Almost as If

Dr. K brings the medium, sensible heat today regarding Russian failures in Ukraine. It’s a good explainer without the jingoism, importantly including the economic offensives alongside the military ones that have been less than dispositive, or perhaps more so depending on your rooting interest.

But the kudos to Europe for not only resisting energy blackmail but in so doing, also for revealing that the planning and execution of the energy transition are well under way:

So what can we learn from the failure of Russia’s energy offensive?

First, Russia looks more than ever like a Potemkin superpower, with little behind its impressive facade. Its much vaunted military is far less effective than advertised; now its role as an energy supplier is proving much harder to weaponize than many imagined.

Second, democracies are showing, as they have many times in the past, that they are much tougher, much harder to intimidate, than they look.

Finally, modern economies are far more flexible, far more able to cope with change, than some vested interests would have us believe.

For as long as I can remember, fossil-fuel lobbyists and their political supporters have insisted that any attempt to reduce greenhouse gas emissions would be disastrous for jobs and economic growth. But what we’re seeing now is Europe making an energy transition under the worst possible circumstances — sudden, unexpected and drastic — and handling it pretty well. This suggests that a gradual, planned green energy transition would be far easier than pessimists imagine.

Read or listen to (not recommended!) the business news any day of the week and everything any normal person would consider good news – strong jobs report, tight labor market, increased consumer protections, penalizing reckless banking and investment behavior – is all cast in terms of doom and gloom. The sky is always falling and we can’t do this or have that and so stop wanting it and vote for more oppression of the powerless. Kick down, pull up the ladders, that’s all we can do.

What if – and yes, caution, slight optimism ahead – all of that is itself just a form of corruption? The fossil fuel industry, just as an obvious example, has been assuring us since the 1970s that it just can’t be done, there is no way to replace coal as our primary energy source, so stop trying. Wind stops blowing. Solar? Have you heard of nighttime? It’s too expensive, too impractical, is itself bad for the environment. Birds! Plus, people hate to see windmills. They don’t want electric cars. Meanwhile what has happened? What is happening?

What if we decided to get even more bold, rather than cowering in fear about what we’re afraid to do, that we are reminded we can’t do? What other issues out there might not be so inviolate?


4th Quarter Taco Bell Salute to the Troops

Colorado Soldiers Return HomeThe disconnect between American military and civilian life are only growing, and with it, an expanding impatience for the use of patriotism as a feel-good marketing tool. This earlier Atlantic piece by James Fallows about how we treat members of the armed forces set the stage; now comes Pierce with a specific bone to pick with our beloved NFL:

Propaganda is a messy business. We like to think of ourselves as the shrewdest of consumers, but we can be the biggest rubes who ever sat around the cracker barrel. We like to think we can tell truth from fiction, but we are still the country of the patent medicine salesman, the loaded dice, the Ponzi scheme, and the rigged wheel. It is in this country that Mark Twain placed Hadleyburg and reported about amazing jumping frogs. We are not now, nor have we ever been, the hardest mark in the room. The world can see us coming a mile off.

At the same time, our hackles go to DEFCON 1 whenever anyone intimates that we might sell our birthright for a bag of magic beans. This is particularly true when it comes to the government and our sports-entertainment-industrial complex. We demand the right to choose the people we allow to swindle us, and our politicians and our athletes are not on the list. We look on every government initiative as though it were aimed directly at our wallets. We look on our spectacle sports as the outward manifestations of dark, witchy forces that arrange strange outcomes and rig lotteries. These are the two most target-rich environments for conspiracy theories for a reason.

If there’s one thing we don’t like, it’s being called out. If there’s one thing we shouldn’t stand for, it is the military being used for anything beyond the purpose for which it exists. And before it happens (right), eliding this as any kind of ‘attack on our people in uniform’ is just the worst the kind of skullduggery, and/or roofing material upon the last refuge of scoundrels. And probably both. Just stop it.

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.


“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.

Dark Green

Cue the rollout for the new Lexus Wagon:

Lexus is embarking on one of the largest marketing campaigns in the brand’s history to launch this new vehicle. The multi-faceted campaign, which breaks today, features pioneering computer-generated imagery (CGI). Only the interior shots are real time video.

Our favorite of these shows tree-lined pedestrian promenades opening into tree-lined avenues as the car nears them. The city opens before you as you drive through in a scene seemingly inspired by the imaginative film Inception. Actor and best-selling author Hill Harper appears in the spot and provides the voiceover. He declares the CT to be, “Just what you need to forge your own path.”

Okay. 42 mpg, got it. presumptuous Green attitude: slightly offensive, but okay. Wedding the the conservation mindset with “enrich, empower, escape” triumvirate was always going to be entertaini- oh crap:

They have also joined forces with Microsoft in an entertainment series entitled, Fresh Perspectives. The documentary series focuses on six artists, each commissioned to create three original pieces in 24 hours, inspired by the themes of Enrich, Escape and Empower.

Why does ‘entertainment series’ sound so purposefully euphemistic, like something one would be subjected to in a prison camp?

The Happiness of Pursuit

What if you woke up one day and found that this, or any, site you read had undergone a for-profit makeover? Being that it would have to be something very subtle, in order to establish continuity with the day before but represent a turn toward selling you something, would you/we even notice? You’d think, sure. But a better question might be, how would we notice? Of course, you would expect there to be tell-tale signs – more ads, maybe a flashier graphic or a graphic flash file to get things going right at the top (wow, a flash header – why didn’t I think of that?) The point being that the site would want you to know, because of course, we’re reassured by the profit motive – it’s the last honest and pure thing we’ve got.

Worry not. I have not yet begun to sell out. At least not yet. I only thought back around to this upon being pointed to this site (thanks, Ben), which to me seems like a full-throated expectation of (still) being able to sell green living. It’s an excellent idea and I’m as encouraged by it as I’m surprised we’re still right there. I guess since there is no viable internet business model, maybe that’s what all of this amounts to. But at its heart I don’t really believe that. Not yet. At this point the medium seems less than useful for that one sacred mission, and so of course seems of great utility. We can expect this ratio to diminish along such an inverse relational plane, but only to give way to another new one or return us to a renewed emphasis on an old one.

But… the continued optimism about what we can sell goes quite a bit beyond earning a living and circles back on us when it comes to sustainability, as in the way we think about a more ostensibly altruistic goal, like saving the whales. We could and perhaps should reflect on this not as a selfless extention of human empathy for a fellow creature, per se, but a rather direct notion toward saving ourselves. This extends to the oceans, all water, all land, then the air… the ocean within the fish, as they say. All routes to self-preservation, expressed through a more urgent concern for a more directly endangered entity. Endangered by us to be sure; but marked in a but-for-the-grace-of-God-go-we kind of way that we understand better than we let on. Maybe it’s the shroud of inevitability that we just can’t shake, that hasn’t worked its way up to profit making, but once it does and that comes to be percieved as clearly endangered as it surely is today, most of our efficiency and sustainability initiatives will become finally and absolutely mandatory. The we’ll really have something to sell. What a day of strange rejoicing that will be.