Listen now (71 mins) | This week, I’ve got two very special guests joining me here on The Glenn Show. The first is the noted leftwing podcaster, Sabrina Salvati, and the second is my noted leftwing wife, LaJuan Loury. Sabby and I disagree on many—maybe most—issues, but she’s a good faith interlocutor with a refreshingly principled opposition to kneejerk partisanship. And since LaJuan is the person who first turned me onto Sabby’s work, I thought it appropriate to have her on as well. I’m outnumbered here, but I do my best to hold my own!
Thanks for having Sabrina Salvati on your show. I don't agree with several of her positions, but I find it helpful to "pressure test" my views by comparing them to those of others.
I take exception to Sabrina Salvati's position on the military's greenhouse gas emissions.
Let's start with some basic numbers.
A November 2021 article in Popular Science said America's military emitted 51 million tons of CO2 in 2020:
Here's an excerpt:
The world’s militaries are responsible for about 6 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to Scientists for Global Responsibility (SGR). The US military, with a $760 billion budget for 2022, leads the pack in emissions. The Costs of War Project estimated it emitted 51 million tons of carbon dioxide in 2020—more than the emissions of most countries. The bulk of those emissions come from fuel use and maintaining more than half a million buildings.
A Forbes article from June of 2019 quoted a study from Brown that said America's military emitted 59 million tons of CO2 in 2017:
During a press conference with Polish President Andrzej Duda, President Trump announced that the U.S. is going to deploy 1,000 more troops to Poland. Even though the soldiers and hardware will be taken from the 52,000-strong U.S. contingent in neighboring Germany, U.S. military deployments and operations require a great deal of energy and leave a major carbon footprint. A new report from Brown University has estimated that since the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, the U.S. military has emitted 1,212 million metric tons of greenhouse gases. In 2017 alone, CO2 emissions added up to 59 million tons - more than many industrialized nations including Sweden and Switzerland
It's hard to know exactly how much CO2 the military emits each year, but 60 million tons seems to be a reasonable guess.
To put that number in context, the EPA says America emitted 6,340 million metric tons of greenhouse gases (in CO2 equivalents) in 2021:
A metric ton is 1,000 kilograms or 1.1 short tons (there are roughly 2.2 pounds per kilogram so a metric ton is 2,200 pounds vs. 2,000 pounds for a short ton).
America's military accounts for less than 1% of total US CO2 emissions equivalents (60 million tons / (6,340 million metric tons x 1.1 tons per metric ton) = 0.86%).
No disrespect to Sabrina Salvati, but her take on this is misguided. I don't want military effectiveness compromised in the name of addressing less than 1% of America's CO2 emissions. The military's budget and the way it operates are fair game, but many progressives are too quick to discount the importance of military readiness and national security.
McKinsey says the military can reduce its carbon footprint, but even they recognize that there are times when vehicles powered by fossil fuels are better choices than those powered by batteries:
We shouldn't want tank operators, ship captains, or aircraft pilots searching for charging stations during the heat of battle. We should want our military to be brutally effective if push comes to shove and war is required to protect the homeland or our interests abroad.
I am catching up on my episodes. I was walking to the gym and couldn't help but wince when right out of the gate she kept citing DSA this and DSA that. I don't think that already fringe group will ever recover from this past week.
It was nice to get insight into the leftie mindset and this was a pleasant and civil discussion, but Glenn definitely took it easy on Sabrina.
A lot of her positions are just ridiculous on their face; chief among which is this idea that crime won’t necessarily go up in a world without police, and that we should be looking at the root causes like poverty and so on. These are just excuses. Nobody is talking about people who steal food to feed their families, I think we’d all help genuine cases. We’re talking about violent crime and looting. Those are not the results of poverty or racism, they’re the results of shitty broken culture with no fathers to keep the boys in line. If Sabrina honestly believes crime wouldn’t rise with no police then she’s very naive.
Right now law and police are the only things preventing murder and other violent crime, and there’s still a lot of murder. Does she think if the police went away people would just stop committing murder? No! Even people who don’t currently commit murder might murder one or two people under those circumstances, and I’m only half joking about that. As something becomes more and more common in society the more morally permissible it becomes.
Honestly it baffles me as to why intelligent people can fall for this ideology. No police, open borders, anti America, anti capitalism. She should try reading some history books, for goodness sake
HR 1384 'Medicare for all' would be worth an episode in itself, if you can find a guest who will engage seriously on the subject!
Glenn, I am one of those undereducated Trump supporters... a Brown university grad with 2 advanced degrees.
I get tired of being painted with the white rural “hick” brush.
I respect that Ms. Salvati is a skeptic about all things, but she doesn’t back up her presumptions (about poverty or climate change or the military...) with specific facts and data.
Glenn, I was depressed for hours after listening to Sabrina. While it is refreshing to hear a Leftist criticizing the Democrats, this obviously intelligent and articulate woman had little other than boilerplate leftwing talking points with no references to her sources or evidence to back up her anti-military, anti-capitalist and in some ways anti-American opinions.
