We begin with what is not a music anniversary: Today in 1950, Paul Harvey began his national radio broadcast.
Author: Steve Prestegard
The Associated Press compares and contrasts Recallarama and Donald Trump’s impeachment:
A divisive leader drove the opposition to extreme measures. The political climate was toxic — with little civil debate or middle ground. The clash ended in a high-risk political showdown that captured the nation’s attention and shaped the next election.
This was the 2012 battle to recall Republican Gov. Scott Walker, not the 2019 fight to impeach President Donald Trump. But for some who lived through the former, the episodes have clear similarities and a warning for Democrats about overreach and distraction.
“In both cases, they thought just as they were upset about something, everyone was,” Walker said, describing one of his takeaways from the campaign that failed to remove him from office. “Just because your base feels strongly about something doesn’t mean that the majority of other voters do.”
Although moderates declined to join liberals back then in voting to eject Walker, Democrats warn against presuming they’ll break the same way for Trump next year in Wisconsin, a state seen as pivotal in 2020. Voters who were likely wary of undoing Walker’s election via a rare recall face a simpler choice in whether to hand Trump a second term, they say.
“People may not like impeachment, simply because it adds to the drama of his presidency, but that doesn’t mean they are on the fence or sympathetic to Trump,” said Jon Erpenbach, a Democratic Wisconsin state senator.
The Walker recall sprang from a law he signed just months into his first term that effectively ended collective bargaining for most public employees. Walker didn’t reveal his plan until after he was elected in 2010, and the move sparked massive protests that made Wisconsin the center of a growing national fight over union rights.
Angry activists gathered nearly a million signatures to force the recall. Although Democrats had fought hard against the bill, with some state senators even fleeing the state at one point to avoid a vote, they were initially reluctant to embrace the recall for fear it would hurt then-President Barack Obama’s reelection hopes in 2012.
The recall became a proxy battle ahead of the presidential election, with Democrats arguing that Walker unfairly targeted teachers, nurses and other public employees to weaken the unions that traditionally supported Democratic candidates. Walker argued that his proposal shouldn’t have been a surprise since he campaigned on forcing public employees to pay more for their benefits while capping how much they could bargain for in raises. He also argued that it wasn’t proper to use the extraordinary option of recall over a policy dispute.
Walker ultimately won the recall election in June 2012, becoming a conservative hero on his way to a short-lived run for president in 2015. In a testament to Wisconsin’s political division, just five months after Walker won the recall vote, Obama cruised to victory in Wisconsin on his way to reelection.
Trump is accused of improperly withholding U.S. military aid that Ukraine needed to resist Russian aggression in exchange for Ukraine’s new president investigating Trump political rival Joe Biden and his son. Trump has argued that he was within his rights to ask Ukraine to look into corruption and that impeachment is just an attempt by Democrats to remove him from office.
Both impeachment and attempting to recall governors from office are exceedingly rare. Impeachment has only been leveled by the House against two presidents, Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton 130 years later. Richard Nixon was on the brink of it in 1974 before he resigned. Walker was only the third governor in U.S. history to face a recall election and the first to survive it.
The rarity of the remedy may help explain why voters are reluctant to do either one, said Charles Franklin, who has regularly surveyed voter attitudes in Wisconsin for Marquette University.
A Marquette University Law School poll conducted just as public impeachment hearings were beginning earlier this month showed 53% of voters in Wisconsin were against removing Trump for office, with just 40% in support. National polls have shown a more even divide.
Even more troubling for Wisconsin Democrats was that while 78% of Democrats supported removing Trump through impeachment, 93% of Republicans were against it. That stronger rallying behind the incumbent, with the other side not as unified, parallels what was seen during the Walker recall, Franklin said.
Walker saw his support among independent voters go from about even six months before the recall election to positive 16 points just before the election. The latest Marquette poll also shows independents currently breaking against impeachment, with 47% against and 36% in favor.
Mike Tate, who was chairman of the state Democratic Party during the recall and continues to work in the state as a consultant, cautioned against making too much of where independents are on impeachment — and where they may be next November. After the impeachment process runs its course, Democrats will move on to talk about many other issues throughout the presidential campaign, Tate said.
“Impeachment will be in the rearview mirror,” he said.
But Stephan Thompson, who led the state GOP during the recalls and went on to manage Walker’s successful 2014 reelection campaign, said impeachment is “such a monumental event in history and politics” that it will hang over Democrats the rest of the cycle and make it difficult for them to bring moderate voters back to their side.
“When the left pushes this hard and overreaches, it helps you band together with people because you’re all in the foxhole together,” Thompson said. “I think that’s something they don’t realize.”
Erpenbach, the state senator, was among those who fled to Illinois for two weeks to try to kill the anti-union bill. He argues that unlike the recall, which was motivated by a policy disagreement, Congress was forced to hold impeachment hearings because Trump is alleged to have violated the Constitution.
Democrats are taking a political chance, Erpenbach said, but they’re doing what the Constitution requires, a key distinction from the recall.
“It worries me that it could backfire,” Erpenbach said, “but that’s not the point.”
Oh, yes, that is the point, Jon. The attempted coup d’état Erpenbach’s party spearheaded (against the advice of national Democrats, by the way) and the attempted coup d’état House Democrats are spearheading are indeed mostly comparable.
It is, however, interesting that Erpenbach now admits that Recallarama was all about a policy disagreement and nothing else. The B.S. about workers’ rights and whatever other crap Democrats dragged up was about nothing more than the fact they couldn’t stop Act 10 and wanted to do anything shy of assassinating Walker to stop Act 10. (Maybe I should rethink that last phrase.)
