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DNC Fundraising Pitch Stokes Fears of BP, GOP

12:49 pm in Uncategorized by Michael Whitney


Earlier this afternoon, I received a phone call from a DNC fundraiser who used the BP Oil Disaster as a pitch to donate to the Democratic Party. When I answered the call from an Austin, TX based number, the woman on the other end promptly thanked me for my past support, and asked if I would like to renew my commitment to the DNC.

I first chuckled, before saying, "No, thank you. I would like the Democratic Party to do something useful before I donate to it again."

The fundraiser replied, "Well, have you been following the oil spill catastrophe in the Gulf?"

"Yes," I said. "I’ve been following it quite closely and have been writing on it as well."

"Do you know that BP is turning to the Grand Ole Party for help?" the fundraiser asked me.

At that point, I should have pressed her further for why exactly my donation to the DNC would stop BP from getting help from Republicans. Instead, frustrated that the Democratic Party was shamelessly using the BP disaster for its own gain, and asking for money that will inevitably make its way to help Big Oil apologists like Mary Landrieu, I ended the conversation.

Image courtesy twolf1


BP Copied Mailing List Database in Oil Disaster Website Divorce

9:47 am in Uncategorized by Michael Whitney

Early on the Fourth of July, the US government announced it was taking over the main website of the BP oil disaster response, From early on in the disaster, that site has served as a joint venture of BP and various government agencies to post press releases, media advisories, photos, video, and other PR materials about the oil, including a mailing list for media and other interested parties.

Now, the Department of Homeland Security wants to make a "one-stop shop" for the disaster response under a .gov URL. That means shutting down the current site, and taking another look at who has access to post on the site, with government deciding control of the content and message.

So why did DHS allow BP to walk off with the mailing list of everyone who signed up for information about the disaster?

I’ve received emails from the site every day since it went live 10 days after the disaster. Every email has come from some variation of "Joint Information,"  or "Deepwater Horizon Response." Yet today, less than 24 hours after DHS announced it planned to take over the response website, I get my very first email from "BP America Press Relations," titled "BP update on Gulf of Mexico spill." The email from BP was sent to the same address with which I signed up on the original response website.

It seems quite clear that either BP made a copy of the mailing database before it loses access to the site, or the government will continue to give them access to the database. It’s also clear that no matter what, this is in clear violation of the privacy policy of the website, of the US Coast Guard, and of the government itself. On the mailing list signup page, it quite clearly states:

All information is retained for the sole use of the site owner and will not be distributed or sold.

In this case, according to the site’s privacy policy, the "site owner" is exclusively the Coast Guard (cached from July 1, before the website transfer announcement).

This web site and the information it contains is provided as a public service by the U.S. Coast Guard.

While the privacy policy doesn’t explicitly mention the site’s mailing list, it does clearly state the Coast Guard’s policy for the use of email addresses of people who email the site for information.

We use the information to improve our service to you or to respond to your request. Sometimes we forward your e-mail to other government employees who may be better able to help you. Except for authorized law enforcement investigations, we do not share our e-mail with any other outside organizations.

Considering the Coast Guard owns the site, information on the site "will not be distributed," and that the Coast Guard stated "we do not share our email" with anyone outside government except for law enforcement, BP has no right to be in possession of an email list from this website.

If BP wants to email people who signed up on, it needs to take several steps before it can start emailing people without warning. First, it should treat the list on an opt-in basis. That is, they should email the list explaining how BP got the email addresses, and that if people want to receive email from BP, they should affirmatively opt-in to receive further emails. Anyone who doesn’t can’t be emailed. Second, email addresses are valuable things. BP should compensate the government for each email address that opts in to BP’s list.

What BP shouldn’t do, and what the government shouldn’t allow, is what evidently happened this morning: BP making off with a copy of the list and treating it as its own, with no regard for the people who signed up for the list in the first place.

Congressman Suggests Ritual Suicide to BP Executive

6:16 am in Uncategorized by Michael Whitney

At yesterday’s House Energy and Commerce committee hearings with the executives of BP, Exxon, Shell, ConocoPhillips, and Chevron, Rep. Joseph Cao (R-LA) suggested Lamar McKay should commit ritual suicide instead of resigning.

