Qu’est-ce que ça veux dire, le vert?

As I’ve mentioned previously, one of the many tender mercies of walking to work everyday is that I don’t subject myself to NPR nearly as often as I once did. One of the painful reminders of this is when I take the green kids to school once in a while and find self so enthralled again, just like old crappy times.

So this morning, as it so happens and I only mention because it was such a softball non-story to get right that they whiffed on so badly that I must.

A discussion, and it’s probably online somewhere but I will not take the .000784 seconds required to find it, about new Secretary of State John Kerry and how he was forced during his presidential campaign to play down his foreign language proficiency but is now flaunting it. Fine. And they played a snip of him during a lunch in Paris saying something completely gracious to his hosts, and then another of him being so comfortable with a Turkish official that Kerry forgot to listen to the translation – insinuating that his elitist languagism was somehow at fault and it was a terrible low point. Or something.

Listen. How hard is it? How difficult is it to highlight Kerry’s ability to communicate with his DIPLOMATIC counterparts in French, Italian or German as an example of an unadulterated good? Why not point out how relieved we all might be for the moment that his international colleagues might feel the least bit respected by being addressed in their language by an American in their country? Further, maybe go on to ask other intriguing questions: What does language do? What is it for? How do you learn other languages? What possibilities for friendship, cooperation, romance or just understanding might it unlock?

Instead I explain the idiocy of man-bites-dog to green boy. I’ll stop raging on NPR when they stop reporting the news like dopes.

In Less Green News

The New York Times Green Blog is shutting down:

But we will forge ahead with our aggressive reporting on environmental and energy topics, including climate change, land use, threatened ecosystems, government policy, the fossil fuel industries, the growing renewables sector and consumer choices.

By doing less of it.

Maybe they’re starting a new Oscars blog?

Climate Broderism

As in the late Washington Post columnist David Broder, who made a real name for himself with the kind of ‘both sides do it’, why can’t ‘Obama and Boehner have a drink and settle this like Tip and Ronny used to’ false equivalence Villager-ism that makes anyone paying attention from outside the beltway feel like they’re picking up a signal from Venus on the state flower satellite dish. Anyway, this is a bizarre turn but because it’s right there in the paper of record (and elsewhere) we would be remiss in not mentioning it. Dave Roberts, via LGM:

Self-proclaimed moderates like to lecture anti-Keystone XL activists that they are “distracting” and “counterproductive,” without spelling out what the hell that means, yet they seem bewildered when that makes the activists in question angry.

Let’s review. This weekend, close to 50,000 people gathered for the biggest rally ever against climate change, a threat Revkin acknowledges is enormous, difficult, and urgent. Revkin and his council of wonks took to Twitter to argue that the rally and the campaign behind it are misdirected, absolutist, confused, and bereft of long-term strategy. They had this familiar conversation as the rally was unfolding.

As a result, Revkin suffered the grievous injury of a frustrated tweet from Wen Stephenson, a journalist who has crossed over to activism. This gave the wounded Revkin the opportunity to write yet another lament on the slings and arrows that face the Reasonable Man. He faced down the scourge of single-minded “my way or the highway environmentalism,” y’all, but don’t worry, he’s got a thick skin. He lived to tell the tale.

This is all for the benefit of an elite audience, mind you, for whom getting yelled at by activists is the sine qua non of seriousness. The only thing that boosts VSP cred more is getting yelled at by activists on Both Sides.

Read the whole thing. This is happening on the NYT Green blog. As Loomis explains, the most important thing for Revkin is compromise with the big polluters, no matter how wrong they are or how much their industries are the cause of it all and their lobbying keeps any solutions from being considered much less implemented.

The Electric Car Evil

Incoming, via Doug at BJ. So the NYT takes a hit out on Tesla Motor Company, but the Tesla says, “Not so fast:”

Data released by Tesla Motors late Wednesday night directly contradicts a damning review of the automaker’s Model S sedan by The New York Times.

