Sunday, March 11, 2007


Modern day "conservative" columnists eschew the truth that was Edward R. Murrow's passion.

Editorial writers have a right to their own opinions. But as the late senator, Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, they do not have a right to their own facts. For many people, The Albany Herald is the source of local, state and national news. The political pundits who appear on The Herald’s editorial page and the political cartoons at the top of the page are the place many local readers receive their slant on the news- on what’s behind the cold facts on the news pages. So it’s a disservice to readers any time The Herald’s editorial staff chooses to print columnists and cartoonists who shamelessly exaggerate, mislead, and occasionally outright lie about facts.

Global warming is a perfect example. Most of the world’s reputable climatologists agree that the earth is getting warmer, that ocean temperatures are rising, and that ice sheets over the Arctic, Antarctic and Greenland are shrinking. Those are measurable scientific facts. They also agree that carbon emissions from human activities are a likely major contributor to this phenomenon. That is a hypothesis but also based on measurable facts. However, The Herald recently chose to run a cartoon mocking Al Gore (who just won an Oscar for his documentary film, An Inconvenient Truth) and his efforts to reduce global warming. The clear import of the cartoon was that Gore is Chicken Little hysterically claiming that the sky is falling. And here is what syndicated op-ed columnist Richard Lowry, who has a regular slot on the right side of The Herald editorial page, wrote about global warming the day after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, in his August 30, 2005 column: “There is hardly an undesirable natural event, from wildfires to hurricanes, that former Vice President Al Gore hasn't blamed on global warming.” Lowry used the rest of his column to cite “facts” intended to debunk the theory that the earth is getting warmer and that more powerful hurricanes was one effect of warmer ocean temperatures. Here’s more from the same column:

“An article in Nature — after questionable jiggering with the historical wind data — argues that hurricanes have doubled in strength because of global warming. Climatologist Patrick Michaels counters that if hurricanes had doubled in their power it would be obvious to everyone and there would be no need to write controversial papers about it. Indeed, if you adjust for population growth and skyrocketing property values, hurricanes don't appear to be any more destructive today.”

In his 2007 State of the Union address, George Bush finally got around to admitting that global warming is a problem, saying that America needs “technological breakthroughs…to confront the serious challenge of global climate change.” This remarkable admission came six years after Bush rejected the Kyoto treaty to reduce emissions causing climate change, six years after his Vice President said that America didn’t need more stringent fuel economy standards in motor vehicles and that it is every American’s God given right to drive an SUV. After Bush’s speech, did Lowry admit that he had been using his column to confuse readers into thinking that global warming is a myth concocted by nutty environmentalists? Not a chance.

So what do columnists like Lowry gain by purveying lies- lies that end up causing real harm when they keep people too confused to recognize a looming disaster? The answer may be found in the stories of “scientists” like Dr. Robert Balling, Dr. Patrick Michaels, and Dr. Siegfried Frederick Singer, who for years publicly and strenuously disagreed that global warming exists. They argued that any increase in temperatures was not caused by carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels such as coal and oil. Later they were exposed-- they were paid for their opinions, and handsomely. Each received hundreds of thousands of dollars from entities such as German and British coal companies, Exxon, Shell Oil, the Kuwait “Institute for Scientific Research,” and OPEC. By the late 1990’s, Balling had already received $300,000 and Michaels had pocketed $200,000 for television appearances and op-ed columns intended to derail any attempts to deal with global warming.

Instead of printing column after column from the likes of Lowry and Cal Thomas, The Herald would be doing its readers a service by publishing fact checks of their prior columns where they lied about the absence of evidence of global warming, the unquestionable existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, or all of the “good news” the mainstream media somehow overlooked about the incredible successes of the American occupation in Iraq. Maybe I’m being naive, but isn’t the purpose of a newspaper to help its readers find the truth?