Tag Archives: corporations

BP – More Arrogance, Less Accountability

It was interesting to listen to the radio coverage – on NPR and PRI – of BP CEO Tony Hayward’s appearances in Washington, DC as I drove around the city running errands (not on BP gas, though it hardly makes a difference).

The BP CEO talked about how sorry he was for the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and about making it right, but the language seemed to me very, very careful – and in particular careful not to say something like “we fucked up.” You can imagine why: to say they did things wrong, cut corners in an attempt to boost profits, short-changed safety, etc., would be to admit to a probably criminal and actionable level of negligence.

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BP Oil Spill: Behold our dark, magnificent horror

Behold our dark, magnificent horror: There is, you have to admit, a sort of savage grace, a tragic and terrible beauty, to the BP oil spill.

Like any good apocalyptic vision of self-wrought hell, the greatest environmental disaster in U.S. history has its inherent poetry. You see that creeping ooze of black, that ungodly wall of unstoppable darkness as it slowly, inexorably invades the relatively healthy, pristine waters adjacent, and you can’t help but appreciate the brutal majesty, the fantastic, reeking horror of this new manifestation of black death we have brought upon ourselves, as it spreads like a fast cancer into the liquid womb of Mother Nature herself…  (via sfgate.com.)

Interview: Naomi Klein on oil spill: “Frustration is growing among residents of the US Gulf of Mexico coast over the pace of efforts to combat the growing oil spill in the region. Author and activist Naomi Klein has been visiting the state of Louisiana. She told Al Jazeera that patience is running very thin…….” (via digg.com.)

White House Tries to Regroup as Criticism Mounts Over Leak: The Obama administration scrambled to respond on Sunday after the failure of the latest effort to kill the gushing oil well in the Gulf of Mexico. But administration officials acknowledged the possibility that tens of thousands of barrels of oil might continue pouring out until August… (via NYTimes.com.)

BP’s Newest Plan As ‘top kill’ failed: “BP is moving on to other cleanup efforts now that its ‘top kill’ operations failed to stop the flow of oil from the gushing well in the Gulf of Mexico.” (via digg.com.)

Oil could hit Florida Panhandle by Wednesday: “A Florida beach might get hit with oil from the Deepwater Horizon accident for the first time Wednesday as sheen likely caused by the accident was reported less than 10 miles off Pensacola Beach.” (via digg.com.)

Another Torrent BP Works to Stem – Its C.E.O.: BP, already bedeviled by an out-of-control well spewing millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, now finds itself with one more problem: Tony Hayward, its gaffe-prone chief executive.

Among his memorable lines: The spill is not going to cause big problems because the gulf “is a very big ocean” and “the environmental impact of this disaster is likely to have been very, very modest.” And this week, he apologized to the families of 11 men who died on the rig for having said, “You know, I’d like my life back.”… (via NYTimes.com.)

Media must have unrestricted ability to cover the oil spill: “One of the most disturbing aspects of British Petroleum’s handling of the Deepwater Horizon explosion and subsequent continuing oil spill is the company’s ham-handed attempts to restrict media coverage. BP officials seem to be more adept at cutting off information flows than oil leaks.” (via digg.com.)

Breaking: Feds Approve More Offshore Drilling in Gulf Coast: “The Mineral Management Service (MMS) decided today to grant a permit allowing Bandon Oil and Gas to start drilling just 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana.” (via digg.com.)

Gambling site lets you bet on oil spill related extinctions: “Gambling website PaddyPower.com placed odds on which species would be the first to go belly-up forever because of impacts from the spill. The Kemp’s ridley turtle, an endangered species that migrates to along the coastline from Mexico to Florida, is seen as the most likely winner, with a $5 bet likely to bring back $9 if it’s listed as extinct.” (via digg.com.)

About $%^& Time!!! Feds Launch Criminal Probe of BP Oil Spill: “We will prosecute to the fullest extent of the law anyone who has violated the law, Holder told reporters today in New Orleans.” (via digg.com.)

Punishing BP for the Oil Spill: 6 Brutal Proposals: “Eleven people are dead and the Gulf of Mexico has become ground zero of America’s worst-ever oil spill. Who’s to blame? In the eyes of most commentators, BP tops the list. More than a month after the Deepwater Horizon blew up and crude began spewing into sea and calls to punish the oil giant are gaining in volume. But what’s the right penalty?” (via digg.com.)

