Disability and Elderly Issues

Self-Driving Automobiles: Raw and semi-processed data


Blind Driver Challenge (Image: The National Federation of the Blind)



In the beginning, there is Wikipedia.

Autonomous car

An autonomous car (driverless car,[1] self-driving car,[2] robotic car[3]) is a vehicle that is capable of sensing its environment and navigating without human input.[4]

Autonomous cars can detect surroundings using a variety of techniques such as radar, lidar, GPS, odometry, and computer vision. Advanced control systems interpret sensory information to identify appropriate navigation paths, as well as obstacles and relevant signage.[5][6] Autonomous cars have control systems that are capable of analyzing sensory data to distinguish between different cars on the road, which is very useful in planning a path to the desired destination.[7]

Some demonstrative systems, precursory to autonomous cars, date back to the 1920s and 30s. The first self-sufficient (and therefore, truly autonomous) cars appeared in the 1980s, with Carnegie Mellon University‘s Navlab and ALV projects in 1984 and Mercedes-Benz and Bundeswehr University Munich‘s Eureka Prometheus Project in 1987. Since then, numerous major companies and research organizations have developed working prototype autonomous vehicles.

Among the potential benefits of automated cars is a significant reduction of traffic accidents, and the resulting deaths and injuries, and related costs, including lower insurance costs; major increases in roadway capacity, with the potential to more than quadruple capacity, resulting in significantly less traffic congestion; enhance mobility for the elderly, people with disabilities, and low-income citizens; relieve travelers from driving and navigation chores, freeing commuting hours with more time for leisure or work; less fuel consumption, producing less air pollution and a lower carbon footprint from road travel; significantly reduced parking space needs in cities, freeing space for other public and private uses; and facilitating or improving existing and new business models of mobility as a service, including carsharing, e-hailing, ride hailing services, real-time ridesharing, and other services of the sharing economy, all contributing to reduce car ownership.

Among the main obstacles and disadvantages due to a widespread adoption of autonomous vehicles, in addition to the technological challenges, are disputes concerning liability; the time period needed to turn an existing stock of vehicles from non-autonomous to autonomous; resistance by individuals to forfeit control of their cars; customer concern about the safety of driverless cars; implementation of legal framework and establishment of government regulations for self-driving cars; risk of loss of privacy and security concerns, such as hackers or terrorism; concerns about the resulting loss of driving-related jobs in the road transport industry; and risk of increased suburbanization as driving becomes faster and less onerous without proper public policies in place to avoid more urban sprawl.



Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Making sense out of Driverless Cars

Sitting in the passenger seat as your driver lifts his arms away from the wheel and gleefully says “look, no hands” should be an unsettling experience. But this feeling will soon get superfluous after the advent of the driverless-car technology.

An autonomous car, also known as a robotic car, or informally as driverless or self-driving, is an autonomous vehicle capable of fulfilling the human transportation capabilities of a traditional car. As an autonomous vehicle, it is capable of sensing its environment and navigating without human input. Robotic cars exist mainly as prototypes and demonstration systems, but are likely to become more widespread in the near future.

Driverless vehicles sense their surroundings with such techniques as radar, GPS, and computer vision. Advanced control systems interpret sensory information to identify appropriate navigation paths, as well as obstacles and relevant signage. Some driverless vehicles update their maps based on sensory input, allowing the vehicles to keep track of their position even when conditions change or when they enter uncharted environments.

Analysts say these cars are coming no matter what, with the earliest estimates placing commercially-available robot cars within the next five to ten years pending regulatory approval. The technology is there, it’s just a matter of getting the legislation, driver and insurance companies onboard.

Self-driving cars are one of today’s hottest technology trends. Google revealed that it was developing self-driving cars in 2010, and since then, these vehicles have logged hundreds of thousands of miles with few accidents and received approval from Nevada to test is cars on the state’s roads. Car makers such as Tesla, Audi, and Toyota have since started developing driverless solutions of their own, and GPS-maker Garmin revealed its new heads-up display (HUD) gadget today that projects key navigation information on your car’s windshield — a safer alternative to looking down at your Smartphone while driving.

While human error is responsible for 80% of auto accidents, with humans getting into at least one fender bender every 100,000 miles, according to IEEE estimates, Google claims its car logged 300,000 miles without incident.

The cars are expected to become far more widely adopted than the fuel-efficient hybrids and electric vehicles made by the likes of Tesla (TSLA) on the road today. Their focus on safety is expected to be a major selling point for consumers, insurers and the government.

As automakers focus on developing and testing driverless cars, the technologies will slowly start to be adapted into modern-day vehicles, representing a gradual yet inevitable shift.

Toyota, for example, partnered with Tesla and is expected to unveil vehicle-to-vehicle communication in its 2014 Lexus models when cruise control is activated, an early version of a technology expected to become a cornerstone of autonomous cars.

