“No one can be shameless enough to deny what happened in Helsinki.” Newt: “Hold my beer.”

To close the last post, I wrote “…it is clear that Trump is running cover for a foreign government credibly accused of committing crimes against individuals, organizations, and the electoral system of a whole, and is subsuming the interests of the country to his own vast, dark emptiness. That can no longer be denied…” But even I was writing that, I remembered the man for whom the phrase “shameless cynicism” was coined, Mr. Newt Gingrich.

Dig this crazy shit.

This is brilliant. It lets Newt seem tough, like he’s holding the President to account. That “immediately” is certainly a big boy thing to say. But look at the language. “Trump must clarify”, as if it isn’t absolutely 100% clearly what Trump meant to say because he’s been saying it every single day of his Presidency.  Newt is still pretending there is a Trump there that isn’t the Trump we see.

That’s also clear in saying that this is “a mistake”, as if it isn’t what Trump was trying to do. Saying “this was a mistake” plays into the “Trump’s just rough around the edges because he’s not a real politician” nonsense.

It’s obvious to see why. Trump is still extremely popular among Republicans, and Newt, who is a spineless coward, can’t criticize him. He also can’t really do so because Newt has been propping Trump up as an avatar of courageous Republicanism, out of a combination of self-serving greed and unctuous sycophancy.

It’s easy to say that Newt is out of it, of course, though he probably still thinks he should be President. But no one can deny he doesn’t know which way the wind is blowing, and doesn’t know in his black cynical heart just how to connect with the base.

But it’s deeper than that. It’s been clear to everyone paying attention–which is to say, everyone except those paid to talk about this on TV–that the republican Party has zero interest in reining in Trump, so long as he deregulates air and water, crushes unions, helps suppress votes, turns the country into a grist mill for the rich, and puts enough justices on the bench to overturn Roe.

This isn’t an aberration. It’s long been clear that Trump is the apotheosis of conservative thought, even taking into account his own tacky absurdities. There’s no real reason to stop his authoritarian, right-wing white nationalism, or his groveling toward Russia. Hell, most of the party is already ok with all that stuff, but at long as he keeps doing what right-wingers want, he’ll most likely be fine.

One more piece of evidence? Here’s the tweet Gingrich sent not one hour later. 

Party’s still on, boys.


The Helsinki Press Conference Was Collusion

Image result for trump putin press conference

It’s weird for the shorter man to be towering above

One thing that gets lost in the increasingly closed-case argument of whether or not the President of the United States colluded with Russian intelligence to win his election is that he won’t actually be charged with “collusion”.

There are many crimes that can come down from the Mueller investigation, including possibly Conspiracy to Default, various stages of election fraud, and possibly even treason. But not “collusion”, per se, which is more a collected state of events than a prosecutable crime. It’s why it is sort of smart for the Trump team to say “there’s no proof of collusion!” because, legally speaking, there won’t be. There will just be a series of indictments, pleas, and convictions on charges that, added up, make it clear vast swathes of the Republican party, including the Trump campaign, worked with the Russian government to help steal and election and then cover up the crimes.

Actions also add up to collusion. And the Helsinki press conference yesterday was the most obvious action yet.

My people came to me, Dan Coates, came to me and some others they said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin. He just said it’s not Russia.

I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.

I have great confidence in my intelligence people but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today and what he did is an incredible offer.

Look, if you’re reading this blog, you’ve already read 30,000 words on the insane disgrace of the press conference, and how the President stood there and took the side of Russia’s brutal autocrat over his own intelligence services. You read how he ranted about insane conspiracy theories, using them as a dodge to what actually happened in 2016. He talked about the electoral college and about Hillary’s emails, asking about “the server”, even though, 1) as the indictment made clear the server was digitally copied and so didn’t need to be “taken”, and 2) Donald Trump has no idea what a server is.

You don’t need me to tell you why that was horrible. You don’t need me to tell you that, on every level, it was a show of abject humiliation, in which STRONG MAN FUCK YOUR FEELINGS DONALD THE DESTROYER TRUMP was intentionally kept waiting 45 minutes by Putin. That’s an unmistakable display of dominance, about which Trump, who spends four hours a day rehashing something mean Liza Minelli said to him in 1979, made not a peep or protestation.

