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Stories by D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is the operator of the Massachusetts-based political blogs Notes from D.R. and The Urban Right. He is also a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in the Boston Herald, Human Events Online and BookerRising.com. Mr. Tucker was the host/producer of The Notes on Blog Talk Radio from August 2009 to June 2010.

Best of FF: Confessions of a Climate Change Convert

December 29th, 2011 at 12:00 am 159 Comments

As 2011 comes to a close, health FrumForum plans to re-run some of our best featured pieces from the year. D.R. Tucker wrote an especially provocative piece about how he changed his position on climate change and global warming.

I was defeated by facts.

It wasn’t all that long ago when I joined others on the right in dismissing concerns about climate change. It was my firm belief that the science was unsettled, there that any movement associated with Al Gore and Van Jones couldn’t possibly be trusted, help that environmentalists were simply left-wing, anti-capitalist kooks.

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Remembering Talk Radio’s Best

December 13th, 2011 at 12:06 pm 14 Comments

I first listened to David Brudnoy, the legendary talk radio host and acclaimed Boston University journalism professor, in December of 1993. His guest that night was a thirteen-year-old Framingham, Massachusetts boy who had been the focal point of local controversy: the child had attended a Boston Kwanzaa celebration hosted by a self-styled “community activist” who told the boy (whose late father was African-American) that he could stay, but that his mother (who was white) had to leave, as the Kwanzaa event was supposedly for blacks only.

Brudnoy went on a magnificent tear during that particular broadcast, condemning the addle-brained thought process that led the “community activist” to kick out the child’s mother. It was wonderful listening to Brudnoy denounce the intellectual bankruptcy of the activist’s behavior. I could tell right away that this guy was a genius, and made a point of listening to him nightly.

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Romney Won’t Drink the Tea

October 12th, 2011 at 9:20 am 85 Comments

In an October 11 post discussing Romney’s performance in a recent Gallup poll, advice the Washington Monthly’s Steve Benen noted, “What seems more interesting, however, is just how weak a frontrunner Mitt Romney really is. Even as Rick Perry’s support collapses, and even when the rest of the GOP field is largely ridiculous, the former Massachusetts governor is still stuck with 20% — down a few points from a month earlier.

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Perry Keeps Treating `Em Ugly

August 18th, 2011 at 12:04 pm 68 Comments

First he threatened Fed chairman Ben Bernanke. Now Texas governor Rick Perry is traducing the motives of climate scientists.

At a “Politics and Eggs” event in Bedford, pilule New Hampshire, online Perry was asked by an audience member about the National Academy of Sciences’ affirmation that climate change is now primarily driven by the burning of fossil fuels. Perry responded that the evidence pointing to mankind’s role in climate alteration has been knowingly falsified.

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Americans Tuning Out Climate Change

May 22nd, 2011 at 2:19 pm 24 Comments

According to a recent Gallup poll, thumb Americans are less concerned about climate change than in the past.  Has the environmental movement dropped the ball on keeping the issue in the public eye?

The poll reports:

Americans continue to express less concern about global warming than they have in the past, generic with 51% saying they worry a great deal or fair amount about the problem — although attitudes appear to have stabilized compared with last year. That current level of worry compares with 66% just three years ago, mind and is only one percentage point higher than the low Gallup measured in 1997.

There are any number of theories that explain why Americans seem less interested in this issue now than they were in the days when Al Gore told inconvenient truths. Perhaps the protracted recession has pushed all other concerns from the minds of most Americans. Perhaps the effort by the conservative/libertarian pundit class to add doubt and scorn to the political environment surrounding this issue has had an effect.

Or, perhaps, it’s because there is no sustained media effort by the environmental movement to keep its ideas in the political forefront. Gore’s movie helped to push the conversation in the eco-conscious direction, but it obviously wasn’t enough.

We simply do not have an ideologically focused green media in the United States. The environmental movement is at risk of dying out in this country if eco-conscious people don’t borrow a few tactics from their adversaries in the conservative/libertarian pundit class.

