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[P]
National Weather Service Public Forecasts to be Gutted?

By KC7GR in Science
Fri May 20, 2005 at 01:22:51 PM EST
Tags: Politics (all tags)
Politics

Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) has introduced a bill (S.786) that, if implemented in its current form, could mean the end of the freely-available and ad-free weather and climate information on the National Weather Service's web site.


I cringed when I read about the 'National Weather Services Duties Act of 2005.' I cringed some more when I started getting into the text of the measure for, like many draft bills, its language is far too broad, far too vague, and far too potentially damaging to a valuable public service that has existed for many decades longer than the Internet itself.

The NWS web site, run by the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, provides a wealth of weather, hydrological, and climatological data that has, historically, been freely available in many forms to anyone who wants to go through it. Public forecasts, satellite images, radar maps, aviation forecasts... you name it. If it has to do with weather or climate, it'll be there, at no cost whatsoever to the end user.

Senator Santorum, for reasons probably best attributed to his campaign contributors, apparently wants to end all that in favor of creating what looks to me like a government-sponsored monopoly for companies like Accuweather and The Weather Channel (both of whom are, no surprise, in favor of the legislation).

If the bill is implemented in its current state, it would, in essence, prohibit NWS from providing any forecast, data, or other service that could not be provided by a private-sector source. Public forecasts would disappear, as would much of the other data NWS currently provides.

Here are some choice quotes from the bill's text.

"(b) COMPETITION WITH PRIVATE SECTOR- The Secretary of Commerce shall not provide, or assist other entities in providing, a product or service (other than a product or service described in subsection (a)(1)) that is or could be provided by the private sector unless-- (1) the Secretary determines that the private sector is unwilling or unable to provide such product or service; or (2) the United States Government is obligated to provide such product or service under international aviation agreements to provide meteorological services and exchange meteorological information...

As can be seen, aviation forecasts and data would be exempt. However, it gets better (not!) Check out this next bit...

"(c) ISSUANCE OF DATA, FORECASTS, AND WARNINGS- (1) IN GENERAL- All data, information, guidance, forecasts, and warnings received, collected, created, or prepared by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or the National Weather Service shall, to the maximum extent practicable, be issued in real time, and without delay for internal use, in a manner that ensures that all members of the public have the opportunity for simultaneous and equal access to such data, information, guidance, forecasts, and warnings. (2) MODE OF ISSUANCE- Data, information, guidance, forecasts, and warnings shall be issued under paragraph (1) through a set of data portals designed for volume access by commercial providers of products or services and by such other mechanisms as the Secretary of Commerce considers appropriate for purposes of that paragraph...

Am I reading this correctly? It seems to contradict itself. First, it says "in a manner that ensures that all members of the public have the opportunity for simultaneous and equal access to such data," then it turns around and says "through a set of data portals designed for volume access by commercial providers of products or services and by such other mechanisms as the Secretary of Commerce considers appropriate..."

In short, they seem to be saying that the NWS will only make forecasts available to commercial sources. WTF?!

The Coup de Gracie can be found in this lovely paragraph.

"(d) PROHIBITION ON CERTAIN DISCLOSURES- An officer, employee, or agent of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Weather Service, or any other department or agency of the United States who by reason of that status comes into possession of any weather data, information, guidance, forecast, or warning that might influence or affect the market value of any product, service, commodity, tradable, or business may not-- (1) willfully impart, whether directly or indirectly, such weather data, information, guidance, forecast, or warning, or any part thereof, before the issuance of such weather data, information, guidance, forecast, or warning to the public under subsection (c); or (2) after the issuance of such weather data, information, guidance, forecast, or warning to the public under subsection (c), willfully impart comments or qualifications on such weather data, information, guidance, forecast, or warning, or any part thereof, to the public, except pursuant to an issuance that complies with that subsection..."

Once again... WTF?! This looks to me like they're trying to literally censor the weather forecasters themselves, and anyone else who happens to be in posession of weather data which might "market value."

The NWS, much to my surprise, has taken "no position" (their words) on this legislation. No clue as to why.

I don't know about the rest of you, but this bill looks like major Bad News to me. A portion of my tax dollars, and those of every other U.S. citizen, already go to fund the NWS. I don't see why any of us should have to pay twice for (probably) lower-quality information that's been liberally salted with ads (which is what we'll get if this bill goes through).

God only knows what effect this'll have on services like NOAA's Weather Radio stations, or the volunteer efforts of the SKYWARN folks.

I've already expressed my displeasure to our state's senators. I would ask that everyone else who sees this as the major problem it is to do the same. Quickly, please, before we end up with YABL (Yet Another Bad Law).

Thanks for reading.

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Poll
Does this bill need to die an appropriately horrible death, and the NWS be left alone as a result to do their job?
o Yes! Tell Senator Santorum to go get his bolts tightened. 92%
o No. Private/Commercial weather services need protection from the NWS. 2%
o Don't know, don't care... 5%

Votes: 75
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o a bill (S.786)
o NWS web site,
o Accuweathe r
o The Weather Channel
o NOAA's Weather Radio
o SKYWARN
o Also by KC7GR


Display: Sort:
National Weather Service Public Forecasts to be Gutted? | 79 comments (73 topical, 6 editorial, 0 hidden)
it's official (2.66 / 3) (#2)
by circletimessquare on Fri May 20, 2005 at 05:28:20 AM EST

santorum is just about the biggest tool i have ever heard of

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

Oh wow (2.20 / 5) (#4)
by eejit on Fri May 20, 2005 at 06:55:33 AM EST

There are literally two types of places where something so ridiculous could happen:
  1. Some backwards thinking Muslim country
  2. America
Go progress!

oh man (none / 0) (#29)
by elpollodiablo on Fri May 20, 2005 at 04:31:00 PM EST

DAMN THEM CRAZY BACKWARD THINKING MOZLEMZ!!1111
------------
"While we can't be sure that they meant us any direct harm, never let it be said that I took the monkey menace too lightly." - Tycho
[ Parent ]
Just out of interest (3.00 / 3) (#7)
by A Bore on Fri May 20, 2005 at 08:37:11 AM EST

How much does it cost to buy legislation in the United States?

Depends. (3.00 / 3) (#8)
by NoMoreNicksLeft on Fri May 20, 2005 at 09:21:48 AM EST

There is a pricing plan. Small things that don't outage Joe Q. Public (this article is a good example) can be bought as cheap as several $1000 campaign contributions throughout his career with occassional complimentary golfing and/or Vegas trips thrown in.