Image result for ben garrison trump frodo cartoon

Still feel good about this one, Ben?

Everyone knows what happened, and even the FOX-heads, for the most part, pronounced it a terrible disgrace, although we’ll see how it is spun today. Along the corners of Twitter and the far fringes, we started to get to the point of “It’s totally cool if they colluded, because they saved us from Hillary”, and we’ll see if that gets traction. My guess is it will get some, though not officially, as the GOP play seems to be “if no one suffers any consequences, then any actions are by definition ok.”

But one thing should be made clear, every day: there is no longer any question of collusion. That press conference, in and of itself, was an attempt by the the President of the United States to provide cover for the government of Russia’s direct, indictable actions against the US electoral system. He obfuscated and flat-out lied in the service of Putin and the Russian military-intelligence complex about matters relating to his own election. With all of his answers, he was working hand-in-hand with the people who broke laws to get him elected. In doing so, he also gave them cover, and essentially permission, to continue to do so in 2018 and 2020.

Is he doing this because he’s an asset? Because he’s compromised? Because he actively worked with them in 2016, along with his dull adult sons? Because he’s deeply in debt to Russian billionaires? Because he laundered money for them? Or simply because he can’t accept that his win could in any way be tainted?

It doesn’t matter which one of these it is, and it is probably most of them in a swirling combination of decades-old greed and selfishness. But whatever it is, it is clear that Trump is running cover for a foreign government credibly accused of committing crimes against individuals, organizations, and the electoral system of a whole, and is subsuming the interests of the country to his own vast, dark emptiness. That can no longer be denied, and anyone who fails to live up to times in which they live is entirely complicit.

On Russia Monday, Let’s Talk About Lake Superior Water Levels

Image result for soo st marie

Let’s talk about sort of nice things today, ok? 

As I write, a former game show host is meeting with a ruthless KGB spy in private, which is fine, I guess, and maybe even the plotline of an offbeat movie, like Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, except in this case the failed steak pitchman is actually the President of the United States and no one can tell anyone why they need a private 90 minute meeting.

My thoughts on whether Donald Trump is a compromised asset have been made clear before, and they are: maybe? We won’t be learning too much today. Trump’ll say he asked about extraditing, and Putin said they weren’t guilty, and anyway it is a witch hunt, etc. There’ll probably be a compromise over something, Ukraine will be sold out, and the admin will declare a victory. That’s sort of their whole game, since the heart of Trumpism is that America is a terrible shitty stupid country unless he’s the one doing things.


We’ll have a lot more on this as the week goes on, but I’d rather point out a really cool article about the way the world works outside of summits and circumstance, outside of fools and liars and rich thieves in luxury jets. It’s about the inexorability of water, about the women and men who work to balance our place in the natural world, and the inevitable tradeoffs that come from living on a planet whose continued existence is not in any way dependent on our survival.

I’m generally loath of link to the Chicago Tribune, since its management seems determined to destroy journalism in this city, but it still has some damn fine reporters, and their work should be highlighted.

What happens when Lake Superior has too much water? It dumps it into an already overflowing Lake Michigan“, by Tony Briscoe, is such a piece. It’s a long, well-reported, in-depth look at the balances and compromises that come with trying to maintain and control the vastness of the Great Lakes, these ancient giants that can dominate the weather on a continent. And the result? Not easy.

For nearly a century, a dam at the head of the St. Marys River near Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., has been used like a faucet, controlling the amount of water flowing from Lake Superior into lakes Michigan and Huron.

In the past five years, following a swift rise in lake levels, the relatively obscure Lake Superior board that regulates the amount of water released has stepped up these discharges, raising an outcry from a group representing property owners along the shoreline of Lake Michigan and potentially harming seasonal tourism.

U.S. officials say the elevated discharges aren’t simply an attempt to drive down Lake Superior’s levels, highlighting the need to accommodate hydropower plants, downstream fish-spawning habitat and commercial shipping.

As someone who spends not a little time wandering the southern shores of Lake Michigan, I can confirm that the water seems unusually high, and can provide on-the-ground analysis of whether or not, as the article claims, the Evanston dog beach is missing (Answer: yes).

