And now we are into August, the molten heart of the crucible of summer, the month that Frenchmen flee and dogs abide. It is too hot to grill out and too hot to fix a roof and too hot to wait in line at the ice cream truck.
Indeed, it’s too hot to kvetch.
That’s bad news for a column in a mass-circulation periodical, because complaint is its toasted bread and butter. However, it’s a plain fact that, with the heat index in triple digits, most of the grievances we could summon up this week are unlikely to be redressed.
The weather itself, for one. As you may be aware, our local conditions are dictated by two shadowy Latin cartels by the names of La Nina and El Nino (and don’t think Mike Hubbard wasn’t thinking of that when he fast-tracked HB56 in the legislature).
According to climatologists in the know, we’re just winding up a two-year La Nina event, characterized by cooler-than-usual temperatures in waters of the Pacific tropics, that has indirectly caused crazy weather all over our hemisphere. Now it’s time for El Nino to crank up, which means warmer Pacific sea surface temps and likely more rain for us in the Southeast this winter. It could also lead to another hot year throughout the world in 2013 when you factor in global climate change, what used to be called “global warming.”
Not everybody factors that in, of course. There’s a stalwart band of well-insulated experts still asserting that the planet’s slowly rising temperatures are par for the climate’s course, and that manmade gas emissions have had no effect on the ecosphere.
Richard Muller used to be one of those guys.
The professor of physics at the University of California, Berkeley, was skeptical of “the very existence of global warming,” as he wrote in The New York Times Sunday. Muller and his daughter founded the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Project, which conducted its research thanks in part to a huge grant from the Charles Koch Charitable Foundation. If you keep up with the oil-loving Koch brothers, you know they don’t lay out cash to affirm manmade global warming.
What Muller and his fellow scientists discovered, and what he divulged in the Times, was a confirmation that our planet’s average land-surface temperature is up two and a half degrees over the last 250 years. “Humans are almost entirely the cause,” Muller concluded.
Unfortunately, the climate is just one of many big problems we can’t fix by ourselves. Pretty much everything you can think of, from steep unemployment rates to the volatility of gas prices, seems beyond our ability to effect change.
Maybe we should start smaller. Maybe we can fix Alabama Public Television.
I confess to a certain sympathy for the subject. My first TV appearance not connected to an afternoon kiddie show was on WBIQ when Dave Hammett and I got to stand next to a turtle on Bob Truett’s local zoo show. I even earned a miniscule paycheck from APT way back in the day, pushing cameras and pulling cables in its Tuscaloosa production center before it was broadcasting any colors besides black and white.
Thus with dismay I’ve viewed the recent upheavals at APT, where Executive Director Allan Pizzato and Deputy Director Pauline Howland were summarily dismissed by the Alabama Educational Television Commission, which claimed it wanted to “move in another direction.” Apparently, the two were not fired for malfeasance, since on their watch APT bagged 17 Emmy awards and operated with untrammeled economic efficiency, despite having its funding slashed 60 percent by the legislature during the last four years.
In a letter to Governor Bentley July 19, APT Chief Operating Officer Charles Grantham alluded to some of the AETC commissioners having their own agendas at cross-purposes with APT’s mission of public broadcasting, and stated that at least one genius wanted to drop PBS programming altogether.
We hear that one of the alternative programming options some of the commissioners would like to impose on the public is a series of videos produced by a group called Wallbuilders, under the aegis of evangelical Christian minister and GOP activist David Barton, whom former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee has called “the greatest living historian on the spiritual nature of America’s early days.”
Really? According to a report researched by People for the American Way, Barton’s historical teachings are short on facts and long on far-fetched notions, for instance, that the Founding Fathers meant America to be a Christian nation and that national borders are drawn by God. He’s also tied into what is called the “Dominionist” movement, through which Christians should contrive to assume control of all earthly institutions until Jesus comes back to take the wheel.
If APT wanted to run some of that after midnight, where they’ve often scheduled controversial shows like Independent Lens, fine. That’s what DVRs are for. However, APT still runs a full daytime schedule of instructional programming—what used to be called “educational television”—and if the plan was to sneak Barton’s piffle into the mix with legitimate learning videos, I’m sure I wouldn’t be the only viewer objecting to that.
Believe it or not, Alabama’s was the first statewide public television network in America. It is villainous that a cadre of half-wit ideologues should be dismantling a system that has given the entire state access to quality programming for more than half a century.
Since we do most of our TV watching indoors, we could take some collective action in the vicinity of the AC unit. What say we blow a stamp on a letter to Doctor Robert about the AETC, and let him know Alabama Public Television shouldn’t be messed with? (You can end the sentence in a preposition; I don’t think he’ll mind.)
Governor Robert Bentley
State Capitol 600 Dexter Avenue
Montgomery AL 36130
Courtney Haden is a Weld columnist. Send your feedback to email@example.com.