BP’s New Spokeswoman is Dick Cheney’s Former Press Secretary: “A rising star in Bush-Cheney circles since the 2000 campaign, Anne Womack-Kolton served as Cheney’s press secretary during the 2004 election before running public affairs in the Bush Department of Energy. She’s now BP’s new spokeswoman.” (via digg.com.)

BP Logo Redesign Contest

BP (Logo Redesign Contest)

I can’t tell you how frustrated and upset we are about BP and how they are handling this oil disaster. Before this eruption of oil they had 17 violations. It’s obvious this could have been prevented.

This is probably the biggest environmental disaster we have ever faced in this country.

I think the creative designers at LMW should update the BP logo with a more suitable design.

The design community and the general public will vote on the winner of the redesign of the NEW BP LOGO.

(via LogoMyWay.com ™.)

My current favorite of the submitted alternative designs:Check them out for yourself and vote on your favorites. Thanks to Stephen Fry for sharing a link to this.

BP – Bad People

BP: British Petroleum – Big Profits, Bad People.

Brazen Plutocrats. Brain-damaged Petrol-sniffers. Borehole Punked, Bungling Propellerheads.

Beastly Patricians. Bastante Pooheads. Bigus Prickus. Benefiting Plastics. Base Parasites. Borderline Psychotics. Black Pudding. Befitting Panic.

Broken Planet.

Op-Ed Columnist – An Unnatural Disaster: “Where I was wrong,” said President Obama at his press conference on Thursday, “was in my belief that the oil companies had their act together when it came to worst-case scenarios.”… (via NYTimes.com.)

A few more ledes and links below…
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BP’s real oil spill response plan…

Screw around for a couple of months with pantyhose, golf balls and toxic chemicals, and then don’t pay.

Oil Spill: A Photo Diary Pictures

Did Government Officials Actually Read BP’s Oil Spill Response Plan?

Like other oil companies seeking permits for offshore drilling projects in U.S. waters, BP was required to submit an oil spill response plan to the Minerals Management Service (MMS), a sub-agency of the U.S. Interior Department. The question is whether anybody in the federal government actually read it before giving BP its offshore drilling permits?

A careful review of BP’s 583-page oil spill response plan by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), a national alliance of local state and federal resource professionals, shows a document that is “studded with patently inaccurate and inapplicable information,” according to the PEER assessment.

(via About.com Guide to Environmental Issues.)

There’s a certain symmetry here: the Minerals Management Service spends their time watching porn, whacked out on crystal meth, rather than reading spill response plans – but on the other hand, BP writes those plans as if they were high on crack.

The people in MMS probably said, “Hey, this plan is a piece of shit, so we might as well get fucked up and horny rather than read it.” Or maybe they were just too busy going out to dinner and to the game on the oil companies’ dime to do their jobs – so much easier to “let oil and gas company workers fill out their inspection forms.”

After all, if there’s a spill, BP will get it dealt with, right? It’s not like it will drag out for months. They must have a real response lying around somewhere. And the law says they have to pay for damages…

What’s that? Damages to wildlife and livelihoods are capped at $75 million? Really? And how much does BP make? $66 million a day.

News analysis – BP oil spill: can environmental crime ever be made to pay?

Million dollar fines and compensation claims may dent the profits of BP and other companies admitting responsibility for ecological disasters but, on their own, are they enough of a deterrent?

The full cost of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico to marine and coastal ecology along the US south east coastline, both now and in the future, is only just being realised.

BP has admitted ‘full responsibility’ for the spill, which occurred after an underwater explosion on its Deepwater Horizon oil rig. A blow-out prevention device that guards against such accidents was not working and an extra device fitted for emergencies was not present on the oil rig.

How much is enough?

In a damning statement, the US environmental group the Sierra Club said that BP, which makes more in profit in a week than it has spent on responding to the oil spill so far, should be liable for a limitless amount of costs.

‘There is no limit on the damage done to wildlife. There is no limit on the damage done to coastal communities. There is no limit on the loss of jobs in fishing and tourism. There shouldn’t be a limit on the amount that oil companies like BP are required to pay for cleanup,’ a spokesperson said.