Briscoe’s article points out that there are obviously other factors, but the sheer enormity of Lake Superior water is enough to raise the levels of both Michigan and Huron. So who controls this? People you have probably never heard of. I’ve never heard of them, that’s for sure.

The St. Marys River runs between Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and Ontario, passing through a network of canals, hydropower plants and a dam with 16 steel control gates, which are regulated by the Lake Superior control board, a binational entity that determines how much water is released into the rapids. The board assumes the daunting responsibility of balancing the socio-economic and environmental interests of Lake Superior with those of lakes Michigan and Huron, which are considered one body of water because they are connected at the Straits of Mackinac.

First off, I want to express anger at Tony Briscoe for including that last clause about them being, hydrologically and geologically, one lake. That’s one of my favorite bits of “actually…” trivia. You should watch me when I tell people this. Their minds are blown with the quiet resignation that I am, in fact, going to keep talking about this. It’s awesome. But I guess I’m grateful this is in here.

But back to the Lake Superior control board, which is where bureaucracy meets nature. The Board, such as it is, consists of two people, and American from the Army Corp of Engineers and a Canadian with similar credentials. They have small staffs that analyze regulations, but it is really way more than that. These aren’t just recitations of a rule book. It’s an attempt to harness almost unfathomable power and weight into something manageable.

To me, this is nearly heroic. Laboring in essential anonymity, they look to balance the interests not just of two countries, but of a half-dozen states and two provinces. And in each of those areas, there is a complex web of commercial and recreational (not to mention environmental) interests, which compete not just with each other, but also amongst each other. Industry and commercial fishing, for instance, rarely go hand-in-hand.

It is an unenviable position, and Briscoe’s article goes admirably in-depth about what the interests are and the near-impossibility of finding a balance. Honestly, I don’t think there is one. I don’t think there can be, even with the best intentions and hard work and intelligence of smart and dedicated people.

The Lakes exist on scales we can hardly imagine. They are not as inhuman as the ocean, but they still are too vast and too old and too deep and cold and tempestuous and unpredictable and unconcerned to be truly managed. They can pluck a person from life in the blink of an eye, with a rolling, erasing wave or the freezing downward pull of 10,000 winters.

We’ve set up so much of our society around these Lakes, the heart of the industrial Midwest, with the idea that they could be tamed. We’ve done the same everywhere on this and every other continent. And to an extent, it has worked. It’s a testament to human ingenuity and brilliance that we can control the levels of water in the Lake Superior, and put what is basically a tap on this continent-defining freshwater system. To the engineers go all the glory.

At the end of the day though, we have to learn to live alongside the Lakes, and not dominate them. That’s impossible. The Lakes will submerge our dog parks and laugh while doing so. They’ll remind us that we aren’t in control. And I think that’s a damn good lesson. It’s good to see the eternal. It’s good to see that what seems outsized and omnipresent is still small and weak.

When walking along on a sunrise when things are seeming to spiral out of control, and the world is going off the rails, it’s nice to see the endless rolling waves, slapping unconcerned and eternal on temporary shores, trod by temporary feet.


Trump’s NATO Presser an Exercise in Ignorance

Image result for trump press conference nato

“I said, ‘Angela, what the hell is OTAN?’ I don’t think anyone knows.”

I’m going to caveat most of this post by saying that I was watching Trump’s surprise press conference this morning with the sound off, closed-captioned at the gym, where I broke personal running records out of sheer boggled frustration and unhidden anger. So I am making certain assumptions about his tone and possibly even motivations, though at this point: come on. We know how he talks.

For me, the absolute lowest moment wasn’t when he switched topics to go on and on about how successful he was on North Korea, turning it over to Mike Pompeo to further praise how successful Trump was. It wasn’t even when he talked about how no Republican presidential candidate has won Wisconsin since Eisenhower, a lie that even if true isn’t 100% relevant to NATO spending levels.

No, it was when he was asked a question by a reporter who said she was from a “country in northern Africa, Tunisia”, and asked Trump about if there would be more wars in the region, vis a vis US policy. I don’t have a transcript, so I don’t know if she was more specific (again, relying on the closed caption), but I do know about Trump’s answer.