Total cost: Probably less than $50,000, definitely less than $100,000.

I'd even say there were bought laws that went as cheaply as $10,000 here and there, but being a cheapskate isn't necessarily all that cost effective. Paying low like that will likely only get your legislation put up to a vote, you don't get the extra vote schmoozing or attachments to "must pass" legislation that way...

--
Do not look directly into laser with remaining good eye.
[ Parent ]

What about all the other legislation? (none / 0) (#9)
by BottleRocket on Fri May 20, 2005 at 11:47:34 AM EST

How much would it cost to get a vote on HR-308, the "National Tariff to Fund Grandma-hunting Death Brigade Act"?

$ . . . . . $ . . . . . $ . . . . . $
. ₩ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . * . . . . . * . . . . . * . . . . . * . . . . . *
$ . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $
Yes I do download [child pornography], but I don't keep it any longer than I need to, so it can yield insight as to how to find more. --MDC
$ . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $
. . . . * . . . . . * . . . . . * . . . . . * . . . . . *
. ₩ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
$ . . . . . $ . . . . . $ . . . . . $
$B R Σ III$

[ Parent ]

WOW (2.25 / 4) (#10)
by wre on Fri May 20, 2005 at 11:52:14 AM EST

That is amazingly retarded. I thought you Americans would have assassinated him by now, or is that not 'in style' anymore?

I know something that's in style... (none / 1) (#14)
by MMcP on Fri May 20, 2005 at 12:13:38 PM EST

secret service agents knocking on very ignorant people's doors.

[ Parent ]
Yes well (none / 0) (#50)
by wre on Sat May 21, 2005 at 01:51:22 PM EST

They can come to Canada if they want. I'm harmless. ^_^

But no, seriously, Americans have a long history of killing those they're pissed off at.

Hmm, this gives me an interesting idea of how to set up a democracy. Everyone in the public has the ability to request mutual death with anyone else. Then the requester and target are collected and killed in whichever quick way they prefer.

Look at how many people commit suicide today. They could give their deaths meaning by dying for some cause or other.

[ Parent ]

Unfortunately this is not applicable in this case (3.00 / 2) (#60)
by CaptainZapp on Mon May 23, 2005 at 07:54:31 AM EST

That is amazingly retarded. I thought you Americans would have assassinated him by now, or is that not 'in style' anymore?

Problem is that laws prohibit to kill American senators within the boarders of the US. The level of dopiness and fanatical zeal of such senators is unfortunately of little consequence for the law to be applicable.

Now, torturing and killing a bunch of alleged muslims, or having them shipped to countries where they are guaranteed to be tortured and probably killed that's perfectly fine, ethical, within the law and totally consistent with the Geneva convention; at least according to Donnie Slaughterboy Rumsfeld.

I hope this clarifies your confusion.

[ Parent ]

In related news ... (3.00 / 2) (#13)
by Mr.Surly on Fri May 20, 2005 at 12:03:40 PM EST

... congress voted to abolish and disband the USPS, since it competes with services that could be provided by a private sector company.


Next up ... (3.00 / 2) (#23)
by rpresser on Fri May 20, 2005 at 03:38:12 PM EST

let's disband Congress ... all it provides is heartburn, and threats to the Constitution; both of which can be provided by private services.
------------
"In terms of both hyperbolic overreaching and eventual wrongness, the Permanent [Republican] Majority has set a new, and truly difficult to beat, standard." --rusty
[ Parent ]
well... (none / 0) (#26)
by Run4YourLives on Fri May 20, 2005 at 03:51:23 PM EST

ups is trying to do that to canada post already.

It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown
[ Parent ]
Santorum is an ass (none / 1) (#15)
by C Montgomery Burns on Fri May 20, 2005 at 12:54:35 PM EST

he also recently compared Senate Democrats with Adolph Hitler.
--
ALL GLORY TO THE HYPNOTOAD
Intelligent design
But (none / 0) (#25)
by Cro Magnon on Fri May 20, 2005 at 03:49:57 PM EST

what does that have to do with him being an ass?
Information wants to be beer.
[ Parent ]
Do you also consider asses (none / 0) (#70)
by Pelorat on Fri May 27, 2005 at 04:42:20 PM EST

...all the Democrats and liberals who have compared the Pope, Bush, and anyone else more than 5 nanoarcseconds to the right of them to Hitler?

[ Parent ]
Section D there (none / 0) (#16)
by davidduncanscott on Fri May 20, 2005 at 01:43:12 PM EST

looks like a sort of "insider trading" provision -- if some weather boffin foresees that hurricanes will devastate tropical pork belly industry, he can't tell his friends before you, J. Random Porkbellyspeculater, find out.

In a similar vein, I never did find out -- back when everybody was up to lynch Martha Stewart because she may have known ahead of time that the FDA wasn't going to approve that drug, was anybody at the FDA (ie, the rat who leaked that info) ever prosecuted?

As for C, I'm not sure. It certainly does not say that forecasts will be provided only to commercial forecasters, because it adds "and by such other mechanisms as the Secretary of Commerce considers appropriate for purposes of that paragraph...", the paragraph in question being the one that calls for simultaneous and equal access. It seems to me that SecCom isn't obligated to maintain a web site (for instance) but isn't barred from doing so either, if he feels it appropriate. It does oblige the NWS to make the data available for volume access.

What's in subsection (a)(1)? Whatever's in there, they are allowed to compete with private firms in that area.

More on Section D (none / 0) (#35)
by Neil Rubin on Fri May 20, 2005 at 11:09:55 PM EST

looks like a sort of "insider trading" provision -- if some weather boffin foresees that hurricanes will devastate tropical pork belly industry, he can't tell his friends before you, J. Random Porkbellyspeculater, find out.
Exactly. Of course, if the "value" in question is that of a stock or other security, such a leak would often be a crime already, under Rule 10b-5 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. Insider trading in commodities is governed by another set of laws.
In a similar vein, I never did find out -- back when everybody was up to lynch Martha Stewart because she may have known ahead of time that the FDA wasn't going to approve that drug, was anybody at the FDA (ie, the rat who leaked that info) ever prosecuted?
Unlikely. The "leak" you speak of would have been from the FDA to Imclone, the company seeking approval for the drug. It was probably a perfectly legal and routine communication between the FDA and a regulated company. There is absolutely nothing criminal about the FDA telling a company it is about to reject that company's New Drug Application. What is, sometimes, criminal is for someone who has received that information due to a position of trust in that company to then trade (or help his friends trade) in that company's securities before that information has been announced to the market.

