The wrong way to respond to a storm

Hurricane Irene obviously has the attention of millions of Americans, but some are handling the threat better than others. On the right, some of the rhetorical responses haven’t cast conservatives in the best light.

Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul wants to eliminate FEMA; congressional Republican leaders are reluctant to approve emergency disaster relief; and Fox News is running pieces like these, calling for the elimination of the National Hurricane Center and National Weather Service.

As Hurricane Irene bears down on the East Coast, news stations bombard our televisions with constant updates from the National Hurricane Center.

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.

The Fox News piece touts private outlets, including AccuWeather, without alerting readers to a key detail: these private outlets rely on information they receive from the National Weather Service. Indeed, the NWS makes this information available to the private sector for free, since the NWS is a public agency and the data it compiles is public information.

The Fox News item goes on to say, in reference to the Weather Service, “It issues severe weather advisories and hijacks local radio and television stations to get the message out. It presumes that citizens do not pay attention to the weather and so it must force important, perhaps lifesaving, information upon them.”

This is not, by the way, a parody.

Glenn Beck, meanwhile, told his radio audience on Friday that Hurricane Irene “a blessing. It is God reminding you — as was the earthquake last week — it’s God reminding you you’re not in control. Things can happen.”

This divine “blessing” has already killed at least eight people.