This is paraphrase, but “Africa, what’s happening in Africa is really bad. What I see in my intelligence reports, people don’t understand how bad it is in Africa. Vicious! Terrible what is going on there. We’d very much like peace. We have the best military, the best bombs, the best planes, it’s better than it ever has been. Peace through strength. But we hope we never have to use it. Wouldn’t that be great? To have the very best stuff and never use it. OK, thank you.”

It was clear that he has never heard of the “Tunisia” before, and only heard “Africa”, and was thinking, you know Africa. That the reporter was very light-skinned didn’t throw him off, to his credit, although I suppose his favorite people from Africa have been white.

Image result for map of mediterranean region

“One thing that no one understands is that Tunisia is closer to Europe than to, you know, elephants.” Donald Trump, next week.

I don’t expect the President of the United States to know everything about every country. I do expect, and I hope it isn’t too much to ask, that the President should know that if a reporter from Tunisia is asking about regional peace she certainly means the Middle East/North Africa region. The sheer childish intensity of his ignorance can still stagger, and is indeed even more staggering as time goes on. He casually acts the squalling child, demanding that there are no demands made on his intelligence, after 18 months of the weightiest job on the planet. It’s yet another reminder that we shouldn’t elect our single dumbest citizen.

This isn’t incidental. Sure, the rest of the press conference was bad. Ostensibly, it was about how the allies had agreed to pay at levels they have never paid at before, and how he told them to raise their defense spending up to 4% of their GDP, since the US is at 4.2% (as if we only spend defense money in Europe, or as if most of that isn’t spent on boondoggles, and as if he doesn’t continually brag about how much money he’s spending on the military).

That’s of course a non-starter, and if it is a negotiating tactic, it is a dumb one, since he can’t win. If it is so NATO members raise their spending to 2%, as they already are, he can declare a somewhat-partially-accurate “victory”, it is pure mendacity. If it is so he can shrug his shoulders and leave NATO and continue breaking the western alliance and high-five Putin, well, that is a whole other (possibly extremely predictable) barrel of monkeys.

It also was maddening how he told us all that he “made a very strong point” (that’s a quote) about how immigration was a problem in Europe and it is ruining their countries and they had to do something about it. That’s first-order undisguised racism, doubled up by his gloating that he won his election in part because of immigration, as did the new Italian PM, as did the Brexiters. He also talked at length about how challenging things were in London, or in his words, “hot”, but that he was going to be able to spend a few days at his golf club, which was a magical place.

So yeah: it was the sundowning ramblings of a career liar and a professional racist. It was worse than that, of course, since it was another way to cause chaos in the west, setting unrealistic expectations for our still-maybe-allies. But the Africa thing really stuck with me.

We have a President who knows nothing about the world. We have a President who would be befuddled by maps. We have a President who hears “Africa” and has one single set of assumptions, not understanding anything about geography or geopolitics or what regions actually mean or the interplay between countries. We have a President with a child’s vision of the world, big blocky continents with no nuance, no subtelty, no imagination. We have a President who doesn’t know about the world because he can’t bother to learn about anything other than himself. Again, maybe we shouldn’t elect our very worst citizens. We’re seeing in full the national and global ramifications of installing into power our national id.

Although, I guess, we should be grateful he didn’t start talking about Kanye. But you wouldn’t have been surprised, would you?

Is There A Case For Trump As a Russian Asset?

Images like this make you feel a little paranoid, da? Image from New York Magazine, linked below.

So, for a few days I’ve been mulling over Jon Chait’s epic piece making the case that Trump has possibly been a Russian asset since 1987, trying to figure out how I figure it. The piece has gotten surprisingly little attention, partially because Chait is anathema on left-wing social media, but also because the whole thing just seems ludicrous, and to the mainstream access-friendly media, downright impolite.

Chait’s article boils down to one essential element: Trump being a Russian asset would explain a lot of things that are otherwise inexplicable. It would explain both the recent and lifelong actions of a man who is being pressured, cajoled, flattered, induced, and otherwise beset by both positive and negative pressures from a foreign state.

Of course, that’s the great thing about conspiracy theories. They make sense of a crazy world, tie everything together in a neat little package. They tie strings between disparate elements, creativing a cohesive story out of the fractured wooziness of modern life. They are actually a source of great comfort, which is why people cling to even the most far-fetched ones.