[ Parent ]
Looks like you're right (none / 0) (#42)
by davidduncanscott on Sat May 21, 2005 at 09:10:21 AM EST

judging from this LA Times / AP article, which said, in part:
The case has raised questions about the responsibilities of regulators who knew about the market-moving report days in advance, but apparently had no fixed procedure for restricting such information.

Former Securities and Exchange Commission lawyer Seth Taube noted that the FDA official was not barred by law from providing advance word of the agency's rejection of the ImClone drug, Erbitux.

The responsibility for protecting such "material, nonpublic" information, he noted, lies with the company and its officials -- not the government agency. The FDA, in fact, has tried to promote a free flow of information with applicants.

A little further down, though, they say:
Based on a review of court documents and congressional testimony, and interviews by The Associated Press, the sequence of events began with a phone call the day before Christmas 2001.

In that call, Richard Pazdur, a cancer specialist at the FDA, told a Washington lawyer that ImClone would soon receive a letter rejecting its application to market Erbitux, a promising cancer drug.

The lawyer passed the tip along to his partner, Alan Bennett, who then alerted executives at his corporate client, Bristol-Myers Squibb, which had a billion-dollar stake in ImClone and is a partner on Erbitux.

One of those executives, Brian Markison, was leaving his house for Christmas Eve Mass when he got an e-mail from Bennett. On Christmas morning, Markison relayed the bad news to Harlan Waksal, Sam's brother and a top executive at ImClone.

Harlan Waksal was told "that a source within the FDA had stated that it was almost certain that on December 28, 2001" ImClone would receive the rejection letter, according to the government's indictment against Sam Waksal.

That certainly sounds innocent enough, although not strictly a matter of FDA business either. What would the position be if someone had paid someone like Mr. (or is it Dr?) Pazdur for that tid-bit?

[ Parent ]
Is Santorum insane? (3.00 / 6) (#17)
by gbd on Fri May 20, 2005 at 02:28:54 PM EST

I live in South Dakota, which resides right at the northern tip of Tornado Alley. During outbreaks (or potential outbreaks) of severe weather, we have a system of spotters who drive around, monitor conditions, and report dangerous weather activity (tornadoes, large hail, etc.) These people make judicious use of the information that the NWS makes available on the Web. This isn't fun and games, folks.  These are people's lives we're talking about here.

Santorum had a choice here. He could have stood behind the government performing its most basic and fundamental Constitutional duty -- protecting the lives of American citizens -- and giving them free access to the information they need to do so.  Instead, he chose to take action to line the pockets of his campaign contributors, putting the welfare of millions of ordinary Americans at risk. The man is a disgrace. The citizens of Pennsylvania should be ashamed for voting him into office.

Under normal circumstances, I would think that a bill like this wouldn't have a chance in hell of passing. In today's America, however, I'm afraid that I can't be quite that confident.

--
Gunter glieben glauchen globen.

Better To Read The Whole Bill (none / 1) (#24)
by Western Infidels on Fri May 20, 2005 at 03:42:51 PM EST

Geez, I don't want to come accross like I'm standing up and defending a nutcase like Santorum, but I think this bill is less bad than it's being made out to be.

Section (b), quoted in the OP, has an exception that refers to section (a), and section (a) turns out to be very broad. In fact it specifically requires NWS to prepare and issue "...severe weather forecasts and warnings designed for the protection of life and property," among other things. So the tornado angle, I think, is moot.

[ Parent ]

no radar images for tonado spotters (3.00 / 5) (#32)
by emmerson on Fri May 20, 2005 at 05:49:00 PM EST

I don't think the issue is moot.  As I read the bill, the NWS would be prohibited from providing radar images on their website because a private company could (and would, IMHO) do that for a price.  This would end access to such information for free from volunteer spotters.

I'm speaking only for myself.

[ Parent ]

Exactly (none / 0) (#59)
by gbd on Mon May 23, 2005 at 01:32:54 AM EST

Tornado spotters, at least in my locality, have no official affiliation with the NWS. (In this city, they are just members of the local volunteer fire department.)

--
Gunter glieben glauchen globen.
[ Parent ]
So what! (none / 1) (#57)
by /dev/trash on Sun May 22, 2005 at 08:23:22 PM EST

Pay Accuweather a fee and you get all the info you want!

---
Updated 02/20/2004
New Site
[ Parent ]
Pretty clear alternatives ... (1.33 / 3) (#18)
by cdguru on Fri May 20, 2005 at 02:57:52 PM EST

NWS can compete with private companies or not. Regardless of what you think of the government competing with private businesses, the decision pretty much comes down to that. If they are going to compete, they would likely need to significantly increase server and bandwidth capacity.

There would seem to be clear tradeoffs - if they are going to provide services funded by tax dollars that compete with private businesses that charge separately for it, it is pretty much mandated that the government service will be a monopoly. Why? Because it is really hard to compete with a service that your customers are already mandated to be paying for, whether the use it or not. So, likely as not, the government service becomes the only service and it better serve all of the customers needs. Is this a good thing?

Alternatively, if there is a commercial service, they get to choose how to fund the service - ad revenue, pay-per-use, subscription, etc. Or, it can be a free service attached to some other revenue producing business - like TV news broadcasts pretty much are. Also, if there is a commercial service, there can certainly be more than one - customers then get to choose how they are paying for the service and different payment schemes (from the list above) get to exist. So, you can have a free service and a pay service with different levels of service, different features and so on.

Yes, there are instances where private companies compete with government services - private police, private schools and a few other cases. Most of these are extremely expensive and deal with very special requirements. Or, they sprout up when the government is doing a really bad job - certainly the case with both private police and schools. I don't see anywhere near the special requirements with weather and I doubt the government would do that bad a job - so bad as to enable the existance of a competitor.

All in all, I see it as a clear choice between a government-mandated fee (tax supported) or choice. And, between a single government service or private enterprise. In most cases, private enterprise is going to be more flexible, cheaper and more customer-focused.

Competition (3.00 / 6) (#27)
by Western Infidels on Fri May 20, 2005 at 03:55:43 PM EST

NWS can compete with private companies or not. Regardless of what you think of the government competing with private businesses, the decision pretty much comes down to that.

I see it like this: A commercial interest that could realistically compete with NWS would not need access to NWS data. A true competitor would be collecting, organizing, analyzing, recording, and publishing it's own damn data, not demanding unfettered access to someone else's.

A company that makes a living merely by reselling products built with tax dollars (NWS data in this case) isn't competing, it's sucking at the government teat. I don't believe that NWS is "competing" with commercial interests because modern weather forecasting is not a commercially viable activity without NWS's participation.

