In the age of media saturation and shorter-than-ever attention spans, ideas are marketed no differently than products. And much like the release of a new product is carefully timed to coincide with the circadian rhythms of its particular market niche, ideas must be proposed only when they have the best chance to succeed. For example, an idea for a new banking regulation would best be proposed in the wake of a bank failure or market meltdown. Another example of impeccable timing would be proposing the abolition of the National Weather Service immediately in the wake of a major hurricane.
Is "impeccable" the word I want there?
Ranting about abolishing the Departments of Energy and Education is so 1998. I don't think it's too much to ask of our free market worshiping think tank hacks to come up with a new department to abolish every now and again. Get creative! Iain Murray and David Bier certainly did with "Do We Really Need a National Weather Service?" If you ever find yourself looking at a weather forecast and thinking "Gee, I wish there was someone I could pay for this information," keep reading. Santa has the perfect gift for you. Murray and Bier work under the label of something called the Competitive Enterprise Institute – best known for their climate change "skepticism" and a website called, I shit you not, enjoybottledwater.org. By now it should be clear that you are about to hear some serious weapons-grade free market masturbation here. Ready?
As Hurricane Irene bears down on the East Coast, news stations bombard our televisions with constant updates from the National Hurricane Center.
Boy I can't wait to hear why this is a bad thing. It's clearly bad, right?
While Americans ought to prepare for the coming storm, federal dollars need not subsidize their preparations. Although it might sound outrageous, the truth is that the National Hurricane Center and its parent agency, the National Weather Service, are relics from America’s past that have actually outlived their usefulness.
I…I've got nothing. I'm speechless.
It certainly has outlived its usefulness to the for-profit weather industry and companies like Accu Weather! But more on that in a moment.
The National Weather Service (NWS) was founded in 1870. Originally, the NWS was not a public information agency. It was a national security agency and placed under the Department of War.
Cool story, brah!
The Service’s national security function has long since disappeared, but as agencies often do, however, it stuck around and managed to increase its budget.
Yes, at some point the government got the bright idea that it might be economically and socially useful for people to, I don't know, have some information about the weather.
Today the NWS justifies itself on public interest grounds. It issues severe weather advisories and hijacks local radio and television stations to get the message out.
"Hijacks." It "hijacks" local radio and TV stations to spread "its message," which in this case is…a severe weather advisory.
It presumes that citizens do not pay attention to the weather and so it must force important, perhaps lifesaving, information upon them. A few seconds’ thought reveals how silly this is. The weather might be the subject people care most about on a daily basis.
If anyone can figure out what these sentences mean, please submit your answer in writing along with two color photographs of a shirtless Murray Rothbard to:
Competitive Enterprise Institute
Wacky Word Puzzle Contest
c/o Koch Industries
Abandoned Utility Shed 2-C
Wichita, KS 67202
There is a very successful private TV channel dedicated to it, 24 hours a day, as well as any number of phone and PC apps.
And they get 99% of their data from…wait for it…The National Something Something. Help me out here.
Americans need not be forced to turn over part of their earnings to support weather reporting.
Right. Let's chop the NWS and get all of our info from the Weather Channel, which will get its information from…
The NWS claims that it supports industries like aviation and shipping, but if they provide a valuable contribution to business, it stands to reason business would willingly support their services.
Logic (~1000 BC – Sept. 1, 2011)
It Died of a Broken Heart
If that is the case, the Service is just corporate welfare. If they would not, it is just a waste.
Note how they throw in a pejorative like "corporate welfare" to emphasize that these Koch-chugging corporate whores are actually On Your Side. Fighting for the little guy. Just lookin' out for you.
As for hurricanes, the insurance industry has a compelling interest in understanding them. In a world without a National Weather Service, the insurance industry would probably have sponsored something very like the National Hurricane Center at one or more universities.
"would probably have sponsored something very like the National Hurricane Center". Well, that's good enough for me.
Those replacements would also not be exploited for political purposes.
Sometimes movies remove scenes without realizing that other scenes make reference to the deleted material – like when Han Solo glances at the door of the room where the Wampas are detained in Echo Base as everyone evacuates, knowing that Stormtroopers will eventually blunder into it and be torn apart. Everyone remembers that, right? This is totally like that. I have no f-ing idea what this sentence is supposed to refer to. None.