That kind of communication and instantaneous reaction time could feasibly allow a freeway of autonomous cars driving at 70 miles per hour just five feet from each other. It’s a scary thought, and one that will likely take drivers a long time to get used to, but it could serve to significantly reduce traffic and make transportation all the more safer.

Current Driverless Car Technologies

 1.)    Anti-lock brakes – One of the driverless systems that you may not have realized was driverless is anti-lock brakes. Sounds surprising, doesn’t it? After all, anti-lock brakes need the driver in order to work. Still, they represent one end of the driverless continuum because anti-lock brakes perform a function that drivers used to have to do themselves. When a car is braking hard and doesn’t have anti-lock brakes, the wheels can lock up, sending the car into an out-of-control skid. In a car without anti-lock brakes, the driver has to pump the brake pedal to keep the wheels from locking up. With anti-lock brakes, the system does the pumping for the driver — and does it better than the driver. The system can read the wheels and knows when they are about to lock and react faster and with a more appropriate response than a driver could.

2.)    Traction – Another type of driverless system is traction or stability control. These systems are so transparent that usually only professional drivers recognize when they’ve taken control. Like anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control react better than a driver ever could. Unlike anti-lock brakes, these systems are very complicated and use multiple systems within the car to keep the driver from losing control.

3.)    Cruise control – Cruise control is another common driverless system that’s available in most cars. Cruise control keeps the car at a constant speed, set by the driver, without the driver constantly having to press the gas pedal. Cruise control isn’t completely driverless, however, because the driver must watch constantly for slower moving cars in his or her path.

Illustrative Example of Cruise Control

Adaptive cruise control takes care of that. Though it’s currently available on only a few cars, it’s very simple. Using radar sensors on the front of the car, adaptive cruise control can tell when an object is in front of it and, if the object is moving, how fast it’s moving. When cruise control is set, adaptive cruise control will maintain a constant speed, but will also maintain a set distance between it and the car in front of it.

Biggest Barriers to the Driverless Car Technologies

è  The biggest hurdle is garnering widespread regulatory support, not to mention getting insurers on board and collecting support from the masses. It

could take many years.

è  Perhaps the second largest setback is the prohibitively expensive cost of these cars. It is estimated to cost about $250,000 to build each of them due to the expensive nature of the advanced technologies used.

è  The concept of self-driving cars may be all the rage in technology circles, but the organization that represents big U.S. auto makers says a new poll due out later this week indicates many U.S. consumers are wary about sharing the road with robot vehicless that could be hacked by mischief car makers.

è  Other miscellaneous technical problems to overcome.

What people think about Driverless Cars

Cisco’s survey found that 57% of the respondents, who came from 10 countries, said they’d ride in a car controlled entirely by robotic systems. Brazilians gave the most enthusiastic endorsement, with 96% of those surveyed saying they’d trust self-driving cars. Indian consumers were next at 86%. Among Chinese respondents, 70% said they would trust a driverless car. Sixty percent of the Americans surveyed said they would be comfortable in a self-piloting vehicle. The nations with the most scepticism toward autonomous cars: Auto powers Germany (37%) and Japan (28%).

According to designers and manufacturers, an increase in the use of autonomous cars would make possible such benefits as:

  • Fewer traffic collisions, due to an autonomous system’s increased reliability and faster reaction time compared to human drivers.
  • Increased roadway capacity and reduced traffic congestion (due to reduced need for safety gaps), and the ability to better manage traffic flow.
  • Relief of vehicle occupants from driving and navigation chores.
  • Higher speed limit for autonomous cars.
  • Removal of constraints on occupants’ state – in an autonomous car, it would not matter if the occupants were under age, over age, blind, distracted, intoxicated, or otherwise impaired.
  • Alleviation of parking scarcity, as cars could drop off passengers, park far away where space is not scarce, and return as needed to pick up passengers.
  • Elimination of redundant passengers – humans are not required to take the car anywhere, as the robotic car can drive independently to wherever it is required. This would be especially relevant to trucks, taxis and car-sharing services.
  • Reduction of space required for vehicle parking.
  • Reduction in the need for traffic police and vehicle insurance.
  • Reduction of physical road signage – autonomous cars could receive necessary communication electronically (although physical signs may still be required for any human drivers).
  • Improved fuel efficiency.
  • Reduced air pollution as a result of less emissions and traffic congestion.

The Google driverless car is a project by Google that involves developing technology for autonomous cars. The project is currently being led by Google engineer Sebastian Thrun, director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and co-inventor of Google Street View. Thrun’s team at Stanford created the robotic vehicle Stanley which won the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge and its US$2 million prize from the United States Department of Defense.The team developing the system consisted of 15 engineers working for Google, including Chris Urmson, Mike Montemerlo, and Anthony Levandowski who had worked on the DARPA Grand and Urban Challenges.