One difference is that there is a bigger group of Republicans opposed to Trump than the group opposed to Act 10. Other than former Sen. Dale Schultz, who I’m convinced only voted for Democrats after Gov. Tommy Thompson left office, there were a handful of Republicans who voted against Act 10, though they were not anti-Walker. There were no conservative radio talkers who spoke out against Walker or Act 10, in contrast to Trump.
The other, much bigger difference is that Walker did nothing to warrant the vitriol union thugs and other Democrats vomited at him. Trump, as we all know by now, has been his own worst enemy, unless that’s his intent.
Oh, by the way, where was that Walker indictment predicted by MSNBC’s John Nichols the night they lost the recall election? Probably the same place as Hillary Clinton’s election as president.
Minnesota kind of ruined Wisconsin’s football season and the final home game of UW Marching Band director Mike Leckrone by beating the Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium one year ago.
Well, you know what payback is.
We begin with Megan Ryan of the Minneapolis Star Tribune:
Rashod Bateman’s eyes shimmered. Tanner Morgan’s voice hitched.
But Winston DeLattiboudere looked like he always does: upbeat.
The Gophers had just left the TCF Bank Stadium field Saturday drenched with sweat and melted snow, disheartened from a 38-17 defeat to border rival Wisconsin. This loss didn’t just lose them Paul Bunyan’s Axe and the bragging rights that go with it. It lost the Gophers a chance at their first Big Ten Championship Game and likely their first Rose Bowl since 1962.
Bateman and Morgan, as sophomores, have two more opportunities to reach that goal and more. DeLattiboudere is done, just a bowl game left a long month from now before the final grain of sand in the timer of his college career falls.
Yet the underclassmen were visibly dejected, guilt heavy on their shoulders. They felt personally responsible for letting a close game — they trailed by three points at halftime — escalate into a blowout loss.
“My job was to go out there and play every snap as hard as I can for them because I just wanted to see them go out with a bang,” Bateman said of the seniors. “But we failed at that.”
DeLattiboudere, though, was doing exactly what players in this senior class have done their entire careers and especially this extraordinary season: leading.
“I’m overcome with emotion,” DeLattiboudere admitted, saying seeing his mom about to cry after the game nearly got to him. “But I feel like the young guys — everybody else in this senior class knows just as well as I know — that they look to us, that they’re going to mimic our behavior, our actions. And right now, it’s OK to be upset. We’re human beings. But we’ve got to keep our head held high because we’ve got one more game to play.”
They could have had at least two. All the No. 8 Gophers (10-2) had to do was beat No. 12 Wisconsin in front of a sold-out home crowd of 53,756 to keep their goals of a conference title, Rose Bowl or even College Football Playoff appearance still intact.
For about three minutes, the Gophers held those in their grasp. The defense forced a three-and-out, and the offense scored a 51-yard touchdown pass from Morgan to Bateman on the second play to take the early lead.
But that was the last time the Gophers commanded the game. Even when DeLattiboudere forced a fumble that Carter Coughlin recovered, Morgan threw an interception into double coverage on the resulting possession. Wisconsin used that takeback to score its first points, a 26-yard field goal.
From there, it was pretty much an onslaught. While the Gophers statistically achieved their goal of limiting Wisconsin’s potent rush and Heisman Trophy running back Jonathan Taylor, it wasn’t enough. The Badgers spread their 173 rushing yards between players, and Taylor still scored twice. Quarterback Jack Coan also exceeded expectations, completing 15 of 22 passes for 280 yards and two touchdowns while producing several explosive plays, including his longest 70-yard pass.
The Gophers, meanwhile, couldn’t find their balance. They allowed a big kickoff return to the 39-yard line that set up a score that put the Badgers up two touchdowns in the third quarter. The Gophers then trekked through an arduous drive, only to turn the ball over on downs just outside the end zone. Wisconsin turned that into a touchdown, too.
Morgan endured five sacks, one where he coughed up the ball at the 18, gifting the Badgers another fourth-quarter score. A third-quarter field goal and consolation 12-yard touchdown catch late in the game were the only other Gophers points.
Morgan finished 20-for-37 for 296 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He set the record for single-season passing yards at 2,975, Bateman took the single-season receiving yards record at 1,170, and Tyler Johnson tied the Gophers’ record with 31 receiving touchdowns.
But those records didn’t make Wisconsin chopping down the goalposts any easier to witness. Nor did it soothe the ache of disappointment at not playing in Indianapolis for the Big Ten title next weekend.
That was the game story. The dump-on-them-while-you’re-down comes from sports columnists — for instance, the Strib’s Chip Scoggins:
They were two steps behind in the biggest game of their lives. In physical talent and in coaching decisions. That’s how it felt watching the Gophers slosh through a moment rich in hope.
They looked skittish on the big stage. Overmatched. Every move and matchup countered by a checkmate.
This was a loud thud, considering the stakes. A chance to win the Big Ten West and turn remaining skeptics into believers. A sure ticket to the Rose Bowl, at a minimum. Paul Bunyan’s Axe.
Poof. Gone. In the worst possible way.
The Wisconsin Badgers left no doubt which side boasts the superior team in the 129th meeting of border rivals, putting a 38-17 thrashing on the Gophers in a snow globe at TCF Bank Stadium.
“We did not play well enough to win the Big Ten West today,” Gophers coach P.J. Fleck said. “That doesn’t mean we’re not a good enough team to win the Big Ten West this year. We weren’t good enough to win the Big Ten West today.”
Problem is, football isn’t a best-of-five series. There aren’t do-overs in a one-game judgment. The team that plays the best gets the trophy and reward.
