Alps drips dipping Rhine

With all honor to Vic, but something else loves the Alps but hates the snow:

After a prolonged summer drought, the bustling traffic at one of the shallowest points on the Rhine ground to a halt for nearly a month late last year, choking off a critical transport artery. The impact damped Germany’s industrial machine, slowing economic growth in the third and fourth quarters. It was the latest sign of how even advanced industrial economies are increasingly fighting the effects of global warming.

and

With its source high in the Swiss Alps, the Rhine snakes 800 miles through the industrial zones of Switzerland, Germany and the Netherlands before emptying into the sea at Rotterdam, Europe’s busiest port. It serves as a key conduit for manufacturers such as Daimler AG, Robert Bosch GmbH and Bayer AG.

When low water halted shipping this summer, steelmaker Thyssenkrupp AG was forced to delay shipments to customers like automaker Volkswagen AG as it couldn’t get raw materials to a mill in Duisburg.

Though not nearly as important a commercial waterway, we saw this on the Elbe during the summer of 2015. ‘What did we think would happen?’ is being displaced by ‘what do we do now?’ Imagine an average teenager in a ‘borrowed’ car, three drinks more than he’s used to, dashed from the drive-through without paying but not before dinging the BK awning and hitting the highway, sees a patrol car pass in the opposite the direction, hit the lights and squall a U-turn. Our answers in a pinch of what’s best to do next might not be the most trustworthy. If we had planned for this, sure, we probably would have had the drinks but maybe not taken the car so no dine-n-dash, cops or DUI fender scuffs. But we did do all those things, in that order, the lights are flashing and sirens blaring. So what do we do now? Our lines are open, higher-than-normal rates apply.

Two centrist, nonpartisan organizations walk into a pension

Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone brings some light to the sad, frustrating, infuriating story of how public pensions have been invited to a dinner where they are the main course:

There’s an arcane but highly disturbing twist to the practice of not paying required contributions into pension funds: The states that engage in this activity may also be committing securities fraud. Why? Because if a city or state hasn’t been making its required contributions, and this hasn’t been made plain to the ratings agencies, then that same city or state is actually concealing what in effect are massive secret loans and is actually far more broke than it is representing to investors when it goes out into the world and borrows money by issuing bonds.

Read the whole thing. Green has made (some of) us very mean.

Star of a new advertising campaign

So… innocently checking the NYT media decoder blog and the top two three of the top four stories are about the advertaiment process unfolding before our eyes. They’re not about this per se, because that would maybe be like a story on the circumscribed movements of the second hand, but

Such sponsorship agreements — known as branded entertainment, content marketing and native advertising — are becoming common on Bravo, part of the NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment division of NBCUniversal. And as the channel plans its programming lineup for 2013-14 during what is called the upfront season, more sponsorships that integrate advertising into shows are planned.

and

“I am not against ads in general,” said Till Faida, a managing director of the project, “but I am just annoyed by the current state of ads. I have worked in online marketing — I just thought ads could be so much better.”

While still receiving donations from users, the project now also negotiates deals with large Web sites that run unobtrusive ads to be “white-listed” and thus not automatically blocked by the program. (A recent deal, whose financial terms were not disclosed, granted such status to the social news site Reddit.)

add to that the recent stories about buzzfeed and heed: much like people making money simply off of money, the mining of what ‘content providers’ think you want to read or will click on and the re-packaging of that as ‘news’ or ‘headlines’ or ‘things you should know’ or whatever is vastly afoot.  Think of this as a PSA and not at all news, but this phenomenon has a slow creep, just like the touting of innovation and such in  high production-value TV advertising that we get accustomed to over time but is increasing really about nothing at all.

Just remember, people write books. Be firm about what enters your noggin.

Update: Lou-weeze. Parody, we hardly knew ye.

The Big Shrug

Hurrah for the rabid ferrets!