Already more than 19,000 compensation claims have been made, mostly from fishermen. However, the maximum oil companies like BP are liable to pay for such claims is $75 million. A bill aimed at increasing that liability cap to $10 billion has so far been blocked by lawmakers in the Senate who offer the excuse it could adversely impact on small oil drilling companies who can’t afford the liability.

(via The Ecologist.)

Congressional Republicans are trying to make sure that BP’s bill for the losses they have inflicted on the people, communities, plants and animals of the Gulf of Mexico is limited to little more than a day’s profit.

In light of all this, Daniel Gross looks for answers to the question, “What’s the best way to punish BP for the oil spill?“, but isn’t able to come up with anything that seems proportionate to BP’s arrogance and negligence, or to the scale of the environment catastrophe still – with yet another attempt by BP to cap the spill having failed – going on…

What’s the best way to punish BP for the oil spill? – By Daniel Gross

How To Punish BP – Fine? Boycott? Lawsuit? What’s the best way to make the company pay for the oil spill?

The damage from BP’s oil spill is mounting. The lucrative tourism business in Florida is suffering. Housing predictor estimates that homes in the path of the leak will lose ‘at least 30 percent in value as a result of the environmental catastrophe.’ The thriving seafood industry in the Gulf has largely been shut down. Huge quantities of oil have been wasted. The spill may cause severe long-term damage to sea life in the Gulf, destroy sensitive coastal marshes, and send oil washing up on Atlantic Ocean beaches. And don’t forget all the jobs and profits that could have materialized from opening up new areas to offshore drilling—but that likely won’t thanks to the spill.

Meanwhile, BP is displaying a frustrating combination of incompetence and insouciance. What with this spill, the explosion in 2005 at an oil refinery in Texas City that killed 15 people, and another spill in the Trans-Alaska pipeline, which it operates, you get the sense that BP is very unlucky or not particularly good at running its operations safely or not particularly interested in the well-being of America’s environment.

Which brings us to the $64 billion question: BP should pay—and pay dearly—for the damage. But how much? And, more importantly, how? What should the United States do to BP that would be satisfying, punish the company appropriately, and, most importantly, provide incentives for BP and other oil firms to act with greater care? I’ve puzzled over this and have come up with a few ideas—none of them very satisfying….(via Slate Magazine.)

For “live” coverage of the attempt to stop the spill of oil, check out: BP oil spill: ‘top kill’ live coverage | Environment | guardian.co.uk.

Gulf oil spill: the web’s top killer lines – The Guardian

Gulf oil spill: the web’s top killer lines: “BP’s green rebranding has been much lampooned, while the fake Twitter account BPGlobalPR has drawn 70,000 followers…” (via The Guardian.)

Here We Go Again: BP has another spill…

Trans-Alaska Oil Pipeline Shut Down After Valve Leak (Update2): Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., whose biggest shareholder is BP Plc, shut the Trans-Alaska system yesterday after a leak of “several thousand barrels”… (via BusinessWeek.)

It doesn’t look like this will be as bad as BP’s catastrophic spill in the Gulf of Mexico – still going on, now in its second month

5 Weeks of Gushing Oil: ‘Top Kill’ Plug Readied: Marking five disastrous weeks, BP readied yet another attempt to slow the oil gushing into the Gulf on Tuesday as a federal report alleged drilling regulators have been so close to oil and gas companies they’ve been accepting gifts and even negotiating to go work for them… (via ABC News.)

– but you know, at some point you need to stop and begin asking some serious questions…

If you want to play connect the dots, this leaking pipeline transports crude from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez – the port that gave its name to the Exxon Valdez, the tanker which in turn gave its name to what is widely considered to have been one of the most devastating human-caused environmental disasters ever. Of course, thanks to BP, we now have a serious contender for this dubious crown of achievement.

And oh yeah – Prudhoe Bay was the site of a major spill in 2006. What kind of spill? Oil. Whose spill? BP. Why? Negligence.

To refresh your memory…

Justice Department Targets BP Over Massive 2006 Oil Spill: “The Justice Department recently filed a civil suit against BP’s Alaska unit over two massive oil spills in Prudhoe Bay three years ago… (via News Junkie Post.)