The Badgers claimed the West title and will play Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis next Saturday. The Gophers must wait to learn their bowl destination, knowing they had history at their fingertips and failed to grab it.
It’s wrong to call any 10-2 season a failure, especially at Minnesota, which is new to this neighborhood of relevance. The Gophers will still play in a desirable bowl game in a warm-weather locale. In time, people will reflect on this season with positive memories and potentially as a turning point for the program.
But this is about today, the present. Their season had a chance to be special, which is why this clunker should bring supreme disappointment.
The Gophers held a two-game lead in the division with three games remaining and failed to close the deal. They were sloppy in a loss at Iowa. And they were smashed by the Badgers. Two quality opponents, two poor performances.
One win would have guaranteed their first trip to the Rose Bowl since 1962. The buzz locally reflected that hope. More people invested emotionally in the program. This is a kick to their shins, though Fleck tried hard to soften the blow.
“Let’s not start thinking, ‘Well, that’s typical [Gophers],’” he said. “That has to be out of our system. There are going to cynics, there’s going to be doubters and critics. But the true fans, what we want them to do is get that completely out of their mind because we are not going back to that.”
Big picture, sure, the program is on the right path. The season established different historical achievements. But that doesn’t mean people can’t or shouldn’t feel frustrated, or question why they performed so poorly with everything at stake, or fume over coaching decisions.
Leading 7-0 in the first quarter, the Gophers had a chance to make a statement, but Fleck went ultra-conservative. On third-and-2 from the Badgers’ 35, offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca called a Wildcat run for Seth Green, who was stuffed for no gain.
On fourth down, Fleck opted to punt. From the 35. With two of the best receivers in college football and an accurate quarterback on his side.
Fleck defended his decision, saying he wanted to manage field position and believed two yards was too risky. His lack of aggressiveness felt deflating.
The Badgers, meanwhile, went for it. They played with their foot on the gas the entire game. They exploited matchups and mistakes and dominated both lines of scrimmage.
The Badgers dug into their bag of tricks and repeatedly pulled out gold. Trickery on a kickoff return netted 56 yards. They scored a touchdown on an end-around. A screen pass on third-and-long went for 70 yards.
The Gophers mismanaged their chances. They came away with zero points after being first-and-goal from the 6. Another time, they called a running play on third-and-10 from the Wisconsin 22 – after a timeout, no less — and settled for a field goal.
It was a baffling performance in many regards, but the overarching difference was unmistakable: The Badgers were physically better, and they were ready for the moment. They deserved the mad dash to reclaim the Axe.
The Gophers left the field quietly, the scene and mood in stark contrast to the raucous celebration after their upset of Penn State three weeks ago. Anything felt possible that day. A division title. A trip to Pasadena. Heck, maybe even a spot in the College Football Playoff.
What a buzzkill.
The St. Paul Pioneer Press’ Bob Sansevere adds to the buzzkill:
The Gophers finished the regular season with a 10-2 record. It’s not as impressive as it looks.
Just one of their 10 wins had you go, “Wow!” The victory over Penn State, and that’s it.
The Gophers lost to Iowa a couple of weeks back and were routed 38-17 Saturday by Wisconsin, crushing dreams, hopes, aspirations, etc., of this being a spectacular season.
“It comes down to making plays, and we just didn’t make them,” Gophers coach P.J. Fleck said.
On a day when there was sleet and snow and a flurry of big plays by Wisconsin, the Gophers lost because the Badgers were better and because they still haven’t figured out how to handle success.
Handling success is a huge step in the maturation of a team. The Gophers experienced success in beating then-No. 4 Penn State on Nov. 9. That win wasn’t a fluke. It wasn’t program-altering, either. After a 9-0 start — where they stood after Penn State — the Gophers lost two of their last three games.
Over their dozen games, the Gophers roused a fan base and injected excitement into a program that has been mostly average for the past half-century. Fleck and his players deserve a hearty clap on the back for that, but, really, what did they do on the field that was extraordinary?
There were fun wins and memorable performances from the likes of Tanner Morgan, Rodney Smith, Tyler Johnson, Rashod Bateman, Antoine Winfield Jr. and others. There were some stirring moments Saturday, too — such as a 51-yard touchdown pass from Morgan to Bateman on the U’s second play from scrimmage.
After that, they were outscored 38-10. Even as the score became more lopsided, they didn’t fold like a cheap bingo chair. They kept trying, kept battling. What they didn’t do was rally.
The Gophers were good this season, just not good enough. They offered snapshots of what could be throughout the season, lifting their profile by spending the past several weeks nationally ranked.
It’s nice, being ranked among the best teams in the country, but if the Gophers are measured the way established, successful programs are measured, they fall short.
There will be no trip to Indianapolis to play Ohio State for the Big Ten Conference championship, no Rose Bowl as a consolation, no more talk of possible greatness.
The Gophers beat nine of the teams they should have beaten and added a signature win against Penn State. Then lost to their two biggest rivals.
You can bet many Gopher fans will applaud the season, but that’s more because of how rare such seasons have been. If you’re under the age of 60, the Gophers have reeked for most of your lifetime. They haven’t played in the Rose Bowl since 1962.
This was the year to do it, to accomplish more than a 10-win season. There was no Ohio State, no Michigan on the schedule. Next season, Michigan and Michigan State will be there, along with Iowa and Wisconsin.
“We have the capability to be whatever we want to be,” Fleck said. “We just accomplished nevers, firsts, restorations. We have older (fans) thinking we can go back to the Rose Bowl. We’ve restored belief in what we can be and what we will be.”
He mentioned several times the Gophers were co-champions with Wisconsin in the Big Ten’s West Division because they have the same record, but that’s not quite the case. He also talked up the 10-win season and every other positive he could muster. It was Fleck being Fleck.