The U.S. state of Nevada passed a law on June 29, 2011 permitting the operation of autonomous cars in Nevada. Google had been lobbying for robotic car laws. The Nevada law went into effect on March 1, 2012, and the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles issued the first license for an autonomous car in May 2012. The license was issued to a Toyota Prius modified with Google’s experimental driverless technology. As of April 2012, Florida became the second state to allow the testing of autonomous cars on public roads. California became the third state to legalize the use of self-driven cars for testing purposes as of September 2012[update] when Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill into law at Google HQ in Mountain View.

Google first revealed in 2010 that it had been working on self-driving cars. This fits in with its work on mapping and software and might give users extra time to surf the web, boosting Google’s profits. Last year the company released a video of a blind man sitting in the driver’s seat of one of these (albeit with a passenger as backup), being taken to buy takeaway tacos and collect his dry cleaning. Sergey Brin, one of the internet company’s founders, expects its autonomous driving system to be ready for the market in five years. That may be optimistic, but by the 2020s some cars that drive themselves most or all of the time could well be in volume production. This will have big consequences.

The idea of self-driving cars as a means of reducing accidents and congestion has been around for a long time. One of the most popular exhibits at the 1939 New York World’s Fair was “Futurama”, a depiction of a city with cars remotely controlled by radio. In the 1980s and 1990s the European Commission sponsored a programme of research on automated driving, Prometheus. In the mid-2000s the Pentagon’s research agency, DARPA, launched its Grand Challenges, offering prizes to driverless cars that did best at navigating a tricky course. In the first of these, in 2004, none of the robot cars completed the course. In the third, held in 2007, six cars made it. The winning team’s technical director was Mr Urmson. Its main advantage over its rivals was that it had mapped the course in fine detail, something that his current employers are busy doing for the rest of the planet.

But even before such prototypes have proved themselves, the technology is already arriving in instalments as carmakers introduce sophisticated “assisted driving” features as options, even on mass-market models. European buyers of the Ford Focus, a mid-sized car, can now leave it to drive itself and maintain a safe distance in steady traffic. The car can measure a parking space and steer itself into it. It reads road signs and admonishes the driver if he breaks the speed limit. Such gadgetry also increasingly makes decisions on the driver’s behalf and overrules him in an emergency, for instance, braking to avoid a crash.

Other technologies are beginning to make this easier. First, the mechanical links between the controls and the working parts are progressively being replaced by electronic ones. Second, cars now have a rudimentary version of “black box” data recorders to collect information on the moments just before an accident. Insurers have already begun to offer discounts to motorists who agree to have more sophisticated ones that monitor their driving all the time.

Basil Enan, the boss of CoverHound, an online insurance broker, says that as well as giving discounts to drivers who install black boxes, insurers are offering lower premiums on cars with assisted-driving features because they reduce accidents. He thinks that in future “manual driving” will increasingly be penalised: “The more miles you’re logging on autopilot, the less you’re going to pay.” This will give motorists an incentive to use the assisted-driving features on their cars. Carmakers, for their part, will have an incentive to keep adding more to maintain high scores in the widely publicised safety tests that help them sell their models.

Safety-enhancing gadgets on cars tend to start out as optional extras, then get incorporated into “best practice” standards promoted by independent bodies like Euro NCAP, and eventually are made compulsory. Ubiquitous black boxes in road vehicles will provide a mass of data likely to demonstrate the effectiveness of automated-driving features, which will prompt calls to make them obligatory.

Conclusion: Autonomous driver systems are still in the early stages of development and too expensive for the mainstream market, and the race to be the first for mass consumption is heating up.

Posted by Jatin Jain at 8:14 PM















Linear notes



John Mellencamp, Mozart, Ravi Shankar: My Music, December 20, 2016

J.M.W. Turner, The Slave Ship (1840). Oil on canvas. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Good morning.

5:00. John Mellencamp, Pink Houses

Well there’s a young man in a T-shirt
Listenin’ to a rock ‘n’ roll station
He’s got a greasy hair, greasy smile
He says: “Lord, this must be my destination”
‘Cause they told me, when I was younger
Sayin’ “Boy, you’re gonna be president”
But just like everything else, those old crazy dreams
Just kinda came and went



5:59. Mozart . Clarinet Concerto . Sharon Kam


8:12. Joan Baez. There But For Fortune.


Procrastination  Good Afternoon.

Ravi Shankar at Monterey Pop, June 1967


Bogus afternoon 3.  Ofir ben Shitrit  Someone.



“Someone, someone worries
Worries for me up there
Came and lit a few stars
And they fall one by one.”

