A Free Market In Conservative Endorsements

Conservative talk show hosts claim support for the free market. Ignoring for a moment the degree to which the right wing actually undermines our market system while promoting plutocracy, there is one market they are strongly in favor of–a free market in selling endorsements. Politico reports:

If you’re a regular listener of Glenn Beck’s radio show and you wanted to contribute to a political group that would advance the populist conservative ideals he touts on his show, you’d have plenty of reason to think that FreedomWorks was your best investment.

But if you’re a fan of Mark Levin’s radio show, you’d have just as much cause to believe that Americans for Prosperity, a FreedomWorks rival, was the most effective conservative advocacy group. And, if Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity are who you listen to, you’d be hearing a steady stream of entreaties to support the important work of the Heritage Foundation.

That’s not coincidence. In search of donations and influence, the three prominent conservative groups are paying hefty sponsorship fees to the popular talk show hosts. Those fees buy them a variety of promotional tie-ins, as well as regular on-air plugs – praising or sometimes defending the groups, while urging listeners to donate – often woven seamlessly into programming in ways that do not seem like paid advertising.

“The point that people don’t realize,” said Michael Harrison, founder and publisher of the talk media trade publication TALKERS Magazine, “is that (big time political talk show hosts) are radio personalities – they are in the same business that people like Casey Kasem are in – and what they do is no different than people who broadcast from used car lots or restaurants or who endorse the local roofer or gardener.”

This returns the the question I’ve often wondered about the right wing talk show hosts–do they believe any of the nonsense they say or are they just saying what makes them the most money?  Both Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh have provided reasons to question whether they believe what they say on air.

Quote of the Day

“There a giant fire burning in Arizona, the biggest fire ever in the history of the state … I’m not saying these two things are connected, but a few weeks ago Sarah Palin moved to Arizona, and then the state burst into flames…

“I feel bad for Sarah. She heard all the alarms and sirens and she figured the British were coming.” –Bill Maher

Premature Predictions Of A New Ice Age

Those on the anti-science right have been jumping on junk-science news reports of a new ice age. Typically they get excited by any news report, regardless of how weak the evidence, which could be used to deny climate change, while ignoring all the scientific evidence which contradicts their opinions. Today’s excitement is over reports that the earth may be entering a new ice age.

The story, like many stories distorted by the right wing, does have a grain of truth to it. The sun appears to be going into a cycle  with decreased solar activity, possibly an absence of sun spots, and possibly even some cooling. The major changes are expected to involve changes in the sun’s magnetic field and ionizing gas, not in heat. Sci-Tech Today includes this report on the impact on climate change:

Skeptics of man-made global warming from the burning of fossil fuels have often pointed to solar radiation as a possible cause of a warming Earth, but they are in the minority among scientists. The Earth has warmed as solar activity has decreased.

Andrew Weaver, a climate scientist at the University of Victoria, said there could be small temperature effects, but they are far weaker than the strength of man-made global warming from carbon dioxide and methane. He noted that in 2010, when solar activity was mostly absent, Earth tied for its hottest year in more than a century of record-keeping.

Hill and colleagues wouldn’t discuss the effects of a quiet sun on temperature or global warming.

“If our predictions are true, we’ll have a wonderful experiment that will determine whether the sun has any effect on global warming,” Hill said.

This will be an interesting experiment which might lead to some changes in predictions, but is not likely to change the major problems related to climate change. Recent models of reduced solar activity predict that the effect will be to lower temperatures by 0.3 degrees C at most. In other words, the benefits are likely to be a less severe heat wave at best, not a new ice age.

When combining the effects of  natural phenomenon, including this change in solar activity, with man-made effects, it would not be surprising if there will be minor adjustments in current models as new evidence is available. That is how science works–not by jumping on whichever newspaper stories provide the prediction you want. Even if this should result in a greater reduction in global warming than expected, the prudent course remains to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and achieve greater energy independence.

The anti-science right, always alarmists over plans to reduce our use of fossil fuels while ignoring the evidence for the necessity, have an advantage in the debate. Not caring about the facts, right wing media can make noise about a new ice age coming, while scientists would prefer to take more time to study the data before making predictions. Understanding this problem, some climate scientists have released arguments as to why the predictions of a new ice age are unlikely.