“This is not just the end-all, be-all (game),” he said.
Fleck is a good coach, there’s no denying that. While he and his staff failed to make the right decisions and adjustments in the losses to Iowa and Wisconsin, he will recruit better players than the Gophers have had in years, continue to spout his “row the boat” mantra and likely keep the Gophers above .500 throughout his tenure.
He might even get them to a Big Ten championship game someday. It’s just too bad it wasn’t this year — The Year That Could Have Been.
The Associated Press looks at the revenge theme:
When Minnesota beat Wisconsin last year to stop a 14-game losing streak in the series, the Gophers had much to celebrate.
The Badgers, as it turned out, didn’t appreciate the lengths of the revelry that took place across the border over the past year.
After Wisconsin took back Paul Bunyan’s Axe on Saturday with a victory as decisive as Minnesota’s was last season, the Badgers didn’t hold back in expressing their disdain for the way the 71-year-old traveling trophy was handled by their oldest rival.
”We just felt like they disrespected the axe by renting it out to people,” linebacker Chris Orr said, lamenting the ”everybody can touch it” opportunities that Minnesota staged over the last year at various venues, from the stadium to the state fair. ”It means more than that. People played this game for a very long time. It means more than that. It’s not a commodity or something that you can just rent out for money or whatever the case is, trying to make profit off it. I feel like that was disrespectful. They didn’t honor the players that came before.”
The Badgers avenged their 37-15 loss at home in 2018 with a 38-17 victory, overwhelming the Gophers in the second half with a fierce pass rush and strong pass coverage on defense and sharp play-calling and back-breaking long gains on offense.
When the game went final, a swarm of white-uniformed Badgers converged on the west goal post to perform the ceremonial chopping. With 22 wins in the last 25 years of the most-played series in major college football history, the Badgers have a 61-60-8 edge on the Gophers. Paul Bunyan’s Axe didn’t enter the picture until 1948.
”The worst feeling in the world was losing on our own field and having them take it,” Orr said. ”The best feeling in the world is beating them on their home field on senior day and taking it from them.”
The Gophers not only ended the long losing streak last year, but they became bowl eligible on the final try to end coach P.J. Fleck’s second season with a flourish, beating the Badgers at their own game with a powerful performance on both sides of the ball at the line of scrimmage. With a team that hasn’t finished in first place in the Big Ten since 1967, in front of lagging attendance, the university naturally seized the opportunity to renew some statewide pride in the program.
Fleck was asked earlier this week about complaints by the Badgers about the offseason Axe tour.
”That wasn’t a rub in anybody’s face,” Fleck said. ”There’s people who are very emotional when they had it. We had people rent it out all over. It was at weddings, anniversaries, parties. This year it’s Minnesota’s. That’s what rivalry trophies are. That’s why they’re so passionate. If Wisconsin wins it, they get to share it with whoever they want to share it with. It’s Wisconsin’s. When Minnesota wins it, they get to share it with whoever they want to share it with. It’s Minnesota’s that year. It wasn’t mine. It wasn’t just our players’. It was the state of Minnesota’s. For me, I wanted people to be a part of our football program, to invest more in our football program, see we can do things. It wasn’t like we were holding it out the window driving through the entire state of Wisconsin. That would be showing up. But sharing with our in-state alums, donors, boosters, supporters, I think that’s culture, tradition. I think that’s what the point was.”
Either way, the Badgers have it now.
”It’s going to sting for a little while,” Gophers quarterback Tanner Morgan said. ”That’s football. You’ve got your highs and you’ve got your lows. This is obviously a low for us, but our team will respond. I can guarantee you that.”
Environmental journalists and advocates have in recent weeks made a number of apocalyptic predictions about the impact of climate change. Bill McKibben suggested climate-driven fires in Australia had made koalas “functionally extinct.” Extinction Rebellion said “Billions will die” and “Life on Earth is dying.” Vice claimed the “collapse of civilization may have already begun.”
Few have underscored the threat more than student climate activist Greta Thunberg and Green New Deal sponsor Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The latter said, “The world is going to end in 12 years if we don’t address climate change.” Says Thunberg in her new book, “Around 2030 we will be in a position to set off an irreversible chain reaction beyond human control that will lead to the end of our civilization as we know it.”
Sometimes, scientists themselves make apocalyptic claims. “It’s difficult to see how we could accommodate a billion people or even half of that,” if Earth warms four degrees, said one earlier this year. “The potential for multi-breadbasket failure is increasing,” said another. If sea levels rise as much as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts, another scientist said, “It will be an unmanageable problem.”
Apocalyptic statements like these have real-world impacts. In September, a group of British psychologists said children are increasingly suffering from anxiety from the frightening discourse around climate change. In October, an activist with Extinction Rebellion (”XR”) — an environmental group founded in 2018 to commit civil disobedience to draw awareness to the threat its founders and supporters say climate change poses to human existence — and a videographer, were kicked and beaten in a London Tube station by angry commuters. And last week, an XR co-founder said a genocide like the Holocaust was “happening again, on a far greater scale, and in plain sight” from climate change.
Climate change is an issue I care passionately about and have dedicated a significant portion of my life to addressing. I have been politically active on the issue for over 20 years and have researched and written about it for 17 years. Over the last four years, my organization, Environmental Progress, has worked with some of the world’s leading climate scientists to prevent carbon emissions from rising. So far, we’ve helped prevent emissions increasing the equivalent of adding 24 million cars to the road.
I also care about getting the facts and science right and have in recent months corrected inaccurate and apocalyptic news media coverage of fires in the Amazon and fires in California, both of which have been improperly presented as resulting primarily from climate change.
