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.


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.

God Hates Texas

As a young Dallas Cowboys fan in the seventies, I thought maybe s/he was just indifferent. But now Governor Rick Perry has confirmed the worst.

Later in his response, Perry said he feared a “knee-jerk reaction” to the oil spill, and said the oil spill could be just another “act of God that cannot be prevented“:

“We don’t know what the event that has allowed for this massive oil to be released,” Perry said alongside several other governors on a panel Monday. “And until we know that, I hope we don’t see a knee-jerk reaction across this country that says we’re going to shut down drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, because the cost to this country will be staggering.” Perry questioned whether the spill was “just an act of God that occurred” and said that any “politically driven” decisions could put the U.S. in further economic peril. “From time to time there are going to be things that occur that are acts of God that cannot be prevented,” Perry said.

We’re still in the early-middle of the post-beginning period of trying not to understand what has happened as God corporations have assumed their rights as a supra-governmental entities. There are still many more contortions along the lines of Joe Barton to go (actually, we won’t even believe Newt’s next turn in nuanced Randianism) some of which won’t even make re-written history books. They’ve spent decades training us, after all, selecting the best people for the most important but also the most minor offices, and with all of that time and investment spent cultivating the reality of benevolent selfishism, we’re not going to just be able to turn on a dime – like a dynamically positioned drilling rig, for instance – and just blame them for something they actually did.

I mean, come on.

Cognitive Dissonance

this ain’t. Willful ignorance, maybe. What momentum climate denialism ever had might be fading a bit; after much froth, Cap’n Trade (a new breakfast cereal?) might become just another unremarkable regulatory mechanism. Whatever – I’m not trying to be hopeful here, I’m just sayin’: the whole stupid idea that just because some major companies or investors are going to profit from efforts to reduce carbons emissions and therefore dial back trends that indicate global warming does not itself mean that global warming is a hoax. This is not, what do you call it, a valid deductive argument. It’s actually quite asinine – correlation does not indicate cause and effect, even and especially when proffered dishonestly arbitrarily carelessly. Watch.

People profit from scams.

People will profit from global warming.

(Therefore) global warming is a scam.

See? No work-y. One of the premises is true only under certain conditions. Something’s missing. Something that brings to mind… colorful language, let’s say.

People: for practice, take some contradictory ideas and hold them in your head. No, you don’t have to hold your breath. Just wait. Did anything happen? No! You’ve just become slightly more intellectually dynamic. Don’t worry, your friends shouldn’t immediately notice.

Seriously though, why are so many people so pisspants about reducing carbon emissions? You live within an alphabet soup of corporate logos and events, products and services, and now you’re worried about someone controlling what you can do? This is a much more interesting question. But wondering why companies are going to profit from whatever we do about anything (erectile disfunction, anyone?), much less attaching conspiracy theories to it, less so. Companies, especially big ones with a lots of influence, are always going to profit. That’s how everything is set up. So the idea that this very arrangement invalidates the reality that some seriously grave effects are following our path into the present age is itself an arbitrary take on things. Which we might, again, refer to as the Sinclair effect.

Open Up the Till

And give me the change you said would do me good.

Picking up on a trend that came up last week, another energy company decides the Chamber is just not the disco floor it once was:

Exelon, one of the country’s largest utilities, said Monday that it would quit the United States Chamber of Commerce because of that group’s stance on climate change. It was the latest in a string of companies to do so, perhaps a harbinger of how intense the fight over global warming legislation could become.

“The carbon-based free lunch is over,” said John W. Rowe, Exelon’s chief executive. “Breakthroughs on climate change and improving our society’s energy efficiency are within reach.”

En garde, Monsieur Rowe; them’s librul fightin’ words if ever there was any. What might have starched these corporate britches?

What appears to have touched off the utilities’ withdrawals from the chamber was a recent article in The Los Angeles Times that cited chamber officials who called for a “Scopes monkey trial of the 21st century” about the science of climate change. The Scopes trial was a clash of creationists and evolutionists in the 1920s.

Well, that would do it. One thing Leading Companies of Today™ cannot countenance is looking like yahoos – and I don’t mean a second rate search engine. Roy wrote recently about a new book on the Republican Party’s embrace/implosion at the hands of fundamentalist Christians, and this can be thought of along similar lines. What’s a healthy dose of the crazy, and how long can you ride it? The advantage gained to a political party, or a group of companies, by riding herd on the rabid willingness of zealots to say and do anything in pursuit of shared ideological goals can be measured in months. [This especially true when the shared goals are orthogonal – that is, mine aren’t yours and yours aren’t mine but they intersect in a way that we look like friends… even though I know you are crazy.] Corporations, far more nervous than politicians, know this, enter into such pacts far more cautiously and are quick to flee as the dial gets turned up. While it may have appeared that the GOP had secured the future of the country just a few short years ago, what they had actually secured was the limits of very finite, though quite enthusiastic, support. Politically, it was crazy from the go.

It’s not as though coporations are or should be considered paragons of ecological virtue. They just don’t want to look like idiots in a way that costs them money. And that, my friends, is what we call a teachable moment.