Friday, November 4

Getting In On The Ground Floor, Before It Sinks Any Lower

David Brooks, "In Praise of Fracking, and Other Theological Developments". November 3

I'M in a bad mood already, so don't start with me about America. Because we watch The Daily Show/Colbert at supper around here, I just caught thirty or forty seconds of Tom Fucking Brokaw with Jon from Wednesday night. (And only because my Poor Wife had the controls and the idea that I'd do my Brokaw impression, which is barely passable, and which it is probably more accurate to describe as my impression of Harry Shearer doing Tom Brokaw. I'm more of a phonetic impressionist. A week or so ago my PW was watching Camelot in the living room--I can only assume the remote was lost again--and I was in the kitchen, and started repeating a single syllable as Richard Harris, over and over, until she snorted her way into finding the thing and changed the channel.)

We watched just long enough to hear Brokaw lamenting the horrible, worse-than-ever divisions in our nation's capital--would you please retire, already? Or take up Japanese?--which apparently is creating unpleasant cross-currents for the centrist tide-bobber. So unlike the good ol' days of "Dutch" Reagan and "Tip" O'Neill giving each other after-hours backrubs. Why can't politics be fun again?

Does Stewart really believe that Brokaw is less responsible for this state of affairs than Tucker Carlson? Brokaw was the Princeling of Faux Balance. He's the guy NBC went to when it wanted to convert from news organization to infotainment, when it wanted to syphon off some of ABC's successful right-wing mojo in the era of Librul Media backlash. He was the spokesmodel for tearing down the grand old structures of television news, replacing them with Megamalls, and then filling the B. Dalton window inside with his lavishly illustrated paean to those great old buildings.

This is when the working class got stiffed (I mean, when the current round began); don't tell us you didn't notice, Tom. Don't tell us that Ronald Reagan's affability had you hypnotized. The loss of Courtesy now is deeply troubling to you, but the loss of All Reason in the 80s bothered you not one whit, or not enough to actually report on the actual effects of the Great Reagan Looting Party until after they had occurred, and the statute of limitations run out.

You were on the anchor desk, Tom--meaning that 1/3 of most Americans got their news from you--throughout the Reagan Swindle, through the transparently phony PR campaign which turned him into an American Folk Hero Action Figure, against the Details Formerly Known As Facts, and blamed all the bad stuff on Jimmy Carter. That's where you sat when his reelection campaign appropriated Bruce Springsteen. And Reagan's veniality there is not the issue; it's that Springsteen's clear message of an America of closing factories and broken promises and co-opted freedoms was increasing difficult to find during your tenure, faux-balanced and whited-out from a classic American narrative as old as Old Hickory and as relevant as the Civil Rights movement, becoming something that resembled a rude, persistent coughing from the back of the lecture hall where Heinz Kissinger and Jerry Falwell were discussing the Founders. The 1988 Presidential election was about Willie Horton. The '92 and '96 elections were about Bill Clinton's dick, as was everything else in those days, for that matter. The 2000 election was about Al Gore inventing the internet. You stood by. Forgive me, but I don't think the fact that sane people want nothing to do with Louie Gohmert quite measures up.

One of our major parties is clinically fucking insane; the other is corrupt and cowardly. And you're afraid to mention it, and so hope that scolding them for a lack of bonhomie will have some results. This is not necessarily unprecedented in the history of the Republic, but it continues at a time when the powerful are more powerful than ever, and the powerless increasingly so. Our problems--our fingertips-on-the-ledge dilemma--were not created by both sides, and are not to be solved by admonishing both to Work Together. If you won't leave the Newsotainment industry, Mr. Brokaw, and you think things may be so serious that at some future date you might have to let the weekend chauffeur go, or write your own books, then start putting what blame belongs on your own side where it belongs.

