What Now? Can We Find Peace Amid Rising Waters, Rising Gorge?

God willing and the creek don’t rise…  I wrote earlier this week about the likely election of Hillary Clinton.

The creek rose. And now so will the seas. And now what do those of us, more than half the country, who think Trump is horrendous do to find some equilibrium? Anger shock and griping isn’t a healthy plan for living.

Donald Trump’s first act as president elect will ensure that his son Baron and Baron’s children will live in a world of horror. You think there are refugee problems now, Mr. Trump? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Wait until your know-nothing policy on global warming has its effects and tens of millions of poor people who don’t look like your voters flee the rising seas. Trump named Myron Ebel of the Competitive Enterprise Institute to head his transition team for the Environmental Protection Agency. The fox has entered the henhouse. “Mr. Ebel has asserted that whatever warming caused by greenhouse gas pollution is modest and could be beneficial,” The New York Times writes today. Bye Bye Paris climate accord. Bye Bye livable earth.

Every day there will be another outrage like this. But these won’t be like Trump’s campaign outrages. Those could have still been addressed by the voters. Too late now. Too many of these new daily outrages will become policy.

Can I stand to be outraged every day? Angry? Depressed? Clinton in her concession speech said we owe the president elect an open mind. I’ll try. I’ll have to or I’ll go crazy. Or I’ll have to go up in the hills and live alone and become a helmet, as Maynard G. Krebs said.

Perhaps this man will grow in the office. He seems not to have fixed convictions, and he’s certainly not an orthodox Republican. So I suspect he’ll sometimes pleasantly surprise us. He may push for government-supported work repairing infrastructure that was the first thing the Republicans blocked President Obama from doing eight years ago. Clips and pictures of him meeting with Obama yesterday showed Trump looking as if he’s realized what deep water he’s in. That, or he was already bored.

I can’t live in anger for four years. People who thought Obama was an abomination and that his policies were ruining the country felt every day for eight years what I’ll feel now for four. Their representatives in Congress did little but bitch and say no. That wasn’t very satisfying or useful. I don’t want to do that.

So I’ll watch and read less news. Try not to wallow in the daily transgressions. Read more books. Write more books. Watch more movies. Talk with Lisa more instead of sitting next to each other watching MSNBC. Bowl. Do something. Actively try to stop some of the worst things Trump and his backers will do. Are already doing. But I can’t be sad or angry every day or the cats will hide under the bed and Lisa will make me live on the screen porch where my black cloud won’t foul the air.

Half the country is crawling out of their cellars these last three days and looking around at what the tornado rearranged. It’s an apt cliche to say we’re in shock. Moving slow. Staring off in the distance. Wishing it weren’t so.

The dark parts of me want to say to Trump voters, “You picked him, you got him, don’t come to us when you realize he’s screwing you.” And the nasty parts of me want to say to Democratic primary voters, “You picked her, a terrible candidate, and look where that got us.” The late great Molly Ivins wrote a book about George W. Bush’s years as governor of Texas to show voters what Bush would be like as president. And he was (sort of) elected anyway and he acted just like Ivins warned he would. She wrote a second book before Bush’s reelection and said in the introduction “If y’all hadda read my first book I wouldn’t have had to write the second one.” If we’d paid attention to Carl Bernstein’s study of Hillary Clinton’s actions and character “A Woman in Charge” we would have put up someone this year who wasn’t so reviled and could have won.

But that didn’t happen. And I have to stop moaning about it all. For my own peace, and so people and small animals don’t flee from me on sight. Pick a few important causes to back and then back away from the daily deluge. Find quiet corners.

We survived eight years of Reagan (the poor didn’t survive very well as income disparity started to skyrocket under this earlier actor who played a president). We survived eight years under Bush (the soldiers and civilians killed and maimed in Bush’s endless wars didn’t survive very well under this earlier front man who didn’t know much). We can probably survive four years of Trump. But the planet and our progeny?

