To give us a break from the daily grind...
Lead in, by Brad Schaeffer at Big Hollywood on May 2:
Anyone watching today's installment of ABC's morning news program This Week had to feel some measure of pity for out-spoken left wing elite Bill Maher, making his first appearance on the show as a round table guest.
The condescending comic left the warm cocoon of his Real Time studio (which he routinely packs with like-minded far-left guests and an obsequious studio audience one would think hand-picked by moveon.org) and made the horrific blunder of allowing his abject ignorance and ideological blindness to be systematically exposed by the dissecting and relentless cross-examinations of conservative thinker George Will. And on network television no less!
The acerbic Maher is used to making outrageous and factually empty statements on his HBO talk-show and getting nothing but an approving nod from his guests and howls of affirmation from his unwashed peanut gallery in return. But when he made this claim: "I could criticize America in general for not attacking this problem [dependency on fossil fuels] in the Seventies. I mean, Brazil got off oil in the last thirty years we certainly could've," he was woefully ill-prepared to be called out on it by the acutely observant Will who pressed him: "Bill, can you just explain to me in what sense Brazil 'got off oil'?"
It was an uncomfortable moment of reality TV as Maher played the proverbial deer in headlights. "Uh...I believe they did. I believe they, in the Seventies they had a program to use sugar cane ethanol and I believe that is what fuels their country." A Ralph Kramden "hamana-hamana" could not have betrayed less command of the issue. Will promptly reminded the comedian: "They still burn a lot of oil and have a lot of it off-shore."
In case Maher needs some help, EIA statistics show that Brazil produces 2.4 million barrels of oil per day and consumes roughly 2.52mm bpd-ranking it #8 on the list of oil consuming nations....
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Two guys I like a lot. Bill Maher and George Will. I don't see that clip as devastating to Maher. Brazil has taken giant steps to reduce its dependence on foreign oil, but Maher overstated it (probably innocent mistake, as Brazil has been the poster child for alternative fuels in the media)
Maher's main point is Obama is not taking a "liberal" position on off shore drilling and should take some guff as a result.Posted by: Hal at May 6, 2010 12:16 PM
I like the prospect of biofuels.
Speaking of Brazil, has anyone seen the movie, City of God? My friends recommend it, but it sounds too scary for me.Posted by: hippie at May 6, 2010 2:48 PM
Hippie, "City of God" is very good. It's not for squeamish -- its about the conditions in the slums, or favelas, in a major Brazilian city (I think it's Rio, but I'm not sure).There's a great deal of graphic violence and sex, and it's a sad movie, but I highly recommend it. A similar film you might want to see is "Tsotsi" from South Africa. Once again, very depressing, but good.
Btw, if anyone cares, today is my birthday. I'm 21 (again)!Posted by: Phillymiss at May 6, 2010 3:01 PM
I remember a button from the '70's (remember when everyone had to wear at least one button with some proverbial wisdom written on it?) that said,
"If you can't dazzle 'em with brilliance, baffle 'em with BS."
Mahr has for years eschewed any treatise of reality for a career as a preening hack. In the world of academics, Will's exchange was a body-slam. He rightly called him on the first observation, then when Mahr hesitated and made up some BS, Will's follow-up comment was a devastating rebuke.
It was devastating precisely because Will did not get into detail in the rebuke. That's what a Professor does to a smart-ass student who brings nothing substantial to the conversation, who's just sitting there sounding off for the sake of sounding off.
For a Professor not to engage, as Mahr demurred, is a devastating rebuke. What makes it even worse is that Will knows damned well that Mahr is a very intelligent man. The message was clear...Bill had better show up next week having done his homework.
Personally, I find Mahr despicable. But I'll readily sit and listen to a highly intelligent person with a despicable agenda and value system, if only because intelligent people articulate the basis for their beliefs and I learn something from them. That said, Mahr is going to have a very brief lifespan in the company of folks like Will if he thinks he's going to drag that roundtable down into the gutter with him.Posted by: Gerard Nadal at May 6, 2010 3:34 PM
Professor, this exchange was not in academia. It was on tv. Big difference. Even so, Will was right, and Maher was wrong. It happens. Will is wrong sometimes too. I've seen people I like receive devastating rebukes, I really have. This just wasn't one of them. Maher was saying we should have done more over the past 30 years to reduce our dependence on oil, particularly foreign oil. Brazil has done that. Brazil has not stopped using or importing oil, but they have made significant progress, and has made it a priority. Pointing out Maher's error did not destroy his main point. A "devastating rebuke" would have done that.