Is David Brooks a minor or a major problem? I think you know my thoughts. If I'm the Times and I read this I have to wonder why, in a period of contracting ad revenues, Big Energy gets a free slurpee on my Op-Ed page; if I'm a Timesman I have to wonder why I'm bothering with getting anything right. Brooks pens a column which begins, ostensibly, as a poignant tearstained letter about our modern muddle; the miracle of shale oil production--everyone who stands to make a buck on it agrees--is yet thwarted by environmental concerns.
The U.S. is polarized between “drill, baby, drill” conservatives, who seem suspicious of most regulation, and some environmentalists, who seem to regard fossil fuels as morally corrupt and imagine we can switch to wind and solar overnight.

Sure, sure, it's a Tell--or several--you could go All In on all night long: "conservatives" "seeming a little suspicious of regulation" vs. environmentalists who are frequently unbathed and are motivated by hatred of decent people. Never mind that this followed six paragraphs of the sort of puffery which would make a Pope blush. The sober, Grown-up, David Brooks view is that a couple of "conservatives" may be a little too radical about laissez-faire capitalist plunder, while environmentalists plain go too far. And we must balance these extremes, because they are preventing the "conservative" view from running the field at will.

It takes another three paragraphs before we learn that maybe, just maybe, the dirty hippies have a point, though one which they're not smart enough to realize is trivial:
Like every energy source, fracking has its dangers. The process involves injecting large amounts of water and chemicals deep underground. If done right, this should not contaminate freshwater supplies, but rogue companies have screwed up and there have been instances of contamination.

The wells, which are sometimes beneath residential areas, are serviced by big trucks that damage the roads and alter the atmosphere in neighborhoods. A few sloppy companies could discredit the whole sector.

Martin Luther may or may not have been the first to note that much depended on whose ox was being gored. What we do know is this: we've known about it since the 16th century at least. "Special interests"--in true Libertarian fashion Brooks is willing to add the coal industry to the villains list, since this gives him Let the Chips Fall Where They May credibility while costing neither him nor his energy sector friends with benefits anything--are what oppose you screwing with someone else's property; "Sound regulation" is what opposes someone else screwing with yours. For the corporate apologist and Bright Future human mic, criminality, environmental disaster, and eroding personal rights are always the result of one or two bad actors, not the inevitable consequence of letting the worst sort of person do the worst sort of thing because Profit will make it all better, and clean up after.

I don't know any more about shale oil than Brooks does; I'm just honest, and poor, enough to know that when someone calls Effects "side-effects" you might look for a financial interest, and not be surprised to find one. We can't expect to solve, or even salve, real problems while virtual jabberers promote the opposite, and their fellows recommend splitting the difference.


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

The U.S. is polarized between “drill, baby, drill” conservatives, who seem suspicious of most regulation, and some environmentalists, who seem to regard fossil fuels as morally corrupt and imagine we can switch to wind and solar overnight.

How many tanks, err people with power in our government, have the environmentalists? A lot less than the pope, just to name the former subject of that joke.

Check Pennsylvania, they're going full frack ahead and damn the torpedoes, drinking water, and future Superfund sites.

the yellow fringe said...

Fracking takes water, lakes of water, and shoves it thousands of feet under ground, from which it will never be found again, and in such condition as to make you glad of it. This we eagerly do as the drought continues, the lakes become fields, and the aquifer falls lower. An absurd use of the resource.

prairie curmudgeon said...

Gas, the so called bridge to green energy, is actually a U turn to furthering our dependence on fossil energy and the unsustainable infrastructure it enabled and grew with abandon and with no foresight. Just more of the "I'll take two" ethos and let society pay for my triple bypass.

If it were a real bridge we'd require that all of that energy be burned to build what can actually support us on the other side long before deplete Brooks "blessing". What a fucking gasbag.

R. Porrofatto said...

Shorter David Brooks: Oil and gas companies, with notably rare exceptions, are such a blessing.

You know, some 50 years ago Barry Commoner was advocating rather convincingly for government purchase of photovoltaic technology for large-scale use (e.g., military) which would spur development of cheap, non-fossil... and here we are, decades... oh fuck it.

Vegacura said...

Brooks bemoans NIMBYism, of course. Strange, though, it never happens in his back yard.

M. Krebs said...

Is there a tip jar somewhere on this bar?