The critics of today’s environmental movement are sustained by a conservative media apparatus specifically created to keep the right’s ideas in perpetual prominence. Conservatives had a compelling interest in building this media empire, as they believed their contenders were too often getting adverse rulings from biased referees in the arena of ideas.

It’s not enough to complain about this conservative media apparatus, to attack it for peddling misinformation about climate science, to denounce it for its smears of those concerned about this issue. Why not replicate the right’s tactics? Why not work to build up an environmental media apparatus geared to promoting green policy initiatives and obtaining specific political outcomes?

Clearly, environmentalists can no longer rely upon the mainstream media to devote sufficient time to these issues. As economist Bruce Bartlett noted in 2009:

[The mainstream press] no longer has the resources to pay reporters to look into things deeply and write about issues authoritatively. Reporters even at the best newspapers often seem like glorified bloggers who get their basic facts from the Internet instead of their own research, substitute speed for thoroughness and accuracy, and have no time to become experts on the subjects they cover because they are covering the waterfront. And since television news has always depended upon newspapers as their basic sources of material, the decline of newspaper reporting led inevitably to a decline in television reporting.

Bartlett was speaking of progressives generally, not environmentalists specifically, when he noted, “I think they need to abandon the mainstream media and create their own alternative media just as conservatives have done. That will help redress the imbalance that now exists in the media which benefits conservatives.” However, his advice is critical for environmentalists in particular.

No movement can survive for long if its core issues are not constantly reinforced in the American political conscience. Conservatives understand this: it’s why we have right-leaning think tanks, pro-Republican publications, Rush Limbaugh, Fox News. These entities may be a source of irritation for environmentalists—but why can’t they be a source of inspiration?

It’s long past time for the environmental movement to focus on its own political sustainability—to push for nationally syndicated commercial radio shows dealing with green issues, to lobby for wider distribution of documentaries on our planet’s peril, to subject the hardcore climate deniers to the same sort of public rebuke Van Jones was subjected to in 2009, to convert the environmental movement into an interest group that politicians from both parties are profoundly reluctant to antagonize.

Americans’ decreasing concern for green issues should increase the motivation of environmentalists to press harder to integrate their concerns into the national discourse. After President Lyndon Johnson destroyed Senator Barry Goldwater in the 1964 election, it seemed that Americans weren’t interested in conservatism either. The outcome of that election galvanized the American right, which spent the next four decades working to ensure that the products from their idea factories were always on the average American’s shopping list.

The green movement needs to study what worked for the conservative movement, and use those same tactics to regain the political momentum they’ve lost. Of course, environmentalists have to move much faster than conservatives did decades ago. With the physical and political climate deteriorating, environmentalists must make the ironic choice to turn up the heat.


Confessions of a Climate Change Convert

April 19th, 2011 at 11:00 am 134 Comments

I was defeated by facts.

It wasn’t all that long ago when I joined others on the right in dismissing concerns about climate change. It was my firm belief that the science was unsettled, buy viagra that any movement associated with Al Gore and Van Jones couldn’t possibly be trusted, recipe that environmentalists were simply left-wing, online anti-capitalist kooks.

It wasn’t until after I read Stanford University professor Morris Fiorina’s book Disconnect (2009) that I started to reconsider things. Fiorina noted that while environmentalism is now considered the domain of the Democratic Party, for many years it was the GOP that was identified with conservationist concerns. I was curious as to how the political climate shifted with regard to environmentalism—and whether there was something to all this talk about climate change.

I’m very fortunate to have acquaintances in the environmentalist movement, and I began discussing my concerns with them last fall. One friend recommended that I read the 2007 Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, suggesting that it might resolve some of the questions I had about the science behind climate concerns.

