Monthly Archives: February 2013

Monsanto, Seeds and Patents

David and Goliath

And David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone and slung it and struck the Philistine on his forehead.

I have to believe that anyone whose heard of the story of the farmer in Indiana that has been sued by Monsanto has, in some way, resonated with the story of David vs. Goliath.  The simple old farmer vs. the giant corporation.

The story:

For years, Bowman has purchased the seeds from Monsanto for his first crop and he has abided by the technology agreement.

But like some other farmers, he sometimes plants a second crop of soybeans in a practice called “late season planting.” Because the late season planting is risky due to a short growing time and the threat of drought, Bowman didn’t want to invest in the expensive soy bean seed for the second planting.

He had an idea: He would save money and buy a mix of unlabeled seed from a grain elevator, hoping that most of it would be Roundup resistant. After harvesting that crop he would save the progeny and replant it.

“I didn’t look at it as a loophole,” Bowman said outside court today. He said the Monsanto patent was abandoned once the soybean reached the grain elevator.

To his credit, Bowman did what farmers have been doing for years; purchasing grain from an elevator to plant.  On top of that, farmers have also held back some of their harvest themselves for planting later.  Both of which are illegal under Monsanto’s licensing.  The other step Mr. Bowman took?  He asked Monsanto for legal guidance.

At first blush I sided with the farmer.  After all, how crazy is it that a man can’t plant the harvest of his own field?  And how long, exactly, does a company have claim to the seed that originated in their laboratory?

I wondered if there were any other such examples in all of history?

The answer?  Yes, of course there are many.

  • Stories
  • Songs
  • Sketches
  • Paintings
  • Pictures
  • Poems
  • Computer programs
  • Movies

All of these products carry with them the inability of the purchaser to reproduce without the permission of the creator of the piece.  Can you imagine the consequences if an author lost ownership of her story just because she sold it to a bookstore?  Why, that bookstore could copy and resell that story as often as they wanted.

An artist who created a song or an album?  It’s illegal to copy that art and then resell it.

And yes, in those cases it can be argued that the artist or author DID sell it to a clearing house and allow that clearing house the ability to reproduce.  But consider a photographer.  After a sitting that photographer owns the pictures and sells a subset to the client.  And that client does not have the legal right to reproduce that photo, of herself that she paid for.

Legal questions aside, what are the ramifications to the industry is David slays Goliath?  Why, Goliath will stop innovating new seeds that generate larger and larger harvests, are more resistant to disease and blight and allow an easier time to grow and harvest.

Innovation will surely slow down if not cease.

That, or innovation will INCREASE in the form of seeds that are modified in such a way that their progeny will not sprout when planted.

In the end, Monsanto owns the license to that feed and can sell it under any contract it desires.  We can not expect a seed company to allow its customers to copy and reproduce its work anymore than we would expect a young artist to sell her painting and allow the purchaser to print it by the thousands.

Barack Obama Commenting On Barack Obama’s Plan

Barack Obama commenting on the upcoming sequestration:

Let’s look at that again.  Here’s what he is saying will get cut:

  • Military Readiness
  • Job Creating Investments
  • Emergency responder’s ability to help communities to respond to and recover from disasters.
  • Border patrol agents
  • FBI Agents
  • Federal prosecutors
  • Air Traffic Controllers
  • Airport Security
  • Thousands of teachers and educators
  • Tens of thousands of parents who need childcare
  • Hundreds of thousands of Americans who need primary care and preventive care
  • Navy’s ability to deploy aircraft carriers to critical locations

This is an extraordinary laundry list.  Some thoughts:

  • Sequestration is NOT a cut in spending.  It is a reduction in the amount we are going to INCREASE spending.
  • Over a decade.
  • If this is the apocalyptic vision of America when we’re looking at $85 billion, what is that saying about our general overall financial health?
  • This might be minor, and he may means something else, but I don’t think the federal government pays teachers.

How Does The Minimum Wage Help Those It Intends To Help

Minimum Wage

I started blogging after the last minimum wage legislation was proposed, debated, voted on and then passed.  So I missed the massive onslaught of economic debate surrounding it.  However, I have certainly enjoyed reading this round.

What I do remember reading from the debate as the wage was being implemented was that unemployment rates for certain “at risk” groups was increasing.  This struck me as somewhat disingenuous due to the fact that the minimum wage was being uplifted right in the teeth of the recession.  However, Mark Perry at Carpe Diem posted data that showed what I was beginning to think.  Mainly, how much worse was it for those groups than for the population as a whole?

The concept is “Excess Unemployment” and is described as taking the difference between the unemployment rate for the general public and the group being described.  However, even this statistic understates the impact because these groups contribute to the rate in general.  A better metric would be to show the difference of the group and then the public at large without that group influencing the number.  Further understating the data is the fact that we include states and cities that already have wages set HIGHER than the federal minimum wage.  Taking those locales into account would only make the data all the more striking.