Fmr. EPA Investigator Scott West: US Has Told BP “It Can Do Whatever It Wants and Won’t Be Held Accountable”: One month after the BP oil spill, we speak to Scott West, a former top investigator at the Environmental Protection Agency who led an investigation of BP following a major oil pipeline leak in Alaska’s North Slope that spilled 250,000 gallons of oil on the Alaskan tundra. Before West finished his investigation, the Bush Justice Department reached a settlement with BP, and the oil company agreed to pay $20 million. At the same time, BP managed to avoid prosecution for the Texas City refinery explosion that killed fifteen workers by paying a $50 million settlement…. (via Democracy Now!.)

Congressmen raised concerns about BP safety before Gulf oil spill: In the months before BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig sank in a ball of fire in the Gulf of Mexico, the company had four close calls on pipelines and facilities it operates in Alaska… (via guardian.co.uk.)

To outrage you…

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Fucking BP. Fucking Big Oil. Fucking corporate negligence and shareholder value. Fucking Hummers and SUVs and Big Auto and suburban developments and shopping malls… What we need are oil spills at the mall, instead of the wetlands and beaches, spills that kill our addiction to a profligate and unsustainable lifestyle of empty consumption, instead of birds, beaches, whales, turtles, bays, the Gulf of Mexico….

BP Oil Spill: Yet More Ledes, Excerpts and Links – May 8 through May 22

“Twenty-four miles of Plaquemines parish is destroyed.
Everything in it is dead.”
– Billy Nungesser, head of the parish in southern Louisiana

“This is what everyone wanted to avoid, because the wetlands are
the nursery for everything that swims or crawls in the Gulf of Mexico.”
– John Hocevar, Greenpeace

The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is “relatively tiny” compared with the “very big ocean”
– BP CEO Tony Hayward

A follow up to my previous collection of ledes and excerpts – with links – these ones covering the period from May 8 through May 22. (Note: As before, the full post is fairly long, with a number of pictures, so if you have a slow or limited internet connection, be warned.)

Before that, some observations…

Among the most disturbing news to come out in the last few days of coverage of the Deepwater Horizon / BP oil spill:

  • Even BP now acknowledges its estimate of the rate of the spill as 5,000 barrels of oil a day was woefully inadequate. The actual rate of the spill may be as much as 20 times larger than the figure that BP has insisted on for the last month.
  • After a month of stonewalling and downplaying the severity of the disaster, BP has bowed to pressure and is now allowing access to the live video feed of the spill that scientists have been demanding. What other data are they withholding? And what of efforts to prevent reporters from reaching the site of the spill?
  • The chemical dispersant/cleaner used by BP has now be banned – as too toxic and inadequate. All along scientists have warned of the impact of the dispersant, which some have argued may just make matters worse because of its toxic impact. And in fact, a better – more effective and less toxic – dispersant has apparently been available. The chemical used by BP is banned in the UK as too toxic.
  • Oil is washing ashore on beaches, wetlands and marshes in the Gulf region, destroying fragile wetlands that are the incubators for a large percentage of the birds, fish and animals of the Gulf. By destroying these breeding grounds, used by migratory birds and others, the oil spill will impact the environment throughout North and South America, from the Arctic to Antarctica.
  • Oil is being taken up into the Loop Current and is being carried toward Florida and the Atlantic, so it may also end up affecting Western Europe.
  • Police were turning back reporters trying to reach beaches on which oil was washing ashore.

Given BP’s repeated failures to stem the disastrous flow of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, use of toxic chemicals to try to minimize the apparent extent of the spill, stonewalling on access to data on the rate of the spill while insisting on a figure universally derided as woefully underestimating the actual damage, apparent efforts to block reporters from accessing the site of the spill, and general fuckwittery (eg, the BP CEO calling oil spill ‘relatively tiny’), why is BP still in charge of efforts to contain and clean up the spill?

At what point does the government step in and say “BP, you’ve blown it – we’re taking over, and we’ll send you the bill”?

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BP Oil Spill: Extensive Collection of Ledes, Excerpts and Links – April 30 through May 7

Like the gushers of oil pouring into the Gulf of Mexico, the past month has seen a massive outpouring of reports and analysis on the Deepwater Horizon / BP oil spill and environmental catastrophe in progress off the coast of Louisiana.