I began reading the report with a skeptical eye, but by the time I concluded I could not find anything to justify my skepticism. The report presented an airtight case that the planet’s temperature has increased dramatically (“Eleven of the last twelve years [1995-2006] rank among the twelve warmest years in the instrumental record of global surface temperature [since 1850]”), that sea levels have undergone a dramatic and disturbing increase since the 1960s (“Global average sea level rose at an average rate of 1.8 [1.3 to 2.3]mm per year over 1961 to 2003 and at an average rate of about 3.1 [2.4 to 3.8]mm per year from 1993 to 2003”) and that climate alteration is having an unusual impact on avian and sea life (“…recent warming is strongly affecting terrestrial biological systems, including such changes as earlier timing of spring events, such as leaf-unfolding, bird migration and egg-laying…observed changes in marine and freshwater biological systems are associated with rising water temperatures, as well as related changes in ice cover, salinity, oxygen levels and circulation”).

The report highlighted the key role carbon emissions played in climate alteration, noting, “The largest growth in GHG emissions between 1970 and 2004 has come from energy supply, transport and industry, while residential and commercial buildings, forestry [including deforestation] and agriculture sectors have been growing at a lower rate” and that “[c]hanges in the atmospheric concentrations of GHGs and aerosols, land cover and solar radiation alter the energy balance of the climate system and are drivers of climate change. They affect the absorption, scattering and emission of radiation within the atmosphere and at the Earth’s surface.” I was stunned by the report’s claim that “[t]he observed widespread warming of the atmosphere and ocean, together with ice mass loss, support the conclusion that it is extremely unlikely that global climate change of the past 50 years can be explained without external forcing and very likely that it is not due to known natural causes alone.”

If carbon-fueled climate alteration continues at its current rate, the report noted, we will bear witness to unprecedented health horrors: “The health status of millions of people is projected to be affected through, for example, increases in malnutrition; increased deaths, diseases and injury due to extreme weather events…increased frequency of cardio-respiratory diseases due to higher concentrations of ground-level ozone in urban areas related to climate change; and the altered spatial distribution of some infectious diseases.” In addition, “For increases in global average temperature exceeding 1.5 to 2.5°C and in concomitant atmospheric CO2 concentrations, there are projected to be major changes in ecosystem structure and function, species’ ecological interactions and shifts in species’ geographical ranges, with predominantly negative consequences for biodiversity and ecosystem goods and services, e.g. water and food supply.”

The report did provide some hope, noting that “[s]ocieties can respond to climate change…by reducing GHG emissions [mitigation], thereby reducing the rate and magnitude of change… Policies that provide a real or implicit price of carbon could create incentives for producers and consumers to significantly invest in low-GHG products, technologies and processes.”

I came away from the report convinced that climate alteration poses a critical threat to our health and way of life, and that “policies that provide a real or implicit price of carbon” are in fact necessary, from an economic and a moral standpoint, to mitigate that threat. Such policies—most notably the much-maligned concept of cap-and-trade—should not be considered job-killers but life-savers.

There’s a part of me that understands why libertarian pundits seem to have so much scorn for those who support state action to combat carbon emissions. Modern libertarianism is suffused with skepticism of government, and supporting state regulation of carbon emissions requires, on some level, a belief in government to get things right. Is it even possible to be a libertarian and an environmentalist—or a conservative and an environmentalist, for that matter?

I’m a bit skeptical myself. I’d argue that conservatives and libertarians should strongly support regulation to reduce carbon pollution, since pollution by one entity invariably infringes upon the rights of others (including property rights), and no entity has a constitutional right to pollute. It does not put America on the road to serfdom to suggest that the federal government has a compelling interest in protecting the country from ecological damage. If anything, it puts America on the road to common sense.

Since reconsidering climate science, I’ve had a number of debates with conservative and libertarian friends, who oppose government regulation of carbon emissions in part because they believe those regulations will cost too much. Of course regulations cost; limiting ecological damage and preserving public health requires money. The issue is whether those costs are moral to impose. If no entity has a constitutional right to pollute, and if the federal government has a compelling interest in reducing carbon pollution, then how can those costs not be moral?