So, which groups are likely “targets” of the minimum wage?  Young workers, black workers and undereducated workers.  Here is the devastating impact for each:

Teen Excess Unemployment.2013.01

The data is showing excess unemployment for employees 16 years of age to 19.

Now, to those employees who are black:

Black Excess Unemployment.2013.01

Just as the minimum wage is effectively repealed due to inflation the black excess unemployment spikes up as the minimum wage rises.  And then, of course, the unmistakable impact in recent years.

Finally the undereducated:

Undereducated Excess Unemployment.2013.01

Honest to God.  If you wanted to craft a policy that would hurt the most vulnerable among us could you think of one that would gather as much support and be so accepted as the minimum wage?

We Can’t Be Racist If We Call You Racist

I’ve been watching the whole series of “The West Wing”.  Its a great series, I loved it then and I like it even more now.  Sadly, even as I obtained the ability to rip scenes from my DVDs, YouTube has objected claiming copyright infringement.  And I don’t wanna take material that isn’t mine so….

The scene is this:

There is a party going on and Sam is entertaining an old professor of his.  This professor wants funding for his project.

Sam’s advice, his comment?

What are you for?

Sam’s point is that if you want something, all you have to do is stake ground that you are FOR something and then cast your opponent as against it.  And that has summed up the liberal left’s attack on reality.  What are you against?

See, if the conversation can be shaped into one where there is a good guy and a bad guy, and you simply make sure that you are the good guy, then whatever it is that you are proposing is “good.”

For example:

A student at Eagle Rock Junior High won first prize at the Greater Idaho Falls Science Fair, April 26. He was attempting to show how conditioned we have become to alarmists practicing junk science and spreading fear of everything in our environment. In his project he urged people to sign a petition demanding strict control or total elimination of the chemical “dihydrogen monoxide.”

And for plenty of good reasons, since:

  1. it can cause excessive sweating and vomiting
  2. it is a major component in acid rain
  3. it can cause severe burns in its gaseous state
  4. accidental inhalation can kill you
  5. it contributes to erosion
  6. it decreases effectiveness of automobile brakes
  7. it has been found in tumors of terminal cancer patients

He asked 50 people if they supported a ban of the chemical.

  • Forty-three (43) said yes,
  • six (6) were undecided,
  • and only one (1) knew that the chemical was water.

This is where I think that left is playing fast and loose with race.  See, the left sells this notion of a minimum wage as a way out for minorities and the poorest among us.  In reality, the minimum wage traps those very people into a continuous cycle of unemployment and dependence.  And who wins?

The rich elite labor leaders who just so happen to mobilize to elect those very same democrats and siphon millions upon millions of dollars from their ranks into the coffers of democrats across the country.

Witness one man’s explanation:

The minimum wage is one of the most effective tools for racism in the world.

Pond Hockey

Okay, so not really pond hockey, but close.  There were two games played outside on Sunday in Chicago.  Minnesota got the late game with Wisconsin, Minnesota losing 2-3.

I’m pretty sure the hype of the game is better than the game itself.  Two things immediately jumped out at me; the crowd and the ice.  With the crowd being relegated to the stands at Soldier Field, there was no fan element on the boards.  And that surprisingly made a difference to the flavor of the game.   I’ve always said that there is no better game in pro sports that play-off NHL hockey.  A close second is college hockey.  And to lose the fan element is not worth the game.

Second, the ice made a remarkable difference; that may have been the point.  It was messy and slushy and in the first game, almost unplayable.  I joke when the weather gets down to 25 here in Carolina that it’s “too hot to play hockey.”  And it is.  The ice is simply too soft, turns into a snow cone mess and turns the game from hockey into something else.

I was annoyed that we lost but was even more annoyed that a great rivalry game was taken away from the fans and a gimmick game took away from normal quality conditions.

One last thing, they kept talking about the cold.  The players had extra gear on, the Badgers had Packer’s cold weather jackets and even the benches had warm air blowing on ’em with feet heaters on the floor boards.

It was 26-28 freakin’ degrees!

Back when I played hockey we were in sleeves, no coats, at 10 and some of us took off our sweaters at 15.  Zero was cold but not painfully.  Not until negative numbers did we need the warming house.  I was gonna crack on the players for not knowing this, but then I realized that these kids have probably been playing advanced organized hockey all their lives.  Which means regulated indoor rinks with glass ice.  I’m not sure how many of them ever played night hockey on a frozen sheet of water subject to wind, snow and the cycle of afternoon melt and night freeze.

Anyway, fun to watch college hockey for a change.




