Friday, April 22, 2005

Weather Reports As Private Commodity?

Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania is a moron. You might have realized that already, but I figured I'd remind you. Josh Marshall, picking up the story from The Carpetbagger Report, has the scoop on Santorum moving to block the National Weather Service from providing free weather forecasting online as it is unfair for the federal government to compete with private entities like The Weather Channel or AccuWeather.

Now, you'd probably expect me to say that this is completely without merit. Well, it's not. There have been a few isolated cases in a few industries around the country where private providers of services have worked with state and local government agencies, done something to irritate them, and the public agencies turn around and start providing the same services as the private companies in direct competition. While this isn't really legal, it's not as if anyone is going to prosecute the government agencies. I'm a progressive, but I'm not entirely comfortable with governments at any level getting into things like that.

However, providing information is not the same thing as providing goods and services. The information business is largely about packaging, marketing, and providing context. That's what The Weather Channel and AccuWeather do, providing driving recommendations, travel and flight information, etc.. The National Weather Service, on the other hand, provides more-or-less raw data -- temperatures, precipitation, atmospheric conditions. Also, the National Weather Service did not start with the intent of competing with private businesses. It's not as if they provide these types of contextual tools, nor do they make any money from their website, depriving the private providers of the advertising revenue that sustain their free web operations. Both AccuWeather and The Weather Channel, I think it's fair to guess, are pre-dated by the federal government. Just a hunch.

I don't think Santorum (or whatever idiots supports him on this bill) has really given much thought to what kind of precedent this would set. Here are just two other examples of government entities that provide free information that is otherwise sold for profit by private interests:

- The CIA. The CIA's World Factbook is one of the most thorough, ideologically balanced sources of political, economic, and social information on the internet. It is, of course, free. As such, I assume Rick Santorum would have it shut down as creating unfair competition for salesmen of the World Book Encyclopedia.

- The FEC. The Federal Election Commission provides free public information about political fundraising and giving. Since it's free, Rick Santorum would probably argue that it's creating unfair competition for, which also gives away the same data, but generates advertising revenue from its website in the process.

I really hope that this bill makes some major waves in the media (though I doubt it will, as it involves actually explaining somewhat complex ideas and illustrating them with thoughtful examples). The blind worship of free markets in certain sectors of the Republican Party is getting worse by the minute. And this bill is such a perfect example of greedy Republicans trying to help their cronies take a profit in each and every way they can. It looks terrible for Santorum of course, but it reinforces every widely held negative belief Americans still harbor about the Republican Party. Crackpots like Santorum, DeLay, and Frist are a cancer on the body of what should be an otherwise healthy GOP. If that party doesn't act now and remove those tumors, they're dead.

posted by Scott | 4/22/2005 | |

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Tom DeLay, Asshole With Gun

One of the main reasons I haven't been too active with the posts lately is that I've been utterly dismayed at some of the garbage going on in Washington. Between Tom DeLay and Bill Frist, I must have written drafts of about twenty different stories and then not posted them because the situations had since gotten inexplicably worse.

Essentially, the Republican Party has been doing an awesome job of dismantling itself and really hasn't needed my help.

Still, I figured I owe everyone something to make visiting DemWatch worthwhile, so here it is:

Tom DeLay might be funny if he wasn't so damned powerful. Chew on this little snippet from his speech to the NRA, emphasis mine:

DeLay only briefly mentioned the ethics accusations, telling members of the gun-rights group that he appreciated their support.

"When a man is in trouble or in a good fight, he wants all of his friends around him, particularly armed," the Republican from nearby Sugar Land said. "So I'm in good company tonight."
Does this mean that when the feds come to haul off DeLay, he's going to be surrounded by a bunch of rabid conservatives with rifles? What then? A repeat of Waco? It's only fitting, I guess, as DeLay seems to be sliding more and more into cult leader territory.

When I was in high school, I was a punk rocker. I got along with plenty of other kids, from nerds to fellow freaks to jocks. Of course, there were a few jerks who apparently took particular offense to my spikey blue hair and taste in music. By and large, there was very little actual violence directed towards me, but there were plenty of threats. And now, just like when I was sixteen, I've had it with the threats. It's time for these psychos to put up or shut up with their macho BS. And again, just like when I was sixteen, I'm betting big on these big mouth, big money morons turning tail and slinking away.

Paper tigers fold easily -- even when they come armed with muskets.

posted by Scott | 4/17/2005 | |
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