Lights, camera, fracking (5×8 – 12/31/12)

Fracking 101, in search of a proper punishment, the outdated Constitution, the Russian plane crash on video, and hangover cures.


The Monday Morning Rouser:

1) FRACKING 101

Is fracking the pathway to energy independence, or one of the greatest environmental threats to the nation? The most surprising aspect to this primer on fracking from CBS is the conclusion that we don’t know, but we’re doing it anyway.

In an article this weekend, Reuters called the issue “a culture war.” It’s one that will be fought in the movies.

“It could become the biggest environmental debate of our time,” said Robert McNally, an energy policy expert . “Hollywood is taking notice, and the industry will have its work cut out for it to defend fracking.”

But this is big money and for many people, money to live on. The Wall St. Journal profiles Ray Senior and his wife, who lost their jobs in real estate in California and are now chasing boom times in North Dakota.

2) IN SEARCH OF A PROPER PUNISHMENT

Kao Xiong, the man arrested for not properly storing the gun that his young son got ahold of and killed his toddler brother with, has been released from custody. Should he be charged or is the lost of a child punishment enough?

The anonymous public defender who writes the blog Not for the Monosyllabic ways sometimes justice doesn’t feel very just.


Why do this? It doesn’t bring the child back. Assuming he and his wife are still together, it won’t help the victim’s family feel closure but will only further tear the family apart if he is sent to prison. I doubt it will “correct” any “criminal” behavior in this guy, since it doesn’t appear he has criminal predilections (given his lack of criminal history) but rather lacks judgment skills. And I would guess that he won’t ever store his guns in this manner again. So what purpose does charging him serve? Prosecutors have the power and ability to use discretion in charging cases. Maybe as a defense attorney, I’m missing something that a prosecutor would see that puts a different light on this. But I just don’t get why some prosecutorial discretion wasn’t used to say, “You know what? He is going to be paying for his decisions for the rest of his life. Criminal charges won’t correct, cure, vindicate, or help this situation one bit.”

“No self-respecting gun-owner would have a handgun in such condition available to kids,” Hennepin County prosecutor Mike Freeman said last week. “That is a crime.”

3) AN OUTDATED CONSTITUTION?

There has been no resolution to the “fiscal cliff” over the weekend and, like the gun debate a week or so earlier, the Constitution is getting new attention. Does it still work?

Louis Michael Seidman, a constitutional scholar, writes in the New York Times today that there’s no way 27 lame duck congresspeople should have a stranglehold on the economy.


Our obsession with the Constitution has saddled us with a dysfunctional political system, kept us from debating the merits of divisive issues and inflamed our public discourse. Instead of arguing about what is to be done, we argue about what James Madison might have wanted done 225 years ago.

As someone who has taught constitutional law for almost 40 years, I am ashamed it took me so long to see how bizarre all this is. Imagine that after careful study a government official — say, the president or one of the party leaders in Congress — reaches a considered judgment that a particular course of action is best for the country. Suddenly, someone bursts into the room with new information: a group of white propertied men who have been dead for two centuries, knew nothing of our present situation, acted illegally under existing law and thought it was fine to own slaves might have disagreed with this course of action. Is it even remotely rational that the official should change his or her mind because of this divination?

Seidman claims as soon as the Constitution was in place, the people who wrote it began ignoring it.

What does the “fiscal cliff” mean for you? It’s the most boring political story of the year, writes Mathew Yglesias in Slate today.

4) PLANE!

A Russian jet skidded off the end of a runway over the weekend and broke into three pieces. A dashcam on a passing vehicle captured the incident.

At least four people died in the crash.

5) HANGOVER CURES

Sour pickle juice, pickled plums, shrimp, leafy birch branches, and tripe soup. How many more hangover cures do you need?

Related: And we’re underway! Happy New Year, New Zealand!

Bonus I: A lot of non-stories are made into controversies during the course of a news day. John Ridley returns to NPR with his annual look at stories that got more attention than they deserved.

Bonus II: Where caring is a main ingredient.

Bonus III: When he set out from Minnesota’s Northwest Angle to Key West, Daniel Alvarez thought he’d make his destination by tonight. But there was a lot to see in the miles in between and he’s still kayaking, though now he’s in the Gulf of Mexico. Somewhere. In today’s blog post, Daniel — who posts two weeks behind his present location — notes that the only discourteous tugboat he met, was one in Minnesota. It’s been an interesting theme these last few weeks. The Mississippi turns from a meandering recreational treasure up north, to an industrial canal downstream. But, it’s worth remembering, it belongs to all of us.

When I reconnected with Daniel on the shore near the Wakota Bridge in early October, he asked me about my plans to fly a plane East. “I’m a little nervous about it,” I said. His response tops the list of my favorite quotes of 2012. “If you’re not nervous, you’re not going far enough,” he said.

TODAY’S QUESTION

Journalists at MPR News have put together a list of their most memorable stories of 2012. Today’s Question: In your view, what was the most memorable story of 2012?

WHAT WE’RE DOING

Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: The economic impact of the fiscal cliff.

Second hour: What the wind energy production tax credit means for Minnesota.

Third hour: Best books of 2012.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): A New Year’s Eve edition of MPR’s “Bright Ideas” series. Stephen Smith interviews the founder of the Surly Brewing Company, Omar Amsari.

Talk of the Nation (1-2 p.m.) – Jared Diamond discusses his new book, “The World Until Yesterday.” On the face of it, traditional societies have little in common with us today — no cars, no smartphones, no books. But, Jared Diamond argues, there’s actually a lot we can learn from them about universal human problems, like elder care, fitness, and conflict resolution.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - The singer Miguel’s intimate, sleek sound caught a lot of ears in 2012. He sought to re-work the formula for today’s R&B music, and that earned five Grammy nominations. NPR looks at his career-defining year.