A song by Hebrew writer Ehud Manor, at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, Israel, on Yom HaShoah (יום הזיכרון לשואה ולגבורה), Holocaust Memorial Day. Singing for remembering the people who were killed in the holocaust and for all the victims of terrorist attacks.


Who Will Be Trump’s Secretary of Agriculture? Who cares?

It is 4:50 in the morning. At least twice a day now for weeks I have been checking the web to see whom President-elect Trump will choose to be the least important member of the Cabinet. Yesterday, I had an argument with the opinion editor of a major international newspaper. He said, "Wait, Joel, before writing until we know who will be chosen.'


Senator Heidi Heitkamp's Facebook photograph. If I were a betting man, I would bet that Donald J. Trump will pick Senator Heitkamp for a cabinet position. Doing so would fulfill the transition team's desire to select a Democrat for the Trump cabinet. Since she is from North Dakota, Heitkamp's nomination would result in a vacancy. Probably, she would be replaced by a Republican--increasing a Republican majority in the Senate. Will it be Agriculture or Energy? I would not bet on either as a certainty.
Senator Heidi Heitkamp’s Facebook photograph. If I were a betting man, I would bet that Donald J. Trump will pick Senator Heitkamp for a cabinet position. Doing so would fulfill the transition team’s desire to select a Democrat for the Trump cabinet. Since she is from North Dakota, Heitkamp’s nomination would result in a vacancy. Probably, she would be replaced by a Republican–increasing a Republican majority in the Senate. Will it be Agriculture or Energy? I would not bet on either as a certainty.


I do not want to wait. Daily the list of likely individuals to USDA keep expanding. Seemingly from nowhere (although as it turns out from North Dakota) a new name has appeared: Democratic U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp. Politico has done the best job of reporting on the cabinet selection process. Yesterday, Politico reported that Senator Heitkamp spent over an hour at Trump Tower talking to the President-elect about one of two cabinet positions–Agriculture and Energy.

Fortunately, the transition team led by Vice President-elect Mike Pence has not made an announcement at least until a civilized hour (say 10 AM) today.  Perhaps the selection will not take place until next week.



I will be blogging all weekend. Yes, I have other chores–taking a shower, cleaning my oven, writing on disability issues. However, this cabinet selection and its consequences appears as an obsession I am unwilling to check.

When I return I will:

  • Surprise you by revealing issues of substance on global and domestic food policy related to the selection of an agriculture secretary.
  • Discuss the unexpected shake up in the Trump agriculture transition team.
  • Include in the list of likely and unlikely USDA candidates, an obscene comment by one who earns for this posting a not fit for minors rating.
  • An offbeat superstition that writing about agriculture policy will keep me alive and well.


Variation of “What’s My Line”

You know he is Secretary of Agriculture. What is his name? He has been Secretary of Agriculture for eight years longer than any member of President Obama's cabinet.
You know he is Secretary of Agriculture. What is his name? He has been Secretary of Agriculture for eight years longer than any member of President Obama’s cabinet.



Aaron Sorkin’s “West Wing ” Demonstrates the Secretary of Agriculture is the Least Important Member of the Cabinet

Let me set the scene.

Aaron Sorkin’s fictional President Josiah “Jed” Bartlet is about to deliver the State of the Union Address. For any of you baseball fans, the State of the Union Address is my moral equivalent of the seventh game of the World Series. My fascination here with the selection process during a Presidential transition stems from the experience my friend Walter Shapiro (currently completing coverage of his tenth Presidential campaign for Roll Call) afforded me.

I had been sidelined from working for Jimmy Carter’s 1976 Presidential campaign because at 28 I was diagnosed with a cancer of the lymphatic system called Hodgkin’s disease. The relationship between my first bout with cancer and U.S. agriculture policy is forthcoming. The focus here (remember?) is on the insignificance of the Secretary of Agriculture demonstrated in a brilliantly written fictional television series. (Still with me?)

The West Wing episode is on the State of the Union address, as I said a World Series event for speechwriters such as myself. At the State of the Union address the President of the United States addresses a joint session of Congress. All 535 members of Congress are there. Behind the President (visible on camera) are the Vice President, the Speaker of the House, and the President Pro Temp of the Senate.

Before the President enters the chamber (more or less as royalty)  the Cabinet walks down the aisle with great fanfare. The Secretary of State. The Secretary of Treasury and so on in order of the line of succession. Yet, there always is concern that a hydrogen bomb might drop on the Capitol of the United States. Who will run the country then?

Left behind in the Oval Office is Bartlet’s Secretary of Agriculture.Sorkin’s fictional president is at times a pompous windbag showing off his knowledge of Latin. The Secretary of Agriculture knows that. The scene begins with the head of USDA handing Bartlet a copy of the Constitution in Latin.

The relevance of the scene then follows. The President gives advice to the Secretary of Agriculture on how to run the country in the event of a nuclear holocaust.