Cao is Vietnamese-American who represents New Orleans and many Louisianans feeling pain from the oil disaster, including a big percentage of Vietnamese and Asian fishermen idled by the oil. At the start of his questioning of the oil execs, Cao said:

The oil disaster has caused great economic impact to my district. Hundreds of businesses have closed, thousands are out of work. Mr Stearns [Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-FL] asked Mr. McKay to resign. Well, in the Asian culture we do things differently. During the Samurai days, we would give you a knife and ask you to commit harakiri.

Watch Rep. Cao suggest ritual suicide to BP America’s executive, via FDL TV:


BP Engaged in Massive Coverup of Oil Damage, Human Health Crisis

8:14 am in Uncategorized by Michael Whitney

Dr. Riki Ott, a marine toxicologist, former commercial fisherman, and Exxon Valdez survivor, appeared on Countdown with Keith Olbermann last night to discuss what she called a massive coverup by BP of all aspects of the disaster.

Dr. Ott explained that volunteers walking the beaches at night find carcasses of birds, turtles, and baby dolphins that, once found, are "disappeared" by men that drive on the beach with flashlights within minutes of their discovery. She also alleges that BP is using technology to disrupt cellphone and email communication at spill sites to suppress images and evidence.

In addition, BP continues to deny that residents, let alone cleanup workers, are exposed to dangerous toxins from exposure to crude oil. Residents in four states report identical symptoms, including "headaches, sore throats, nausea, dizziness, stuffy noses" – typical symptoms of exposure to crude oil.

Watch Dr. Riki Ott here, via FDL TV:


Can’t Make It Up: BP Hires Goldman Sachs

7:24 am in Uncategorized by Michael Whitney

Slipped into this Reuters piece is the news that BP has hired Goldman Sachs as "advisers" for unknown purposes, in addition to Pete Peterson’s Blackstone Group and Credit Suisse Group. (Tip o’ the hat to Brad Johnson)

BP has hired investment banks Blackstone Group, Goldman Sachs Group and Credit Suisse Group as advisers, a source familiar with the matter said, without identifying the purpose of the advice.

It’s funny because if the Vampire Squid lived in the Gulf of Mexico, it’d be choking to death on BP’s oil. Assuming, of course, it doesn’t actually thrive on crude oil.

As for the advice Goldman & Co. might give to BP, there’s one thing the MOTUs seem to be quite good at doing: limiting liability, being giant corporate assholes, screwing the country, and still turning a tidy profit. BP’s chances on the latter may be slim as their liability goes up with each gallon of crude gushing into the Gulf.

But if anyone can get BP through this sea of sludge, it’s Goldman Sachs. What have they got to lose?

Report from the Gulf: Tar Balls in Alabama

3:06 pm in Uncategorized by Michael Whitney

I just received several emails from FDL diarist Marta Evry, who’s making her way from Pensacola, Florida to New Orleans as we speak. She took some photos along the drive. Commentary and photos below are hers. – MW

Mr President, Please Stop By

We’re passing through Pensacola, Florida on our way to New Orleans and spotted this sign outside of Sam’s restaurant downtown. The sign reads: "Mr. President, please stop by. We need to talk about my BP claim." The President comes here Tuesday.

Swimming Caution Flag for Tarballs

Perdido Key National Park. The yellow flag is normally flown for moderately hazardous surf and current. The water was flat as glass but a beach- goer told me they’ve spotted tar balls in the water and on the beach.


Tar balls are washing up on Gulf State Beach just over the Alabama State line.

oil on hands

Once you get this sh@t on your hands you can’t get it off.


Important Video: Kittens Reenact BP’s Response to Oil Spill

7:07 am in Uncategorized by Michael Whitney

It would be even funnier if I didn’t think this is strikingly similar to how Tony Hayward & Co. are actually talking about this disaster.