Tesla claims the data, pulled directly from the electric sedan’s on-board computer, proves that New York Times reporter John M. Broder never completely ran out of energy during his extended drive of the Model S, despite his account to the contrary.

Broder’s trip in the Model S began outside of Washington, D.C., ran up to Norwich, Connecticut and then down to Milford, Connecticut over the course of two days. The drive was intended as a way to evaluate Tesla’s newly installed Supercharger stations, which allow Model S owners to top off their batteries for free at solar-powered charging stations lining major thoroughfares along the east and west coasts.

Building batteries is hard; building businesses that purvey renewable transportation options, harder still. I’m not sure who is right in this instance, but conventional wisdom against cars that do not run on legacy energy will be hard to overturn. There’s always an easy story for an editor to assign – show how it doesn’t really work. Not until they appear in a novel where the lads take a cross-country jaunt in an EElectric Buick will the tide even begin to turn. I wonder if horses worked the same media advantages against the Model T.

Move on

Earth, smaller

The original idea behind the name of the group Moveon.org was aimed at Congress to get past nominal indiscretions perpetrated by Bill Clinton in the Oval Office and deal with more pressing issues. Balance on climate change is largely the same problem for PBS, which cannot seem to accept global climate change as settled science and so must continually provide denialists a counterpoint to…? I don’t know what but it’s very annoying.

Last night, PBS NewsHour turned to meteorologist and climate change contrarian Anthony Watts to “counterbalance” the mainstream scientific opinions presented by the program. This false balance is a disservice to PBS’ viewers, made worse by the program’s failure to explain Watts’ connection to the Heartland Institute, an organization that receives funding from some corporations with a financial interest in confusing the public on climate science.

While PBS mentioned that 97 percent of climate scientists agree that manmade global warming is occurring, it did not reflect this consensus by giving significant airtime to Watts’ contrarian views. The segment presented Watts as the counterbalance to scientists that believe in manmade global warming — every time a statement that reflects the scientific consensus was aired, in came Watts to cast doubt in viewers’ minds.

As Revkin explains and is mentioned in the MM piece, the goal of groups like the Heartland Institute is segments just like this. They don’t exist to further the science, but to distract from solving the problem. That’s a story; that the fossil energy industry doesn’t buy AGW is not. I’ll soon be hosting an interview show on  PBS affiliate and so don’t know whether this makes my criticism more or less valid. But come on.

And this is the rubber-glue Romney strategy as employed by Watts in the PBS piece, accusing global warming of becoming a big business as Watts does when it’s denial that has actually become an industry in its own right, funding astro think tanks and employing former TV weathermen to further a controversy that serves the interests of more of the same, in terms of polluting, non-renewable energy.

The [Changing] Weather Channel

That’s a clunky title, but I wonder whether at some point just talking about the weather won’t simply be sufficient to cover all that’s going on. The Weather Channel seems to be catching on – that there’s more going on.

The March heat wave finally caught the attention of major television news outlets. In recent weeks, ABC and NBC have run stories linking the “unprecedented” heat wave to climate change. They join PBS, which has been the only network consistently drawing the connection between extreme weather and greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

The Weather Channel has also picked up on the story, featuring a number of stories about the influence of human activity on extreme weather. One of the best segments featured meteorologist Stu Ostro, who explained why “data and science, not politics” changed him from a skeptic to someone very concerned about the problem.

How long before they start to be derided as biased? 3…2…1

The Language Problem

InteRESTin’, as the boy says:

VandeHei and Allen are careful to avoid attributing any kind of ideological substance to their proposed candidates. Instead, they describe them with empty signifiers like “authentic outsider”, “a combination of money, accomplishment and celebrity”, “a strong leader [voters] can truly believe in”, and “someone who breaks free from the tired right-versus-left constraint on modern politics”. But that doesn’t mean there’s no ideological agenda here. There is, and it leaks through in their profile of erstwhile Deficit Commissioner Erskine Bowles: “The most depressing reality of modern governance is this: The current system seems incapable of dealing with our debt addiction before it becomes a crippling crisis.”