In the months following my acceptance of the conclusions in the IPCC report, I’ve had a change in my emotional climate. I go back and forth between disappointment and hope—sadness over seeing Republicans who once believed in the threat of climate change (such as Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown and former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty) suddenly turn into skeptics; optimism about efforts by such groups as Republicans for Environmental Protection and Citizens Climate Lobby to sound the alarm about the need to combat climate pollution. I struggle with the urge to give in to cynicism and bitterness, to write off the American right for its refusal to recognize scientific facts. Thankfully, there’s a stronger urge—an urge to keep working until the American right recognizes that a healthy planet is required to have the life and liberty that allows us to pursue happiness.


NH GOP Splinters in Climate Fight

April 7th, 2011 at 5:24 pm 18 Comments

Andrew Jackson once noted that one man with courage makes a majority. In New Hampshire, one woman could do the same.

Republican State Senator Nancy Stiles is fighting to preserve New Hampshire’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a multistate effort to cut down on carbon emissions. Since joining RGGI in 2008, New Hampshire has become a model of energy efficiency in the Northeast: according to RGGI.org, proceeds from the initiative “are projected to reduce consumer energy costs by $60.6 million over the lifetime of the installed measures.”

However, last week the Republican-led New Hampshire House voted to abandon its commitment to RGGI, due to what one Republican legislator called the “shaky climate science” that supposedly led New Hampshire to join the effort. In other words, because some members of the New Hampshire House want to pretend scientific facts don’t exist, the entire state must suffer.

Luckily, Sen. Stiles isn’t willing to throw away New Hampshire’s commitment to fighting carbon pollution. She says she prefers to revise certain RGGI requirements rather than walk away from them. It’s a common-sense statement—but considering the political environment she’s in, it’s one that requires tremendous courage.

Already, a libertarian outfit plans to apply pressure on the state Senate by running ads labeling RGGI a “cap and trade scheme.” The folks who put these ads together seem to have forgotten that it was a Republican, C. Boyden Gray, who originally came up with cap-and-trade as a means of limiting sulfur dioxide emissions. The “scheme” worked to reduce pollution then, and what these libertarians call a “scheme” is working now for the people of New Hampshire. That’s a truth Sen. Stiles recognizes.

What we are seeing in New Hampshire is a proverbial conflict of visions, a fight between an old-school Republican who remains true to the party’s wrongfully abandoned conservationist legacy and new-school Republicans who believe private industries have a divine right to pollute. This fight pits sensible conservatism against misguided libertarianism—and sensible conservatism has to win.

As New Hampshire resident Jim Grady recently noted, “What RGGI’s cap-and-trade revenue generation actually amounts to is a tiny tax on all — with all getting the benefit. The RGGI law requires the majority of its revenue to be invested back into our state to help reduce aggregate demand for electricity. This works for all of us because the price of electricity tends to decrease when we decrease our need for it.” Sounds pretty reasonable, no?

Sen. Stiles is behaving with absolute moral courage in her effort to maintain New Hampshire’s involvement in RGGI. She recognizes that the initiative is, if not perfect, than the least imperfect way to address the threat posed by excessive carbon emissions. She understands that caving in to the demands of hardcore libertarians could have catastrophic effects decades from now. She sees that the push for “limited government” ought not to be a suicide pact.

Yes, the opponents of RGGI believe that New Hampshire must abandon this commitment in the name of “limited government.” I respect their passion, but they are passionately wrong. Sometimes, government can be too limited—so limited that it doesn’t take necessary action to protect the health of human beings and the environment in which they live, so limited that it doesn’t make the strategic investments to benefit the economy, so limited that it ignores clear and present dangers to our ecology.

Sen. Stiles is cut from that old-school Republican cloth, the kind Teddy Roosevelt was cut from. It’s a vision that says capitalism cannot function if the capitalist doesn’t have clean air to breathe. It’s a vision that says no industry has a constitutional right to pollute. It’s a vision that is, in the truest and purest sense of the word, pro-life.

I have no idea which side will win in New Hampshire. The new-school vision—the one that rejects climate science as some vast left-wing conspiracy, the one that turns a blind eye to the dangers of pollution, the one that spits upon those who believe that conservation is conservative—is prosperous, pugnacious and powerful. Yet it is not right, not on this issue.

