|Gregg Edmund Easterbrook|
March 3, 1953 |
Buffalo, New York
|Occupation||Author and journalist|
|Alma mater||Colorado College, Northwestern University|
|Notable work(s)||The Progress Paradox, Tuesday Morning Quarterback, Beside Still Waters, Here and Now, A Moment on the Earth, and This Magic Moment.|
Gregg Edmund Easterbrook (born March 3, 1953) is an American writer, lecturer, and a senior editor of The New Republic. His articles have appeared in Slate, The Atlantic Monthly, The New Republic, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, Reuters, Wired, and Beliefnet. In addition, he is a fellow at the Brookings Institution, a Washington, D.C. think tank. During the National Football League season, Easterbrook writes a column called Tuesday Morning Quarterback, currently on ESPN.com. He often intersperses pop culture commentary and observational humor throughout his columns, such as when he followed a discussion of the Pittsburgh Steelers with an aside about how "The Dark Knight," the Warner Bros. Batman sequel, used Pittsburgh, Chicago, and New York to film the fictitious city of Gotham.
Gregg Easterbrook was born in Buffalo, New York, the son of George Easterbrook, a dentist, and Vimy Hoover Easterbrook, a teacher. Easterbrook attended Kenmore West High School in Tonawanda, New York. One of his childhood heroes was his home state Senator, Charles Goodell, the father of future NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. In 1970, Easterbrook, then 17, volunteered in Goodell's failed re-election campaign. Though he was raised as a Baptist, he now attends Bradley Hills Presbyterian Church.
Easterbrook has a bachelor's degree in political science from Colorado College and a master's in journalism from Northwestern University. He is married and has three children: two sons, Grant and Spenser, born in 1989 and 1995, and a daughter, Mara, born in 1990. He is the brother of Judge Frank H. Easterbrook and Neil Easterbrook, English professor at Texas Christian University. Easterbrook lives in Bethesda, Maryland.
Easterbrook's journalistic style has been characterized as "hyper-logical" and he himself as "a thoughtful, deliberate, and precise journalist ... a polymath and a quick study." His main areas of interest are environmental policy, global warming; science; space policy; "well-being" research; Christian theology; and sports, most notably professional football.
Easterbrook has been a longtime critic of the Space Shuttle program. His April 1980 Washington Monthly article "Beam Me Out of This Death Trap, Scotty" accurately forecast many of the Shuttle's issues, including an overambitious launch schedule and the consequent higher-than-expected marginal cost per flight; the risks of depending on the Shuttle for all payloads, civilian and military; the lack of a survivable abort scenario if a Solid Rocket Booster were to fail; and the fragility of the Shuttle's thermal protection system. After the Challenger disaster in 1986, the article's prescience made Easterbrook a frequent commentator on space issues, and after the Columbia disaster in 2003 he received attention for his belief that the shuttle program should be canceled and replaced with a "modern system that would make space flight cheaper and safer."
More recently, he has harshly criticized NASA's plans to construct a lunar outpost on the Moon as a poor use of resources. He writes:
Although, of course, the base could yield a great discovery, its scientific value is likely to be small while its price is extremely high. Worse, moon-base nonsense may for decades divert NASA resources from the agency's legitimate missions, draining funding from real needs in order to construct human history's silliest white elephant.
According to Easterbrook, the billions of dollars that a lunar colony might cost should instead be devoted to environmental research on the Earth; reducing the costs of access to space; exploring the solar system with space probes; space observatories; and protecting the Earth from near-Earth asteroids, priorities that he repeated in a 2007 Wired article, "How NASA Screwed Up (And Four Ways to Fix It)".
He again focused on the lack of technology to protect the Earth against asteroid and comet impacts in a June 2008 cover story for The Atlantic, in which he said nothing is presently being done despite as much as a 10% chance of a serious asteroid impact in the coming century. Instead, he claims that NASA is more interested in "keep[ing] money flowing to favored aerospace contractors and congressional districts."
A recurring theme in many of Easterbrook's space articles is a general opposition to human spaceflight. Easterbrook has criticized the International Space Station project, and is against a manned mission to Mars. In the Atlantic article, he expressed opposition to the Apollo program:
Stung by criticism that the moon-base project has no real justification—37 years ago, President Richard Nixon canceled the final planned Apollo moon missions because the program was accomplishing little at great expense; as early as 1964, the communitarian theorist Amitai Etzioni was calling lunar obsession a “moondoggle”—NASA is selling the new plan as a second moon race, this time against Beijing.
Environment and global warming
Easterbrook published a 1995 book A Moment on the Earth, subtitled "the coming age of environmental optimism," presaged Bjørn Lomborg's book The Skeptical Environmentalist, first published in Danish three years later, and argued that many environmental indicators, with the notable exception of greenhouse gas production, are positive. He called the environmental movement "among the most welcome social developments of the twentieth century," but criticized environmentalists who promoted what he saw as overly pessimistic views that did not accept signs of improvement and progress.