Though what feeds them and oils the treadmill that powers the cage is detailed in this Guardian piece by Carl Bernstein. Cartoon-esque media baron Rupert Murdoch really did offer to let Fox News and the WSJ become a political party for David Petraeus and it’s all on tape. Not sure what’s worse – that he thought he could do this, that they pulled the trigger and sent an emissary to make the offer, or that nobody really cares. Might be a three-way tie:

Thus in the spring of 2011 – less than 10 weeks before Murdoch’s centrality to the hacking and politician-buying scandal enveloping his British newspapers was definitively revealed – Fox News’ inventor and president, Roger Ailes, dispatched an emissary to Afghanistan to urge Petraeus to turn down President Obama’s expected offer to become CIA director and, instead, run for the Republican nomination for president, with promises of being bankrolled by Murdoch. Ailes himself would resign as president of Fox News and run the campaign, according to the conversation between Petraeus and the emissary, K T McFarland, a Fox News on-air defense “analyst” and former spear carrier for national security principals in three Republican administrations.

All this was revealed in a tape recording of Petraeus’s meeting with McFarland obtained by Bob Woodward, whose account of their discussion, accompanied online by audio of the tape, was published in the Washington Post – distressingly, in its style section, and not on page one, where it belonged – and, under the style logo, online on December 3.

Indeed, almost as dismaying as Ailes’ and Murdoch’s disdain for an independent and truly free and honest press, and as remarkable as the obsequious eagerness of their messenger to convey their extraordinary presidential draft and promise of on-air Fox support to Petraeus, has been the ho-hum response to the story by the American press and the country’s political establishment, whether out of fear of Murdoch, Ailes and Fox – or, perhaps, lack of surprise at Murdoch’s, Ailes’ and Fox’s contempt for decent journalistic values or a transparent electoral process.

The tone of the media’s reaction was set from the beginning by the Post’s own tin-eared treatment of this huge story: relegating it, like any other juicy tidbit of inside-the-beltway media gossip, to the section of the newspaper and its website that focuses on entertainment, gossip, cultural and personality-driven news, instead of the front page.

“Bob had a great scoop, a buzzy media story that made it perfect for Style. It didn’t have the broader import that would justify A1,” Liz Spayd, the Post’s managing editor, told Politico when asked why the story appeared in the style section.

Propa-NOVA?

Joe Romm details the curious case of the Koch-funded influence on PBS’ Nova (and a Smithsonian exhibit on climate change and human evolution) in the context of the PBS Ombudsman’s response of, “Wha?”

But not PBS ombudsman Michael Getler.  He seems to have no trouble whatsoever with David Koch, a leading funder of the anti-scientific climate disinformation campaign (and the anti-science Tea Party), funding an episode of the great science show Nova, which:

  • is an effort to greenwash Koch’s activities
  • just happens to whitewash the threat human-caused global warming

Getler ignores the first concern entirely, and his entire defense of Nova’s dubious entanglement with Koch is “As a viewer of what strikes me and a lot of others as a consistently first-rate program, I trust NOVA.”  The beauty of that defense is that it could apply equally well to essentially every PBS show.  Hey, they are all first rate programs, so what the heck are you listeners complaining about?

It is becomes very difficult to navigate the morality of rich billionaires funding things you like, like museums and opera houses, at the same time they’re bankrolling nefarious schemes to muddy the water on global climate change. They know it’s tender conundrum and maybe that’s why support the arts – as a sort of protection racket for their own hobby horses and political affinities. This is either cynical of them, or me for thinking it – but you have to ask yourself it’s better to be aware of the poisoning of your favorite wells or just to keep on lapping it up because it’s always tasted so good. But just because it’s hard to discern doesn’t mean you don’t have to do it.

As an example, and a pretty good one because it’s ostensibly about the royal family and mostly beyond the realm of my caring, I read this article about phone hacking by the British tabloids and, the take away is the depths of the corruption of which the Murdoch News Group avails itself. The extent to which they are connected to Scotland Yard and can afford to settle with complainants (who then sign non-disclosure agreements) and/or simply hire former government officials is profound. The side story about how the new Conservative PM will embark on a campaign to de-fund Murdoch’s UK competitor, aka the BBC, is also handsome bit of roughtrade. But again, good to know and better even to acknowledge that this kind of corruption goes on and some/many view it as a perfectly proper way to do business using everything at their disposal. Now you can’t say we didn’t tell you.

On a side note, you just read the 501th post.