It’s hardly worth pointing out anymore that there is, in fact, no debt crisis; on the contrary, sensible observers are wondering why the government is bothering to collect revenues at all, when the cost of borrowing is hitting zero. By now, everyone who cares has realized that fear-mongering about the debt and the deficit is a trick used opportunistically by those who want to reorient government around their particular priorities. And the priorities of the deficit scolds, judging by the work of creatures like Pete Peterson, are to dismantle what’s left of the welfare state and transfer even more money to the already wealthy. Ranting about the deficit is merely a means to this end, if it facilitates goals such as the elimination of Social Security and Medicare.

Isn’t it now? Read the rest of this for a good run-down on why, and for as long as they can, OWS should hold out on saying exactly what it is they want. Hint: words fail. At least the ones we’re used to using.

Handling the Scandal-ing

You might think throwing money at problems is one one to do it. Turns out: not so much.

Litigation can have an annealing effect on companies, forcing them to re-examine the way they do business. But as it was, the full extent and villainy of the hacking was never known because the News Corporation paid serious money to make sure it stayed that way.

And the money the company reportedly paid out to hacking victims is chicken feed compared with what it has spent trying to paper over the tactics of News America in a series of lawsuits filed by smaller competitors in the United States.

The thing is, they really didn’t want any ‘annealing’ effects on company practices to take effect after this or any other scandal. Not interested. There is a disconnect – one of many – between the perception that major corporate entities care about doing business honestly, even making huge money – honestly – and… reality. Which is that they don’t care about it at all. We’re not talking about their advertising and what it says about them. You can do it. But that’s not their game. Murdoch wasn’t interested; and if he had a private moment today, would probably say he still isn’t interested in running his or any company (or country, for that matter) honestly. What would be the point?

Watch this story; it will continue to evolve.

update: Suing his mother?

On Perfidy

Glenn Greenwald has a nice meta re-cap of his latest encounter with established media re: L’Affair Assange. It’s an instructive reminder of just how inseparable are the ‘who’ that provides your news and the ‘what’ it is supposedly all about:

It’s not news that establishment journalists identify with, are merged into, serve as spokespeople for, the political class:  that’s what makes them establishment journalists.  But even knowing that, it’s just amazing, to me at least, how so many of these “debates” I’ve done involving one anti-WikiLeaks political figure and one ostensibly “neutral” journalist — on MSNBC with The Washington Post‘s Jonathan Capehart and former GOP Congresswoman Susan Molinari, on NPR with The New York Times‘ John Burns and former Clinton State Department official James Rubin, and last night on CNN with Yellin and Townsend — entail no daylight at all between the “journalists” and the political figures.  They don’t even bother any longer with the pretense that they’re distinct or play different assigned roles.

And there are identical notches in that belt for climate, environment, high finance, taxes, business generally… the list is its own scandal. Where does it start? This kind of rot is re-inforced from two directions, at least: the top of the food chain at the journalism-government crossover, and at the j-schools themselves. The kids learn how to network and are instructed by the commencement speakers who demonstrate not how to afflict but how to comfort, and thus move up the hierarchy into the anchor/editor’s chair. It’s all a celebration of career success, practically apart from what makes the career. The notion of muckraking doesn’t even come up; instead the news bleeds towards the most vulnerable, i.e., those least equipped to defend themselves, who can be dissected in public without push back or a loss of advertising revenue. Immigrants, the poor, criminals. I should qualify that: low-level criminals. Accordingly, no voices allowed that vary from the corporate line until the playing field is sufficiently skewed that you can be easily disregarded as a radical for advocating things like… high speed rail.

Oh, the horrors. But the Cossacks work for the Czar. Some of this is in exchange for the comfort we get from news that is based on things like the ‘war on Christmas’, black friday and shark attacks in summer. So it’s in part our fault for not rejecting the poolside, corporate, rolling green carpet viewpoint more stridently. The other part is a testament to how difficult it is to rock the boat, especially when things are going so swell.

So resolve and be resolute – without the self-condemnation of cynicism or conspiracy. There’s more room there to be skeptical than you think.