Sunday, June 13, 2010

Does the FTC want to make this illegal?

Does the FTC want to make this illegal? Or just tax it out of existence?

From the Washington Times

"The bureaucracy sees it as a problem that the Internet has introduced a wealth of information options to consumers, forcing media companies to adapt and experiment to meet changing market needs."

"In other words, government policy would encourage a tax on websites like the Drudge Report... Such a tax would hit other news aggregators, such as Digg, Fark and Reddit,"

Thursday, June 10, 2010

BP and Capitalism (or lack thereof)

Once a government pet, BP now a capitalist tool

By: Timothy P. Carney

Examiner Columnist

June 9, 2010


“Lobbying records show that BP is no free-market crusader, but instead a close friend of big government whenever it serves the company’s bottom line.
While BP has resisted some government interventions, it has lobbied for tax hikes, greenhouse gas restraints, the stimulus bill, the Wall Street bailout, and subsidies for oil pipelines, solar panels, natural gas and biofuels. ..BP was a founding member of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership (USCAP), a lobby dedicated to passing a cap-and-trade bill.”

Timothy P. Carney: Republicans should end the Big Oil bailout

By: Timothy P. Carney

Examiner Columnist

May 21, 2010


“The federal government has no business protecting BP from paying for the harm it has done to shrimp fisherman. The liability cap and the spill fund are subsidies for oil drilling. In a free market, oil companies would have to buy more insurance to cover the cost of a potential spill. In other words, a free market in oil drilling would mean no liability cap, no 8-cents-a-barrel tax, and no special fund whereby careful drillers pay for sloppy spillers.”

Oil spills, movie stars, robot unicorns and regulation


“Even before the current oil spill into the Gulf of Mexico it was well understood that drilling offshore sometimes results in spills. The current oil spill in the news has brought the idea of spills to the attention of many, many more people, people who don’t usually think too much about these things. But it isn’t obvious to me that the spill should cause us to revise our estimates of the likelihood of spills, or otherwise alter any of the factors that go into well reasoned policy analysis. And if all of the inputs going into a well-reasoned policy analysis stay the same, then the policy recommendation should stay the same too…. you should identify the new policy-relevant information upon which you base your call for changes. Or, in other words, you should specify what was wrong with your understanding of offshore oil development as of about two months ago, and then explain how correcting that mistake leads you to favor more restrictive regulations.”

In a Truly Free Market, BP Would Be Toast


“Advocates for the regulatory state are fond of complaining that things like the financial meltdown, the BP oil spill, and the like, are the result of an “unregulated marketplace.” But it was federal loan guarantees that first made securitized mortgages into a marketable asset. And I wouldn’t consider a $75 million cap on liability to be exactly “laissez-faire.”…What passed for federal regulations were ineffectual because, among other things, it’s not the federal government’s own money that’s at risk. Things get downright chummy between regulators and regulated. Inspectors sleeping with executives and snorting crystal meth off of toaster ovens is what you call a “public-private partnership,” I guess.”

“But if relations between regulators and regulated aren’t really all that adversarial, you know what is adversarial? Relations between insurers and the insured… Insurance companies take the kind of adversarial attitude toward the insured that liberals only wish government regulators took toward regulated industries.”

Susatainable Ag & Biotech Headlines

Unexpected support for biotechnology

Jun 7, 2010 10:00 AM, By Hembree Brandon, Farm Press Editorial Staff (link)

“Amid all the yammering by the anti-pesticide crowd and those who would return agriculture to the days of mules, manure, and muscle, there have, of late, been some rays of reason from unexpected sources — New Yorkers. The stakes are too high, the Times asserts, “for us not to make the best use of genetic engineering. If we fail to invest responsibly in agricultural research, if we continue to allow propaganda to trump science, then the potential for global agriculture to be productive, diverse, and sustainable will go unfulfilled.”

Scary Food Fear of biotech may get you sick

By Henry I. Miller and Gregory Conko (link)

“Companies that insist upon farmers’ using production techniques that involve foreseeable harms to the environment and humans may be — we would argue, should be — legally accountable for that decision. If agricultural processors and food companies manage to avoid legal liability for their insistence on nonbiotech crops, they will be “guilty” at least of externalizing their environmental costs onto the farmers, the environment, and society at large.“

Langer: Agriculture’s Future Is Steeped in Science

By Andrew Langer

Special to Roll Call (link)


“Setting a precedent of rationality is all the more reason for the USDA to focus on the science as it makes a final decision on RRA. American jobs are at stake, as well as the ability for each of us to feed our families in this difficult economic time. Unscientific claims must not be allowed to justify rejecting a product that makes our food friendlier to the environment and the family budget.”