Were I off a conspiracy frame of mind – which of course I am not – I might try to suggest that “they” are trying to prevent us from thinking carefully and critically about what is happening by burying us under a tidal wave of verbiage, with yesterday’s plans superseded by today’s, and dozens of theories of the cause, and estimates of the amount of oil, competing for our attention.

This is what is happening, but I don’t think it is a conspiracy actively being pursued by the infamous “they.” Rather, it is 100s of reporters scrambling each day for copy to file, and – much more disturbingly – government agencies and the oil industry thrashing around in their ignorance and incompetence, unable to come up with real solutions, while corporate PR flacks and spin doctors try to cover up as much as possible, and scientists scramble to make sense of what is happening from the point of view of their various disciplines.

To make matters worse, the efforts of reporters and scientists to produce accurate and in-depth news and analysis have been actively and consciously hampered by the corporate flacks – by, for example, delaying the release of data, resisting attempts to gain access to the video feeds of the oil gushers, and so on. Even more disturbing have been the reports of government collusion with BP in blocking access to the spill and to information. A few days ago, reports circulated of BP ships blocking access to the spill site at sea, with Coast Guard officers onboard these boats colluding in these efforts. More recently, police officers have apparently been attempting to prevent reporters visiting beaches where oil has washed ashore. I suspect these are local and individual actions rather than part of active government collusion at a high level, but even so… The public officials involved in such things should have bricks dropped on them from a great height.

I’ve been following this story since the explosion, in mainstream and progressive news outlets, as well as on commentary and discussion websites and blogs, and I’ve collected some of the more useful, intelligent, provocative and/or outrageous pieces on the oil spill for you.

Below the fold, you’ll find an extensive compendium of ledes and excerpts – with links – from these articles and discussions, arranged in chronological order. This post consists of the bulk of the articles for the period from April 30 through May 7. Later today or tomorrow, I’ll post ledes and excerpts for May 8 through May 21.

(Note: The full post is very long, with a number of pictures, so if you have a slow or limited internet connection, be warned.)

Before that, a couple of general overview pieces:

Oil spill cleanup, containment efforts, hearings in wake of gulf disaster: In the Gulf of Mexico and along the coastline, cleanup and containment efforts continue after the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig April 20. (via The Washington Post – includes large selection of photos on the oil spill.)

How Long Will the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Last?: More than 20 years after the Exxon Valdez foundered off the coast of Alaska, puddles of oil can still be found in Prince William Sound. Nearly 25 years after a storage tank ruptured, spilling oil into the mangrove swamps and coral reefs of Bahia Las Minas in Panama, oil slicks can still be found on the water. And more than 40 years after the barge Florida grounded off Cape Cod, dumping fuel oil, the muck beneath the marsh grasses still smells like a gas station… (via Scientific American.)

The 2010 Gulf Oil Spill: A Timeline – Newsweek – slideshow with 23 photos  [post removed]

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BP Oil Spill: Where’s a folksinger when you need her? [updated]

Like so many people these days, I’ve been following the unfolding disaster of BP’s oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico with fascinated dismay. I’ve also been following the responses to the oil spill, with at times something more like hope.

The online world – Public Sphere2.0 – has been quick to respond with things like the various images, videos, graphics and data mashups listed on thedailygreen.com7 Shocking Ways to Visualize the Gulf Oil Spill. And in a still developing story, Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Chairman of the US House of Representatives’ Select Committee for Energy Independence and Global Warming pressured BP into releasing a live video feed of the gushing oil well in the Gulf of Mexico. According to a report in The Huffington Post, the live feed should be available through the Select Committee website later today/tonight.

And of course the environmental catastrophe of the BP spill has provided rich fodder for political commentators and talk show hosts on TV and radio – both left and right, the serious and the not-so-serious – ranging from Rush Limbaugh saying The Sierra Club is responsible to Jon Stewart’s take, as usual one of the funniest and most incisive: ‘We’re All Going To Die!’.

