The Year’s Worst Commentary

I’m not really a big fan of celebrating the New Year. The actual holiday always strikes me as a waste of time – It’s a fresh new year! That’s why everything’s closed and you can’t do anything! – and I have no interest in staying up until midnight for any reason unless I can sleep in until noon the next day. (I suppose that New Year’s Day works well for the hangover crowd, but as a teetotalling Mormon with kids who jump on him before 8:00 AM, I can’t do much with that.) We did watch an unexpected rerun of “Rudolph’s Shiny New Near” on television last night, and it’s just as delightfully dopey as I remember it, but beyond that one weird Christmasish special, the celebration of the calendar’s relentless trek onward leaves me cold.

I do, however, enjoy all the best/worst lists that crop up this time of year. They’ve lost some of their luster with me these days, in that I’ve usually only seen one or two of the movies that show up on those lists, and rarely, if ever, have I seen or heard any of the TV shows, music, or other entertainment offerings.

I do, however, read a lot of commentary. And I stumbled across one item that showed up on the Internet yesterday that qualifies as the most bone-headed assessment of the world today that I have read in many a moon. It’s by noted film critic Roger Ebert, and it’s just all sorts of dumb. It’s grandiosely stupid; asininity on a global scale. Allow me to share excerpts with you, complete with running commentary/mockery.

It’s entitled “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold,” and right at the outset, you know that the British spelling of the word “centre” means this is seriously self-important business. It also black geometric shapes that end with a red octagon, which makes far more sense than the commentary itself.

It begins thusly:

It’s all coming to pieces, isn’t it — the world we live in, the continuity we thought we could count on, the climate, the economy, the fragile peace. The 20th century was called “the American Century,” with some reason. I do not believe the 21st century will belong to anybody, and it may not last for 100 years of human witness.

You see where this is going, don’t you? Maybe not. Sure, it’s apocalyptic, but here at the outset, you don’t get the full flavor of what it is that’s going to ensure that America will fall and that humans won’t be here to witness the outset of the 22nd Century. Indeed, Ebert makes some token references to issues that are legitimately frightening – Iran with nukes, a collapsing economy – in the hopes that you don’t notice the real boogieman that has him clutching his blankie and sucking his one thumb up on those dark, windy Chicago nights.

So let’s start with paragraph #2 from Ebert’s ponderous thoughts.

The weather is unhinged. It is no longer a question of global warming. It is a question of what in the hell is happening? I do not have to rehearse for you the details of this horrible American autumn, and a winter not yet half over. The tornadoes, the hurricanes, the floods, the blizzards, the wild fires, the heat waves, the water shortages, the power blackouts.

What? Winter is not yet half over? Noooooooo!

I think rehearsing the details might be a good idea, Rog, if only because I can recall nothing about this past year that is markedly different from life on Earth for millenia. Winter doesn’t end in December not because the planet is spiralling out of control, but because – let me think – Winter never ends in December.

The other reason, of course, that it’s no longer a question of global warming is that the globe isn’t warming, and it hasn’t since 1998. The cooling trend of the past two years has knocked out almost a century’s worth of warming, so alarmists like Ebert have to cling to other straws if they’re going to make us tremble in our booties. And so, to scare us fully, Ebert references events that did not happen. What was so horrible about this past autumn? It was a relatively mild hurricane season, coming off of a hurricane season the year previously that was one of the most tepid on record, despite the warnings from Gore and Co. who insisted that Katrina was the harbinger of deadly hurricanes for decades to come.

Tornadoes? Floods? Blizzards? Wild fires? Heat waves? They have ever been with us, and this year wasn’t any different. We can do next to nothing to stop them, and, despite Ebert’s frothing at the mouth, we can’t do much to start them, either. As for water shortages and power blackouts, those are less nature and more nabobbery – the product of Leftist environmental political hackery that Ebert himself applauds.

You want more reliable power and water, Roger? Dam up some rivers. Drill, baby, drill.

The demagoguery continues, shifting temporarily to international events:

The economy is going to get worse. We may have no idea how much worse. The greed and corruption at the economy’s core reached a scale unimaginable at the time of the Great Depression.

Nonsense. Those Roaring Twenties tycoons were plenty greedy. And I couldn’t care less.

