Monday, May 26, 2008

Thursday talk show update -- now later than ever!

Last week's talk show highlight was definitely the discussion Dave Rye had with a member of Trout Unlimited on global warming. This is Dave at his best: serving, as he put it, as referee rather than as a combatant. I assume his conservative bona fides make him a global warming skeptic, but his sense of fairness overrode that, and it was one of the rare talk show encounters that actually shed more light than heat.

The Trout Unlimited guy, whose name I have regrettably forgotten, was no expert, but he took a commonsense approach that deflected most of the obvious errors made by skeptics. Is it true that volcanoes throw off lots of emissions? Sure, but so what? What about global warming on Mars? Dunno. Better worry about global warming on Earth. Isn't global warming an environmentalist hoax? The notion doesn't make sense.

Some conservatives find the prospect of global warming so unnerving that they lose all grasp on reason. Even George Will, whom I resent because he is so smart that he forces me to agree with him even when I don't want to, wandered out of the land of reason in a column on threatened polar bears that appeared in the Gazette last week.

Will's fundamental concern -- that considering polar bears threatened because of climate change that has not yet occurred could set unwelcome precedents -- is legitimate enough. But them he wanders into fantasy land.

Ed Kemmick pointed out one logical error, but there were others:

1. Global warming can't be happening because global cooling predicted 35 years ago never happened. Those who embrace that argument should answer this question: If you were diagnosed with cancer, would you rather be treated with the best medical science of 1975 or of 2008?

2. Polar bears can't be threatened because they are plentiful. Yet anyone of us could concoct within seconds a scenario in which a thriving population can be threatened because of an imminent change in conditions. Say, for instance, the Bikini atoll five minutes before the atomic bomb fell.

3. Concern over global warming is inseparable from left-wing politics. The policy implications of global warming are, of course, fair grist for the political mill. The science isn't.

Elsewhere in the talk world, another reasonably coherent discussion was held on Bill O'Reilly's radio show, probably because Michael Smerconish was guest host. Smerconish has a manner that I find annoying, for reasons that aren't fully clear even to me, but he is among the more reasonable talk show voices, and he had a fair-minded discussion on big oil, focusing on the appearance of oil execs before Congress.

The consensus seemed to be that our elected representatives were unnecessarily rude and mean -- a position that I appreciate but don't necessarily share. I don't think it's unfair, for instance, to ask execs how much money they make. Their pay is a public record because they head publicly traded companies, so they have no particular reason to be embarrassed by the question. I agree that it's ludicrous to think that oil prices are being driven by high salaries for CEOs, but it doesn't hurt to let the execs know we're paying attention.

Glenn Beck addressed the same topic, but he was unlistenable. Painfully so. He tried to put himself in the position of the execs, answering the questions he as he would have answered them by showing his contempt for the process. Upshot: Glenn Beck would make a lousy CEO.

Finally, Sean Hannity appeared to be slowly coming around to the idea that he can't ride Jeremiah Wright and Williams Ayers all the way to November. He even hinted at the possibility that other issues of concern to the republic might surface between now and the election. Even maybe, just maybe, Republicans themselves might be to blame for their recent election misfortunes. Heck, I bet he didn't talk about Wright and Ayers for more than two hours in the three-hour show. That's real progress.

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