[ Parent ]

More complicated than that (3.00 / 4) (#43)
by pyro9 on Sat May 21, 2005 at 09:50:46 AM EST

Actually, the NWS does not compete with the private weather services, it makes them possible. The private services do NOT have the considerable infrastructure of weather stations and daily balloon launches necessary to gather weather data that forecasts are based on. They use the NWS data for that. They do NOT develop the many computational models used to generate a forecast, federal grants to researchers pay for that development.

If the NWS shuts down, the private companies would be out of business immediatly.

What they do/did was collect FREE PUBLIC DATA from the NWS and present it to the public (with or without additional interpretation) using FREE PUBLIC MODELS. Their business model was based on nothing more than the obscurity of the data formats, difficulty of transferring the data and unaffordability of computers capable of running the models.

Now that the internet makes the transfer easy, the NWS has better described the data formats, and the models can run on an inexpensive cluster, they propose that the FREE PUBLIC DATA should be made available to commercial operations exclusively, and that the public should be forced to pay them for access to the data that was collected using public tax money.

In that same spirit, I propose that the federal government build toll booths on the interstates, and set the toll at one dollar. I will hire people to man the booths and collect the tolls. I'll keep the money. Tax money will continue to maintain the roads and the toll booths. Sounds good to me!


The future isn't what it used to be
[ Parent ]
Come on, really... (none / 0) (#64)
by ckaminski on Mon May 23, 2005 at 04:33:10 PM EST

Just how much competition can NWS be to Weather.com?


[ Parent ]
Good, socialism is a failed system (1.00 / 11) (#19)
by sellison on Fri May 20, 2005 at 03:07:50 PM EST

it's time we rooted it completly out of the US system!

The federal govt. should be putting all it's resources into defending the nation, not undercutting the livelihood of corporations with 'free' services.

"No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered as patriots. This is one nation under God."- George H.W. Bush

This Is Socialism (2.80 / 5) (#22)
by Western Infidels on Fri May 20, 2005 at 03:35:52 PM EST

Corporate welfare of this kind is Socialism, you peculiar little man.

[ Parent ]
I was going to say this... (none / 0) (#34)
by Kadin2048 on Fri May 20, 2005 at 10:02:39 PM EST

but you beat me to it.

[ Parent ]
Mother fucker, did you just say... (none / 0) (#36)
by gr3y on Fri May 20, 2005 at 11:14:23 PM EST

"Me too"? Kill yourself.

I am a disruptive technology.
[ Parent ]

To be fair (3.00 / 3) (#39)
by a humble lich on Sat May 21, 2005 at 03:43:41 AM EST

I'd say technically this type of corporate welfare should be called fascism. Fascism is the meger of the corporation and the state after all.

[ Parent ]
Not to feed you... (2.57 / 7) (#30)
by divinus on Fri May 20, 2005 at 04:42:27 PM EST

but how can you even begin to claim that socialism is a failed system that needs to be "rooted out", when the European Union, which enjoys socialised education and healthcare is doing so well?

Their GDP is on par with ours, their currency is stronger (and moreso every day), their workforce is about twice what ours is, their inflation rate is lower, and their trade deficit is only about a tenth of what the US' is. Their life expectancies are higher, crime rates are lower, literacy is higher.

Capitalism and imperialism is what puts the US in the position where it has to put resources into defence rather than self-improvement.

Perhaps it is being shown that the betterment of society over the betterment of the individual at the expense of other individuals wins out afterall. =)

We learned that captialism was a failed system in 1929.

[ Parent ]

Feeding? (none / 1) (#45)
by John Miles on Sat May 21, 2005 at 11:15:21 AM EST

Capitalism and imperialism is what puts the US in the position where it has to put resources into defence rather than self-improvement.

Well, that, and assuming responsibility for defending Europe for half a century so you guys could focus on "self-improvement."

For so long as men do as they are told, there will be war.
[ Parent ]

Defending!? (none / 0) (#67)
by divinus on Wed May 25, 2005 at 05:54:53 PM EST

America has never had to 'defend' Europe per se. They assisted in WWI, but they were very small in terms of power, their military only barely making the top-20 list. WWII was a little more involved, with the US actually being a member of the Allied forces that time, but to categorise assistance as 'defence' is inappropriate. The technological benefits of the US ended the pacific theatre of the war after Germany had been defeated, but that's not Europe, and the Japanese would not have had the power to affect Europe at that time.

The US' largest contribution to Europe in terms of defence over the last 50 years was economic aid, but during the wars they were playing both sides, supplying Germany with material as well. However, that does not refer to the present and is irrelevant when considering whether US domestic military spending has anything to do with a need to defend Europe for the last half century.

Some would consider the Great American/Soviet Pissing Contest (which some call the Cold War) to be a defensive action, but it was more a competition between the hegemons that were the US and USSR and had little to do with Europe outside of trade interests.

Essentially, US military spending is a result of the military-industrial complex that formed following WWII. It was largely responsible for the trend of War Corporatism that has kept the US actively engaged in a state of constant warfare since the 1950s.

[ Parent ]

Interesting (none / 1) (#71)
by John Miles on Sat May 28, 2005 at 01:03:41 PM EST

Some would consider the Great American/Soviet Pissing Contest (which some call the Cold War) to be a defensive action, but it was more a competition between the hegemons that were the US and USSR and had little to do with Europe outside of trade interests.

Interesting. How would you account for the quality-of-life disparity between Western Europe and the Soviet satellitenstadt countries to the east? Was it all just propaganda? Weren't the Soviets better at that than we were? After all, the Communist state depended on propaganda for its very survival, whereas, until recently, it was just widely-ignored window dressing in the US.

In other words, if the US really didn't do Europe any favors, why weren't people shot trying to sneak into Bulgaria? What did the average East German know in her heart that the modern Chomskyite won't admit in his head?

For so long as men do as they are told, there will be war.
[ Parent ]

Well... (none / 0) (#80)
by divinus on Fri Jun 10, 2005 at 03:35:42 PM EST


The disparity existed because Western Europe had a well-developed infrastructure, whereas many of the soviet states did not. Terrain and resources play into this a bit, but Europe was much more developed long before 1917.

The Cold War was beneficial to the United States because it forced defense spending to skyrocket for both countries, and while the US was able to match USSR spending and still develop domestically, the USSR could not. The US suffered mild economic damage while the USSR was unable to provide for itself and eventually collapsed economically.