She clearly has little knowledge about the whole issue of emissions and climate change, repeating distortions of future apocalyptic scenarios based on models that have been spectacularly inaccurate. I wonder if she is aware that, to the extent one can even measure the planet's temperature and reduce it to one number, the warming amounts to slightly more than one degree Centigrade, something that no one can even feel in day to day exposure to our climate.
She blames the military both for most of our emissions and for, of all things, motivating illegal immigrants to migrate TO the country that supposedly has ruined theirs. Your response, ie that the migrants come to America because of better opportunities, is supported by the stories of the immigrants themselves. But it is apparent from the conversation that Sabrina will never think about that and will never change her mind or think deeply about alternative points of view.
What is depressing is the realization that thousands, perhaps millions of people in this country share her rather shallow and uninformed viewpoint . Like so many of us, she believes whatever allows her to justify her feelings about America. But I applaud you for your brave and exceedingly polite attempt to expand our exposure to her political positions.
After weeding out a bunch of Substack, I resubscribed because I love hearing your wife’s thoughts and perspective. She needs to come on the show A LOT more often.
Perhaps this is something more for Q&A, but my memory doesn't always do what it should, so allow me this one. For what it's worth, at least it's on topic.
Regarding the use of the word "fascist", I'm a bit frustrated. But my frustration has more to do with improper use of of definitions and terms nowadays in general. Here is where I hope Prof. McWhorter can help me out.
As I see it, there seems to be a weakness in society when it comes to sticking to definitions and terms. I think this may have led to a bit of a diluting of the American English language, in my humble opinion. Unfortunately, this can sometimes result in serious consequences (e.g. the ambiguous term "hate crime", that became "hate crime" laws, etc.). I wonder if we would be here if such incidents were properly addressed by traditional gatekeepers such as grammar teachers, colleges, universities, and editors. But here we are.
It is now to a point where I can listen to your show, notice the age of the guest, determine their ideological preference, and pretty much know that they will have "flexible" definitions and terms that would've been easily agreed upon for the sake of a more productive discourse in the past. Have we now allowed language to devolve to the point where people literally HAVE to ask questions like, "What is a woman?" to further (or halt) the discussion?
That Ms. Salvati seems to have equated "elements" of fascism and applied them to her response as if it were more of the whole historical package that is traditionally known as fascism. For me, this left something begging there. I mean I'm black and originally from Harlem, but that doesn't mean I'm a Democrat. And when she questioned whether or not we actually have a free press because of the troubling indicators she identified, I was wondering what kind of press she was comparing today's American press to (see: history of PRAVDA for what some of us may see as a not-so-free press). Again, I do NOT disagree with her, but comparison and/or contrast are very helpful aids in such a discussion.
I'll end by saying in her defense I can imagine it must be rather difficult to remain crystal clear off-the-cuff in such a discussion. Quite honestly I'm pretty sure I would not have done as well. That said, I'm spoiled by Glenn and John, so I'm used to the good stuff.
Tail pipe emissions are minimal these days. When my first car was inspected by my home state they were measuring CO2 in parts per million. Today it is parts per billion. That's an order of magnitude less.
Regarding emissions: ALL emissions from western countries - including automobiles and "wars" - is spit in an ocean of CO2 from China (number 1) and India (number 2). What's more "green" technologies like electric vehicles (EVs) are large polluters in other ways that internal combustion engines vehicles are not. Just do some research on tire pollution for an example.
As for the US being imperialist in the global south, this hasn't been true at least since the Clinton administration. If you look at our southern neighbors today they are literally being colonized by China and Russia (see BRICS).
Glenn, you can do better - really you can.
Sabrina Salvati was interesting, but not very persuasive when it came to any sort of quantitative analysis. I actually cringed when she said "Consider the average worker, particularly if they're poor". By definition, that's no longer the average worker. Her discussion of "tanks pollute more than cars" while ignoring "yeah, but there's a *lot* more cars" was similarly incoherent.
And, of course her critique of capitalism -- comparing it to a fantasy world vs the alternatives. Apparently, some thousands of people every day vote with their feet to cross the southern boarder for a chance to be poor and oppressed in this capitalist hell-hole. Why?