A Moment on the Earth proved to be very controversial, especially among environmentalists. Easterbrook was accused of mischaracterizing data concerning environmental health, using faulty logic, and being overly optimistic. Other reviewers, like Michael Specter in The New York Times, had praise for the book's efforts to raise positive points in the debate over environmental policy.
Until recently, Easterbrook had argued that global warming was not happening, or at least that it was not a manmade problem. He pointed out several times that even the National Academy of Sciences had expressed skepticism that global warming was caused by humans and that further research was needed.
Easterbrook publicly modified his position in 2006 as a result of scientific developments, writing, "As an environmental commentator, I have a long record of opposing alarmism. But based on the data I'm now switching sides regarding global warming, from skeptic to convert." He said that "the science has changed from ambiguous to near-unanimous" concerning an artificial greenhouse effect and that greenhouse gas emissions must be curbed. 
Easterbrook is also a big supporter and admirer of Norman Borlaug, one of the most important figures in the Green Revolution. Easterbrook wrote an article devoted to him in 1997 entitled “Forgotten Benefactor of Humanity.”
Wellness and satisfaction
One of Easterbrook's books, The Progress Paradox: How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse, published in December 2003, explores people's perception of their well being. The book focuses on statistical data indicating that Americans are better off in terms of material goods and amount of free time available but surveys show that they are not happier than before. Easterbrook argues that this has occurred due to choice anxiety and abundance denial.
He revisited these issues in a 2008 article for The Wall Street Journal, "Life Is Good, So Why Do We Feel So Bad?" Despite negative public sentiment, he says the case for things being good is actually quite strong:
Unemployment is 5.5%, low by historical standards; income is rising slightly ahead of inflation; housing prices are down, but the typical house is still worth a third more than in 2000; 94% of Americans do not have threatened mortgages, and of those who do, most will keep their homes.
Inflation was up in 2007, but this stands out because the 16 previous years were close to inflation-free; living standards are the highest they have ever been, including living standards for the middle class and for the poor.
All forms of pollution other than greenhouse gases are in decline; cancer, heart disease and stroke incidence are declining; crime is in a long-term cycle of significant decline; education levels are at all-time highs.
He adds, "Since 1992, the percentage of Americans who tell pollsters of the Pew Research Center they 'can afford what they want' has risen steadily – from 39% in 1992 to 52% today, the highest ever. So why do we think the economy is failing?" He suggests that the modern news media is one reason for the disparity between improving conditions and decreasing satisfaction. "Whatever goes wrong in the country or around the world is telecast 24/7, making us think the world is falling to pieces – even when most things are getting better for most people, even in developing nations. If a factory closes, that's news. If a factory opens, that's not a story." He suggested a similar reason was partly responsible for people's perception that wars were becoming more common, when in fact they have become less so since 1991:
Television, especially, likes to emphasize war because pictures of fighting, soldiers, and military hardware are inherently more compelling to viewers than images of, say, water-purification projects. Reports of violence and destruction are rarely balanced with reports about the overwhelming majority of the Earth's population not being harmed.
In 2010, he released, "Sonic Boom: Globalization at Mach Speed," which focuses on how the world will change with the oncoming of world globalization.
Easterbrook has written three novels, The Leading Indicators (2012), The Here and Now (book) (2002) and This Magic Moment (book) (1986), along with works on a variety of other topics. Tuesday Morning Quarterback (2001) was largely similar to his column of the same name, "using haiku and humor to dissect that most all-important of subjects – pro football." He published a work of Christian theology, Beside Still Waters, in 1998. In it, he argues against God being omnipotent but as learning and developing as history progresses, a form of open theism. The King of Sports: Football's Impact on America will be released in September 2013.
Kill Bill controversy
Easterbrook also had a blog at The New Republic Online, until mid-2004. In October 2003, in a column critical of what he considered to be the senseless violence in the Quentin Tarantino film Kill Bill, Easterbrook wrote the following:
Set aside what it says about Hollywood that today even Disney thinks what the public needs is ever-more-graphic depictions of killing the innocent as cool amusement. Disney's CEO, Michael Eisner, is Jewish; the chief of Miramax, Harvey Weinstein, is Jewish. Yes, there are plenty of Christian and other Hollywood executives who worship money above all else, promoting for profit the adulation of violence. Does that make it right for Jewish executives to worship money above all else, by promoting for profit the adulation of violence? Recent European history alone ought to cause Jewish executives to experience second thoughts about glorifying the killing of the helpless as a fun lifestyle choice.
This caused an uproar and accusations that Easterbrook and The New Republic were anti-semitic. Easterbrook wrote that he "mangled" his own ideas by his choice of words and wrote the following to explain his thought process and to apologize:
Twenty minutes after I pressed "send," the entire world had read it. When I reread my own words and beheld how I'd written things that could be misunderstood, I felt awful. To anyone who was offended I offer my apology, because offense was not my intent. But it was 20 minutes later, and already the whole world had seen it... My attempt to connect my perfectly justified horror at an ugly and corrupting movie to the religious faith and ethnic identity of certain executives was hopelessly clumsy...accusing a Christian of adoring money above all else does not engage any history of ugly stereotypes. Accuse a Jewish person of this and you invoke a thousand years of stereotypes about that which Jews have specific historical reasons to fear. What I wrote here was simply wrong, and for being wrong, I apologize.