There were additional factors, like the American policy of containment that meant that while the US could continue to act imperialistically, developing it's hegemony, the USSR was not.

Propaganda was heavy on both sides, but moreso to denounce the opposition and foster nationalism rather than stabilise the nation. That is, American propaganda was not to keep the citizenry in line, it was to make Americans more dedicated to America and opposed to communism, and Soviet propaganda worked the same way.

[ Parent ]

Perhaps what we're really learning (none / 1) (#47)
by losthalo on Sat May 21, 2005 at 11:34:54 AM EST

(and it's taking an awfully long time) is that no single theory of economics/government works, but rather a blend of them is better. Pure capitalism stinks. Pure socialism stinks. But cooperation between the two may have a lot of potential, in moderation.

[ Parent ]
The EU is a joke which would implode (none / 0) (#48)
by sellison on Sat May 21, 2005 at 11:40:44 AM EST

if not for the heavy subsidies the US pays for it's defense and to keep it stable.

The "EU" couldn't even handle the Yugoslavian issues on their own, it would be like the US having the Russians come in to solve a problem in Canada!

In some parts of the EU, unemployment is out of control and most of the population is on their form of welfare. The few remaining productive nations in the EU soon tire of supporting the rest and pull out, showing another catostrophic failure of socialism in our time.

Maybe after a few more the democrat party will finially figure it out.

"No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered as patriots. This is one nation under God."- George H.W. Bush
[ Parent ]

Reference please. (none / 0) (#66)
by Gallowglass on Tue May 24, 2005 at 03:53:39 PM EST

You wrote: "The EU is a joke which would implode if not for the heavy subsidies the US pays for it's defense and to keep it stable."

I wasn't aware that the United States was paying for the European armies and subsidizing their economies. Would you mind presenting some evidence to this rather startling assertion?

Or is this just another of the megalomaniacal American assertions that the entire world depends upon the existence of the US?

[ Parent ]

A "joke"... (none / 0) (#68)
by divinus on Wed May 25, 2005 at 07:09:22 PM EST

which has a stronger economy than the US does. Yes, the US has a higher per capital income and lower unemployment rate than the EU does, but that is all, and the delta values of those numbers are not looking good for the US, and the trade deficits and growth rates mean show that in an analogical foot race, the US has a head start, but the EU is running faster.

I'm not sure exactly which Yugoslavian issues you're writing about, but seeing as how neither Serbia nor Montenegro are members (or candidates) of the EU, I'm not sure it has anything to do with EU internal strength or stability. We might as well say the US is weak because it couldn't deal with the Sudan.

I'm not sure what your criteria for 'productive' are, but even the newest/weakest members of the EU (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Cyprus, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic), all have positive GDP growth rates, and all have positive industrial production growth rates (except the northern third of Cyprus). As to unemployment, every single one is above the world average of 30%, obviously. The worst is Germany, with 10.6%, the best is Cyprus at 3.2%. The US sits at 5.5%. "Out of control" should be reserved for places like Liberia and Zimbabwe, where over 2/3rds of the population are unemployed.

Your speculation about the immanent collapse of the EU, and how it's stability is tied to US subsidies are baseless and false.

[ Parent ]

The public paid for it (3.00 / 7) (#41)
by pyro9 on Sat May 21, 2005 at 08:41:10 AM EST

Please note, the public pays for that data to be collected and processed through taxes. The bill does not propose to change that.

The bill proposes that the data which is owned by the public (whoever pays for it owns it, a cornerstone of capitalism) should be confiscated and handed over to corporations so that they may demand additional payment from the public.

Perhaps we should follow the sage advice of the republican party! We SHOULD throw out any politician that has a track record of anti-capitalism. Based on the last few years congressional record, it looks like we should start with the Republican party given it's history of taxing one group (private individuals) for the sole benefit of another (large business).

The problem for TWC and Accuweather is that most communities already have a number of individuals who are just as capable as they are to take NWS data and turn it into a local forecast suitable for the layman. In general, at least one, if not all, local news programs have one or more people on staff who can do that. Those individuals can be beasily identified. Next time severe weather is happening, check out the weather on the local news channel. The ones who seem to be quite excited, almost (but not quite) cheering the storms on are the ones who can do this. The ones who seem quite serious and upset by the whole thing are just reading a script.

There are also a number of enthusiastic hobbiests who are willing to do that for free and post the results on a website. Usefully, the areas most subject to severe weather problems will naturally have a higher concentration of such individuals. In 'tornado alley', they can be seen speeding down the highway attempting to gather as much data as possible without actually becoming part of the tornado. Most of them would be happy to report that data live to local authorities if provided a radio for that purpose.

TWC and Accuweather would be a lot better off if they would work with both of the above groups (perhaps even sponsoring the latter) and focus on presenting that information along with the NWS public data in the form their customers want rather than lobbying for special protectionist favors.


The future isn't what it used to be
[ Parent ]
The public shoudn't be paying for it (1.00 / 2) (#52)
by sellison on Sun May 22, 2005 at 11:14:24 AM EST

in the first place, that is a cornerstone of capitalism. Coercing the public to pay for something is a cornerstone of socialism.

I'm sure a private, for profit company could do get the weather data much more effieciently than the feds.

Of course, it is important to have it for the National Defense, so the DOD could contract with a private firm to gather the data, but that firm should be allowed to re-sell the data to the public,  for a profit.

The profit motive will make te whole process more effective, and likely we would get more accurate forcasts out of it as well!

"No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered as patriots. This is one nation under God."- George H.W. Bush
[ Parent ]

I know this is a troll... (none / 1) (#53)
by DavidTC on Sun May 22, 2005 at 11:39:45 AM EST

...but you have no idea what's going on. Private companies already provide forecasts, all the time. Um, duh.

The NWS provides data that it collects because it has to to. They need it for air traffic control and severe storm warnings, unless you think those should be privatized...and I can see the lawsuits already if those are wrong.

And BTW, it's collected basically for free to the federal government, at airports and colleges and other government installations all over the country. There's not some huge outlay of funds going on here. It's a bunch of boxes that were set up over the decades and dial in remotely every X hours with data, it's not like they're paying people to collect it.

So it already has to do everything it is doing. (No surprise, government institutions don't just randomly start doing more work.) It has to collect data, it has to analyze it into forecasts to predicts storms...so, why, exactly, should it only make the end result available to certain people?

I hope that if this passes, the NWS takes down all its parsable data, and starts providing it in a completely random and non-machine readable format in a completely inconvenient way, like via snail mail. To promote capitalism, of course...it will create an industry to parse that data!