Get thee to a hammock, Bruce. Squeeze a cat pet a dog love the kids. Turn down the temp inside yourself. And send Elizabeth Warren flowers.


— Bruce Benidt


Paul Douglas: Sh*t Storm Chaser

Seen in same room at same time?
I’ve always thought WCCO-TV meteorologist Paul Douglas looked like Pee Wee Herman, comedian Paul Reubens’ brilliant character who famously responded to insults by using every elementary student’s favorite plaground rebuttal: “I know you are, but what am I??” Works every time.

Well, Paul the weatherman might be tempted to use Paul the comedians’ cathartic line over the next few weeks, as conservative climate chaos doubters get wind of his recent Huffington Post essay “A Message From a Republican Meteorologist on Climate Change.”

In contrast to KSTP-TV weather man Dave Dahl, Douglas has long been a believer in climate change. But he really provoked the anti-science crowd in this tour de force. It’s a long piece, but worth the read. Here are a few excerpts:

I’m going to tell you something that my Republican friends are loath to admit out loud: climate change is real.

I’m in a small, frustrated and endangered minority: a Republican deeply concerned about the environmental sacrifices some are asking us to make to keep our economy powered-up. It’s ironic. The root of the word conservative is “conserve”. A staunch Republican, Teddy Roosevelt, set aside vast swaths of America for our National Parks System, the envy of the world. Another Republican, Richard Nixon, launched the EPA. Now some in my party believe the EPA and all those silly “global warming alarmists” are going to get in the way of drilling and mining our way to prosperity. Well, we have good reason to be alarmed.

My father, a devout Republican, who escaped a communist regime in East Germany, always taught me to never take my freedom for granted, and “actions have consequences”. Carbon that took billions of years to form has been released in a geological blink of an eye. Human emissions have grown significantly over the past 200 years, and now exceed 27 billion tons of carbon dioxide, annually. To pretend this isn’t having any effect on the 12-mile thin atmosphere overhead is to throw all logic and common sense out the window. It is to believe in scientific superstitions and political fairy tales, about a world where actions have no consequences — where colorless, odorless gases, the effluence of success and growth, can be waved away with a nod and a smirk. No harm, no foul. Keep drilling.

Thems fightin’ words. Hang on, Paul, a violent storm front is rolling into your neighborhood.

– Loveland

“A Time For Truth,” Indeed

Tim Pawlenty announced yesterday that it was “A Time For Truth.” Hmmm. In Minnesota, the majority who disapprove of Pawlenty’s leadership are left wondering which truth he meant.

The truth he spoke when he railed about federal spending? Or the truth he spoke when he embraced $2 billion to help bail him out of a budget mess?

The truth he speaks when he claims his fiscal stewardship made Minnesota into a land of icy milk and honey? Or the truth told by statisticians who show that Minnesotans’ personal household income, unemployement rate, student-teacher ratios, and road miles in poor or mediocre condition have all gotten worse under his leadership?

The truth he spoke when he talked about government being more like families and cutting their spending to balance their budget? Or the truth he exhibited when he engaged in a slick series of spending shifts and accounting gimmicks to push off the pain of spending cuts onto future leaders?

The truth he was speaking when he formed the Minnesota Climate Change Advisory Group, launched the Midwest Governor’s Climate Change initiative and supported cap and trade legislation to address the “profound impact of global warming?” Or the truth he was speaking on the presidential campaign trail when he opposed action on global warming?

The claimed truth of his record of not raising taxes in Minnesota? Or his true record of raising the tobacco tax, a long series of fees and, according to his Republican predecessor Arne Carlson, causing one of the biggest property tax increases in Minnesota history ($2.5 billion in increases in the Pawlenty era, more than the previous 16 years combined).

As the only evangelical born again Christian in the GOP race, Pawlenty knows that John 8:32 tells us “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” But it will be up to the state and local news media to determine which truth the American people learn about Pawlenty’s record in Minnesota.

