The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Youtube Screenshot

One can well understand the allure of the American Southwest. Shirtsleeves in February. Natural beauty under a big starry sky. But as the region's water shortage approaches crisis levels, newcomers — and old-timers — may have to give up the idea that the good life includes a lush green lawn.

Las Vegas isn't Buffalo without the snow. Grass grows in Buffalo with minimal effort. Not so in Las Vegas, set in the Mojave Desert.

Grass needs lots of water, and the region's supplies are so strained that Las Vegas is sending out contractors to dig up "nonfunctional turf." The city defines "nonfunctional" as grass kept only for its good looks — in practice, grass along streets or at commercial sites.

Over 40 million people rely on the stressed Colorado River for water. Water levels in the river's two big reservoirs, Lake Powell and Lake Mead, are at historic low levels. Meanwhile, the other source that has provided water forever, underground aquifers, are drying up. Climate change and growing populations are making shortages worse.

As a result, states in the Southwest are facing a hard reality: Greenswards and gurgling fountains may become part of an unrealistic past.

Where water is scarcer, its distribution must be tightly managed. Layers of federal and local agencies must make the hard decisions about who gets how much water and for what. They have no choice but to tighten the rules.

That's why being rich and famous in the Southern California city of Calabasas still doesn't guarantee you a green lawn. Residents there are now limited to watering only eight minutes one day a week.

There's a reason golf was invented in Scotland. The weather there is cool and rainy, and that's what makes grass happy.

Not so in the Sonoran Desert, where Phoenix happens to be located. Phoenix is hot, dry and booming with new arrivals taking showers and flushing toilets.

And so it makes sense to ask why the Phoenix area has 165 golf courses. Having formed an alliance to defend their water allocations, the owners argue that year-round golf is important to the region's economy. That may be so, but couldn't they change the idea of what a golf course looks like?

Arizona farms use over half of the available water. Now getting less water than in previous years, they, too, have banded together. Perhaps the time has come for some of them to stop growing thirsty crops like cotton in the desert.

And what about homeowners? Arizona's cities and suburbs are still largely shielded from drastic cutbacks in water use, but a green lawn may no longer be in the cards.

The good news is that desert vegetation has its own charms. This Old House aired an interesting episode on landscaping a front yard in Phoenix. The result was largely a hardscape of pavement and rocks with spots of desert-friendly mesquite, lantana and, of course, cactus. One plant, the red yucca, offered dramatic blooms eight months a year.

No, it wasn't the opulent green carpets of Connecticut. On the other hand, you don't get eight months of bloom in Connecticut.

A reduced Colorado River has ignited new worries not directly tied to irrigation. Lake Powell has been a source of hydropower. Its water level has fallen so low that it soon may no longer be able to produce electricity serving millions of Westerners. Lake Powell is now down to 27 percent of capacity.

Mother Nature is a disciplinarian. If you want a lot of rain, move to Hawaii or Louisiana or Mississippi. Otherwise, learn to love the desert the way the Creator made it. Really, there's little choice in the matter.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

Start your day with National Memo Newsletter

Know first.

The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning

Tucker Carlson

Youtube Screenshot

Iowans may have come to the right-wing Family Leadership Summit to hear Fox News host Tucker Carlson pitch himself as a potential 2024 presidential candidate during his keynote address on Friday. But what they heard was a bitter denunciation of the foundation of American greatness — its existence as a creedal nation defined by shared principles like liberty, equality, and democracy.

“If I were advising a politician, I would say — the first thing I would do: ‘What is America?’ ‘Well, America is a physical place. No, it’s not an idea,’” he sneered. “Anybody who says ‘America is an idea’? Please. It’s not an idea; it’s a place. I live there. I don’t live in an idea. I don’t live theoretically. I get out of bed and there’s like a ground underneath me. There’s, like, soil.”

Carlson was taking a shot at President Joe Biden, who regularly describes America as “an idea” and launched his 2020 campaign with a video stressing that point, in contrast with the blood-and-soil nationalism of the racists who marched in Charlottesville, Virginia, in September 2017.

But while Carlson may be aiming at Biden, the argument he is making is far more radical than a typical partisan slap at a Democrat. America’s founding documents established the United States as a credal nation, not merely a country defined by its people and its territory in the traditional European model.

The Declaration of Independence states: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

Americans have struggled to live up to those words since they were first penned — the declaration’s author, Thomas Jefferson, and most of its signatories owned slaves, and at its founding, the nation sharply constricted the right to vote. But at the time, they nonetheless represented a revolutionary sentiment. And over the centuries, some of our greatest leaders have stressed that the United States stands apart from other nations because of those values, while urging Americans to secure those rights to a greater portion of its citizenry.

At the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848, an early event in the women’s rights movement, Elizabeth Cady Stanton modeled the Declaration of Sentiments adopted by attendees on the Declaration of Independence, stressing that “all men and women” share the same rights enshrined by the founders.

Frederick Douglass, in his 1852 speech “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?,” likewise urged white Americans to consider that the “great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence” had not been extended to Black Americans held in bondage.

Eleven years later, in his Gettysburg Address, President Abraham Lincoln described the United States as “conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” He urged the public to commit itself to ensuring that “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

And the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., in his speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial a century later, urged his countrymen to “rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal” and extend civil rights to Black Americans.

Invocations of the American creed have since become political staples, invoked by everyone from Bill Clinton to George W. Bush, Barack Obama to Ronald Reagan.

But Carlson scoffs at all this.

When you discard the relevance of America’s ideals, it becomes easier to denounce its diversity, and to cast aside the liberal values and democratic processes undergirding it.

What remains is Carlson’s vision of America as simply “a place,” one populated by “legacy Americans” like himself. It’s one that places him on the side of the white nationalists who chant “blood and soil,” and against the critics who describe that bigotry as “blasphemy against the American creed.”

And whether or not he seeks the presidency, that vision will further shape the direction of the Republican Party and the country towards the values of European nationalists and away from its own historic principles.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.