Sampling The New York Times Short List

This is the list.

The New York Times short list to be President-elect Trump's Secretary of Agriculture
The New York Times short list to be President-elect Trump’s Secretary of Agriculture



Let us start with Kansas Governor Sam Brownback before discussing serious agriculture policy issues

Published on May 4, 2015

Thom Hartmann shares a story about a Kansas waitress who told Governor Sam Brownback to “tip the schools” instead of her.

If you liked this clip of The Thom Hartmann Program, please do us a big favor and share it with your friends… and hit that “like” button!



Samuel DaleSamBrownback (born September 12, 1956) is an American politician currently serving as Governor of Kansas. A member of the Republican Party, Brownback was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives during the Republican Revolution of 1994, representing Kansas’s 2nd congressional district for a single term, before running in a 1996 special election for the Senate seat previously held by Bob Dole. He won that election, and two regular elections following, serving until 2011. He ran for president in 2008, but withdrew before the primaries began and endorsed eventual Republican nominee John McCain.[1][2][3] He was elected Governor of Kansas in 2010 and took office in January 2011.

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback
Kansas Governor Sam Brownback

Brownback supported the 2007 Iraq War troop surge and has also voiced his support for Israel.[4] He opposes same-sex marriage and has described himself as pro-life.[5] As Governor, Brownback signed into law one of the largest income tax cuts in Kansas’ history.[6] Brownback turned down a $31.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to set up an insurance exchange as part of the federal health care reform law,[7] signed a bill that blocked tax breaks for abortion providers, banned sex-selection abortions, and declared that life begins at fertilization.[8] The income tax cut generated a substantial budget deficit and led some former and current Republican officials to criticize his leadership in the run-up to the 2014 gubernatorial election by endorsing his opponent, Paul Davis.[9] Brownback was reelected in a close race with Davis.



The above interview ends with Governor Brownback responding to a study that found him to be the most unpopular governor in the United States.






Now for something completely different: SUBSTANCE

The big story–bizarrely–is the impact the selection of Secretary of Agriculture will have on the deplorable infant mortality rate in the U.S. The head of USDA (for reasons I can explain) has more funding to reduce infant mortality than any other government department including HHS.

The Secretary of Agriculture is not qualified to reduce informant mortality. The Surgeon General is qualified. Moving the Women Infants and Children program to HHS would have two beneficial effects.

1. Pregnant women with anemia would be treated with medication rather than Total or other iron-fortified cereal.

2. The head of USDA would be free to focus on farming. Currently two-thirds of the USDA budget is spent on food stamps and other income support programs.




Clearly, the most qualified person to be Secretary of Agriculture is Chuck Conner Chief Executive Officer of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives based in Indiana

Briefly, Conner served as Secretary of Agriculture in the Administration of George W. Bush. Conner is second on The New York Times short list. The fact that he is from Indiana is a great help. Vice President-Elect Pence, who runs the Transition Team,  has been successful in securing the Medicare position for a friend from Indiana. Several prosperous Indiana farmers appear on the longer lists compiled from the agriculture press.

In 2005, Connor appeared before the Senate Agriculture Committee in nomination hearings for his position as Deputy Secretary of Agriculture. This is the statement of the Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee.



Good morning. We are here today regarding the nomination of Chuck Conner to be Deputy Secretary of Agriculture. Mr. Conner is no stranger to this committee. From 1980 to 1985, he served as Senator Lugar’s agricultural aide. From 1985 to 1987, he was a professional staff member with the Senate Agriculture Committee.

From 1987 to 1997, he served first as Minority Staff Director, then as Majority Staff Director of this committee. I will have to say, just from a personal perspective, having served in Congress for 10 years, I have known Chuck for basically all of those 10 years, and Senator Lugar, you made an excellent choice when you chose Chuck Conner to join your staff.

He is certainly someone who has extensive knowledge of agriculture and of our programs and has been a very good person to work with over the years. Mr. Conner was President of the Corn Refiners Association from 1997 to 2001. Since 2001, he has been the Special Assistant to the President for Agricultural Trade and Food Assistance. Mr. Conner is accompanied today by his wife, Dru, and their four children, Katie, Ben, Andrew, and Emily. We are pleased to have all of you with us.

Also in attendance today are Chuck’s brother, Mike Conner, and his sister-in-law, Sally Lindsey. Welcome to each of you. Senator Harkin is not here yet, but we will give him an opportunity to make any comment he wishes to when he comes in. I want to let you all know what we are going to do this morning. Because of the Joint Session later this morning, I will ask my colleagues either to submit their opening statements for the record or present them during the first round of questioning.

We have the session at—I believe we need to be on the floor at 10:30, so we are going to try to move this along, and that is our reason for bumping up the time-table. With that, I would like to turn to Senator Lugar for an introduction of Mr. Conner. Senator Lugar.”


