Crosslands Bulletin

Straight Up

Author: Joseph Romm
Release Date: April 19, 2010
Number of Pages: 179
Binding: Paperback

Publisher Information
Island Press
1718 Connecticut Avenue NW, Suite 300
Washington, DC 20009
USA
Phone: +1 202 232 7933
E-Mail: info@islandpress.org
Web: http://islandpress.org/

This collection of opinion blogs by Joseph Romm amounts to nothing more than a partisan diatribe against climate-change deniers — in large measure Republican politicians and sympathizers.  Their crime is not simply refusing to admit that the continued use of coal and oil is the worst calamity since humans appeared on Earth.  The guilt is compounded by the disingenuous arguments they use to draw other people to their side. 

Romm reserves a special measure of vitriol for the “status quo” national media. Their sin is unforgivable.  They have inexcusably ignored or bungled coverage of every aspect of climate science.

Paradoxically, all  the publicity blurbs on the back of the book praising Romm are from the presumptively depraved press.  He is “trusted” by New York Times pundit Paul Krugman.  Thomas Friedman, the Times’ doyen on all topics from A to Z, thinks Romm’s musings are “indispensable.”  That eminent journal of national atmospheric science, Rolling Stone, says Romm is one of “the 100 people who are changing America.”

Reading between the covers, though, one gets a different impression.  From being a functionary in various positions at the US Department of Energy during the Clinton administration, Romm has transformed into a liberal firebrand skewering the political opposition with rhetorical barbs — and enjoying himself immensely.

The youngest of three brothers, Joseph earned two degrees in physics at MIT.  He bounced around on Capitol Hill, with non-profits and in the federal bureaucracy before launching himself into the celestial heights of the blogosphere. 

“Through this blog I have interacted with people from every walk of life, with widely different worldviews, from many continents, whom I never would have otherwise known.  And all from the basement of my house, occasionally with my daughter on my lap,”  Romm confides in the first blog selected for the book.

“It boggles the mind that I have a profession that did not exist even a decade ago, but that is, in many respects, precisely what my father did, precisely what I never expected to do.”

The latter remark does not ring true. 

His father, Avrom “Al” Romm, was the first editor of the daily Times Herald-Record, which covers  the communities of the Hudson River Valley between New York City and Albany.  Its editorial offices are in Middleton, 60 miles from Max Yasgur’s farm where the Romms drove to report on the rock festival at Woodstock.  His mother, maiden name Grodzins, published freelance articles in celebrated magazines, penned a regular column about professional writing, and completed several books. 

Scarcely a sentence in son Joe’s anthology conveys original news or reveals any new facts about climate change.  Journalism is not the tool of choice in this book or on his ClimateProgress.org Web site, which Romm runs as the mouthpiece for the Center for American Progress, the incubator of liberal thinking.  (John Podesta, President Bill Clinton’s former chief of staff, founded the center.  Podesta later became Barack Obama’s transition team leader). 

Romm says his goal is “to cut through the crap and focus on what’s important.”   He often fails to deliver on the promises he makes at the start: 

To deal only with essentials:  “One could write an entire book on [Dick] Cheney’s single-handed efforts to destroy a livable climate for your children, grandchildren, and the next fifty generations of Americans.”

Not to speak rubbish: “The United States has already lost the leadership it had in solar photovoltaics and wind, thanks to deep budget cuts by President Reagan and the Newt Gingrich-led Congress.”

To be authoritative: “The bottom line about the [Washington] Post is that it would appear to have no journalistic standards at all for what it publishes on its editorial page and its letters page.”

In the final analysis, Romm is not fond of the UN climate process.  He argues that we don’t need 193 nations to come to an agreement on mitigating carbon emissions.  He gives President Obama credit for salvaging the Copenhagen climate conference at the end of 2009 by forging an understanding among key emitters, including China and India.

So, after spitting gobs of venom on the Bush-Cheney record, Romm ends up cheering the same international position that the Bush team held out for at UN climate negotiations.

Even the arrow on the cover of the book is not straight up.

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