Jack Lew Grilled Over Perfectly Legal Investment

Jack Lew

Jack Lew has been nominated to run the Treasury Department.  Last week he went before his congressional committee for intense questioning.  Among other things, Mr. Lew was forced to answer questions regarding a $56,000 investment:

 President Obama’s nominee to lead the Treasury Department defended his $56,000 investment in a Cayman Islands fund at his confirmation hearing on Wednesday, saying he was unaware it was based in a nation famous for having offshore tax havens.

“I always reported all income, I always paid all taxes,” he said. “I was aware that it was an international fund investing in emerging markets … I actually didn’t know [its location] at the time.”

Seriously.  Lew was forced to endure question regarding a 56k investment in a legal fund established in the Caymans.  This isn’t a case where the funds should have been taxed and Lew cheated to avoid paying money that he owed.  No.  This is the case of a man making intelligent decisions balancing risk with reward and diversifying his portfolio.

This is what people who have money, often why people HAVE money to begin with, do to make sure they will continue to have more money later.

Now, to be sure, the only reason -I’ll give ’em the benefit of the doubt- that the republicans went after Lew is because Obama demonized Mitt Romney during the campaign for the exact same reason; his off-shore Cayman investments.

And if THAT wasn’t enough, the republicans kept at it:

Lew also addressed a bonus of nearly $1 million he received as Citigroup was receiving billions in government support amid the financial crisis. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) questioned whether it was “morally acceptable” for Lew to accept a bonus at Citi briefly before the bank tapped the government for billions of dollars in bailout relief. Lew said his compensation was not out of the norm at the time, and that he disclosed everything as he should.

“I was compensated for my work,” he said, adding that he was aware that Citi was about to receive a large federal guarantee when he received the bonus.

“I do believe it was comparable for people in positions like mine in the industry,” he added. “I don’t think there’s anything that hasn’t been fully transparent both in what I did and what I earned.”

Surely I’m aware of the beautiful bitter irony, but just because a democrat NOW is speaking truth doesn’t mean that he’s wrong to say it.  Listen to what he’s saying, “I have a job maybe not 1,000 people in America could do as well as I do it.  And for that, I get compensated.  Of COURSE I feel justified in cashing that check.”

I don’t know, maybe politics demands that the questions be asked and answered.  While Lew played stupid on the Cayman island thing, and we can’t use stupid to defeat democrats, he did provide ammunition in the class-war that the left is waging.

Maybe it’s worth it, but I wish we governed in a way and manner in which we didn’t need that.

Quotes From Carpe Diem

Anytime I get a good chuckle out of reading economic news and political soap-operas, I have to post.  Today I have two, both from Mark Perry over at Carpe Diem:

The First:

It’s hard to believe that this is the same paper that hosts former economist Paul Krugman, but check out this shocking New York Times staff editorial arguing against raising the minimum wage because it’s a fundamentally flawed solution to overcoming poverty.

I love the idea of referring to Krugman as a former economist.

The Second:

I’ve found that somebody’s position on the minimum wage is a pretty good “litmus test” of a person’s ability to understand basic economic principles and think logically.  Those who support increases in the minimum wage demonstrate their inability to think clearly, logically and rationally, and their inability to understand basic economic theory.  Supporters of the minimum wage embrace emotional “thinking” over truly rational thinking, and generally therefore really can’t be taken seriously. Just my opinion.

Runnin’ With The Devil

Dick Cheney

I wonder if Obama ever thought that a policy he campaigned against would be supported by the man he vilified:

Former Vice President Dick Cheney became the highest profile Bush Administration official to come out in support of President Obama’s drone targeted killings policy when he dismissed concerns about “checks and balances” and explained on CBS This Morning that Obama’s “paid to make difficult, difficult decisions.”

Even Karl Rove agrees with Obama on this.  If nothing else, pure tribe warfare dictates that the left MUST go crazy about Obama’s drone strikes.

Tar Heel Red Apiary

Bee Hive

I’ve decided to expand the Tar Heel Red home this spring.  I had originally wanted to build a chicken coop but mamma put the kibash on that deal.  So, instead, I’ve ordered two simple bee hives.  And they have arrived.

Right now they are “naked”.  I have to paint ’em and then, when the season warms, add the wax foundation to frames to insert into that box.  The box, by the way, is called a “deep” and will house the honey and the eggs of the new hive.  If all goes well, I’ll have to order a second “deep” to allow the hive to grow and feed itself.

Next spring, God willing, the hive will be strong enough and well established to allow me to add further “supers” that are used to harvest honey.  I’m told that some hives are strong enough to allow the bee keeper to harvest honey the first year, but I’m patient and will be happy to make it through the year.

I have two such hives, established keepers advised me that two hives are easier than one because a fella can see what happens easier with two.  This doesn’t ring true to me, but I’m the rookie so two it is.

Paint will hit wood in the coming week and bees will move in late April.

I can’t wait.

Yoda Speaks On Minimum Wage

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