– Loveland

(Political) Climate Change

TPaw Beware:  Presidential primaries not kind to flippers.
TPaw Beware: Presidential primaries not kind to flippers.
Governor Pawlenty formed the Minnesota Climate Change Advisory Group to find solutions to address the “profound impact of global warming.” Presidential candidate Pawlenty has ignored the group’s recommendations.

Governor Pawlenty launched the Midwest Governor’s Climate Change initiative. Presidential candidate Pawlenty has come out against the initiative.

Governor Pawlenty had been an aggressive advocate for a cap-and-trade system to reduce greenhouse gases. Presidential candidate Pawlenty wrote to Congress bashing cap-and-trade.

To be sure, the Executive Mullet is hardly the only thing about Pawlenty that is evolving. These are just a few of the cooling patterns documented in an excellent Minnesota Public Radio analysis of Governor Pawlenty’s positions on issues related to climate change.

I understand Pawlenty’s political dilemma. As Governor, his political fortunes rose and fell based on whether he could win over moderate suburban swing voters. But as presidential candidate, Pawlenty’s political fortues will rise and fall based on whether he can win over national Republican party activists, a breed that is much more conservative than the average Minnesota swing voter.

When the Presidential primary season heats up and rivals start pointing out Governor Pawlenty’s changes in positions on a whole range of issues, Pawlenty may run into the same problem former Governor Mitt Romney (R-Massachusets) did, where he had been on so many sides of so many issues that few felt they could trust him.

– Loveland

Is “Global Warming” The Most Motivating Descriptor?

I’ve been trying to decide the best way for The Crowd to celebrate Earth Day. Compost our commentaries? Reduce, reuse or recycle old posts? Detonate our computers to save energy?

I know, how about we bicker about global warming spin?!

My brother is a remote sensing scientist, which apparently means that he studies satellite photos of the Earth to track changes in vegetation, land use, climate and other stuff I can’t begin to understand. If you pump enough gin and tonics in him, he also is that rare scientist who likes to ruminate and fulminate about communications. This curse recently led him to bemoan that Al Gore and others had popularized the term “global warming.”

He’s got a good point. For a lot of people, particularly for those of us positioned near the planet’s poles, the prospect of “warming” just doesn’t sound particularly menacing. After all, global warming last weekend caused us to deliriously expose our milky white limbs to our neighbors, and actually enjoy yard work and exercise.

Also, the “global warming” framing causes public opinion to ebb and flow based on day-to-day temperature swings. When it’s warmer than usual, they believe in “global warming.” When it’s not, they don’t.

It is very difficult to motivate the public based on difficult-to-notice shifts in average temperatures over a period of decades and centuries. They very naturally focus on the temperature of the here and now. As a result, when it’s unseasonably cool, the talk radio jocks love to take cheap shots at the notion of “global warming,” and their scoffs erode public support.

“Global warming” isn’t the part of the problem that is most noticeable to us. The parts about global warming that we WILL most notice are a) extreme weather events and b) shifts in ecosystems that cause humans and other species unequipped for the new ecosystems to suffer and/or perish.

While a degree or two of warmer weather won’t move people to action, the prospect of preventing the human and economic suffering associated with more severe thunderstorms, tornadoes, hurricanes, droughts and floods might. So might the prospect of preventing the demise of a species popular with humans, such as polar bears, or catastrophic outbreaks of malaria in regions unprepared for the threat.

In contrast to a relatively indiscernible temperature increase, those are dramatic events humans notice and feel in their guts. So those are the things that should be captured in the branding and framing of this issue. “Global warming” doesn’t do the trick, and neither does the other popular label du jour, “climate change.”

True to form, I don’t have a great alternative label, so maybe The Crowd can do better. The best I can come up with is “climate chaos.” To me, that better captures the erratic and disastrous effects of global warming that hold the most promise of motivating us to the necessary level of self-sacrifice.

Whatever the right framing, judging from the lack of political action on this issue as of Earth Day 2008, we haven’t found it yet.

– Loveland

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