Friday, April 04, 2008

Flat Earth

You ever read something that just makes you want to scream? This is a Glen Beck piece for CNN on line. Everything in italics is my answer to his words.

NEW YORK (CNN) -- We all want to live in a world that's clean, healthy and prosperous.

We all want to hand that world off to our children in slightly better shape than we received it. No one, even the supposedly evil oil executive, has any reason to want anything different. But, for some reason, we find ourselves searching for villains. Surely they exist, but the endless quest to create them sometimes overwhelms our better judgment, whether intentional or not.

You want to hope that everyone wants to hand the world off in slightly better condition, but the truth is, a lot of people either don't see the problem or they live in communities that can afford to be free of the problems less prosperous communities have to deal with. Things like Toxic waste dumps, power plants belching smoke and abandoned infrastructure never seem to happen in "rich" communities. What does he think recycling, searching for cleaner fuels and the attempt to get people to moderate their lifestyle of consumption is? It is a direct way to leave the planet in better shape.

Congress has picked "Big Oil" as their enemy of the week. These companies inexplicably put profits above people, ravaging the environment and financially assaulting the poor to put another couple of dollars on their balance sheet. That's the storyline we've all been taught.

Yes, times are tough for many. Sure, oil companies make a lot of cash. But, for that money, they get us to work, get ambulances to the hospital, keep our homes warm, and employ thousands of our friends and neighbors while financing their retirement, paying their health care, and providing energy to millions. Because of capitalism, they have the incentive to do that. I've yet to see what our government does for us with their rather large chunk of each gallon of gas we buy, and I've yet to see them offer to return it or suggest a gas-tax-windfall-tax-tax.

Forget for a second how much of a tool he looks like defending "big Oil" and instead focus on some undisputed facts. Chevron oil earned 40 Billion dollars in their last quarter. That's 40 Billion dollars in 4 months. The quarter before that, it was in the 30 billion dollar range. The quarter before that, in the low 30 billion dollar range. So lets get this completely clear, in a time when families are loosing their home's, the price of gas at the pump is affecting the budgets of those families. Chevron has made more money in the history of any company over any single quarter.
When asked about this windfall by Congress, the general answer by the oil executives was the same; we need this money for the lean times and for research and development. Fact: no oil company in America has built a new refinery in this country for more than 30 years. The infrastructure they use is not only outdated and crumbling, it makes them money to leave it as is. It's a choke point in their distribution of product. Keep the supply low and the price you can charge will be high. That's basic capitalism.
You yet to see what the government does with the taxes they collect? Really? We can start with the most obvious if you like; war in Iraq. A war that a vast majority of people now correctly see is over oil. We cut back the budget at the V.A., but the companies that are directly profiting from these soldiers service don't even have to pay into the V.A.
Then their is roads, bridges and the operation of the biggest transportation system in the world. Wake up!

The other villain of the moment is the global warming "denier." Anyone who disagrees, even in the slightest, must be ridiculed. On "60 Minutes" last weekend, Al Gore said: "They're almost like the ones who still believe that the moon landing was staged in a movie lot in Arizona and those who believe the Earth is flat. That demeans them a little bit, but it's not that far off."

Approximately 6 percent of Americans believe in the fake moon landing theory, although I've always heard there was a conspiratorial consensus that it was staged in Nevada, not Arizona. I'm going to guess quite a bit less than 6 percent believe in a flat Earth, but no one seems to be asking that question in polls anymore, so I can't be sure. So, who are those people Gore was demeaning "a little bit" by these comparisons? There's a good chance it's you. That's because the vast majority of Americans believe something that categorizes them as a flat earther to environmentalists like Gore.

Despite the media's one-sided view (the Business and Media Institute says dissenting voices about global warming are outnumbered on CBS News broadcasts by a 38 to 1 ratio), only 21 percent of Americans say "the release of greenhouse gasses is the most important factor causing global warming" according to a 2007 New York Times/CBS News poll.

The vast majority of Americans believe that Global warming is real. It is a disingenuous argument when he cites the poll question asked. "the release of greenhouse gasses is the most important factor causing global warming." Why? Because poll takers and politicians know that by wording questions just right, they can influence the outcome of a poll. When people have been asked what is the biggest contributor to Global warming, they overwhelmingly say, car exhaust. When the people who gave that answer were then asked if they knew that car exhaust was a greenhouse gas, a little less than half said they knew that. Like a lot of problems we have here, it is one part education and one part freeing yourself from the manipulation of agendas to get a clear picture of what is going on. I think Al Gores example is not ridicule, but using history to paint an accurate picture. People who thought the Earth was flat were on the loosing side of history, knowledge and facts. Just as the people who deny global warming are on the loosing side of scientific proof as well.