So how far-fetched is this, really?

(Warning: this piece is super long, even for this blog)

Continue reading

Some Good News: Ethiopia and Eritrea Declare Peace

Leaders of Ethiopia and Eritrea embrace

One of these men is a terrible monster, but this is still good news. We’ll take what we can get. 

In the late 90s, Ethiopia and Eritrea, two states, large and small, united and divided by the forces of history, waged a fierce and terrible war over a handful of dusty towns and lifeless fields at the heart of their disputed border.

In fighting that resembled the pointless muddy carnage of WWI, trenches appeared in this no-man’s land, poison gas was used, and tens of thousands lost their lives for no gain on either side. By 2000, with both sides exhausted, a state of not-war was declared, though peace was elusive. A UN commission awarded the territory to Eritrea, but Ethiopia never accepted it, and war was still always on the table, balancing on a knife edge in the fierce heat of the Horn of Africa.

Until now, that is.

The leaders of Ethiopia and Eritrea have signed a declaration saying that the state of war between the two countries is over.

A peace deal ending the 1998-1999 border conflict has never been fully implemented and there has been tension between the neighbours ever since.

The countries have also agreed to re-establish trade and diplomatic ties.

The declaration came at a landmark meeting between the two countries’ leaders in Eritrea’s capital, Asmara.

The summit between Eritrea’s President Isaias Afewerki and Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed marked the first time the neighbours’ heads of state had met for nearly two decades.

This is very good news. From a US perspective, it means that our main ally in the Horn of Africa, Ethiopia, will be less distracted by their disputatious neighbor. That can only help in the on-going fights against AQAP and ISIS and al-Shabab in the region (merely stating a fact, not saying that our methods/tactics are good).

Beyond the US, of course, is the possibility of peace in the region, a genuine one, instead of the tense terrors of the last 20 years. Or really, the last 70. And because of this, we can see that not all conflict has to last forever, even the seemingly intractable.

For those not familiar with the history, Eritrea was part of Ethiopia, but only due to the weird legacy of colonialism. It had been a collection of kingdoms and sultanates, Christian and Islamic, demonstrating the eclectic intermingling at one of the world’s inflection points. It’s a mix of sub-Saharan Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, north Africa, and more. Indeed, it is much more relevant to think of it as a Red Sea country than an African one. It’s ties are to Yemen, Somalia, Djibouti, and of course, Ethiopia.

A map showing Ethiopia and Eritrea

But not by choice. Ethiopia was invaded by Italian fascists, led by noted fascist superstar and street-named-after-guy Italo Balbo, and they brought together these independent kingdoms into Italian Eritrea. When the fascists lost to the English, both Ethiopia and Eritrea were “administered” by the British. When that got to be too expensive, the Brits just lumped everything together and gave Eritrea to Ethiopia. This was sanctioned by the UN and Western nations under their longstanding and time-honored policy of “Eh, they’re pretty much the same”.

Needless to say, this didn’t lead to a state of peace, especially when vicious Ethipoian leaders made a point of harassing and starving restless regions. A civil war took place over the course of decades, with “rebel” troops entering the Eritrean capital of Asmara in 1991. That paved the way for a de facto state, made de jure in 1993.

So needless to say there’s been some tension, and the 1998-1999 war was as much an exercise in revenge and historical anger than it was about a handful of cities. But time, apparently, can sometimes heal wounds, and countries don’t have to be beholden to the past. They can actually get past it, and move forward.

I know that sounds antithetical to most of what this blog has been preaching over the years, but the not really. I think we have to be aware of the past, to understand its terrible pull and grasping hold, in order to move past it. When we aren’t aware is when we get in trouble. When we don’t try to understand the historical forces working against us, the ground underneath our feet, is when we are caught unprepared.

I don’t want to say things are good over there, now. The President of Eritrea is still Isaias Afwerki, who once seemed like a brave new leader, but has since descended into brutal, paranoid madness, a Stalin-like leader who has maybe surpassed the darkest days of Mengistu. It’s a police state gripped by terror and brutality, and with its own insurrections in the name of freedom.

There’s a long way to go. But this is a day no one thought could ever come. So to that, we’ll celebrate, still wary, but relieved. There can be good news, even in these dark and weird times.