Of two of the remaining front runners on The Times’ four man list, Governor Brownback has the disadvantage of being regarded as the worst governor in the United States. Texas Agriculture Secretary Sid Miller who retweeted a tweet using an obscene word to describe Hillary Clinton. Sid Miller is up next on my batting order.

Chuck Conner is Chief Executive Officer of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives (NCFC).  “The majority of America’s 2 million farmers and ranchers belong to one or more farmer cooperatives. NCFC members also include 22 state and regional councils of cooperatives.

“Farmer cooperatives handle, process and market almost every type of agricultural commodity; furnish farm supplies; and provide credit and related financial services, including export financing. Earnings from these activities are returned to their farmer members on a patronage basis, helping improve their income from the marketplace.”




Sonny Perdue first came to my consciousness when the press reported he wore a tie with tractors on it when President-Elect Trump interviewed him at Trump Tower

As with another former governor of Georgia, Sonny Perdue has a silly first name and an odd way of dealing with it. Born in 1946 son of a farmer, Sonny’s parents named him George Ervin Perdue III. When he became governor he formally changed the name with which he signed documents to his childhood nickname.

There is some special quality former governors of Georgia have that border on the spiritual. Either they are condemned to a lifetime of obscurity or they become President. Take Jimmy Carter, for example who changed his first name formally so he could sign Presidential Proclamations using his nickname. What did he do as Governor of Georgia that suited him for the Oval Office. Yes, he unveiled a portrait of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as a sign that Georgia recognized its greatest Twentieth Century leader. What else did he do?

My mother explained it. “People tell me he is worth watching.” Similarly (although there is no chance of Sonny becoming President), he has a watchable quality. Currently, Perdue is watchable.

In 2008 The New York Times regarded Perdue as sufficiently watchable to include him on a list for potential running mates for Vice President. How does one get to become a member of the cabinet? It helps to be a name on the right list.

This is how the Times eased Perdue into a slow rise from obscurity. “Republican governors said that Mr. Pawlenty and Mr. Sanford were in the top-tier of potential running mates, but that Gov. Charlie Crist of Florida and Gov. Sonny Perdue of Georgia were also contenders.” Note: the online version of the Times hotlink Purdue’s name and gave him the opportunity for a quote.

“Mr. Perdue said he had not asked anyone to include his name on a list of potential running mates. But he said, ‘People include my name because we’re the capital of the South, a fast-growing region, and we’ve had wonderful success with a conservative fiscal policy.’”

The paragraph above indicates that when the spotlight was upon him (albeit briefly), he performed well. How well did he perform as Georgia. He was elected with two campaign pledges 1. Administer the state more efficiently. 2. Improve education; specifically raise SAT scores.


See Wikipedia:

“Two primary objectives in Perdue’s administration was on reforming state government and on improving education. Perdue advocated reforms designed to cut waste in government, most notably the sale of surplus vehicles and real estate. Prior to Perdue’s becoming governor, no state agency had even compiled an inventory of what assets the state-owned, much less managed them.

“In education, Perdue promoted the return of most decision-making to the local level. After Perdue took office, Georgia moved out of last place in SAT scores in 2003 and 2004. Although it returned to last place in 2005, Georgia rose to 49th place in 2006 in the combined math and reading mean score, including the writing portion (new that year).[8] The high school class of 2006 recorded the sharpest drop in SAT scores in 31 years.[“


Perdue’s Helpful Family Tie

Last night (December 4), breathless, my Ear on the Ground in Georgia (EOGG) left a voice message at 9. “You know, Perdue’s cousin sits on the Senate Agriculture Committee.”

Perdue’s cousin is Senator David Perdue Republican of Georgia. On Friday, Senator David Perdue (a staunch Trump supporter) met with the President-elect at Trump Tower. They discussed farm legislation. The current farm bill expires in two years. The Administration will have a difficult time renewing the legislation. What is most significant about farm legislation these days is that it is not  significant. Until the 1970s, farm legislation determined how much a farmer could or could not plant. No more.

Current legislation deals with technical issues of little concern to consumers. The Farm Bureau and other farm groups are working overtime to prepare because (to repeat) it might not pass. Job One for Trump’s Secretary of Agriculture is to make sure it passes.

No other cabinet agency has the intimate relationship required  between the Senate and indeed House Agriculture Committees in whose hearing rooms I have spent ten years of my life. In these Committee rooms it is helpful to have cousins (kissing and otherwise) who are members of the Committee. Sonny Perdue’s selection could very well be determined by blood as well as qualification.
























Copyright © 2016 by Joel Solkoff. All rights reserved.