Sound Science on Trial

The Daily Caller By Amy Kaleita June 4, 2010 (link)

“ Activists especially want to import EU-style bans on genetically modified crops, pesticides and other technologies that are integral parts of many of today’s farming operations. And they are increasingly finding allies within Congress and the regulatory agencies who want to follow their lead. Only one real obstacle remains in their way—a vast body of sound science practices developed by independent scientists at the EPA and their advisors……….In this way, “inflammatory” accusations and “provocative conclusions without supporting data” may ultimately trump science-based regulatory policy as it has always been practiced in the United States and open the door up for a very different kind of regulation — one based on which activist group screams the loudest and is most effective at instilling unjustified fears in the name of “precaution.”

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Agvocates Could Face New Speech Tax

In a previous Agweb post I pointed out how new social media technology has allowed farmers and industry advocates to take a stand in great numbers against many short sighted views and elitist agendas. I’m not sure this would have been possible with traditional media.

The problem is many commentators only like to talk about having intellectual discussions about the issues they support (climate change, biotechnology, soda taxes, gun control, regulation, bailouts, stimulus) but they never actually want to engage in discussions about them. That way, they can always claim ownership of 'science' and 'intellect' but never show their cards revealing how empirically depraved their policies really are. The recent media coverage (more like libelous slander) and discussion about Rand Paul is a case in point.

In a recent TIME magazine article Thomas Woods illustrates the problem:

"It is true that there are certain things that libertarians believe that will seem just shocking and scandalous to most people unless we're given 10 minutes to explain ourselves, but that's about nine minutes more than anyone in modern politics gets.”

Instead of engaging Rand Paul in a discussion about constitutional principles and economic theory critics in the media preferred to limit the conversation to a proxy name calling session that left the public with impressions of extremism and racism. With traditional media, it is very difficult to get the whole story. We’ve seen this lot in agriculture with celebrity authors and novelty film makers in how they depict the industry.(like the recent articles in TIME magazine, movies like King Corn, and HBO specials on factory farms) But with the new liberated social media, lots of viewpoints can be shared and evidence can be vetted.This is likely reason so many Americans turn to alternative media for their news, as indicated by a Zogby poll back in 2008 that found:

(the) “Internet is the top source of news for nearly half of Americans; Survey finds two-thirds dissatisfied with the quality of journalism” and “67% View Traditional Journalism as “Out of Touch”

A genuinely educated electorate (thanks to alternative media) easily finds flaws in tired political tactics. As I mentioned in a past post, politicians are starting to be held accountable for making up their own facts to support things like soda taxes and climate change legislation. At first alternative media was embraced by many politicians, thinking that enlightened minds would translate into overwhelming support (and money) for their policies. Now politicians and commentators have realized that free speech and 'liberated minds' could make it difficult to force feed policy agendas to voters armed with information. One thing this has also shown is how robust and competitive the market for news and information has become with new technology. This undermines any logical support for free speech infringing ideas like imposing the 'fairness doctrine' on talk radio. In response we are starting to see lots of ideas proposed to get a handle on the mass use of alternative media in the exercise of free speech.

From a recent article in the Washington Times:

"The bureaucracy sees it as a problem that the Internet has introduced a wealth of information options to consumers, forcing media companies to adapt and experiment to meet changing market needs."

"In other words, government policy would encourage a tax on websites like the Drudge Report... Such a tax would hit other news aggregators, such as Digg, Fark and Reddit,"

"A 5 percent tax on consumer electronic devices such as iPads, Kindles and laptops ..Other taxes might be levied on the radio and television spectrum, advertising and cell phones."

Already, hidden taxes on data have been incorporated into past proposed federal budgets. An article from Reuters last year indicates that yearly fees for spectrum licenses are proposed to rise 1000% over the next decade.

With increased use of alternative media, falling poll numbers, and an electoral war being waged against incumbent candidates, alternative media has become America’s next great villain. Perhaps in the minds of the Cass Sunstein’s of the world it needs its own version of a sin tax to nudge us into viewing only government approved websites and blogs.

‘Congress shall make no law .. abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble.’ Constitution of the United States


Obama proposes to boost public airwaves fees


Thu Feb 26, 2009 4:48pm

FTC floats Drudge tax

Journalism can reinvent itself without government 'help'

The Washington Times June 4,2010

How the Pauls (Ron and Rand) Are Reshaping Politics

TIME By Michael Crowley May 27,2010

Friday, June 04, 2010

Superimposed Overlapping Kernal Density Plots

Below is a histogram of Garst corn yields (simulated data) and KDE plots for Round Up Ready (RR) non RR and all plots superimposed in one graph. (click to enlarge)

The R package Rattle will do this via the R Data Miner Gui, but I wanted to know how to do it without having to pull up the GUI each time. I thought the code would be more difficult than what it was, but it didn't take me long to figure it out.

When reading the documentation provided by the Data Mining Survivor guide, or one of these sources, I remember authors talking about how useful the Rattle log would be for learning R. I didn't think I'd learn much R this way, but I've been very surprised. For this graphic it was just a matter of copying code from the log and pasting into the R scripting window and making a few changes.