Scientists Find More Rivers, But Dry Areas Create More Conflict

Obvious obligatory musical cue

One thing which anyone who studies space will tell you is that there’s a lot of it. Like, a whole lot. As Douglas Adams puts it in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, space is “really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mindbogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space.”

The corollary to that is that, relatively, the earth is pretty small. Pale blue dot, and all that. All our hubris and dreams in this one little rock, etc. And it’s true! Compared to space, compared to even our unremarkable little solar system, the earth is pretty small.

But in our lifetimes, we don’t compare the earth to space. We can’t. We can only compare it to the size of our lives, which live outsized and all-encompassing in us. And in that sense, the earth is huge. It is a long road down to the chemist.

That’s why stories like this one from Inverse are both surprising and unsurprising.

(R)esearchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Texas A&M University have charted a multitude of new rivers and streams, showing that we have 44 percent more of them than we ever thought.

That’s a lot of rivers and streams! It’s actually sort of boggling to think about: there’s a decent amount more running water in this world than we had accounted for. This isn’t to say that these are undiscovered streams and rivers; almost certainly people living near them knew of their existence, and had them charted and all that. But we’re just beginning to understand the way river systems work, and the enormity of their feeder systems, and their interplay with the land. It’s a buffet for limnologists.

Unfortunately, as the paper, which wasn’t just a river counter, showed, we’re also beginning to understand how moving water takes human pollution and mixes biochemically with the air to throw more carbon dioxide in the sky.  So 44% more moving water sort of means more chance for bad biochemistry.

The ramifications of global warming are already playing out, everywhere. And while there may be more water than we thought, there isn’t actually more water. Freshwater is running out in some of the world’s hottest places, which are going to get a lot hotter.

Here’s a few.

  • Lima, Peru. It’s a city of 10 million people. It gets .3 inches of rain a year. It’s already beset by poverty and vast inequality. As this report from Circle of Blue demonstrates, these factors are colliding, with poor on the dry end of the stick, and an explosion seems on the near horizon.
  • India. 90 cities are “water-stressed”, as India faces what officials are calling its worst-ever water crisis. It’s already beginning to turn ugly, as it will, with officials being attacked and people being killed in the streets in water brawls. An Indian think tank estimates that 600 million people have extreme to high water stress, and that by 2030 (which is in only 12 years), 40% of the population won’t have access to clean water. Can Indian democracy and any hint of ethnic/religious peace survive such strains?
  • Iran. Iran is already roiling with discontent, and has been for a very long time. The generation that overthrew the Shah is gone or calcified, and generations are frustrated. And now water is becoming a huge issues, and protests have broken out and been broken up by security forces. When the state can’t provide clean drinking water, and beats people up for demanding this basic right, it becomes more difficult to claim a divine right to rule. It’s a bad look!

We’ve talked an enormous amount about Iranian regional influence here, and how it is in line with the historic record, and is essentially inevitable and needs to be managed, It’s a hope that a responsible government establishes itself, instead of this one. But all my geopolitical maunderings can be made irrelevant by a lack of water.

Because the thing is, while space might be really big, none of us are going to see very much of it. It matters philosophically, and I would argue morally, that we’re just a tiny part of a vast and inexplicable and profoundly unconcerned universe, but it doesn’t put food on the table.

And it doesn’t matter if we found out that there is actually a lot more clean water than was thought if it isn’t anywhere near you and your family and you have no access to it. Scientists didn’t suddenly discover a vast underground river beneath the baking Indian plains, some new Alph, as potable as it is sacred, that will solve everything. This story is probably, at most, the merest curiosity to people who desperately need clean water. It’s measureless to man.

All politics is local, and at the end of the day, all politics can be crushed under the basic needs of humanity. As our planet gets both higher salty seas and drier everywhere else, we’ll have to figure out ways to increase water supplies for everyone. It’s a really long road, and it will mean actual global solutions.

These seem impossible in an age of strongmen xenophobically slamming doors, sneering at science, not looking for ways to shelter the miserable or slake the thirsty. As small as the individual is, these times are even smaller. But we can’t afford that. We have to make ourselves bigger, and fill up this terrible moment.  We have to take that step. We have to find that river.