Laird: Forecasts, forgiveness and fighters

By John Laird, Columbian Editorial Page Editor

Published:

 

Notes, quotes and anecdotes while wondering how many people noticed last week that Oregon’s 8.9 percent unemployment rate is the lowest since November 2008, and Washington’s 8.5 percent jobless rate is the lowest since December 2009:

Today’s forecast: 50 percent chance of whining — Every winter I am warmly amused by all the attacks on innocent weather forecasters who simply try to translate complex and unreliable data into advice for the rest of us. I think part of the resentment is rooted in guilt about one’s ignorance. Some folks don’t know too much about meteorology, so they’re predisposed to criticize anyone who might be a little bit smarter.

To begin with, these are predictions, not promises. If a weather forecaster says there’s a 70 percent chance of snow and it doesn’t snow, that doesn’t mean he or she is “wrong.” In fact, he or she was right all along! There really was a 70 percent chance of snow … it’s just that the 30 percent prevailed.

Second, these scientists take great care to disclose the fluid and fragile nature of their research. Last Monday, a winter storm watch contained this passage: “Details are still very uncertain, especially for the lowlands, but the potential is there for this to be a significant weather event.”

You got that, all you critics? “Potential” ought to tell you something.

Sadly, this full disclosure doesn’t stop the critics, one of whom groused in an online comment: “Tell your child to become a weatherman (person?)! It is the only job where you can be wrong more than 50 percent of the time and still keep your job.”

No, it’s not the only such job. I’ll have you know, numerous journalism experts have shown my columns to be wrong 51 percent of the time. And in baseball, hitters can fail 70 percent of the time and still make the Hall of Fame batting .300.

Remember, your consumption of weather news is optional. If you don’t like weather forecasters, ignore ’em. Just don’t call me to come help you strap on tire chains when you’re stuck on the side of the road in a blizzard.

War is hell, but if you didn’t serve, you wouldn’t know, so shut up — The recent story about Marines urinating on enemy corpses prompted a couple of interesting assessments. One goes like this: “Hey, what our enemy does is much worse (list examples here), and you never complain about that.” Oh? Is this the standard we use now? America, it seems to me, is much better than just settling for “we’re not the worst.”

And there’s U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., who barked: “As for everyone else, unless you have been shot at by the Taliban, shut your mouth; war is hell.”

With all due respect, sir, you’ve said what they did was wrong, and I’ve said what they did was wrong. So why are we arguing?

Onward, Christian governor — Rick Perry said of New Gingrich’s wavering fidelity: “Newt is not perfect, but who among us is? There is forgiveness for those who seek God, and I believe in the power of redemption, for it is a central tenet of my own Christian faith.” Couldn’t agree more, Gov. Goodhair, but I wonder how comforting your words are to families of the 234 people you’ve executed as governor of Texas.

Marital advice — How does a serial philanderer receive a whistling, hooting, standing ovation in South Carolina? Hey, just do what Newt did: Blame the media! Boy, howdy, that uproar was even more robust than the clapping last September at the Reagan Library when debate moderator Brian Williams mentioned Perry’s 234 executions.

Always the fighter, never the quitter — Herman Cain boasted: “I’m not a quitter, but there is a point beyond which we will not go.” He said this as he was quitting the race for president. And from Perry: “As a Texan, I have never shied away from a good fight, especially when the cause was right.” Perry said this as he was shying away from the fight for the presidency.

Guys, trust me, keep your day jobs — Thursday at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, President Obama saluted singer Al Green by crooning a short portion of “Let’s Stay Together.” Thunderous applause erupted. I hear unconfirmed reports that Rick Perry was at the Broken Spoke in South Austin singing “Take This Job and Shove It!”