The "60 Minutes" piece wasn't just filled with misrepresentations of opinion; it had plenty of Gore-style hypocrisy. He was embroiled in controversy when it was revealed his mansion used 20 times more energy than the average American. His explanation? "Since then" his house has been retrofitted with solar panels. I'm sure Eliot Spitzer hasn't been renting many women since he was caught either. (Although I'm not betting my life on it.)

We then see footage of Gore's parents' farm that will, sometime in the future, be run on wind power. Apparently, the windmill store has been out of stock for the past 20 years.

Perhaps most comically, Gore is seen dragging an entire film crew on a jet to India to give a climate presentation to about 100 people. Gore claimed: "We just don't have any choice. I wish I knew a better way to do it. I constantly ask myself, 'How can I be more effective in getting this message across?' " The most effective thing you can think of is flying halfway across the world to speak with 100 people? Maybe you had other things to do while you were there, but I'd be surprised if there was anything essential that couldn't be accomplished with a telephone and a computer. The people in India will be able to see your fancy graphs on their screens, and you'll cut demand for those evil overseas flights.

Death by a thousand paper cuts. That's part of the strategy here. Don't dispute the message, just smear the messenger. It is true that Bio jet fuel is just now starting to be available. It is true that wind mills could be installed to run Gores family farm that would work pretty well. It is true that his family home is now run on solar, wind and other means. But I think this is an example of a rare sort of politician. The sort that says, "Your right. I could do that." And then does. Using Spritzer in the example is a pointless and poor debate trick.

The entire "60 Minutes" piece felt like a commercial for Gore's upcoming commercials. He's spending $300 million in advertising to convince people of something he claims there is already a consensus on. To put that much money into perspective; it's more than Sen. Barack Obama, Sen. Hillary Clinton, Sen. John Edwards, Sen. John McCain, former Gov. Mike Huckabee and Rep. Ron Paul raised in all of last year combined. Think of it as going green by getting lots of green.

Where is all that money coming from? Gore says he's donating his profits from "An Inconvenient Truth," and his Nobel Peace Prize cash award. Let's be generous and say there's only $290 million left to explain. Apparently, a follow-up question to find the origins of this nine-figure sum would have involved six seconds that "60 Minutes" wasn't willing to commit.

I guess the question is, where do you think the Money is coming from Mr. Beck? with no facts or knowledge of how much money people have donated for this cause, you instead use vague insinuations to imply something darker going on.

What is there to learn from all of this? Whether it's politicians on both sides of the aisle or our vaunted environmental superheroes, the quest for power overwhelms even the slightest instinct of self-examination.

In the end, the timing of the Gore interview airing couldn't have been better. It fell on the same weekend as the first "Earth Hour," when the world supposedly came together to turn our attention to climate change by shutting the lights off for an hour. The imagery of monuments like the Sears Tower in Chicago, Illinois, going dark was plastered over newscasts everywhere.

But those pictures highlighted the global warming movement and the congressional attacks on energy companies in an entirely unintended way.

Behind the darkened Sears Tower was the city of Chicago, with lights shining brightly as far as the eye could see. For one hour the Sears Tower knew what it was like to be Al Gore: A larger than life symbol, blocking our view of reality.

It's a poor metaphor. A blacked out Sears Tower with the rest of the city still lit up bellow does not block reality, it only serves to demonstrate that more education is needed. Maybe 300 million in commercials is a good place to start. To put how little that is into perspective, it took Gore 8 years to raise that money. Chevron, one oil company, made 40 Billion dollars in 4 months. No new refinery has been even considered with that profit. No one at the company is considering lowering the price at the pump so they would only earn 30 billion in the next quarter. No. Instead, it's business as usual. Oil companies fight the clean air requirements they have to put on their factories telling us it will cut into profits and they will be forced to raise the price at the pumps. If every Chevron, today put the most up to date filtering systems on everyone of their refiners, it would cost them about 100 million dollars. I think they can afford that and I know we would all literally breathe easier. Literally. Study after study cites the rise of respiratory illness the closer a person lives to an oil refinery. Profits over people? You tell me, Mr. Beck. Careful tap dancing around these truths. You might fall off the edge of the world.

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