-David T. C.
Yes, my email address is real.
[ Parent ]

Capitalist magic... (none / 1) (#55)
by Gooba42 on Sun May 22, 2005 at 02:31:53 PM EST

We "free" the market and poof everything gets better and more efficient and more trustworthy!

What you've failed to notice is that we actually have specific counterexamples.

Every academic study of medical insurance concludes that privatization results in higher costs within this specific field. This is not proof that capitalism is evil or must be done away with but it is proof that it isn't the magic panacea which you seem to think of it as.

If there is even a single exception then your general rule of "Capitalism==Good" is false.


[ Parent ]

Nothing magic about Capitalism (none / 0) (#74)
by Mousky on Tue May 31, 2005 at 02:23:49 PM EST

Capitalism is good. Is it perfect? No. But there is no better system at allocating resources. Walk into a grocery store and look at the variety of goods you can purchase. You can get fruits and vegetables from all over the world year round. Seems to me that capitalism is fairly efficient at providing those goods. All your example about "every academic study of medical insurance" proves is that a large group of people subsidize a small group of people. When you are able to spread the costs over a larger number of people, it is expected that costs per capita will fall.

[ Parent ]
Disagree (none / 1) (#58)
by pyro9 on Sun May 22, 2005 at 10:24:31 PM EST

A lack of public funding for the general welfare is arguably more a cornerstone of libertarianism than capitalism. While capitalism does concern itself with the workings of private enterprise and the functions of self interest i n a market economy, there is no intrinsic argument that NO good or service may be produced through government.

By contrast, if goods and services are not owned by the one that pays for them, the whole model of capitalism falls apart. That is why the latter is a cornerstone and the former is not.

The NWS is a matter of the general welfare (explicitly within the domain of the federal government) since it's their activities that give us important warnings of impending severe weather. The last thing we need is court squabbles involving a customer choosing to pass on warnings of impending severe weather to non-customers.

I doubt very much that privatizing weather forecasts would lead to more accuracy. There's more than enough demand for more accurate forecasts now to richly reward any commercial operation that can provide them, yet none have managed to do it.

While many government services manage to be hugely inefficient, apparently gathering weather data is not one of the problems there.

If examined closely, a great many things in the private sector have become staggeringly inefficient as well, anywhere where true consumer choice doesn't exist, such as emergency medicine.

Just because I enjoy needling the uber capitalists, consider the efficiency of an economy where 33% or more of all available effort goes into sales and marketing rather than actually producing goods and services that people want and need. Recall that the latter is the one and only legitimate goal of an economy.


The future isn't what it used to be
[ Parent ]
Good! (3.00 / 2) (#46)
by losthalo on Sat May 21, 2005 at 11:31:41 AM EST

So can I stop paying to bail out airlines so businessmen can have affordable travel and people can go on vacations to the Bahamas without taking a boat?

Wunderbar! Ausgezeichnet!

[ Parent ]
no, no, no, no (3.00 / 2) (#49)
by pyramid termite on Sat May 21, 2005 at 11:58:50 AM EST

(this is how it's done)

If people in this country would go to church and get right with God, we wouldn't have to worry about the weather. We should ban all weather forecasting services. God will take care of His own and the rest can experience the eternal heat wave of His wrath.

see? ... that's how it's done


On the Internet, anyone can accuse you of being a dog.
[ Parent ]

BAD troll! (3.00 / 2) (#56)
by pwhysall on Sun May 22, 2005 at 05:46:38 PM EST

No biscuit!
--
Peter
K5 Editors
I'm going to wager that the story keeps getting dumped because it is a steaming pile of badly formatted fool-meme.
CheeseBurgerBrown
[ Parent ]
Alarmist? (none / 1) (#21)
by Western Infidels on Fri May 20, 2005 at 03:33:42 PM EST

It seems to me that this requires NWS to make its data available to commercial interests, and not to play favorites in doing so. I don't see where it prevents the NWS from making the data available to the public for free, in fact the bit about "...and by such other mechanisms as the Secretary of Commerce considers appropriate..." looks like it would apply to the website.

Not to defend the bill. It's corporate welfare. Why should corporate "citizens" - who work so hard to avoid paying taxes - get the benefit of the tax-supported NWS's data for free?

It already is (none / 1) (#28)
by Stregone on Fri May 20, 2005 at 04:23:54 PM EST

IIRC is already is available to commercial intrests. Your local news station doesn't come up with its whole forcast and satellite imagery from their single doppler radar setup.

[ Parent ]
Sure (none / 0) (#31)
by Western Infidels on Fri May 20, 2005 at 05:42:05 PM EST

I know that, I figured this bill did away with some set of terms or conditions or restrictions or delays etc. that the commercial interests don't like.

[ Parent ]
Prohibition of competition: (3.00 / 3) (#33)
by aphrael on Fri May 20, 2005 at 06:46:15 PM EST

The Secretary of Commerce shall not provide, or assist other entities in providing, a product or service (other than a product or service described in subsection (a)(1)) that is or could be provided by the private sector unless-- (1) the Secretary determines that the private sector is unwilling or unable to provide such product or service; or (2) the United States Government is obligated to provide such product or service under international aviation agreements to provide meteorological services and exchange meteorological information.
So if someone launches a commercial weather satellite, then the NWS is prohibited from making *its* weather satellite available.

[ Parent ]
Sure (none / 0) (#40)
by Western Infidels on Sat May 21, 2005 at 08:40:06 AM EST

Yeah, I read all of that, all right, and that's bad stuff, IMHO.

But other parts of the bill seem to allow partial or full "outs" for the non-compete thing. It says NWS will be responsible for making several types of forecasts, and for distributing them to anyone who wants them. If private entities don't even have comparable data, then only the most tortured of arguments would claim that NWS is competing with private entities by distributing data that only they create.

It's not exactly a model of clarity, is it? I'm not a lawyer, so I don't know how it compares to other laws. I sort of get the feeling, though, that the "non-compete" bit is some boilerplate that's in vogue right now. It seems to me that it's not very applicable in this case.

[ Parent ]

non-competition clause not "boilerplate" (none / 0) (#62)
by emmerson on Mon May 23, 2005 at 12:07:50 PM EST

My understanding of the bill is that the non-competition clause is it's primary reason for existance and not just boilerplate.  IMHO, sites like acuweather.com view sites like www.crh.noaa.gov as competitors and would prefer that they don't exist.