He further explained that he worships at Bradley Hills Presbyterian Church, one of the handful of joint Christian-Jewish congregations in the United States. Easterbrook had previously written in a column that "one of the shortcomings of Christianity is that most adherents downplay the faith's interweaving with Judaism" and indicated that he and his family sought out a place where Christians and Jews express their faith cooperatively. The New Republic accepted blame for the piece in an apology and denied that his comments were intentionally anti-semitic. Easterbrook continued to blog for them, and still writes articles on environmentalism (especially the damage caused by sport utility vehicles), religion and other subjects.
"Tuesday Morning Quarterback"
"Tuesday Morning Quarterback" ("TMQ") was originally published in Slate in 2000, and on ESPN.com's Page 2 in 2002. Following the Kill Bill controversy, Disney, the parent of ESPN, fired Easterbrook in October 2003. "TMQ" was published for two weeks on the independent website Football Outsiders, and then for NFL.com. Prior to the 2006 season, the column moved back to ESPN.com.
Easterbrook's weekly "TMQ" column is regularly critiqued in Drew Magary's weekly column "Jamboroo" which appears on Deadspin.com Thursdays during NFL seasons. "Jamboroo" includes a weekly section titled "Gregg Easterbrook is a Haughty Dipshit", which satirically points out issues with the "Gregggg" (and variants, as Magary names him) column and his viewpoints. Magary's criticisms include Easterbrook's labelling of players "glory boys", calling the end of games before the game has actually stopped, and his hatred for the lack of reality in TV and movies.
- Easterbrook, Gregg. "TMQ says offensive creativity hasn't trickled down to short-yardage plays". ESPN. November 8, 2011. Retrieved 2011-11-12.
- Easterbrook, Gregg. "Page 2 – Offseason highs and lows". ESPN. August 1, 2006.
- Easterbrook, Gregg. "Page 2 – NFL gets the TMQ seal of approval". January 8, 2008.
- "Author and Lecturer". Gregg Easterbrook. Retrieved 2012-07-10.
- Shafer, Jack. "Blogosmear". Slate. October 20, 2003.
- Easterbrook, Gregg. "Beam Me Out Of This Death Trap, Scotty". Washington Monthly. April 1980.
- Day, Dwayne Allen (June 27, 2011). "Gazing back through the crystal ball". The Space Review. Retrieved June 27, 2011.
- Easterbrook, Gregg. "The Space Shuttle Must Be Stopped". Time February 2, 2003.
- Easterbrook, Gregg. "Moon Baseless: NASA can't explain why we need a lunar colony". Slate. December 8, 2006.
- Easterbrook, Gregg. "How NASA Screwed up (And Four Ways to Fix It)". Wired. May 22, 2007.
- Easterbrook, Gregg. "The Sky is Falling." The Atlantic. June 2008.
- Watkins, T. H. "In the company of scolds" Issues in Science and Technology. Summer 1995.
- Specter, Michael (April 23, 1995). "Earth Day '95; not that hard being green". New York Times.
- Easterbrook, Gregg. "Finally Feeling the Heat". New York Times. May 24, 2006.
- Easterbrook, Gregg. "Case Closed: The Debate about Global Warming Is Over". Brookings Institution. June 2006.
- Easterbrook, Gregg. "Forgotten Benefactor of Humanity – 97.01". The Atlantic. January 1, 1997. Retrieved 2011-11-12.
- Easterbrook, Gregg. "Life Is Good, So Why Do We Feel So Bad?" Wall Street Journal. June 13, 2008.
- Easterbrook, Gregg. "Explaining 15 years of diminishing violence: The End of War?" New Republic. May 19, 2005.
- "Gregg Easterbrook website". Gregg Easterbrook. Retrieved 2011-11-12.
- "Easterbrook – Easterblogg archives". The New Republic. Archived from the original on October 10, 2007.
- Easterbrook, Gregg (October 16, 2003). "Easterblogg". The New Republic. Archived from the original on February 14, 2004.
- the Editors (October 20, 2003). "A Letter to our readers: Gregg Easterbrook, Anti-Semitism, and the Question of Reputation". TNR Online. The New Republic.
- "Jamboroo" columns. Deadspin. Retrieved 2012-12-06.
- Magary, Drew (May 2, 2012). "Haughty Dipshit Gregg Easterbrook Makes Us Ask: What Is A Glory Boy?". Deadspin. Retrieved 2012-12-06.
- Evans, Lee (October 11, 2011). "Gregg Easterbrook and 'Glory Boys' ". DownwardsCompatible.com blog.
- Gregg Easterbrook website
- Roberts, Russ (March 5, 2007). "Easterbrook on the American Standard of Living". EconTalk. Library of Economics and Liberty.