and terrorist training to the screening process. It’s not something where people can pass some kind of magic test of their ideology.

You also have to recognize that part of this is not confronting people who come to this country with intolerance and ignorance of their faith. If you are going to avoid alienating them, you are going to have to show some understanding of the fact that Islam is one of the major faiths of the world…

Mr. Trump mentioned shutting down ISIS’ internet access. Is that possible, and if so, is it wise?

It really is not possible. There are a virtually infinite number of ways that you can disguise who you are and where the message is coming from. There is no magic sign that says, “I’m from ISIS.” The problem you also are getting into here is that to some extent we use the internet to identify some of these people.

Lots more of this in the whole blog post. None of it unexpected. Like many topics considered controversial, support for unworkable solutions comes from the ignorant and the stupid. It’s become a defining question online. Are the people commenting stupid or ignorant?

As ignorant as Donald Trump often is – about anything other than American bankruptcy law – he knows his supporters generally fall into one of those camps. He doesn’t have to worry about whether or not his so-called solutions are legitimate or lawful. They just have to sound powerful to someone who is pissed-off and xenophobic.

Connected farms and the future of agriculture

It used to be that farming was an occupation that relied on gut instinct. Information about the land was passed from generation to generation like an heirloom. “When my grandpa started in the late ‘20s or ‘30s, you needed a good work ethic and a strong back,” says Ron Haase, a farmer who, with his brother, operates a 1,200 acre corn and soybean farm 90 miles south of Chicago.

Things have changed quite a bit since Haase took over the family farm in the mid 1990s. Like health care, transportation, and plenty of other industries before it, agriculture is currently undergoing a radical transformation. In recent years, farmers have begun embracing advanced technologies like sensors, satellite imagery, GPS, and big data analytics to build connected farms that are as efficient, productive, and as profitable as possible. Some people call the new, technologically-enabled era of farming Ag 3.0, a movement that centers around the idea that every operation on the farm should be tracked, from soil moisture to the number of seeds planted to precise read-outs on crop yields.

Since Haase began using sensors to track yield data in the early 2000s, nearly all of his operations have evolved to rely on some form of data gathering. “In some form or another the data’s being used to make the decisions,” he says. His planters track what types of seeds are planted where, his combines precisely measure yield data during harvest, and every aspect of his tractor — from fuel usage to location to how long it’s been running — is measured to ensure efficiency.

All this data is pushed automatically to cloud-based software, which means Haase no longer has to sit in front of a computer and enter the data himself after a long day of work. As a result, Haase says he’s cut his planting time down from nearly a week to three days and now has more time for his family.

Thanks to forward-thinking farmers like Haase, Ag tech has become big business. In 2015, investments in farming technology reached $4.6 billion. Companies across the farming industry are investing in the trend in the form of cloud-based software that analyzes different variables like soil moisture, sunlight, climate, nitrogen and pests. This software helps farmers determine where and what kind of seeds they should plant the next year to reap a maximum yield.

But while sensors might be the backbone of the connected farm, it’s the ability to parse the data itself that’s revolutionizing the way farmers work and make a living…

The article ends with the old saw, “farming isn’t a lifestyle; it’s a business”. That wasn’t news 10 centuries ago. And as it always has been, the farmer’s choice – beyond subsistence farming – how much do you wish to reorder and organize your life and work to make more money. Or not?

The family farms owned by my Canadian kin haven’t changed in size in over a century. Same root crops. Soil temperature useful as ever and you don’t have to spend half a day or so sticking a probe into the ground by hand.

Point remains the same one made by Farmer Haase up top of the article. More data and the ability to analyze that data easily has cut some of his tasks in half or better. He can use that time to work at growing, expanding his business – or he can spend more time with his family. I know which I’d choose.