Friday, April 3, 2009

April's Fool

Good ol' George Will, he's back for another try. Sort of like Charlie Brown and his neverending but hopeless quest to kick that football. And, just like C.B., he's never going to get it.

In his latest Washington Post windmill tilt, he goes after, of all things, compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). Turns out that "some" of them—he doesn't bother with any numbers— don't last very long. Well, George, I have had "some" incandescent bulbs that didn't last very long either. I've had "some" of them blow out the first time I turned them on. Have you considered a column about that scandal?

He's also discovered that they contain mercury and should be disposed of properly. Apparently he's very concerned about the environment, so he worries about this. Some people might not do it right. There's no word, however, on whether or not he's equally concerned about the mercury that's been in all those fluorescent tubes that have been lighting offices and—gasp!—hospitals for so many decades. Or on whether he's worried about the mercury that goes into the air when you burn all the extra coal needed to run your inefficient, power-hungry incandescent bulb (which turns about 90% of its energy into heat)—mercury that gets dispersed into the landscape and is virtually impossible to clean up.

George seems unaware, too, that CFLs represent a transitional technology, one that will save energy until LED bulbs, which have all the benefits of CFLs but none of the drawbacks, are ready for home use.

While he's at it, George simply can't resist abusing the UN World Meteorological Office's data just one mo' time. He's a little more subtle about it than in his earlier columns; maybe he read one of the hundreds of blog entries that pointed out just how utterly wrong he was. Or the letter from the the head of the WMO itself that said the same. So this time he shoots for misleading instead of wrong—and he scores! Where he used to say that the WMO's data show no global warming since 1998, this time he goes with the more clever thought that, according to the WMO, "there has not been a warmer year on record than 1998." Well done! This one is technically true, but wholly misleading. He implies rather than states something that's factually incorrect. Brilliant!

Of course, it still doesn't mean anything. As Chris Mooney notes, "It’s absurd to assume that we’ll set a new temperature record each year, and that if we don’t, there’s nothing to worry about."
The brilliant cartoon is by Tom Toles of the Post. It's a Web-only cartoon that unfortunately did not appear in the newspaper.

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