Disability and Elderly Issues

Ten Years of Thank You’s

After spending over ten years writing a book ["How's the book coming, Joel" ringing in my ears], I thanked everyone. The Acknowledgements are the best part of the book.

Here are the first two paragraphs. The rest await your pleasure.

For a certain kind of help that cannot be expressed, I thank my wife Diana and our daughter Joanna Marie.

For their friendship and assistance through all the drafts and for listening to me talk for hours on end about the Sugar Act of 1948 (as amended), rice fields in Arkansas, commodity futures trading, and whatever agriculture policy madness afflicted me without notice at 8:45 on a Saturday night when we were simply going out for a pizza, I thank David F. Phillips and Andrew Jay Schwartzman.


cover Polotics of Food










For a certain kind of help that cannot be expressed, I thank my wife Diana and our daughter Joanna Marie.

For their friendship and assistance through all the drafts and for listening to me talk for hours on end about the Sugar Act of 1948 (as amended), rice fields in Arkansas, commodity futures trading, and whatever agriculture policy madness afflicted me without notice at 8:45 on a Saturday night when we were simply going out for a pizza, I thank David F. Phillips and Andrew Jay Schwartzman.

For patiently contributing to my agriculture education year in and year out, I thank William Gahr and all Gahr’s employees at the Food Group of the General Accounting Office who without warning were called upon to explain parity or modularization of food containers or soil erosion or whatever subject on which I needed educating, and I thank Philip Moery, who taught me about the bottom line in agriculture—both financially and politically.

For creating this book, I thank Robin Mayers, who read and argued with me about every word; the late Marie Rodell, my agent, who before she died was pleased to see me settled down and working on this project, who couldn’t quite believe that she’d ever have a client call her from Stuttgart, Arkansas (“Rice and duck calling capital of the world”), and who counseled me to keep my opinions of pesticides to myself when farmers were kind enough to let me see their farms, and whose concern about pesticides led her to support and make possible a wider audience for Rachel Carson; my agent Frances Collin, of the Marie Rodell-Frances Collin Literary Agency, for her belief in this book; Daniel Moses, of Sierra Club Books, whose quiet perseverance coaxed me to let go of this book (even though it will never really be ready because of a new development which might mean…. ); and my copy editor Mary Lou Van Deventer who made my prose less difficult to read and whose persistent questioning about why I did not write more about ecology and less about how nifty the commodities market is made me reexamine my motiviation for writing this book.