Journalists and activists alike have an obligation to describe environmental problems honestly and accurately, even if they fear doing so will reduce their news value or salience with the public. There is good evidence that the catastrophist framing of climate change is self-defeating because it alienates and polarizes many people. And exaggerating climate change risks distracting us from other important issues including ones we might have more near-term control over.
I feel the need to say this up-front because I want the issues I’m about to raise to be taken seriously and not dismissed by those who label as “climate deniers” or “climate delayers” anyone who pushes back against exaggeration.
With that out of the way, let’s look whether the science supports what’s being said.
First, no credible scientific body has ever said climate change threatens the collapse of civilization much less the extinction of the human species. “‘Our children are going to die in the next 10 to 20 years.’ What’s the scientific basis for these claims?” BBC’s Andrew Neil asked a visibly uncomfortable XR spokesperson last month.
“These claims have been disputed, admittedly,” she said. “There are some scientists who are agreeing and some who are saying it’s not true. But the overall issue is that these deaths are going to happen.”
“But most scientists don’t agree with this,” said Neil. “I looked through IPCC reports and see no reference to billions of people going to die, or children in 20 years. How would they die?”
“Mass migration around the world already taking place due to prolonged drought in countries, particularly in South Asia. There are wildfires in Indonesia, the Amazon rainforest, Siberia, the Arctic,” she said.
But in saying so, the XR spokesperson had grossly misrepresented the science. “There is robust evidence of disasters displacing people worldwide,” notes IPCC, “but limited evidence that climate change or sea-level rise is the direct cause”
What about “mass migration”? “The majority of resultant population movements tend to occur within the borders of affected countries,” says IPCC.
It’s not like climate doesn’t matter. It’s that climate change is outweighed by other factors. Earlier this year, researchers found that climate “has affected organized armed conflict within countries. However, other drivers, such as low socioeconomic development and low capabilities of the state, are judged to be substantially more influential.”
Last January, after climate scientists criticized Rep. Ocasio-Cortez for saying the world would end in 12 years, her spokesperson said “We can quibble about the phraseology, whether it’s existential or cataclysmic.” He added, “We’re seeing lots of [climate change-related] problems that are already impacting lives.”
That last part may be true, but it’s also true that economic development has made us less vulnerable, which is why there was a 99.7% decline in the death toll from natural disasters since its peak in 1931.
In 1931, 3.7 million people died from natural disasters. In 2018, just 11,000 did. And that decline occurred over a period when the global population quadrupled.
What about sea level rise? IPCC estimates sea level could rise two feet (0.6 meters) by 2100. Does that sound apocalyptic or even “unmanageable”?
Consider that one-third of the Netherlands is below sea level, and some areas are seven meters below sea level. You might object that Netherlands is rich while Bangladesh is poor. But the Netherlands adapted to living below sea level 400 years ago. Technology has improved a bit since then.
What about claims of crop failure, famine, and mass death? That’s science fiction, not science. Humans today produce enough food for 10 billion people, or 25% more than we need, and scientific bodies predict increases in that share, not declines.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) forecasts crop yields increasing 30% by 2050. And the poorest parts of the world, like sub-Saharan Africa, are expected to see increases of 80 to 90%.
Nobody is suggesting climate change won’t negatively impact crop yields. It could. But such declines should be put in perspective. Wheat yields increased 100 to 300% around the world since the 1960s, while a study of 30 models found that yields would decline by 6% for every one degree Celsius increase in temperature.
Rates of future yield growth depend far more on whether poor nations get access to tractors, irrigation, and fertilizer than on climate change, says FAO.
All of this helps explain why IPCC anticipates climate change will have a modest impact on economic growth. By 2100, IPCC projects the global economy will be 300 to 500% larger than it is today. Both IPCC and the Nobel-winning Yale economist, William Nordhaus, predict that warming of 2.5°C and 4°C would reduce gross domestic product (GDP) by 2% and 5% over that same period.
Does this mean we shouldn’t worry about climate change? Not at all.
One of the reasons I work on climate change is because I worry about the impact it could have on endangered species. Climate change may threaten one million species globally and half of all mammals, reptiles, and amphibians in diverse places like the Albertine Rift in central Africa, home to the endangered mountain gorilla.
But it’s not the case that “we’re putting our own survival in danger” through extinctions, as Elizabeth Kolbert claimed in her book, Sixth Extinction. As tragic as animal extinctions are, they do not threaten human civilization. If we want to save endangered species, we need to do so because we care about wildlife for spiritual, ethical, or aesthetic reasons, not survival ones.
And exaggerating the risk, and suggesting climate change is more important than things like habitat destruction, are counterproductive.
For example, Australia’s fires are not driving koalas extinct, as Bill McKibben suggested. The main scientific body that tracks the species, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, or IUCN, labels the koala “vulnerable,” which is one level less threatened than “endangered,” two levels less than “critically endangered,” and three less than “extinct” in the wild.
Should we worry about koalas? Absolutely! They are amazing animals and their numbers have declined to around 300,000. But they face far bigger threats such as the destruction of habitat, disease, bushfires, and invasive species.
Think of it this way. The climate could change dramatically — and we could still save koalas. Conversely, the climate could change only modestly — and koalas could still go extinct.
The monomaniacal focus on climate distracts our attention from other threats to koalas and opportunities for protecting them, like protecting and expanding their habitat.
As for fire, one of Australia’s leading scientists on the issue says, “Bushfire losses can be explained by the increasing exposure of dwellings to fire-prone bushlands. No other influences need be invoked. So even if climate change had played some small role in modulating recent bushfires, and we cannot rule this out, any such effects on risk to property are clearly swamped by the changes in exposure.”