As it stands today, the public is forced to pay more than $1 billion per year for the NWS. With the federal deficit exceeding a trillion dollars, the NWS is easily overlooked, but it shouldn’t be. It may actually be dangerous.
Oh my god, $1 billion? The amount we spend in Iraq and Afghanistan every 3 days? UNCONSCIONABLE.
Note the ominous teaser…let's learn how the NWS can actually murder you in your sleep.
Relying on inaccurate government reports can endanger lives. Last year the Service failed to predict major flooding in Nashville because it miscalculated the rate at which water was releasing from dams there. The NWS continued to rely on bad information, even after forecasters knew the data were inaccurate. The flooding resulted in 22 deaths.
1. Oh my god…someone got a forecast wrong? A weather forecast?
2. But why did all those people die? Accu Weather, the sponsor of this column, surely issued the correct forecast. Oh wait…
Private weather services do exist, and unsurprisingly, they are better than the NWS.
I'll tell you what IS surprising though – that CEI hacks getting underwritten by the Private Weather Services would come to such a conclusion. As surprising as when Rick Santorum took big campaign donations from the founder of Accu Weather in 2005 and then introduced a bill (which failed to attract a single co-sponsor) to prevent the NWS from issuing any weather forecasts. Coincidence is the lifeblood of free market worship.
When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, the National Weather Service was twelve hours behind AccuWeather in predicting that New Orleans would be affected. Unlike the NWS, AccuWeather provides precise hour-by-hour storm predictions, one of the reasons private industry supports them.
Come on, guys. This is just ad copy from Accu Weather's PR department. I expect better of you.
It is not just random mistakes in crises either. Forecast Watch has found that
We can't trust big government bureaucrats, but I know who we can trust: objective sources of information like a website run by the lobbying arm of the for-profit weather industry.
Forecast Watch has found that the National Weather Service predictions of snow and rain have an error rate 20 percent higher than their private alternatives. “All private forecasting companies did much better than the National Weather Service,” their report concludes. In 2008, they found that the NWS’s temperature predictions were worse than every private-sector competitor including the Weather Channel, Intellicast, and Weather Underground.
This is the most shocking report I have read since the Corn Refiners Association concluded that corn-based sweeteners are nutritious, delicious, and have the ability to cure cancer.
NWS claims to spread information, but when the topic of budget cuts came up earlier this year, all they spread was fear. “There is a very heightened risk for loss of life if these cuts go through,” NWS forecasters said, “The inability for warnings to be disseminated to the public, whether due to staffing inadequacies, radar maintenance problems or weather radio transmitter difficulties, would be disastrous.” Disastrous? The $126 million in cuts would still have left the Service with a larger budget than it had a decade ago.
A federal agency's budget grew? Stunning. It's pretty stunning that the NWS budget has grown $125 million in that time, compared to the $400 billion growth in defense spending in that same timespan.
The massive bloat in government should not get a pass just because it’s wrapped in good-of-the-community clothing.
*slurp slurp slurp*
How does it taste, guys? Remember to breathe through your nose. Wouldn't want you to choke. And for christ's sake, give your jaw a rest now and then.
NWS services can and are better provided by the private sector. Americans will invest in weather forecasting because if there is one thing we can be certain of, people will want to protect their property and their lives.
I've been trying to clean up the language around here, but I must paraphrase a line from one of my favorite films: WE DO INVEST IN WEATHER FORECASTING, YOU FUCKING FUCK-WIT. WE ALL CONTRIBUTE A TINY PITTANCE ANNUALLY TO SOMETHING CALLED THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE, WHICH PROVIDES US WITH WEATHER FORECASTS. YOUR ONLY OBJECTION TO THIS PRACTICE IS THAT THE WEATHER INFORMATION IS NOT HIDDEN BEHIND A PAYWALL WHERE YOUR UNDERWRITERS WILL RE-PACKAGE N.W.S. DATA AND PROFIT FROM IT.
I'm sorry, I don't know what happened there. The key must have gotten stuck.
Reading this gives our pampered, first-world butts a small taste of what it must be like to read North Korean newspapers and history books. Not being quite so used to it, reading this much propaganda gives me a headache.