[ Parent ]
Not that it matters. (none / 0) (#37)
by jd on Sat May 21, 2005 at 01:25:25 AM EST

The anti-collision RADAR systems cars are starting to be fitted with are jamming the frequencies weather satelites use for tracking storms and rainfall, so by the time the bill has been passed and enforced, there won't be any good data for people to get from the National Weather Service anyway.

The following is a Weather Announcement (3.00 / 16) (#38)
by Kasreyn on Sat May 21, 2005 at 03:41:07 AM EST

from your friends at Weathercorp!

Our Dopplo-Zoom Radar 3000 system has detected that your city, township, or postal code lies directly in the path of

Would you like to hear the rest of this announcement? Please pay $4.99 by PayPal or watch this short advertisement!

*click*

Bigger. Longer. More powerful. If you haven't considered seeing yourself in the new Ford Excrescence, maybe it's time. Guaranteed not to blow away in high winds.

Thank you! Your city, township, or postal code lies directly in the path of Hurricane Helmut. The National Weather Advisory Association has declared the threat level for your city, township, or postal code to be

Would you like to hear the rest of this announcement? Please pay $19.99 by PayPal or watch this short advertisement!

When raindrops keep falling on MY head, I just pop open my UmbraCorp Watermaster, and my worries are gone! Now with Galemaster wrist strap!

Thank you! The threat level for your city, township, or postal code has been raised to "Red". Severe rainfall and heavy winds are expected to pose serious threats to property and life. Evacuation routes for your city, township, or postal code have been made available at

Would you like to hear the rest of this announcement? Please pay $99.99 by PayPal or join our Premium Weather Club! Thank you!


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
Sure, if they pay for the satellites... (3.00 / 4) (#44)
by claes on Sat May 21, 2005 at 11:13:38 AM EST

the radar system, the supercomputers, and the staff that maintains all that and does the forecasts.

Otherwise it's just more fucking corporate welfare.

-- claes

can someone please update me (2.00 / 2) (#51)
by fluxrad on Sat May 21, 2005 at 03:26:06 PM EST

on where the standings are between Santorum and Hatch for the "biggest douchebag in the universe" award?

--
"It is seldom liberty of any kind that is lost all at once."
-David Hume
Um (1.16 / 6) (#54)
by trhurler on Sun May 22, 2005 at 01:44:25 PM EST

I don't care. Seriously, the government really shouldn't be in the business of providing weather information anyway. To the extent that they gather it, it ought to be for their own needs, and if they can get it from the private sector, they shouldn't do it themselves anyway. This is simply NOT a proper activity for government. Period.

Yes, I know you disagree. That's because you are a conformist mental midget who gladly prostrates himself before the supposed grandeur of statism. Bite me, authoritarian pigdog.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

Dur (none / 0) (#61)
by Shanoyu on Mon May 23, 2005 at 10:16:44 AM EST

Absolutely!  Having reliable, unbiased information for insurance companies to use in risk assessment, or for FEMA to issue warnings from is absolutely none of the Government's business!!!!!!

[ Parent ]
It's Official (2.33 / 3) (#63)
by Western Infidels on Mon May 23, 2005 at 01:15:56 PM EST

trhurler trolls have jumped the shark. Beaten to the exact same punch by a dozen genuine dimwits, trhurler's production house (Pissy White Men LLC) announces a new series:

trhurler: Enterprise (tm)

[ Parent ]

Well, they are consistent (none / 0) (#65)
by Gallowglass on Tue May 24, 2005 at 03:43:55 PM EST

As long as you remember that their philosophy runs along these lines:

  • Democracy = Free Enterprise
  • If no profit is being made, it's not Free Enterprise, and therefore not Democratic1
  • If it isn't Democratic, it must be Gawdless Communism.
So, obviously, this is just Senator Santorum's effort to rescue the American people from Gawdless Communism.

----------------------
1 Well, obviously not that political party full of "Libruls" who love communism, the Anti-Christ and eat babies for breakfast.

The bill seems sound and sensible (none / 0) (#69)
by Frank Anderson on Fri May 27, 2005 at 04:22:56 PM EST

First, lets get two things out of the way. The bill does not interfere with severe weather warning in any way - it has specific exemptions for this. And the portion prohibiting certain disclosures is more like an insider trading ban than "censorship". Does anyone seriously think a NWS employee should be able to abuse his insider knowledge for profit?
Now the main issue is whether the US government should be in the weather publishing business, competing with the innovators who built and invested in that market. We all accept that the government will be in the weather measuring business.
Congress has to guard against the empire-building instinct of civil servants. We could have a "national fast food service" competing with McDonalds, but would we better of for it?
Dealing with the public is a fundamentally different job from gathering weather data. It involves sales, marketing, risk reduction, branding, building value around information products - all things that are better left to a private company.
The last thing we need is a government that notices innovative companies and jumps into competition with them.

The difference (none / 0) (#72)
by 5inay on Mon May 30, 2005 at 11:52:41 PM EST

So you're saying the NWS should continue to gather data but not publish them so that you have to pay a private corporation to show you data that your tax dollars paid for?

Also, the NWS radio service has existed way before weather.com or any of the other businesses whom you claim have been "innovators" in this field.

[ Parent ]

Paying a private corporation is reasonable (none / 0) (#78)
by Frank Anderson on Fri Jun 03, 2005 at 01:59:08 PM EST

When Congress (which is paid for by taxes) is discussing a new bill, how do you usually find out about it? Isn't it usually through "paying a private corporation" - that is, the news media? Would you rather have a government media like Pravda?
Also, the NWS radio service has existed way before weather.com...
A narrow point, surely. I don't think they had the brand awareness and market penetration of weather.com.

[ Parent ]
Public funds should promote the public good (none / 0) (#73)
by jiuyen on Tue May 31, 2005 at 12:55:34 PM EST

Knowledge of the weather is a public good. It promotes not only economic productivity (think of construction or event planning) but also plain old quality of living (should I take an umbrella with me? should I dress the kids in an extra layer?).

As a public good, knowledge of the weather should be promoted with public funds. Nothing says that the NWS has to compete with services like Accuweather through marketing or branding. Making information merely available is very different than trying to build a business around it.

[ Parent ]

knowledge should trump ideology (none / 0) (#75)
by emmerson on Wed Jun 01, 2005 at 10:08:59 AM EST

You've got your history backwards.  The NWS was in the weather publishing business (as you call it) long before Accuweather or The Weather Channel.