Before Petroleum

One thing that is very difficult to get to, maybe not as difficult as a gushing volcano of oil a mile below the surface of the Gulf, but… just how did we get o this place? With major corporate interests having us all right where they want us, able to create a catastrophe but still leave us unconvinced that we/they should stop the activity that created the situation in the first place. And they are right, in a way, because what would that be? And on top of that, we blame our political leaders for not being able to immediately fix the situation – but not for creating the atmosphere that made the situation possible. See. Difficult. Where do you even start? Maybe 1876?

Johnson’s rocky relations with Congress resulted in an impeachment trial. Johnson survived in office, and was followed by Civil War hero Ulysses S. Grant, who was elected in 1868, and reelected in 1872.

The eight years of the Grant administration came to be known for scandal. Financial chicanery, often involving railroad barons, shocked the country. The national economy faced difficult times. And federal troops were still stationed throughout the south in 1876 to enforce Reconstruction.

The Candidates In the Election of 1876

The Republican Party was expected to nominate a popular senator from Maine, James G. Blaine. But when it was revealed that Blaine had some involvement in a railroad scandal, Rutherford B. Hayes, the governor of Ohio, was nominated at a convention that required seven ballots. Acknowledging his role as a compromise candidate, Hayes delivered a letter at the end of the convention indicating he would only serve one term if elected.

On the Democratic side, the nominee was Samuel J. Tilden, the governor of New York. Tilden was known as a reformer, and had attracted considerable attention when, as New York’s attorney general, he prosecuted William Marcy “Boss” Tweed, the famously corrupt political boss of New York City.

The two parties did not have tremendous differences on the issues. And as it was still considered unseemly for presidential candidates to campaign, most of the actual campaigning was done by surrogates. Hayes conducted what was called a “front porch campaign,” in which he talked to supporters and reporters on his porch in Ohio and his comments were transmitted to newspapers.

Waving the Bloody Shirt

The election season degenerated into the opposing sides launching vicious personal attacks on the opposition candidate. Tilden, who had become wealthy as a lawyer in New York City, was accused of participating in fraudulent railroad deals. And the Republicans made much of the fact that Tilden had not served in the Civil War.

Read all about it.

A Female Deer (reprise)

We’re the world’s biggest polluter who has no idea what to do about it – can’t use less, absolutely cannot tax ourselves more. Meanwhile, our best and brightest have been working nights and weekends:

The Justice Department is investigating whether former Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton illegally used her position to benefit Royal Dutch Shell PLC, the company that later hired her, according to officials in federal law enforcement and the Interior Department.

The criminal investigation centers on the Interior Department’s 2006 decision to award three lucrative oil shale leases on federal land in Colorado to a Shell subsidiary. Over the years it would take to extract the oil, according to calculations from Shell and a Rand Corp. expert, the deal could net the company hundreds of billions of dollars.

Norton, 55, was President Bush’s first Interior secretary. She had worked as an Interior Department attorney before being elected Colorado’s attorney general. Later, as a private lawyer, she represented mining, timber and oil companies.

As Interior secretary, she embraced an industry-friendly approach to environmental regulation that she called “cooperative conservation” and pushed the department to open more public land for energy production.

I hear people say, quite frequently, that corruption in the US isn’t as bad as it is in Europe and elsewhere. If that’s somehow true, it must be a comment on the failings of our system of government. And media. And embarrassment. Norton’s alleged traverse is all too common, and when that’s the case, who needs other forms of corruption? We seem to have found the sweet spot. The revolving door that lets foxes traipse into and out of the hen house with impunity, all the while castigating government as ineffective and ‘the problem’ would be the height of contempt were it not for the self-lubricating irony with which we find no bounds to our amusement (nor depths of silent admiration for these guileful players and their cunning stunts), even as we free ourselves from all possible insult. And this is not to single out literary critics for special abuse. In medicine, they induce this kind of insentience with anesthesia.

And what will it take for this to be reported with the relentless scorn given to ACORN, Van Jones or Henry Louis Gates yelling at that cop not to arrest him in his own house? Wait… those stories had black people in them! Wait… there’s a black guy in the White House!

This Norton thing hardly compares.