POISONED WATERS! Rising temperatures threaten our world—and Bjorn Lomborg has poisoned our discourse: // link // print // previous // next //
THURSDAY, MARCH 22, 2007
ONE DEAN LEFT BEHIND: Like many other major pundits, David Broder is almost utterly clueless about public schooling. In todays Post, he rails against a Republican proposal to change No Child Left Behind. [T]he remedy they are recommending seems drastic, Broder says, and the abandonment of the first serious national effort to raise standards in the schools would be disastrous. Then, the Dean types this:
BRODER (3/22/07): Under the Republican proposal, states could, at their own initiative, opt out of the law's requirements while continuing to receive their share of the billions the federal government invests in elementary and secondary schools. To measure progress in the schools, states could use their own standards.But states already use their own standards when measuring progress under NCLB. Under the current system, each state devises its own state-wide tests of proficiency in several subjects; the various states can make these tests as easy or as hard as they like. For ourselves, we like the fact that NCLB requires testing and reporting; we dont like a lot of the tests, and we dont like the uses to which they are put. But Broder cant even seem to describe how the present system works—although, for some reason, he thinks he knows which changes would be disastrous.
Were going to postpone this topic till next week. Last week, Kevin Drum (and others) had interesting posts about these proposed NCLB revisions; we think this topic deserves some discussion. As we have said: Theres no topic smart liberals understand less than the topic of low-income schooling. If Bjorn Lomborg would stop spreading poison among us, we might find some time for this topic.
POISONED WATERS: Yesterday, our entire staff piled into the van and drove at moderate speed to DC, where they saw their Uncle Albert Gore testify before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. (He had appeared before a joint House committee that morning.) Personal reaction? It turned out to be one of the most disturbing days in our nine years of posting THE HOWLER.
Gore was superb—as were a good many members of the House and the Senate, including a number of Republicans. At times—as when Gore interacted with veteran Texas Republican congressman Ralph Hall—the colloquy seemed straight outta Homer. But then, we marveled at the thoroughly bizarre performance by Oklahoma senator James Inhofe, who questioned Gore in such a strange way that we found ourselves wondering (no hyperbole intended) if he has mental or emotional problems. Committee chair Barbara Boxer was forced to reason with Inhofe as you would deal with a young, troubled child—and Gore did something similar. "I'm sitting here trying to think what I can do or say that might make it possible to reach out to you," he softly said to Inhofe. "I'm serious about this. We've got a mutual friend in [evangelical leader] Doug Coe. I'd love to have breakfast with you. Just the three of us without cameras and lights and tell you why I feel so strongly about this. In todays Post, Dana Milbank captures one small part of Inhofes disordered performance:
MILBANK (3/22/07): Inhofe informed Gore that scientists are "radically at odds with your claims." Displaying a photograph of icicles in Buffalo, Inhofe demanded: "How come you guys never seem to notice it when it gets cold?Could Inhofe possibly be this stupid? Because ice still forms during Buffalos winters, he says he has trouble believing in warming. But no single excerpt or video clip could do justice to Inhofes disordered conduct. We suggest that you watch his full Q-and-A on the tape now posted at C-SPAN. (His segment starts 13 minutes in.) Of course, Missouris Kit Bond was little better. There are some very marginal people holding down seats in the Senate.
But our sense of disturbance only took shape when we returned to our sprawling campus and watched Hannity & Colmes. The programs first segment dealt with Gores congressional sessions; the first guest was none other than Danish statistician Bjorn Lomborg, who recently helped the New York Times William Broad produce his astoundingly bungled report on Gore and global warming (links below). Yesterday afternoon, Lomborg was the GOPs rebuttal witness in a second session of the House committees. Hours later, he went on Fox. And omigod! He said it again:
LOMBORG (3/21/07): Basically, Al Gore goes out and tells us wildly exaggerated stories about what's going to happen. Probably the most famous clip is where he tells us, essentially, that sea levels are going to rise about 20 feet, which is a far cry from what the U.N. climate panel is telling us, which is one foot. And it's important, because one is a problem—the one foot—but 20 feet would be catastrophe.As he did in the New York Sun last month, Lomborg played a savage game of scientific apples-and-oranges, accusing Gore of wild exaggeration in the process. The UN said sea levels might rise one foot—but Gore said twenty feet, Lomborg railed!
Of course, as weve noted, Gore was talking about what will happen if the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets break away. By contrast, the UN report was predicting future sea levels if the ice sheets dont break off. (For the record, the UN report said that sea levels may rise by as much as 23 inches if the ice sheets remain intact.) Lomborgs presentation is baldly deceptive—a bald-faced scam on the American public. And no, it really doesnt make sense to think Lomborg doesnt know this.
So there was Lomborg, committing a crime against your nations voters. But our sense of disturbance really took shape in the moments after his latest deception. Although the groaning problem with Lomborgs claim has been discussed at an array of web sites, Alan Colmes made no attempt to contradict his grossly misleading statement. Ditto Jon Coifman (the Natural Resources Defense Council), who was there to provide fairness-and-balance. (Well post their responses tomorrow.)
Indeed, Lomborgs bald deception now rules discussion of this topic. In early February, he presented his utterly bogus claim in the pages of the New York Sun, where it would have done minimal damage. But last week, the New York Times William Broad made a fateful decision; he wanted this nonsense in his paper too. So Broad used Lomborgs apples-for-oranges in his Science Times report about Gore. By yesterday, the Danes poisoned fruit was being cited all over your struggling nation.
Yep! Republican crackpots cited Lomborgs claim at both congressional hearings. Last night, Hannity dragged Lomborg onto the air—and Colmes was too dumb (or well-paid) to rebut what he said. And omigod! When Gore was discussed on Special Report, heres how things got started:
BRIT HUME (3/21/07): And now some analytical observations about His Eminency [Gore] from Fred Barnes, executive editor of the Weekly Standard; Mort Kondracke, executive editor of Roll Call; and Nina Easton, Washington bureau chief of Fortune magazine.Broads piece has become the sacred text for those who would call Gore a wild exaggerator. Exhibit A? Its Lomborgs fruity claim about that UN report.
As we said last week, theres nothing complex or confusing about this. Gore was talking about one possibility; the UN report was discussing another. Indeed, the New York Times had explained this bone-simple distinction in its original, front-page report about the UN presentation. But three days later, Lomborg placed his stink-bomb in the Sun—and soon, Broad stole it away for the Times. Its now the club that is used to bash Gore by those who would say that he has a fever. Its repeated by every liar and hack—and people like Colmes and Coifman are too inept (or compliant) to stand up and refute it.
Tomorrow, well continue to look at this ongoing problem—and we do so for a reason. In his testimony, Gore said that our planets natural systems are under a devastating, ongoing attack. But for at least the past fifteen years, our public discourse has been under attack, to the point where its no longer possible to have the simplest fact-based discussion. At this point, it makes no sense to think that Lomborg doesnt know what hes doing; for reasons only he can explain, hes pouring poison into our discourse. But readers, what explains the ongoing failure of liberals and Dems to respond to these attacks? What explains the way this poison persists, fifteen years after inception?
TOMORROW: Presumably, Lomborg is lying. But how about Broad? And his editor? And Kondracke? And Colmes? At THE HOWLER, we do plan to ask.
VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: We did five posts on Broads report; see THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/20/07, with links to all prior reports.
For our discussion of Lomborg, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/19/07. Lomborg is "the prime example in our time of someone who distorts statistics and statements to meet his own political end," said Peter Raven, chairman of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Raven made that statement in 2002—but so what? Today, Lomborg rules your discourse.