Also, your list of differences between "gathering weather data" and "dealing with the public" is misguided.  In order to forecast the weather, the NWS must do much, much more than simply "gather the data".  Indeed, for its own purposes the NWS must do over 99.99% of what would be necessary in order to present that information to the public (think of NWS employees as an "internal" public -- there are external contractual obligations with other institutions as well).  Commercial interests want to undo that 0.01% investment that makes the internal products publically visible -- something which might have been done by a couple of programmers over some weekends.

I speak only for myself.

[ Parent ]

The bill MAKES NWS into a publisher (none / 0) (#76)
by jolly st nick on Wed Jun 01, 2005 at 12:42:02 PM EST

Now the main issue is whether the US government should be in the weather publishing business,

But they're not. They aren't selling weather data now. They're just making the data which "we all accept" they should be collecting available to us, which seems fair since we've paid for it with our tax dollars.

However, what this bill is about is really about forcing the NWS into the weather publishing business.

Sure, you're going to have a portal designed for "volume access by commercial providers of products or services". But does anyone seriously think that putting the data into an inconvenient format will stop private citizens from getting access to it? No, the only way you're going to make it impractical to get data except through a commercial provider is to charge for it. Furthermore, you're not going to charge the economically rational price that maximizes your return. The law dictates we do this in a way that ensures the public doesn't find the service directly useful, so, you're going to have to package and price the data in a way that is specifically designed to mimimize its value to the public, e.g. making only country wide data available and charging $50,000 a year.

In effect this bill would turn the NWS into a subsidized wholesaler of weather data. Even if I'm wrong about charging for data, that only means the subsidy is 100%.

This bill is clearly not about the government doing what is best for the public good. The public good is best served by people having information that is relevant to their decision making; making them pay for it doesn't make the public better informed. It only benefits a specific group that would like to enhance the value of their (already profitable) business. I have no problem with the government helping them do that, so long as it isn't otherwise against the public interest.

Now, suppose your ideology says that it is wrong for people to derive benefit diretly from government activities without going through a private third party. While I can't imagine the rational basis for such an ideology, let's take this as given. Let us also presume that while according to this principle the government then has to exclude some parties from accessing the data directly, it should not exercise this exclusion in an arbitrary way, for example according to political influence. Finally, let's assume that deliberate technological inconvenience is a form of arbitrary discrimination and not likely to work anyway. How do we provide the data public while excluding the public in a incontestably fair way?

Simple: auction the exclusive annual rights to weather data on a county by county basis. If the Times Picayune is the high bidder for the southern LA parishes, anybody who wants a US Government forecast is going to have to go through them. Sat images would be handled differently; exclusive rights could be bought to a hemisphere for a month perhaps. Maybe individual images would be auctioned. Possibly you could bid on individual tiles of images, or exclusive access to some geographic area; since this would be of limited public use, we'd expect that you'd enter some cross licensing deal. Play your cards right and you'd make a killing. In fact post auction cross licensing would be expected for all kinds of data.

None of this matters to us. We're just charging what will maximize our return and get the public data in a way that is the most morally acceptable.

This apporoach meet our criteria for non-favoritism, compensate the taxpayers for the money they put into creating the data, and eliminate any artificial subsidies to resellers of our data. However, I don't think Accuweather or The Weather Channel would like that idea.

Unless you build and use a distribution mechanism around maximizing the proceeds of selling this data, you are either subsidizing or taxing the use of this data. If you are going to subsidize the use of this data, what possible reason is there to favor one kind of use over another? That is to say, why should somebody who wants to repackage the data be treated more favorably than somebody who wants to use it in some other way?

Congress has to guard against the empire-building instinct of civil servants.

As well as the instinct of its members from using national property as a private piggy bank they can reward their friends from.

We could have a "national fast food service" competing with McDonalds, but would we better of for it?

I wholeheartedly agree. If the government, as a part of its normal operations, generated an endless supply of hamburgers, then I don't want the government selling them. I want the government to let any citizen at all to take all the hamburgers he wanted. McDonalds can survive by packaging them with fries and a soft drink, adding its special sauce, and building indoor playgrounds so my kids whine to get their government issue hamburgers there. If McDonalds were really in the hamburger business, they'd still be a small restaurant in San Bernadino.

[ Parent ]

Agreed - Auction is better (none / 0) (#77)
by Frank Anderson on Fri Jun 03, 2005 at 01:51:17 PM EST

I think you're right that an auction would better serve the taxpayers. It would encourage the "owner" to invest heavily in improving its weather publishing business, knowing that it has protection. However I think the proposed "wholesaling" approach is still pretty good. It is analogous to the newswires like AP and Reuters, which sell the same info to multiple "retailers" of news.
As for this:
I want the government to let any citizen at all to take all the hamburgers he wanted.
How do you manage that process? How big a depot do you need to build, how many staff does it need? When competing parties show up with 18-wheelers, how do you arbitrate? My point is, it rapidly becomes a cost center. When the government sells surplus material now, it generally only sells in large lots to companies that will take on this burden of disaggregating and retailing. And that is smart.

[ Parent ]
Government as subsidized wholesaler? (none / 0) (#79)
by jolly st nick on Sun Jun 05, 2005 at 09:36:26 AM EST

However I think the proposed "wholesaling" approach is still pretty good.

I have to disagree. ONce you go down the route of subsidizing private businesses, why shouldn't everybody be subsidized? Why should the government be in the business of endorsing one form of economic use of the data over the another?

How do you manage that process? How big a depot do you need to build, how many staff does it need?...My point is, it rapidly becomes a cost center.

Well, we don't have to be coy about this, imaginging all kinds of complicated infrastructure that a business would need in order to attract customers. I think just letting the public into the warehouse is fine. Sure, you'd spend something I suppose, but if the cost is less than, say 1% of creating the hamburgers in the first place, and/or less than 1% of the benefit of the public having access to them, I think there's no rational basis for preventing the private sector from deciding on how the byproducts of government activities are best exploited.

And, in any case, we aren't talking about eliminating data distribution as a cost center. We're talking about simply intervening so that only favored parties can access the data, a process that seems to me likely to cost as much or more.

When the government sells surplus material now, it generally only sells in large lots to companies that will take on this burden of disaggregating and retailing.

I agree this is a smart way to handle surplus goods. But physical goods are different from information. Information requries work to turn into a product. I think the government should not be in the business of productizing information. Furthermore, I don't think it should intervene in the markets to assist private entities in the productizing of information. As it is, private entities are productizing that information and building profitable business models around adding value to it. The government should not lift a finger to stop them, nor should it lift a finger to help them.

[ Parent ]

National Weather Service Public Forecasts to be Gutted? | 79 comments (73 topical, 6 editorial, 0 hidden)
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