Look, I can’t find too many silver linings in our current meltdown, either. But I do know that ignoring the real causes of this thing is useful in scapegoating, but not much else. Ebert attributes this all to “greed and corruption at the economy’s core” and later cites “$100 million bonuses” given to the CEOs of failing banks. Ebert doesn’t know it, but he’s right in line with John “Beavis” McCain, who thinks the entire federal deficit is the result of earmarks.

Earmarks are an easy target, but they account for a tiny fraction of total spending. As crass as massive CEO bonuses are, they remain an infinitesimal part of the current debacle, which is the result, not of greed and corruption as Ebert defines it, but of well-intentioned, kind-hearted Leftists insisting that billions upon billions of dollars be loaned to people without the means to pay it back. Ebert no doubt applauded that compassion when its consequences weren’t visible; now that the law of supply and demand is being enforced, Ebert struggles clumsily to shift the blame.

Ebert then proposes we should all be the Amish, growing our own food and spurning modernity, which may limit Ebert’s movie review choices. He sees all kinds of weird scenarios where the oil supply falls apart overnight and we’re drawn into every nuclear war imaginable.

But it’s global warming that gives him real fits.

I wonder if we are living in the End of Days. I do not mean that in a biblical sense. I mean that we seem to be irrevocably screwing things up. In the case of the global warming problem, we may have already done so. Please, please, don’t tell me global warming is Al Gore’s fantasy. I am reminded of a great line by Saul Bellow. A dying man tells his brother: “Look for me in the weather reports.”

As for me, I am reminded of a great line by Rodney Dangerfield: “What, did somebody step on a duck?” It makes about as much sense as the Bellows line does, and it’s funnier, besides.

It’s nice that he pointed out that he wasn’t speaking Biblically, because a modicum of faith in something bigger than Mr. Ebert might temper the rhetorical extremes here. But how do you respond to something this vapid? Perhaps if he had said “pretty please with sugar on top,” I might have been persuaded. But since the evidence of the globe’s actual temperature flies in the face of Ebert’s pleas, all he can do is whine.

And now witness what he whines about in the beginning of the next paragraph!

Earthquakes. Tsunamis. Typhoons. Volcanoes. Melting icecaps. Dead zones in the sea.

Excuse me? Earthquakes?! Volcanoes?! Would you mind telling me how reducing carbon emissions can keep tectonic plates from shifting? Would Mt. St. Helens have stayed dormant if everyone drove a hybrid? This is Chicken Little-type stuff. How can anyone take it seriously?

It’s earthquakes, incidentally, that cause tsunamis, and we covered the mildness of this year’s typhoons earlier in the post. As for the melting icecaps, it’s pure fiction, especially in the south, where the Antarctic ice is noticeably thickening.

He then whines that nobody really reported on the fact that there was a power blackout on Oahu while Obama was vacationing there, which Ebert attributes to a freak lightning storm. Even assuming that’s true, I think the reason nobody cared is that the power came back on. We’re far more resilient than Ebert gives us credit for, and so is Spaceship Earth.

His final plea:

If you are a member of the U.S. Congress, you should not give a damn if you are a Democrat or a Republican. You should discard ideology and partisanship. You should be searching only for what works, or gives promise of working. You should be listening to the best counsel of the wisest people you can find. This is no time for playing to the crowd. That is all over with. This is the hour to seek what might lead us back from the brink.

This is like that Saturday Night Live character who comes on the news and screams “Fix it!” over and over again. It’s supposed to be funny when he does it; Ebert is unintentionally funny here. You want to do “what works, or gives promise of working,” Rog? Okay. Open up the Outer Continental Shelf and drill like a madman. Build nuclear plants and more oil refineries. Stop worrying that leaving the lights on overnight is somehow going to make a volcano explode, because it isn’t. Lend money only to people who can afford to pay it back. Let uncompetitive businesses fail so that the money is freed up for business that succeeds. And use big sticks and big guns to scare the bejeebers out of anyone who might want to blow us up.

All of that stuff works, Roger. It’s stuff you hate, much the same way you seem to hate the very world you live in, what with its typhoons and earthquakes and unhinged weather and all.

Happy New Year.

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