“Experts” that are Misinformed, Ideologues: An Anecdote.

If there is one thing about North Dakota and the Federal Government that is true, it’s that the state often gets more out of it than it gives. It is reasonable to assert that when it comes to the distribution of federal money, the state’s Senators know how to pedal influence.

Its clear, though, from the recent presidential campaign that pork barrel spending has become both relative to personal gain and a pejorative. As per standard practice, the media and legislatures turn to self-described experts to parse large, obfuscated questions, in our case, the budget. Enter in Citizens Against Government Waste, an organization whose libertarian tendancies show themselves in the following statement against net neutrality:

If net neutrality is enacted, Congress itself will become the gatekeeper by imposing restrictive and unnecessary controls. Any attempt to regulate the Internet would create an unneeded layer of government bureaucracy on a technology that has thrived precisely because regulations have been absent

CAGW President Tom Schatz – http://www.sys-con.com/node/368144

This principle is outside even the libertarian norm of the internet. However, this would be fine and moot if it didn’t reveal a likely bias against public goods. Herein lies two revealed issues:

1.) CAGW cannot possibly know everything about the use of every budget program.
2.) CAGW is unlikely to fully appreciate the use of particular programs.

Herein lines the case in point which drives my post and the hopes that this turns high in a google search. In the most recent report (http://www.cagw.org/site/PageServer?pagename=reports_pigbook2009), CAGW cites UND’s AgCam project as an egregious example of pork spending with the following statement:

$3,000,000 by Senate CJS Appropriations Subcommittee member Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) and Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) for the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks to help make data received from NASA satellite images more accessible to the public.

CAGW then glibly remarks:

Apparently the two senators have not heard of NASA TV. According to the NASA website, “The NASA TV Public and Educational channels are ‘free-to-air,’ meaning your cable or satellite service provider can carry them at no cost.” Interested viewers should contact their local cable or satellite service provider to get NASA TV, and ask the senators for a rebate of their share of that $3 million.

The problem being that as someone linked to members of the project and the department, I understand this is a gross mischaracterization of the AgCam project — as if it was some public access channel.

As to not belabor this, I’ll cite the AgCam’s UMAC page (http://www.umac.org/sensors/agcam/overview.html) for its legitimate purpose:

From onboard the International Space Station, the Agricultural Camera will take frequent images in response to requests from farmers, ranchers, foresters, natural resource managers, and tribal officials of the region to help improve their environmental stewardship of the land for which they are responsible. Imagery will also be shared with K-12 educators for classroom use.

Existing medium-high resolution orbiting sensors (Landsat, ASTER) are used extensively in applications related to agricultural production and efficiency, though at a temporal resolution of at best only every 8 days; this can be problematic for geographical areas with seasonal cloudiness during critical growing season time periods. High-temporal imaging (multi-week to multi-day) by AgCam from the ISS will dramatically increase temporal opportunities to obtain cloud-free images at spatial resolutions and wavelengths applicable for analysis of in-field variability of crop and range vegetative conditions.

Agricultural production conditions are highly dynamic from year to year, and are dependent on soils, crop or forage type, disease or infestations, management practices, and dominantly, the weather. Collecting AgCam data over 3 full growing seasons will allow investigations across a range of variables and in-field conditions.

So, in summation, the infrastructure of policy criticism reflects the culture they rail against — individuals isolated from the outside by ideology and a lack of appropriate education speaking on issues they should not.

(Normally I would not care, however CAGW’s tone is offensive and full of hubris. My hope is to end up with a high enough page rank in google for this misinformation is matched.)