Nor are the fires solely due to drought, which is common in Australia, and exceptional this year. “Climate change is playing its role here,” said Richard Thornton of the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre in Australia, “but it’s not the cause of these fires.”
The same is true for fires in the United States. In 2017, scientists modeled 37 different regions and found “humans may not only influence fire regimes but their presence can actually override, or swamp out, the effects of climate.” Of the 10 variables that influence fire, “none were as significant… as the anthropogenic variables,” such as building homes near, and managing fires and wood fuel growth within, forests.
Climate scientists are starting to push back against exaggerations by activists, journalists, and other scientists.
“While many species are threatened with extinction,” said Stanford’s Ken Caldeira, “climate change does not threaten human extinction… I would not like to see us motivating people to do the right thing by making them believe something that is false.”
I asked the Australian climate scientist Tom Wigley what he thought of the claim that climate change threatens civilization. “It really does bother me because it’s wrong,” he said. “All these young people have been misinformed. And partly it’s Greta Thunberg’s fault. Not deliberately. But she’s wrong.”
But don’t scientists and activists need to exaggerate in order to get the public’s attention?
“I’m reminded of what [late Stanford University climate scientist] Steve Schneider used to say,” Wigley replied. “He used to say that as a scientist, we shouldn’t really be concerned about the way we slant things in communicating with people out on the street who might need a little push in a certain direction to realize that this is a serious problem. Steve didn’t have any qualms about speaking in that biased way. I don’t quite agree with that.”
Wigley started working on climate science full-time in 1975 and created one of the first climate models (MAGICC) in 1987. It remains one of the main climate models in use today.
“When I talk to the general public,” he said, “I point out some of the things that might make projections of warming less and the things that might make them more. I always try to present both sides.”
Part of what bothers me about the apocalyptic rhetoric by climate activists is that it is often accompanied by demands that poor nations be denied the cheap sources of energy they need to develop. I have found that many scientists share my concerns.
“If you want to minimize carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in 2070 you might want to accelerate the burning of coal in India today,” MIT climate scientist Kerry Emanuel said.
“It doesn’t sound like it makes sense. Coal is terrible for carbon. But it’s by burning a lot of coal that they make themselves wealthier, and by making themselves wealthier they have fewer children, and you don’t have as many people burning carbon, you might be better off in 2070.”
Emanuel and Wigley say the extreme rhetoric is making political agreement on climate change harder.
“You’ve got to come up with some kind of middle ground where you do reasonable things to mitigate the risk and try at the same time to lift people out of poverty and make them more resilient,” said Emanuel. “We shouldn’t be forced to choose between lifting people out of poverty and doing something for the climate.”
Happily, there is a plenty of middle ground between climate apocalypse and climate denial.
The number one album today in 1967 was the Monkees’ “Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones Ltd.,” the group’s fourth million-selling album:
The number one single today in 1978:
Today in 1984, MTV carried the entire 14 minutes of “Thriller” for the first time:
The number one single today in 1958:
The number one British single today in 1966:
The number one single today in 1973:
Today in 1987, a Kentucky teacher lost her U.S. Supreme Court appeal over her firing for showing Pink Floyd’s movie “The Wall” to her class over its language and sexual content.
The school board that fired the teacher apparently figured that they don’t need her education.
Birthdays begin with one-hit wonder Billy Paul:
Drummer Sandy Nelson (who played drums on the aforementioned 1958 single):
Eric Bloom of Blue Öyster Cult …
… was born the same day John Densmore, the Doors drummer:
The number one single today in 1968:
The number one single today in 1971:
Britain’s number one single today in 1985:
Today in 1997, Danbert Nobacon of Chumbawamba was arrested and jailed overnight in Italy for … wearing a skirt.
Heather Mac Donald, author of The Diversity Delusion: How Race and Gender Pandering Corrupt the University and Undermine Our Culture:
Few things upset American college students more than being told they aren’t oppressed. I recently spoke at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass. I argued that American undergraduates are among the most privileged individuals in history by virtue of their unfettered access to knowledge. Far from being discriminated against, students are surrounded by well-meaning faculty who want all of them to succeed.
About 15 minutes into my talk, as I was discussing Renaissance humanism, a majority of the audience in the packed auditorium stood up and started chanting: “My oppression is not a delusion!” The chanters then declared that my sexism, racism and homophobia weren’t welcome on campus. “>You are not welcome,” they added, as if I didn’t know.
The protesters drowned out my response before filing slowly out of the room, still loudly announcing their victimhood and leaving dozens of seats empty that could have been filled by students who had been turned away for lack of space. (The protesters had hoped to occupy the entire auditorium before vacating it, so no one else could hear me speak.)
In a subsequent open letter, a senior claimed that I came to Holy Cross to “discredit, humiliate, and deny the existence of minority students.” In fact, I came to urge the entire student body to seize their boundless opportunities for learning with joy and gratitude.
The maudlin self-pity on display at Holy Cross doesn’t arise spontaneously. It is actively cultivated by adults on campus. A few days before the Holy Cross protest, faculty and administrators at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pa., convened a therapeutic “scholars” panel to take place during another talk of mine. The goal was to inoculate the university against the violence that I allegedly represented.
Bucknell’s interpersonal violence prevention coordinator; the director of its Women’s Resource Center; the interim associate provost for diversity, equity, and inclusion; a women’s and gender studies professor; and an economics professor discussed rape culture, trauma and racism. Students and faculty were then invited to join in painting “self-care” rocks.
