Why do we care so much about what TV weatherpeople think about climate change/global warming? If there's a scandal to be had, perhaps, it might be that with all the electron-sucking, radar spitting, neutron enhancing gear, determining what the weather is going to be 24 hours from now is a giant crapshoot that the weatherpeople quite often get wrong. We accept the consistency of inaccuracy and we love them anyway. But when it comes to global warming, all bets are off.
Next to the Chanhassen Dinner Theater (btw, interesting story today on Republicans preventing it from moving to the expanded Mall of America, which appears to run counter to the "too much regulation on business" mantra.), there's no more popular showbiz in these parts than the 5 minutes of TV weather.
On last night's news -- thrown in somewhere among the segments on why people are late and how to save for your kids' college -- WCCO meteorologist Mike Fairbourne -- the last meteorologist standing after Paul Douglas got canned -- defended himself against criticism spawned by a Star Tribune article that outed him as one of 31,000 "scientists" claiming the human impact on global warming is overblown.
"I'm amazed people won't allow me an opinion," Fairbourne said. "'I'm not debating global warming."
The WCCO weather offices must've been a fun place to work back when Douglas and Fairbourne were both in it, because Douglas toes the American Meteorological Society line on global warming: it's happening, it's real, and the enemy is us. Douglas, in his Star Tribune articles, would also occasionally relay how much fun he has on his snowmobiles and ATVs, two contributors -- one might argue -- to an increase in carbon emissions.
On her blog, WCCO reporter Esme Murphy posts an e-mail on the subject from Douglas:
My attitude: all of us are certainly entitled to our opinions, but I tend to defer to the professional climate scientists on matters of the atmosphere extending beyond 15 days or so. There are thousands of (peer-reviewed) climate scientists all saying pretty much the same thing, man is having an impact. How big? Don't pretend to know, but to just cover your eyes, put your hands over your ears, and make believe that a 38% spike in greenhouse gases (from man) won't have any impact at all on the atmosphere seems like a leap of faith...and believability."
Media watcher Brian Lambert posits that this whole ruckus is more about politics than science:
The fundamental issue in this "debate" is, of course, politics, not science. Fringe groups such as the OISM, to which Mike Fairbourne lent his name, are invariably politically conservative--deeply conservative --and attack "consensus science" of actual experts, as opposed to TV weathermen, bio-chemists, and whatever from a partisan political perspective much more than one based in science.
... but Lambert gives the TV weather folks who have made their opinions known, credit for doing so. He doesn't explain, however, why a weatherperson's opinion matters so. They're not climatologists.
As for tomorrow's weather? Your guess is as good as theirs.(47 Comments)
Posted at 12:51 PM on May 21, 2008
by Bob Collins
The firm hired by the Legislature to investigate MnDOT decisions leading to the collapse of the I-35W bridge has released its report.
Here's the full version, although you can build a new bridge in the time it takes to download it.
"Financial considerations, we believe, did play a part in the decision-making" on bridge maintenance, Robert Stein, one of the attorneys, told lawmakers during a briefing. "Sometimes it's easier just to take the least expensive alternative or just commission another study."
Of course, things make more sense with the benefit of hindsight, but financial considerations are a fact of life and balancing those considerations with the possibilities and probabilities resulting from each decision is the hard part.
According to the Associated Press account:
Tom Johnson, another attorney who worked on the report, told legislators the maintenance work wasn't sufficient. The bridge was rated in "serious to poor" condition for 17 consecutive years by the National Bridge Inventory Standards.
Seventeen years is a little different than what MnDOT claims. In its bridge fact sheet, MnDOT reported, "Deficiencies were acknowledged in inspection reports dating back to 1997. Mn/DOT had taken several steps to address these deficiencies. Some cracking in the approach spans was repaired or was being monitored."
So, how long should a state allow a bridge rated in "serious to poor condition" to stand?
