December 2020 Vol. 75 No. 12

Editor's Log

Movie Titles, Politics & Hope

By Robert Carpenter, Editor-in-Chief

November was one heck of a month. It had all the makings of a famous Western movie (and one of my favorites): The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. 

I’ll start with “The Ugly.” We had one of the most contentious general elections in history, from president, down to dog catcher. I became sickened by the sheer volume of political diatribe. As of this writing, it appears that the Democrats won the White House but are probably (though still uncertain) not going to be able to take the Senate. And the Republicans unexpectedly gained ground in the House of Representatives, setting up a new race to take control of the House in 2022. Political times just get curiouser and curiouser. 

Also, there’s been serious President Trump aftershock now on behalf of much of the mainstay media. Love him or hate him, Trump, combined with COVID-19 chaining people to televisions and all kinds of digital devices, were the best things for mass media since the Tide Detergent days of early TV. 

CNN actually saw a spike in viewership, and that was pre-COVID. This, from a network that has been struggling to maintain viewership for the past decade. MSNBC even stayed alive for another year. Traditional network news outlets suddenly were able to manufacture a constant stream of stories to stay relevant. Not since the days of Walter Cronkite and the Huntley-Brinkley Report had the evening news been more watched. 

But now, apparently, President Trump will eventually leave office and President-Elect Joe Biden will assume the presidency. While Biden’s policies may or may not rile the masses, his personality certainly will not. Biden’s a professional politician and knows how to play the Washington game. It remains to be seen just how well he will be able to control the divergent masses within his own party. Maybe that will be something from which mass media outlets can generate news. 

For major news outlets, a return to “normalcy” will mean no more Trump (possibly) headlines, outrage and attacks. Now, they may have to resort to traditional journalism of accurate and balanced reporting. I yearn for a return to that but suspect it won’t happen. Even the most revered news sources have reverted to the “yellow journalism” days from the turn of the 20th century. 

One thing’s for certain, with a Biden presidency and his somewhat confusing, yet still negative, approach to oil and gas being propelled by various factions within the Democrat Party, energy will never be the same. Oil and gas, which has already been under fire, will now be under a full-on siege. Economic sense could be sacrificed at the cost of millions of energy jobs. 

“The Bad” remains COVID-19. The globe is currently on another coronavirus surge, part 3 (or is it part 4, 5 or 6 – I think even the panic-minded media has lost track). What’s different about this surge is that it was expected by those doctors, researchers, public officials, etc., who are experienced and carefully follow the trails of reality. 

For months, most Americans and, indeed, people of the world, have been relegated to a reclusive life – holed up in homes, having food delivered, conducting life in a virtual environment. We have been isolated for our own safety. In all fairness, in the early months when facts were few, this procedure was for the best. Now, however, ongoing research has generated many facts and viewpoints have changed. 

As the world has emerged from self-imposed home quarantines and our heads slowly emerge from our shells, we are steadily re-engaging. As of this writing, Michigan had essentially closed and a small handful of other states were only about 25-percent open, but the vast majority were at a minimum of 50 percent open with many having essentially no restrictions. 

With society resuming life, combined with the dramatically increased ability  
to test and identify for COVID-19, it only stands to reason that infection rates would surge. And, as that happens, regrettably, people die, concentrated in those over  
70 or with substantial underlying conditions. But life goes on – carefully and hopefully with all still wearing masks. 

For underground infrastructure personnel, sheltering in place has not been much of an option. There’s too much to do that’s of the utmost importance to the public health, safety, communication, education and, even, livelihood. That’s our responsibility. 

“The Good” is the sunlight peeking through dark clouds after days of rain. The Good is hope that is emerging with news of amazingly positive vaccine progress. If vaccination is able to begin in December and continues distribution at an aggressive rate through winter, combined with millions of people re-engaging in life again, the fabled “herd” immunity becomes a reality. And a return to normal is no longer a dream, and the sun just broke through the clouds.

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