Free the Weather?
August 3, 2005 9:45 AM   Subscribe

Free the Weather? On Slate, Timothy Noah explains how Santorum's National Weather Services Duties Act effectively gags NWS in private weather's favor. [more inside]
posted by brownpau (17 comments total)
Also see the propaganda, and a cartoon. There's also an NOAA employees' union website out there somewhere, which I can't seem to find right now. First one to provide the link wins.

(And first one to say "frothy mix of lube and fecal matter" loses.)
posted by brownpau at 9:45 AM on August 3, 2005

Oh, and see previous thread.
posted by brownpau at 9:53 AM on August 3, 2005

Hey, this is one game I'm not afraid to lose:

Santorum is a frothy mix of lube and fecal matter. Please, use the word liberally, and to his face.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:07 AM on August 3, 2005

Thanks for the information, brownpau. Good stuff.
posted by dios at 10:13 AM on August 3, 2005

So Accuweather wants to have a free market? Let them collect their own damn weather data. When they stop sucking at the public teat of weather information I'll start to have a little bit of sympathy for them.

I, and every other citizen, has already paid for the output of the NWS. Why should I have to pay Accuweather to get to it?

Corporate welfare, indeed.
posted by bshort at 10:42 AM on August 3, 2005

Who stole the weather, Powell?
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:51 AM on August 3, 2005

There's also an NOAA employees' union website out there somewhere, which I can't seem to find right now. First one to provide the link wins.

This, perhaps?
posted by iceberg273 at 11:00 AM on August 3, 2005

For years I've been petitioning the government to hire someone to do my job for me and then pay me to take the credit, but so far, no dice. Good to see someone's having better luck...
posted by chasing at 11:05 AM on August 3, 2005

What the bill actually says is that the NWS must issue all its data "in real time, and without delay for internal use." This means that the NWS must issue data in raw form that will be incomprehensible to the general public—thereby providing private weather companies with a government-guaranteed opportunity to massage that information into something the public can actually comprehend.

Okay, so what's to stop some high-minded and technically-gifted person from using this data in a non-commercial, "open source" style site or utility that does what the commercial companies do, minus the fees? Wouldn't that be almost guaranteed if this POS bill passes?
posted by deadcowdan at 11:06 AM on August 3, 2005

So let's profile the Santorum guy shall we:

1. profoundly homophobic and against homosexual people, from which we can infer he's likely to let his own fears (and one based on a mere irrational tradition bias no less) conflict with his policymaking. If you ask me, that's like giving a Taliban the direction of steelworks, he'll make a lot of swords to cut the heads of the one he doesn't likes.

2. self declared hypocrite, as he knew his Director of Communication is homosexual , yet he employed him.

2. is constantly concerned about the children, then when the Boston Church scandal erupts all he can comment about is that he finds the local Boston liberals to be hypocrite, showing that he prefers to exploit the event as an occasion for personal political gain instead of challeging directly and strongly the local Church...which would be politically counter productive if not damaging for him.

So we can safely hypotize he's for protecting the children but his friends can do the damn they please with childrens he's not going to raise any alarm or push any investigation.

3. Is now concerned with another religious field, that of the benefit of "free market" , where free market is (most probably only in his conception of it) having NOAA do the research job (at the expense of the taxpayer) and letting his private company friends get NOAA data, put it into Excel and Powerpoint....stamp it with a big PRIVATE LOGO and sell it to the people who paid it in the first place !!!!!!

posted by elpapacito at 11:06 AM on August 3, 2005

Santorum is a frothy mix of lube and fecal matter. Please, use the word liberally, and to his face.

Better yet, use it to the back of his head as you make some more.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:37 AM on August 3, 2005

I went to college for meteorology, and upon graduation found a ridiculously overcompetitive job market in both the public and private sectors. One of the largest private employers was (and is) Accuweather, and those who got hired there (largely Penn State grads) were rewarded with low pay (like, $18,000/yr around 2000) and multiyear employment contracts.

I had numerous profs and NWS-employed associates who referred to Accuweather as a "meteorology sweatshop," and it's a pretty apt description. Their general forecast products are of very low accuracy compared to the NWS, and they are, as noted above, totally dependent on data provided to them free of charge by the NWS.

Considering the benefit to public safety gained from NWS forecasts, particularly for severe or extreme weather, it's arguably more vital to be publicly funded than most gov't agencies. (I know Santorum's bill supposedly makes an exception for this type of thing, but the wording is vague enough that I don't feel it's a given that these services would be kept around.)

By the way, there was a controversy some years ago, again brewed by Accuweather, and I wish I could find some documentation of it online as I'm fuzzy on the details: Accuweather issued a hurricane warning (I believe) worded and disseminated in a similar manner to a government-issued warning, and the information was markedly different from the government's warning (different location, intensity, etc.) This broke a major taboo in the business and as far as I know it hasn't happened since.

If anyone has more info on that incident (late '90s), it would be relevant here.
posted by gazole at 11:53 AM on August 3, 2005

deadcowdan: That was my first thought, too. But the bill says "data, information, guidance, forecasts, and warnings shall be issued ... through a set of data portals designed for volume access by commercial providers of products or services."

So maybe they could prevent anyone from accessing the data unless it was going to be sold at some point down the line?
posted by schustafa at 12:37 PM on August 3, 2005

Ugh... as a foreign scientist currently residing and studying in the U.S., it has always struck me that U.S. government science agencies do an amazing and unmatched job of public outreach and education. I wish that Canadian counterparts to the USGS and NOAA would do one fifth the job at providing excellent technical information to the public at all levels of rigour and sophistication. In my mind, organisations like the USGS and NOAA are amazing examples of the value of publicly funded science, something I can point to when trying to convince people that at least some of their tax dollars are money well spent.

The reward for doing a first rate job of combining science and communication? Have a bunch of jackasses try and change your mandate so you no longer provide a public good, but instead become part of the corporate welfare apparatus.

posted by bumpkin at 12:51 PM on August 3, 2005

If they take away my I'm gonna be a very sad person. I just completed my letter to The Honorable Benjamin L. Cardin, I hope this bill gets defeated.
posted by joecacti at 2:48 PM on August 3, 2005

Does this mean that the next tornado warning will be Pay-Per-Advisory?
posted by Balisong at 3:10 PM on August 3, 2005

Living in Oklahoma, land of tornadoes and some of the most advanced weather research known to man, I can definitely say that anyone who would take publicly funded weather data and impede its distribution to the public, free of charge, is a public menace. Not only is Rick Santorum a known hypocrite and a horrible panderer, but he would sell the safety of Americans for corporate interests. Clearly, he is not only without integrity, but without respect for the safety of America.
posted by Saydur at 7:14 PM on August 3, 2005

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