The remainder of my thanks I cannot adequately categorize; so I thank: The District of Columbia public library system, especially the Martin Luther King Memorial Library and the West End, Southeast, and Northeast branches; the Library of Congress, the congressional research service, the reference librarians at the Library of Congress, especially those who staff the telephones and the main floor reading room, all those anonymous gophers who brought down books of statistics when I’m sure they wished for more exciting searches; the USDA libraries, both the reading room downtown and the National Agriculture Library in Beltsville, Maryland; the scores of experts on agriculture at USDA who through the years put aside their other duties to tell me how many bushels of corn were in carryover, how many migrants did agricultural work in six given counties in California in the month of March, and other statistical questions, including questions on elementary mathematics; all the mathematics teachers I ever had, especially those who taught me the little I had the good sense to retain; the United States Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare and its offspring Health and Human Services; the Departments of Labor, Commerce, Treasury, State, Transportation, and Energy and the Office of the Special Trade Representative, the Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Trade Commission, Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission; the White House press office under the administrations of Richard M. Nixon, Gerald R. Ford, Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Reagan; the Congress of the United States and especially the House and Senate Agriculture committees; the House and Senate periodical press galleries; Howard Bray of the Fund for Investigative Journalism for his continual encouragement and the Fund for its support; The New Republic, The New York Times, Skeptic, et al. for publishing and republishing my articles on agricultural policy; Patric Mullen for buying me Bloody Marys, introducing me to members of Congress, and for his friendship; the Media Access Project; Linda Lazarus; The Washington Post library and Dan Morgan, Jody Allen, and Michael Barone; the National Journal library and especially Robert J. Samuelson; Michael P. Andrews; my mother Miriam P. Schmerler; my father Isadore; my grandmother Celia Pell; my sister Sarah Schmerler; Alvin and Theresa Demick and Arts Magazine; Craig Berrington; Jack Brock; the Migrant Legal Action Program; Cesar Chavez, Earl Butz, Hubert H. Humphrey, Dick Clark, William Proxmire, Thomas Foley, David Bowen, and others who granted me interviews; Paul Boertlein; Werner Brandt; former Under Secretary of Labor Robert J. Brown for his encouragement and friendship; David Brody; Ben Simpson of Capitol Hill Gulf; Central Delivery Service; Morris M. Cohen; National Public Radio; Miriam Daniel-Wolff; Susan Dankoff Menick; Michael and Robin Demick; Norman and Phyllis Demick; Julie Dillingham and her family; Theodore F. Brophy; Helen Ericson and the Journal of Commerce; Marcia, Barnet, Jonah, and Lee Eskin; my lawyer Susan Chaires; Colin Frank; Richard Gilmore; Jack Halpert; the Japan Uni Agency and especially Tatsuko Nagasawa and Yoshio Taketomi; Robert Leahy; Norma Lewin; Lee Avery Rosenhouse; Gary
Lucken; Barbara Machtiger; Lynn McReynolds; Jonathan Miller of Communications Daily; Linda B.R. Mills; Lisa, Sophy, and Phillipa Moery; David Mont; Donald, Michele, Katherine, and Peter Moore; Eunice, Janice, and Kevin Alexander; Curtis T. White and Andrea Engler; Howard Simister and Judith Soderholm; the gang on E Street; the Capitol Hill Baby Sitting Cooperative; David Moyer of Paul Stafford Associates; Agnes Mravcak; Lynne Murphy; David Schneiderman; Wendy Moonan; the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials; the Office of Technology Assessment and its Food Group; the National Press Club; Andrew L. Rothman; Dorothy Row; Cathy Kouts of Sierra Club Books; Edward Sacks; Amiel Segal, among other things for saving my life; Donald Hutter; Paul Bresnick; Eileen Shanahan; Ida Solkoff; Benjamin and Lil Solkoff; Leon and Gerda Zolko; Rona, Joe, and Allison Spiegel; Stationers Inc. of Richmond, Virginia, for making the reporters notebooks I carry everywhere; Diana McLellan, “The Ear”; David Sanford; Deborah Matz; Rita Jenrette; the Legal Services Corporation; Roger Rosenblatt; Martin Peretz; Eliot Marshall; Robert J. Myers; Michael Kinsley; Philip Terzian; the late John Osborne; Leslie B. Seagrave; Gwen Somers; Joan Tapper; Raphael Sagalyn; Paul S. Weisberg, for worrying about this book as if it were his; Jack Raher; Jack Limpert of The Washingtonian; Walter Shapiro; Donald Dunnington; Zookie Bass Solkoff; Betty, Jeff, and Elizabeth Laxague; the farmers in California, Arkansas, Louisiana, Arizona, Virginia, Florida, Maryland, North Carolina, Vermont, Massachusetts, and other states who took me around their operations and answered lots of questions; the Chicago Board of Trade, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, the New York Coffee & Sugar Exchange, and other futures and cash markets for giving me permission to see the action on the floor (even when I sometimes got in the way); the People’s Republic of China; the staff of the Joint Economic Committee of Congress; the late Frank Norris; Calvin Beale, USDA’s population guru; the U.S. Sugar Corporation; The Palm Beach Post; the government of Jamaica; the United Farm Workers Union; the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Chauffeurs Warehousemen & Helpers; former Secretaries of Agriculture Clifford Hardin and Bob Bergland; the Continental Grain Company; Cook Industries; the Bunge Corporation; William Robbins; Worldwatch Institute; Commodity News Service; Michael Jacobson and the Center for Science in the Public Interest; the United Nations; Business Week; the staff at CARE; The Wall Street Journal; the brokers at Conti Commodity Services, at Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith, et al.; the Des Moines Register, especially its Washington bureau chief James Risser; former Rep. Fred Richmond; Marc Grossman; the library of The Los Angeles Times; The Yuma [Arizona] Daily Sun; the National Farmers Union; Riceland Foods; the National Association of Wheat Growers; the American Farm Bureau Federation; the National Grange; the National Farmers Organization; Rural America Inc.; Rodale Press; Secretary of Agriculture John Block; Senator Bob Dole; the American Agriculture Movement; the American Bankers Association; former Sen. Herman Talmadge; former Rep. W.R. Poage; Sen. Edward Kennedy; Congressional Quarterly, especially Elizabeth Wehr, its first-rate agriculture reporter, and Hank Donnelly; Catherine Nicholson; Allison Masson; Yukiko Mori; Peter Hannaford; Michael Chinworth; Jun Fushimi, and the many others who through choice or misadventure remain anoymous.

Thursday My Music December 1, 2016

Good morning.

9:02. Mozart. Sonata for basson and cello.



Good afternoon.

1:18. Someone. Ehud Manor.


“Someone, someone worries
Worries for me up there
Came and lit a few stars
And they fall one by one.”

A song by Hebrew writer Ehud Manor, at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, Israel, on Yom HaShoah (יום הזיכרון לשואה ולגבורה), Holocaust Memorial Day. Singing for remembering the people who were killed in the holocaust and for all the victims of terrorist attacks.


4:13. Stevie Nicks & Tom Petty. Stop Dragging My Heart Around. [Stop it.]


Late night.

1:55. Bach fugue.