It's a good question, given that in Minnesota, 1,097 bridges that are considered structurally deficient, and 3 percent of them are considered in "poor" condition, according to the Office of Legislative Auditor.
Normally, I don't bother too much with the writings on political blogs, but yesterday's announcement that Sen. Ted Kennedy has brain cancer, and today's analysis that he likely has less than a year to live has put some focus on conservative-leaning blogs. Why? Because nobody can get a conservative's dander up more than Ted Kennedy and the reaction to his imminent demise is one of those opportunities to take the temperature of political discourse in the country. More directly: Can we maintain our humanity while still being aggressively partisan?
Judging by the comments of Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch on NPR this morning, yes:
"All I can say is he's a great legislator, he's a great human being, a person who always has that sense of humor, and that will pull him through, between you and me. And I'll be praying for him, too."
But, generally speaking, the silence on the blogs about Kennedy is deafening. There are a few -- anti-Strib, for example -- that played it the way one would normally expect during such times -- by separating politics from the individual.
Setting aside any personal feelings and ill will towards Senator Kennedy and his past, I must say that I find this to be absolutely terrible news (and it is an incredibly frustrating malady). I would never wish this on anyone.
Apparently it will:
"I am planning on writing about Senator Kennedy's contribution to the lowering of the level of poltical discourse, but will probably wait til tomorrow morning to do so, if I don't change my mind. "
Update 11:31 a.m.Thurs - The article has been posted. Respectful in tone, I'd say.
For sheer bad taste, nobody beats talk show host Michael Savage, who on Tuesday acknowledged Kennedy's illness by playing music from the Dead Kennedys.(7 Comments)
Posted at 2:13 PM on May 21, 2008
by Bob Collins
Today, "fee creep" hit air travelers when American Airlines announced that it will now charge $15 for the first checked bag, and $25 for the second.
Delta says it won't go along with the fee, but it is considering other fees.
What fees might that be? A charge for using the lav during a flight?
You're a journalist for a big American outfit -- CNN. You're in China when an earthquake hits. You've got a car and some empty seats and people beg you to take them to the hospital, which isn't the way you're headed or the job you have.5 Comments)
It's been far too long since I pulled together one of these.
The day in science:
I'm not really qualified -- that is: cool enough -- to write an entire treatise (or even an abbreviated one) about Twitter, described elsewhere as a micro-blogging tool. It either is another form of communication that will revolutionize things, or it's another laughing matter. I leave these questions to the smart people, like
MPR's American Public Media's Jon Gordon.
I do know this: TwitterVision, in which these random thoughts appear on a map, is one of the most intriguing -- if not particularly useful -- things I've ever encountered on the Web. Last week, I noticed, there was nothing on TV. So I "watched" TwitterVision.
As a young lad, I wondered what it must be like to be God at prayertime, and how he (she?) sorted everything out when it was coming at him (her?) at once.
Hold that thought! Somebody in Tulsa says he's getting a tatoo. Gotta Go,
Update 8:12 a 5/22 -- Here's a great example of how a company can use Twitter effectively.(4 Comments)
An 18-cents-a-gallon increase in the price of gasoline in the Twin Cities today has -- at least momentarily -- created a situation we haven't seen in months... possibly years -- gasoline prices higher than the national average. The big players are all charging around $3.85 to $3.89 a gallon this afternoon.
According to the Associated Press:
At the pump, meanwhile, the average national price of a gallon of regular gas rose 0.7 cent overnight to a record $3.807 a gallon, according to a survey of stations by AAA and the Oil Price Information Service.
Up until today, Upper Midwest per-gallon gasoline prices have been well below the national average, largely on the strength of the use of an ethanol blend.
Many retailers haven't caught up with the new price reality. In many cases, retailers cap pay-at-the-pump sales to a maximum of $50. That wasn't a big deal as recently as 6 months ago, but now it's becoming more common to have to run your credit card twice to fill up your tank.
And the major credit card companies don't allow gasoline sales of more than $75 at a time.(1 Comments)