This craft activity, in which participants write feel-good messages on stones, was originally designed for K-5 classrooms. It may not be what parents paying Bucknell’s $72,000 annual tuition and fees had in mind. No matter. According to Bucknell’s interpersonal violence prevention coordinator, it was “especially important” for students who had attended my talk to come to the scholars “space” afterward and practice self-care. The interim associate provost for diversity, equity, and inclusion said that the administration’s willingness to let my talk proceed shows that it values free speech more than the community’s trauma.
In anticipation of my Bucknell talk, student journalists had claimed that “‘free speech’” merely amplifies “hate speech,” and that hate speech such as mine was intended to “attack students of color” and “survivors of sexual assault.” An English professor cheered them on. The Bucknell Faculty and Staff of Color Working Group urged colleagues to support those whose “first-hand experiences with injustice” at Bucknell were “invalidated and perpetuated” by my arguments.
Bucknell’s Democratic Socialists of America organized a protest at which participants—in between chants of “Hey hey! Ho Ho! Heather Mac has got to go!” and “No justice! No peace!”—were encouraged to share their personal experiences of injustice at Bucknell. Sadly, there is no available record of what the protesters came up with.
Students who can be persuaded to see oppression on an American college campus—where traits that still lead to ostracism and even death outside the West are not just tolerated but celebrated—can be persuaded to see oppression anywhere. The claim that American universities, and the U.S. in general, are defined by white supremacy is the one unifying idea on college campuses today, in the absence of a shared curriculum dedicated to civilization’s greatest works. And that idea is spreading. School systems across the country are training teachers and administrators that colorblind standards and the work ethic are instruments of white privilege. Any private institution without proportional representation of minorities and females is vulnerable to attack, since bigotry is the only allowable explanation for the lack of sex and race “diversity.”
The promiscuous labeling of disagreement as hate speech and the equation of such speech with violence will gain traction in the public arena, as college graduates take more positions of power. The former managing editor of Time has already advocated in the Washington Post for allowing states to define and penalize hate speech; potential censors wait in the wings.
Certain ideas are now taboo in the academy—above all, the idea that behavior and culture better explain socioeconomic disparities in the U.S. than bigotry. A Bucknell student protester claimed that my sin is to force “this elementary conversation about whether structural racism even exists.”
Most Americans are eager and ready for a post-racial country. The perpetual invocation of racial oppression on college campuses and beyond, however, keeps race relations fraught.
After the Holy Cross protest, the co-president of the Black Student Union, which organized the walkout with an assist from the student government, told the campus newspaper: “The fact that we pulled this off is actually amazing. I feel so empowered now, and this is just the beginning. This is the start of something more.”
About that, she is undoubtedly right.
The number one single today in 1969 reached number one because of both sides:
The number one album today in 1986 was Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band’s “Live/1975–85”:
Imagine you’ve just sat down to Thanksgiving dinner and your cousin Mildred says, “Before we begin, I’d like to start a conversation.” She then takes out an index card and reads from it:
SisterSong defines Reproductive Justice as “an intersectional analysis defined by the human rights framework applicable to everyone, and based on concepts of intersectionality and the practice of self-help. It is also a base-building strategy for our movement that requires multi-issue, cross-sector collaborations. It also offers a different perspective on human rights violations that challenge us in controlling our bodies and determine the destiny of our families and communities.” What is your understanding of Reproductive Justice?
I can think of any number of reasonable responses.
“How many Bloody Marys did you have?”
“Mildred, the gravy is already starting to congeal.”
I have an active imagination—just ask my Couch—but I am at a loss to come up with a plausible scenario in which any remotely normal person would slap the table and say, “Yes! It’s about time we introduced concepts of intersectional analysis into Thanksgiving!”
To be fair, Mildred—bless her heart and her many, many, cats—might have the situational awareness to bring this up before dinner was served. In which case, the most common response would probably be, “C’mon! The game is on! Get out of the way of the TV!”
That’s the world I want to live in.
But not the good people at the National Network of Abortion Funds, who want everyone to talk about abortion this Thanksgiving.
To that end, they provide a useful and printable compendium of “conversation starters” printed on “holiday cards” and—I defecate you negatory—the above passage is suggestion numero uno.
I like the idea that they thought this was the icebreaker most likely to help people ease into a conversation about abortion with people they acknowledge probably have absolutely no desire to discuss abortion.
I don’t want to talk about abortion either, by the way. I did that on Friday and hit my quota for a while.
But I do want to talk about talking about stuff like abortion over Thanksgiving.
Thanks But No Thanksgiving
I might not make fun of people who take the other side of the issue the same way. But I would be equally opposed to an effort by pro-life groups eager to turn Thanksgiving into a seminar about the unborn. Partial birth abortion is a horror in my book, but I can do without analogies to it during the carving of turkey.
I caught this tweet the other day:
People who refuse to let their politics infringe on their personal lives are the apex of privilege. It means that their politics don’t actually influence their personal lives – so they can afford to do whatever they want. They don’t have skin in the game.
I think this is almost exactly wrong.
Think of it this way, on progressive terms, the people who are most in need of help from our political system are minorities, immigrants, et al. I haven’t conducted a methodologically rigorous survey, but I suspect that most African-Americans, Hispanics, immigrants, etc., would be even less likely to want to talk at length about SisterSong’s views of reproductive justice than your typical white family of privilege with a smattering of bachelor’s or graduate degrees around the table. A poor or lower-middle class white family has more need of help from our political system—again on progressive terms—than prosperous families (of any race). But, my hunch is they aren’t particularly inclined to turn Thanksgiving into a political meet-up either.