And Keith Olbermann on msnbc has a nice YouTube-inspired video mashup on the spill:

And in one of the best cyberactivism efforts to come out of the spill so far,  the “Louisiana Bucket Brigade” and students at Tulane University have come up with a crowdsourced  Oil Spill Crisis Map:

This map visualizes reports of the effects of the BP oil spill submitted via text message, email, twitter and the web. Reports of oil sightings, affected animals, odors, health effects and human factor impacts made by the eyewitnesses and the media populate points on a this public, interactive, web based map. The information will be used to provide data about the impacts of the spill in real time as well as document the story of those that witness it.

What we haven’t had yet is a musical response.

In the past, folk musicians have been fairly quick to jump in with rabble-rousing tunes on war, racism, political violence, logging and other issues of concern (“It’s as easy as C-F-G”), so I went looking for something on oil spills – after all, this BP spill off Louisiana may be the biggest in history, but it is by no means the first oil spill we’ve seen or which has grabbed the public’s attention.

You’d be surprised how hard it is to find a good song on oil… I did find one track called “Oil Spill” – from the soundtrack by Leonard J. Paul to the excellent Canadian documentary, The Corporation – but it’s not really what I had in mind.

One of our best topical troubadors, Billy Bragg has a song about oil, but it’s not aimed at oil spills – rather at the role that the insatiatable appetite for oil in the USA, and Europe, has played in the conflicts in the Middle East and the wars in Iraq :  Billy Bragg, “The Price of Oil” – released as a free download on his official website ( Billy Bragg ).

The closest I could get to something that really captured my feelings about this spill was a song from Nigeria. Nigeria is a country that has long suffered from problems associated with the oil industry there – ranging from spills and environmental damage to political corruption to the assassination of political and environmental activists.

Nigeria is also the source of Afrobeat music and one of my favorite musicians, Fela Kuti. And Fela has a song attacking the impact of foreign corporations that I thought would do – at least until the folk musicians get off their collective ass and give us something inspiring we can sing along to. Given how BP is stealing the Gulf of Mexico from the future, despoiling it for generations, and trying to evade responsibility – financial and otherwise – they certainly qualify as an “International Thief Thief.”

Fela Kuti, “I.T.T. (International Thief Thief)” (the song starts out quiet, so don’t be fooled into thinking there is a problem with the link)

FaceBook and the McDonalds-izing of the Internet – plus Greece and Arizona

“Arizona is … a warning of what a state can look like when it’s run by talk-radio demagogues and their television cohorts.”
(Too bad they went with Rush Limbaugh and Chris Beck and not Jon Stewart.)

Here, for your horror and amusement, a roundup of some headlines and excerpts from the news of the last couple of days concerning FaceBook, Greece and Arizona – all in the one post as I am probably as sick of reading and writing about this stuff as you are of reading and thinking about it.

The truth is, I found the topics mostly either too aggravating (Arizona) or too complicated/outside my area of competence (Greece) to really have much worthwhile to offer beyond a handy crib sheet / set of links to what I found useful and interesting in my own reading.

I did feel that I might have something to offer on the matter of FaceBook. Most of the commentary I read focused on the threat to privacy angle or on FaceBook’s ambitious growth strategy – and covered these topics fairly well.

But I also thought these were not perhaps the most interesting or troubling aspect of FaceBook’s recent moves. The most interesting – and most negative – aspect was what I guess we could call the McDonalds-izing of the internet – which seems to be not just a scary scenario but actually the heart of their strategy:

McDonalds – it’s everywhere you go, from San Francisco to Shanghai to Skopje, from New York to New Delhi to Old Blighty, and everywhere pretty much the same. It’s unhealthy, bland, culturally and nutritionally denuded and pumped full of pretty packaging and preservatives, salt and sugar to make up for its lack of taste, appeal and interest. It’s very cheap, and not worth it – but nonetheless becomes a big part of the diet of people who are locked out, scared off or ignorant of better choices. McDonalds: bland, banal, unhealthy, homogenized, corporate, ubiquitous.

To the extent that FaceBook succeeds in its ambitions, the internet will become a blander, more homogenized, and more regimented and commodified experience.

The computer world has seen other monopolies and hegemonies come (and sometimes go): Windows is not quite the force it once was, though it’s still pretty powerful; likewise Microsoft Office. Google clearly has hegemonic aims and seems to be doing a good job of achieving them, but that battle is not yet over.

But somehow, the idea of a hegemonic FaceBook seems to me somewhat more serious. I suppose because it is a social network, and has to a large extent taken over from IMing and email as a central means of communication for many people. And also become a major force in organizing groups, inviting people to events, sharing photographs, indicating likes and dislikes in shopping and other forums, and so on.

These were all activities that used to be enacted through separate platforms, sites and applications. Smaller sites operating in more competitive arenas, and generally with more responsiveness to their users than FaceBook has shown. And in many cases, at least initially, much less commercial, much less “monetized” and surveilled.

FaceBook hopes to end all of that, bringing all of those activities into its grasp, and analyzing and monetizing our every activity, and targeting us with ads tailored to our precise demographics and desires.

“One Site to rule them all…”

FaceBook

Despite my personal apprehensions (which are, naturally, well-founded and not at all the paranoid fantasies of some left-wing conspiracy theorist), the rest of the blogosphere has quieted down a bit where FaceBook is concerned, after the first rush of responses – positive and negative – to announcements at FaceBook’s developers’ conference. The two main interests continue to be the privacy issue, on the one hand, and evaluations of the new developments from a technical and business perspective on the other; on both, we may have to wait a little while for more in-depth discussions.

In the meantime, here’s PC Magazine chiming it with its advice on securing some privacy in the wake of FaceBook’s changes:

Facebook Privacy: 8 Ways to Protect Yourself: pcmag.com — You want to use Facebook, but you also want to keep your private information from being spread all over the Internet. The key is to understand how Facebook works, where your information is going, and how to navigate the service’s labyrinth of privacy controls.

(via Digg.com.)

Early last month, before FaceBook’s developers’ conference, Bruce Schneier, one of the most respected commentators on computer security, wrote of the issue of privacy and control, specifically addressing FaceBook:

In January, Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg declared the age of privacy to be over. A month earlier, Google Chief Eric Schmidt expressed a similar sentiment. Add Scott McNealy’s and Larry Ellison’s comments from a few years earlier, and you’ve got a whole lot of tech CEOs proclaiming the death of privacy — especially when it comes to young people.

It’s just not true. People, including the younger generation, still care about privacy.

Read the whole discussion of “Privacy and Control” in Schneier on Security.

An article in The New York Times on a new extreme sport fun run – “Tough Mudder” – parenthetically provided a concise picture of just how targeted FaceBook ads already were, how well they knew us, before this current round of changes:

The [Tough Mudder] Web site went online in early February, and $8,300 was spent on Facebook ads aimed at specific demographics — young professionals, runners and extreme athletes, police officers and firefighters, and those in the military who lived in the vicinity of Allentown and within 50 miles of New York and Philadelphia.

(via NYTimes.com.)

Imagine what they’ll be able to do once they know your every like, your every move.

Enough of that… Here’s what’s been happening in the less important realm of offline events. (For some reason, the mainstream news media has been paying a lot more attention to Greece and Arizona than FaceBook…)
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Watch the Growth of Walmart and Sam’s Club Across America

“Walmart (blue) started slow in 1962 and then spread like wildfire in the southeast, starting in 1970, and then made its way towards the west coast. Sam’s Club starts to sprout up in the 1980s with bursts up to present.”

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21st-century African land grab

A new twist on globalization and colonialism in Africa:

“Ethiopia is one of the hungriest countries in the world with more than 13 million people needing food aid, but paradoxically the government is offering at least 3m hectares of its most fertile land to rich countries and some of the world’s most wealthy individuals to export food for their own populations…”

read about it here: How food and water are driving a 21st-century African land grab | Environment | The Observer.

Koch Industries: Secretly Funding the Climate Denial Machine [UPDATED]

“Most Americans have never heard of Koch Industries, one of the largest private corporations in the country, because it has no Koch-branded consumer products, sells no shares on the stock market and has few of the disclosure requirements of a public company. Although Koch intentionally stays out of the public eye, it is now playing a quiet but dominant role in a high-profile national policy debate on global warming.” Continue reading

Privacy Groups Want Feds to Investigate Targeted Ads | Wired.com

The World Privacy Forum, the Center for Digital Democracy and U.S. PIRG (public interest research groups) argue that online marketers are secretly combining online data with offline data and using that to run real-time ad auctions….

read it all at Privacy Groups Want Feds to Investigate Targeted Ads | Epicenter | Wired.com.