Maddow: How to Prevent Exxon Valdez Illnesses in the BP Oil Disaster

8:02 am in Uncategorized by Michael Whitney

Rachel Maddow, broadcasting live from Grand Isle, Louisiana on Friday night, had former Alaskan salmon fisher and marine toxicology expert Dr. Riki Ott on the show.

Dr. Ott is on the Gulf Coast doing all she can to prevent the residents and workers from the fate that met too many people during the Exxon Valdez: debilitating, paralyzing, lifelong illnesses from exposure to crude oil and toxic chemical dispersants.

There’s a lot of really good information in this segment, so watch the whole thing. (Via FDL TV)

Why Not Crowdsource Oil Disaster Cleanup Ideas?

12:39 pm in Uncategorized by Michael Whitney

crowdsourcingSince the start of the response to BP’s oil disaster, the company and government have solicited suggestions from the public for ideas to stop the gusher, cleanup oil, or otherwise improve the current cleanup operations.

Today Thad Allen announced the creation of a new working group to filter and evaluate the more than 20,000 ideas already submitted:

The Interagency Alternative Technology Assessment Program workgroup, newly established by the National Incident Commander for the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, announced here Friday a new effort to collect and review oil spill response solutions from scientists and vendors.

The IATAP and the RDC will screen and triage submissions based on technical feasibility efficacy and deployability. This will be a federal process to ensure a fair, systematic, responsive and accountable review of alternative response technologies by interagency experts.

The IATAP workgroup, established by Adm. Thad Allen, the national incident commander, includes the U.S. Coast Guard, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Department of Interior, Minerals Management Service, Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Agriculture.

The Deepwater Horizon Response website reports that of the 20,000+ ideas submitted, 100 have been selected for further review by a team of 30 experts. It’s unclear if only 100 have been set aside because 19,900 ideas sucked, or if there’s no manpower to read through all the ideas.

Either way, there may be a better, more efficient solution. There are clearly hundreds of people with expertise on all parts of the disaster unfolding in the Gulf. Some are on this very blog, and there are dozens of oil experts crowding the comments at The Oil Drum blog and elsewhere online.

Why not set up a website with all of the submitted ideas and allow the public to evaluate proposals? The government (or BP, or whoever’s in charge today) can display the submissions and supporting information, sort by type of idea, and establish set criteria for the evaluations to be filtered, and then let the best ideas as determined go up for further review to whaetever experts the government determines.

Crowdsourcing these ideas will rapidly accelerate the review process, empower people online to help with the response, and let the public see what’s in the 20,000+ submitted ideas.

At the very least, the government can release the submissions, and some enterprising developer or organization can build the infrastructure to allow for review of the documents.

(photo by asgood on flickr)

BP Claims Tides Will Help Remove Oil from Marshes

8:05 pm in BP oil disaster, Energy by Michael Whitney

In a press conference on the beach of Grand Isle, Louisiana last week, a BP spokesman claimed that the company’s solution to removing oil from marshes will be to set up boom that will capture oil as the tides come in an out.

FDL Seminal diarist Ivan Oleander asked BP’s spokesman about how to remove oil from the marshes around Elmer’s Island, part of Grand Isle BP blocks press from viewing.

"What we’re doing with the marshes is deploying snare and absorbent boom currently. With the tide changes, it works pretty effectively at picking up oil as the tide comes in and out," said BP’s flack.

That sounds nice, except for the reality of how oil hits the marshes. Oil covers the grasses and plants, leaving the plants brown as the water recedes. Pelican nests and rookeries become covered in thick brown oil as the tide comes in. The oil soaks into the soil of the marsh lands and barrier islands, eroding the fragile ecological makeup of the wetlands. Even with a minor spill, oystermen reported oil-covered oysters ten years after the spill because of oil seeping into soil.

Yet BP’s plan to clean up the marshes and wetlands is to set up some boom and let the tide handle it. "It works pretty effectively," BP says.

BP clearly doesn’t begin to know, understand, or care about the realities of the problems created by its oil disaster.

Sign our petition to the Senate: make BP pay every penny for its destruction of the Gulf.