Well, it looks like Senator Santorum (aka Senator Man-On-Dog in the street) sold out to AccuWeather with senate bill 786. The basic gist is this: AccuWeather provides the same data that National Weather Service does, but for a fee, so the NWS shouldn’t be able to provide the data. Idiot. Here’s my letter to Specter on the issue. As usual, it’s not even worth my time to email the same letter to Santorum.
I'm a writing to express my opposition to S.786 - "A bill to clarify the duties and responsibilities of the National Weather Service, and for other purposes". This bill appears to be a shameless sellout by Senator Santorum to the interests of AccuWeather and against the citizens and taxpayers of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Not only does it work against private citizens but it also could put our national security at risk. I'll address the two issues seperately. As a private citizen, and Ph.D. candidate at Carnegie Mellon University, I enjoy receiving the weather forecasts directly from the national weather service. I've written several small tools that do this and integrated them into a variety of applications (my desktop computer, cell phone, etc). This pulls information such as the temperature, precipitation, and forecast directly from the National Weather Service. It's of a great use for me and I'm glad that my tax dollars help pay for such a valuable service. However, under the terms of the proposed bill, section 2(b), the only information that the national weather service can provide for free, directly to citizens and non-citizens alike, is the severe weather forecasts. For me to access the weather data that I find useful in planning a day out in the park, or my daily walk to the university, I would need to utilize a commercial service such as AccuWeather (located in State College, PA, no doubt a major reason why Senator Santorum proposed this bill). The problem is that I don't know if they've changed the forecasts at all. I don't know and I don't trust the science behind what they do. I know the people at the National Weather Service are competent scientists who do a very good job at providing accurate weather. I have no way of knowing if AccuWeather (or some other commercial provider) is using this information, or modifying it based on their own assumptions. Of course, this is placed under the guise of not allowing government competition with the private sector, however there are some things that work better when done on a municipal or federal level, like roads, plumbing, and weather. I'm already paying for the information in the form of my taxes, I don't see why I should be forced to pay AccuWeather or some other service to access the data that can be better provided directly. This also will stifle innovation in the methods of disseminiting weather information, as is often the case with closed interfaces. The last time I checked, AccuWeather and other commercial weather providers, had not found a to integrate weather into a feather of my Digital Video Recorder, like I have. The lack of this data is also dangerous because of how it can cripple valuable resources like SkyWarn, a network of ham radio operators who provide weather warnings. Without this information, they would be unable to provide valuable information about precipitation and wind speed for large storms. Ham radio operators have shown time and time again their value in instances of national emergencies, we should not cripple this valuable service to bend to the wishes of AccuWeather, which last time I checked made money without this land grab. Finally, there is an additional portion of the bill that worries me, specifically section 2(d). Part 1 on this seems well founded enough in that it prevents people affiliated with the NWS from providing information on the weather before the official service announcement. However, there are thousands of weather stations in the United States, some monitored by individual citizens for the NWS, this would prevent them from notifying others about local conditions if the NWS has not issued a notice on the condition. Secondly, part section 2(d)(2) seems particularly ominous as it would prevent any government employee (wheteher from the NWS or otherwise) from commenting on a weather phenomenon outside of the scope of what was issued in the official notice. This will go further toward the "talking head" syndrome that our country seems to embrace where unqualified people comment on subjects of which they have little knowledge. This bill is truly dangerous to America and not in the best interests of your constiuents, the citizens of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Thank You, Patrick Wagstrom
Update: Apparently it only costs $7500 to buy Santorum’s Soul. I wonder if it would only be $7,500 to legalize man-on-dog or man-or-horse?