No one said to Maher, "You are wrong, the US should not have made alternative energy a priority in the 1970s." Or "you are wrong, the left isn't disappointed with Obama's mainstream governance." The most they could do was say "you overstated the success of Brazil's program." Oh, that hurts.Posted by: Hal at May 6, 2010 3:57 PM
With all due respect, and I DO enjoy your commentary, this WAS devastating. We live in such a coarsened culture, that we have generally lost sight of the nuanced mannerisms of intellectuals, especially since the Sunday talk shows are the only respite from the hyper-partisan, shrill, smash-mouth nonsense that passes for informed debate on the news during the week.
As for the exchange and academia, academia is not so much a college campus as it is a communion of intelligent people. That makes locale irrelevant. The greatest man in my life has been a Catholic Priest who has his doctorate in literature from Columbia University. His dinner table through the years has been my university, more so than all the degrees I've collected along the way.
In the genteel world of the intellectual, one need not engage in smash-mouth as rebuke. In Will's milieu, this was an 8 out of 10 on the Richter scale.Posted by: Gerard Nadal at May 6, 2010 4:09 PM
From the wisdom in your posts, I'd say you're 90.
From the unadulterated radiant love in your posts, you sound like you're 18.
Keep us guessing!!
Enjoy today, and many, many more!Posted by: Gerard Nadal at May 6, 2010 4:14 PM
Please google "obama and brazilian oil exploration". Obviously both you and Mahr are both badly misinformed.Posted by: Mary at May 7, 2010 9:07 AM
Mary, I acknowledged Maher was wrong and Will was right. I don't really feel the need to google further.Posted by: Hal at May 7, 2010 9:58 AM
If you consider Maher's comment an "innocent mistake" I consider you both badly misinformed.Posted by: Mary at May 7, 2010 10:15 AM
Happy birthday and many happy returns. I'm twenty one as well. I just won't say how many times over!Posted by: Mary at May 7, 2010 10:17 AM
Thank you so much for the kind remarks!Posted by: Phillymiss at May 7, 2010 10:21 AM
If you consider Maher's comment an "innocent mistake" I consider you both badly misinformed.
Posted by: Mary at May 7, 2010 10:15 AM
Perhaps, but I'm no expert on Brazil or alternative energy, and I have heard many times that Brazil has completely avoided the necessity to import oil because of its aggressive program to make bio fuel and find other alternatives. Obviously, I what I thought i heard was oversimplified and wrong, but if I had said what Bill Maher had said, it would definitely be an "innocent mistake." Perhaps all Americans should be willing to give a little more benefit of the doubt to those who have different opinions than we do.
Bill Maher is a foul mouthed bigot. Of course that does not have any bearing on the energy situation in Brazil. (And by the way, comparing ethanol production in Brazil to domestic production--primarily sugar cane based vs. our corn based ethanol--are two different production models with the sugar cane yielding more calories of energy at less cost). But it does make me wonder how it is that such a lowlife is invited to partake in a panel discussion including the likes of a gentleman like George Will. So you go on TV and pretend to be funny and say swear words and mock people of faith...so that makes you a genius?
Oil, natural gas, and coal are three natural resources that are packed with energy. We make ethanol at considerable expense of pesticides and herbicides being pumped into our soil, not to mention the fossil fuel based fertilizers and nitrogen to amp up corn production that is depleting the fertility of our most valuable natural resource: our rich soils. And all of that tillage results in runoff and the applications of chemicals finds its way into our waterways and even into groundwater and we drink it and it gets into our food supply as well. Then we wonder why we get sick. While I am not a tree hugger and I see the necesssity of some of our methods of conventional agriculture, this energy thing makes no sense. We already have the technology and resources to extract all the energy we need from existing sources without having to strip our soils of fertility to grow fuel.
That is not to say that we shouldn't be researching alternative sources of energy. But we need to be realistic and apply a common sense standard to mainstreaming the alternatives. Perhaps something like if it costs more and does more harm than what we presently have then we should keep on researching and developing until at minimum we hit parity.Posted by: Jerry at May 7, 2010 8:15 PM
In all honesty I think you, unlike Maher, would have sense enough to research the subject and know what you're talking about rather than shooting off your mouth and looking like a fool.Posted by: Mary at May 7, 2010 9:55 PM