Allow me to pick on George Clooney for no other reason than it is convenient to do so. He’s rich, he’s attractive, he’s wildly famous and accomplished. He was born attractive and prosperous to be sure, but his success nonetheless was made possible by the very political system he’s often quite critical of. He has lots of skin in the game and, going by crude Marxist analysis, as I am wont to do, he should be interested in defending the system that helped him get where he is. And yet, he goes the other way.
Don’t get me wrong. That’s fine. We live in a democracy and people can disagree about how to make this a better country or world and, sometimes, Clooney is on the right side of the argument.
My only point is that politics is often most attractive and all-consuming precisely to the people who are immune to its consequences in their personal lives. Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg are pretty damned privileged. They could be off on private islands, hunting humans for support or paying people generously to be human Stratego pieces. But for reasons that run the gamut from personal vanity to deep principle, they are very involved in politics.
From the French Revolution to the Russian and American radicals of the 1960s, political obsession has always been a popular pastime of the bourgeoisie, for good and bad. The kinds of people who would leap at the chance to debate different interpretations of intersectionality and reproductive justice aren’t members of the economic, gender, or racial lumpenproletariat, they’re people who’ve chosen to make politics their issue of ultimate concern.
I don’t begrudge them for it.
I do begrudge them their insistence that I must be just like them.
Politics as Identity
On the latest episode of The Remnant podcast, I talked to Yuval Levin about the problem of politics seeping into every aspect of our lives. I strained to make the point I wanted to make the way I wanted to make it, so let me try here.
A healthy society is a diverse society. I am not using diversity in the way many progressives do, though I am happy to do so to some extent (more on that in a minute). Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that you and I can agree that dogs are awesome and that owning dogs is the best thing you can do. That belief may be right or wrong—for us. But it is obviously wrong for other people. And that’s fine.
What would be wrong is to create a culture or political system that enforces our point of view on people who disagree with it. It would be bad for people unsuited for dog ownership to be shamed or forced into owning dogs. It would also be bad for dogs. Likewise, it would be bad—for humans and dogs alike—if the anti-dog people tried to force everyone into cat ownership.
Normally, when I talk about this, I talk about a diversity of institutions. What I mean by that is a diversity of places that people can draw meaning from. The Marines is a glorious institution and some people literally give their lives to it. I don’t just mean they die in its service, but they dedicate huge swaths of their waking hours to it over a career. That’s a good thing. But someone else might find everything about that life to be a source of oppression and misery. These people should not be Marines. But just because the Marine Corps isn’t right for some people doesn’t mean it should be available to others. The same principle applies to churches, clubs, sports, hobbies, careers, etc.
As Yuval noted, you run into trouble when every institution is expected to bend to one worldview, one way of thinking about the world. You may have a great definition of social justice, though I’ve never heard one. But I can be sure that even if I agreed with your definition, I would still think it’s wrong for some institutions, by which I mean it’s wrong for some people.
One needn’t be an extremist on this point. I’m not in favor—as a matter of philosophy or law—letting a thousand Nazi flowers bloom. I might argue that Nazi bowling leagues are legal, but I’d have no problem with other bowling organizations refusing to countenance them. And I’d certainly have no objection to the Pentagon banning soldiers from having Nazi meetings in the barracks.
In other words serious people can debate where to draw lines, but it is remarkably unserious to believe there should be no lines at all.
My problem with the Progressive approach to politics—increasingly mirrored on parts of the right—is the belief that there should be no lines. In total war, everyone is supposed to be part of the war effort at all times. Every institution isn’t supposed to be separate and apart, but a cell of the larger body politic. Thanksgiving, which is supposed to be about giving thanks to God or country or the universe (but mostly God) for the things you should be thankful about, is now an opportunity for political organizing and shaping minds toward commitment to the war effort—whether that effort is climate change or reproductive justice or even MAGA.
This reduces a precious institution to the—probably apocryphal—Willie Sutton quote about why he robbed banks: “Because that’s where the money is.”
If gatherings of humans are just an opportunity for campaigning, then those gatherings of humans lose that special meaning that brought people together in the first place. A woman tweeted the other day—and has since deleted—that her Thanksgiving rule is that everyone must first explain what they did to help Democrats win before they can come to her home. This is putting politics above not just faith but family and love. If everybody followed this rule, Thanksgiving would lose all that makes it special and society would be worse for it.
Most reasonable people understand that when Marines muster in the yard they do so because it is necessary in some way for their mission. If you busted out your “conversation cards” to discuss reproductive justice and intersectionality every time Marines gathered, you’d likely be escorted to the brig. But even the first time, someone would tell you, “This is not why we are here.” IImagine if a President Marianne Williamson or President Bernie Sanders said this sort of thing was no longer inappropriate but required. The Marines would no longer be an institution designed to create Marines, but just another opportunity to inject politics where it doesn’t belong. And very quickly people would stop joining the Marines.
Colonizing every school of thought and every institution to a single idea of the Highest Good—however defined—flattens society and destroys the kind of diversity we need.
This points to the problem of talking about institutions as safe harbors. They’re really portals, portals to paths that give individuals their own sense of meaning and belonging. That’s what the pursuit of happiness means. For some people that’s college. For others that’s the military. For some its parenthood or sports or plumbing school. And for most of us, it’s a whole bunch of portals because we don’t all have to be just one thing. When we say that everything has to be political we say we have to be political about everything. Politics itself becomes a form of identity politics.
Saying every portal should lead not just to politics, but one narrow vision of it, is like saying not only that everyone should go to plumbing school, but everyone should love plumbing and condemn others who don’t.
And that’s gross.
Especially among conservatives, who, pre-Trump, are supposed to believe that government, and therefore politics, should have a much smaller role in our lives than today.
David French suggests a different theme: