Who’s the sucker?

Or, in the case of facebook, if you can’t tell what the product is – it’s you:

Facebook is the prime online, global incubator of racist, quasi-fascist propaganda, conspiracy theories, state-run psyops and agit-prop operations, even in at least one case actual state-backed programs of population transfer and arguable genocide. But to really understand the problem with Facebook we need to understand the structural roots of that problem, how much of it is baked into the core architecture of the site and its very business model. Indeed much of it is inherent in the core strategies of the post-2000, second wave Internet tech companies that now dominate our information space and economy.

Facebook is an ingenious engine for information and ideational manipulation. Good old fashioned advertising does that to a degree. But Facebook is much more powerful, adaptive and efficient. That’s what all the algorithms do. That’s why it makes so much money. This is the error with people who say the fact that people do bad things with Facebook is no different from people doing bad things with phones. Facebook isn’t just a ‘dumb’ communications system. It’s not really a platform in the original sense of the word. (The analogy for that is web hosting.) Facebook is designed to do specific things. It’s an engine to understand people’s minds and then manipulate their thinking. Those tools are refined for revenue making but can be used for many other purposes. That makes it ripe for misuse and bad acting.

As Josh says, fB is in the middle of another round of bad publicity and they deserve every bit of it. Obviously also another meaning of being green, but we CAN learn, get older and [a bit] wiser.

And speaking of TPM and green, find some good media you trust and pay for it. Support it. Help it exist. TPM is a good one that I’ve read for many years now. But don’t believe me, go check it out for yourself. Hit ’em up.

Image via.


Take the [please!] newest, most naive form of sharing personal news and information, let it be a for-profit business and just for kicks, make it the most profitable non-product the world has ever known. What would you get?

On the one hand, the company wants to curtail the spread of disinformation across its site. At the same time, it wants to avoid alienating the groups and candidates who depend on its platform for fund-raising and organizing. So in trying to find a way to please everyone on the issue, Facebook has managed to please no one.

The social network has now become an outlier in how freely it lets political candidates and elected officials advertise on its platform. While Mr. Zuckerberg declared last month that Facebook would not police political ads, Twitter said it would ban all such ads because of their negative impact on civic discourse. On Wednesday, Google said it would no longer allow political ads to be directed to specific audiences based on people’s public voter records or political affiliations.

Part of our own vulnerability rests within an inability to understand simple words like ‘sharing’, and reluctance to engage with non-simple contracts like the many we would rather click agree to and just get back to posting our favorite stuff. More on all of this soon, but we’re really staring into the abyss here without noting the swirl. We hear the sound, but not its signal; can do steps but are not invited to the dance.

Thumbs up!

The Cost of What You’re Not Doing

Should energy oil companies continue to receive government subsidies at a time of record profits? Seems like an easy one: No! Congress does’t agree, but there’s certainly a case to be made.

But what about us? Our highways are heavily completely subsidized. Gas taxes are relatively low, encouraging us to drive. Single-family, detached houses with minimum lot requirements? Check. Minimum parking requirements for new business? Ccchhheccckkk. The government requires all of these things of us, or we do of ourselves, through our government, that in turn compel us to, um, consume mass quantities, in the common parlance. And of course, when we do some things, we don’t do others. If we drive, we can’t also bike, sure; but what about all those other things we might be doing to save money or use less energy that we’re not doing – and our government is not forcing us to not do them… we’re just not. Hey, wait a minute! They can’t not make us not do something! But they are.

JR has this post on energy efficiency as a resource… not a resource but the resource.

Energy efficiency is the most important climate solution for several reasons:

  1. It is by far the biggest resource.
  2. It is by far the cheapest, far cheaper than the current cost of unsustainable energy, so cheap that it helps pay for the other solutions.
  3. It is by far the fastest to deploy, without the transmission and siting issues that plague most other strategies.

People on the right freak about this all the time – although they seem to believe with 1st century zealotry in eliminating government waste, they are wholly ambivalent about their own. Anything but being told what to do, ha. As if. It’s true that energy companies and their legions of shills have to demonize efficiency all-day every-day because if people found how easy it is – we would soon begin taking on the harder stuff. But that would be good, right? What are they/we so afraid of?

Even without the government subsidies, we could do it. We could pay our utilities more for selling us less – or at least incentive them properly in that direction. As it is, the more we use the more they earn. Like everything else. But maybe this is our greatest resource, the one we’re not using.


There is a good story by Salman Rushdie on Sloth in a recent edition of Granta magazine (Thanks, whoever sends that).

A recent report from researchers at Georgia Tech and Duke turns its attention to gluttony, particularly the energy gluttons also known as the Southern United States. Evidently, no other region uses more and tries less to save energy and stave off the need to build more power plants. For example take Arkansas (no Please… ):

With a population of about 2.8 million people,2 Arkansas represents about 0.9% of U.S. population, 0.7% of the nation’s GDP, and 1.1 % of U.S. energy consumption (Figure 1). Thus, compared to the rest of the nation, Arkansas has a higher-than-average level of energy intensity (i.e., it consumes more energy per dollar of economic activity).

Arkansas’ industrial energy consumption as a percentage of its overall energy consumption exceeds that of the nation and the rest of the South (Figure 2). This is one reason that Arkansas ranks 15th nationally in per capita energy consumption, well above the national average.

But not to pick on them – the story is the same all over the former former confederacy.

Relative to the rest of the country, the South consumes a particularly large share of industrial energy, accounting for 51% of the nation?s total industrial energy use. In addition, the region has a higher-than-average per capita energy consumption for each of the end-use sectors covered in viii

this report: the South consumes 43% of the nation?s electric power, 40% of the energy consumed in residences, and 38% of the energy used in commercial buildings. This energy-intensive lifestyle may be influenced by a range of factors including:

  • the South’s historically low electricity rates
  • the significant heating and cooling loads that characterize many southern states,
  • its relatively weak energy conservation ethic (based on public opinion polls),
  • its low market penetration of energy-efficient products (based on purchase behavior) and
  • its lower than average expenditures on energy-efficiency programs.
So excuse the pun but, by what lights do we ignore the growing pile of evidence that this wasteful nature is more expensive and more unpleasant than it clearly needs to be? Heritage? As the report reports, southern states are ignoring measures that have proven effective in other regions and other countries, basically in favor of nothing at all. And while there’s a certain heedless beauty about having your head in the sand, it’s not something you can put on a license plate or in a mason jar. So what good is it?

New Hustle

New Flagpole column is up, which focuses on our status quo energy use and the element of efficiency that is largely missing. A lot of this deserves greater unpacking than can occur in one 850-word column, so I’ll probably revisit. For instance, efficiency itself. The term is a technical one used to signify a ratio of input divided by output, which means we might lower the inputs but keep output the same when, really, we need to find ways – today, right now – to function and thrive with lower outputs. This gets lost in efficiency discussions, mine included. But you gotta start somewhere.