Best of luck to Sen. Stiles in her fight—and give me that old-school vision any day of the week.


Is There a Conservative Case for Same-Sex Marriage?

August 6th, 2010 at 11:36 am 33 Comments

I don’t know why, but I can’t get Marvin Liebman’s voice out of my ear.

Liebman, the veteran conservative activist and close friend of William F. Buckley Jr., generated national headlines in the summer of 1990 when he announced in the pages of National Review that he was gay. He also accused the conservative movement of exploiting homophobia for political gain, and urged the American right to reconsider its skeptical view of the gay rights movement.

Eventually, Liebman washed his hands of the conservative movement, realizing that the “ordered liberty” vision of conservatism could never coexist with gay rights. He died of heart failure in the spring of 1997; perhaps he was literally broken-hearted over his failure to convince social conservatives to embrace libertarianism vis-à-vis the gay rights question.

I hear Liebman’s voice every time I read a story about gay marriage, gay adoption, the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy, etc. Now, in the wake of U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker’s ruling striking down California’s Proposition 8, Liebman’s voice is so loud I can barely hear myself think.

I was not in favor of the effort to have the courts invalidate Proposition 8. I felt that the integrity of the ballot initiative process in California should not be compromised, even if it meant maintaining a policy that some might not like.

Yet I always heard Liebman’s voice asking why I was not in favor of justice for same-sex couples, why I couldn’t see that Prop. 8 was a blatant violation of the Equal Protection Clause. Liebman’s voice asked if I even cared about basic human dignity, basic human rights, basic human fairness.

I did not know how to answer.

Is there a conservative case for same-sex marriage? I’ve long maintained that the answer is no, that while there is a progressive case, a libertarian case, and even a non-partisan case for same-sex marriage, conservatism’s reverence for tradition is so strong that it’s not possible for a “novelty” like same-sex marriage to be accepted on the right.

Yet I still hear Liebman in my ear, declaring that conservatism is about more than just tradition. Conservatism, he says, is also about freedom and about justice–and from this standpoint, there is, in fact, a conservative case for according same-sex couples equality under the law.

Does he not have a point?

When I see George Will declare that among younger Americans, being gay is viewed as no different than being left-handed, I hear Liebman cheer. When I read stories about how Americans under the age of 35 embrace the gay rights movement unconditionally, I hear Liebman celebrate. Yet, when I notice conservatives questioning American society’s increasing acceptance of gay rights, I hear Liebman cry.

I don’t know what’s going to happen with this Prop. 8 case. When it makes its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, how will the Justices vote? Will the high court declare that bans on same-sex marriage cannot withstand constitutional scrutiny? If so, how will conservatives react?

Again, I don’t know. However, despite my misgivings about the lawsuit that led us to this point, I can’t get Marvin Liebman’s voice out of my ear. In fact, right now, he’s yelling, “Let freedom ring, damn it! Let freedom ring!”


Originally published at Red Mass Group.

Playing to Palin’s Base

July 9th, 2010 at 12:32 pm 21 Comments

David Frum suggests that potential 2012 GOP contender Sarah Palin isn’t making much of an effort to reach out to urban voters. Let me play devil’s advocate on this one: Palin isn’t making much of an effort because a) she has no legitimate shot at attracting the support of urban voters and b) the GOP’s strategy for the past 50 years has been to concede urban voters to the Democrats and focus on attracting exurban and suburban voters. If Palin cannot possibly attract urban support, try why even bother trying?

Yes, tadalafil the GOP “acted stupidly” by writing off the urban vote in the 1960s, tadalafil but history can’t be changed — and even if it could be, Palin certainly isn’t the one to do so. Palin’s sole chance at winning in 2012 is by maximizing the exurban and suburban vote. She does not have the ability to woo urban voters from the Democrats — and she obviously knows it.


Originally published at Random Thoughts on the Passing Scene.