Glenn, thanks as always for your podcast and work in the world. A few comments. I wish there were a name for the fallacy that goes something like "we don't like what individuals do so we project that onto an abstract idea". This formula is used again and again amongst "my people" on the left. Some data point is taken (a non-ideal economic outcome, pollution, an individual act of stupidity or violence, etc) and then it is projected onto some big abstract idea (capitalism, big oil, the institution of law enforcement, etc). The unspoken premise is a view of human nature that is bereft of free will, where we are merely and purely products of conditioning. This is an extremely naive view of human nature which edits out bell curves in IQ, EQ, personality type, mental illness, as well as Pareto distributions of talent, personal will/gusto, etc. In other words, they have a hard time with the existential fact that we live in a world with real choice/responsibility and where some people turn out brilliant while others are intractable assholes. They mistake built-in incentives (for profit, impact, or belonging) for imperatives (therefore, this individual had no other choice than to kneel on someone's neck or dump a bunch of lead in the drinking water). Two examples from her:
- Housing prices. Anyone paying attention to the reality in a place like SF or Portland will know that the housing problem is a supply problem based on hypocritical NIMBYism and bloated bureaucracies. In SF if you can get past all the neighborhood resistance you'll still be on the hook for $350k to the city for permits to build a 1 bedroom apartment. Most poor people couldn't even afford the mortgage just to finance the PERMITS! You have to ignore a lot of facts to blame this on "capitalism".
- Co-ops. I think co-ops can be great ideas in the right context. But I also think there's a reason there are so few: they either fail to compete in the market or fail to attract people to their inherently messy model of organization. For instance, I'd be surprised if your guest has ever actually participated in a co-op. I have. This particular food co-op had a rigorous hierarchy based on simply how long one had been there (virtually zero opportunity for advancement or innovation) and a bloated overpaid bureaucracy (like a marketing department that never published ads). In fact I never worked at a place where the workers did WORSE than at a co-op because the union took a mandatory cut pushing our real wages BELOW minimum wage. I'm serious! My point: corrupt, lazy, irresponsible people will be an issue in any structure, even a local co-op with a cute eco-friendly logo.. These are human problems. But I'd rather live in a world with non-ideal grocery stores and police than a world without them.
My psychological theory, for what it's worth, is that so much thinking on the left is one giant defense mechanism. They can't digest that individual people are different from one another which can lead to both brilliance and depravity. They can't tolerate their own aggression to terrible individuals when they are supposed to "love everyone". Etc. Abstract ideas are easy targets because they displace aggression and can't fight back.
Part of the revival of American Civics needs to be differentiating "fascist" from "authoritarian". As Glenn says, fascism has a very specific political and historical meaning. It's not a synonym for "authoritarianism" or even (as it seems to be used most often now) for "the worst kind of authoritarianism." Fascism denotes a movement that involves myths of cultural regeneration and martial elements embodied in a strongman leader who enjoys a high level of popularity among the people. In every authoritarian system, there is oppression. In a fascist system, that oppression is often meted out by the people themselves against political opponents, outsiders, minorities and people who resist the movement or are viewed as enemies. Ironically (or perhaps unironically), ANTIFA may be the closest thing we have in America to a "fascist" organization at the moment - one whose explicit goal is to do violence against its political opponents.
Certainly the Make America Great Again movement fits the bill for a myth of cultural regeneration and there is a cult-of-personality around Trump, but the Trumpian Right's general distrust of all things government disqualifies it from categorization as "fascist." I think of this whenever I see a "Don't Tread on Me" or similar-themed bumper sticker on the same pickup as a "Trump" one - which is quite often. Meanwhile, the American Left in 2023 has no shortage of authoritarian ideas that might be common in a fascist government: from compulsory vaccination to a supreme emphasis on race and ethnicity in policy, and many Americans who identify as left-of-center seem willing to do the government's work for it by outing perceived enemies through cancellation or shaming, but the Left lacks any sort of unifying cultural message that can be embodied in and advertised through a strong individual leader. In fact, most of its leaders seek to appear compassionate to a fault, and are afraid of endorsing one culture or value system over others.
Fascism should not be a slur for a politician or policy one disagrees with or thinks is dangerous. There are better, more precise descriptions out there that can effect better results in our national discourse.
Great comic relief.
I used to be very much of the same mindset as Sabrina and Lajuan when I was a teenager through to my mid twenties. I now look back at that period of thought development in my life as juvenile and overconfident in my understanding of how the world worked. The buzz-words they used were exactly the same I used to throw around, and every nefarious action in the world could ALWAYS be traced to the United States. The Zinn/Chomsky cynicism was strong in me, and I believed my own bullshit because I maybe knew a little bit more about global politics than the average voter so it was easy to impress people when I brought up names like Assange or al-Awlaqi as examples of how we’re the real bad guys. I suspect if you nailed Sabrina down on details and identifying actual state actors rather than the all-encompassing “they”, the ignorance would be laid bare. She seems quite sure of herself when she says that NATO has intentionally goaded Russia into war. That’s a bold claim. I’d like to know how she “knows” this. It’s conspiratorial thinking, and while some conspiracies are indeed exposed to be true, these assertions are currently made on hunches and vibes rather than evidence. They also all conveniently align with their ideological world view (funny how that works). I was dismayed to hear but could very much relate to Lajuan when she admitted to consuming TYT and Jimmy Dore content. This is amateur political infotainment of the kind that I truly believed was making me better informed in my younger days. I know many who before Bernie were politically unengaged and are now addicted to these shows and think they’ve cracked the code on the machinations of the geopolitical arena. They’ve got a long way to go.