After yesterday's post on why I thought that one of the documents in the Heartland leak was a fake, I discovered that David Appell had been investigating along the same lines. Appell, however, looked at one thing that hadn't occurred to me: where the PDF was created. One of his commenters elaborates:
I used a pdfinfo script to analyse the memos. The info I got is that all the meta data dates changed on the day of the leak in the Pacific time zone (-8 GMT). This is likely where our thief resides. This is also where the "fake" was created on 2/13. The other docs, with the exception of the IRS form were in the central time zone (-6 GMT). The IRS form was -4 GMT. This has been corroborated by a commenter at Lucia's. Based on this, and I'm not sure if I've covered every base, the strategy memo is a fake.
The only other option would be if the create dates were faked, highly, highly unlikely or, the sender from HI didn't have the doc, and someone from the west coast scanned it , emailed to her to send to the leaker. This, to me, doesn't seem likely either. Logically, I have to go with HI's story.
Heartland's offices are in the Midwest. And Heartland's story about the provenance of the documents--a story that is being cited as proof of authenticity by climate bloggers--is that they were emailed by a support staffer who was tricked into sending the documents to an unverified email address by someone impersonating a board member. So I don't see how they could have obtained a hard copy, but not the original electronic file.
No, if it is indeed true that the document was scanned on the west coast, then I think we can say with a very high degree of confidence that it is a fake--especially when you put this together with all the other anomalies that I pointed out yesterday, notably the update I posted about the Koch contributions:
The documents presented by the blog indicate "[the Foundation] returned as a Heartland donor in 2011 with a contribution of $200,000. We expect to push up their level of support in 2012...if our focus continues to align with their interests." But this is not so. The Foundation gave just $25,000 to Heartland in 2011 (the only such donation to that organization in more than 10 years) and that funding was specifically directed to a healthcare research program, and not climate change research, as was erroneously reported.
Statistically speaking, the Foundation's contribution represents approximately one-twentieth of one percent of Heartland's total funding over that ten year period. The Foundation has made no further commitments of funding to Heartland.
And indeed, when you look at the fundraising document, the coding next to Koch's donation is "HCN" which certainly seems to be their health care code--other donors with that code include Bayer, Amgen, EliLilly, and GlaxoSmithKline.
The high probability that the memo is fake makes this response from Desmogblog, one of the first places to post the memos, all the more disappointing:
The DeSmogBlog has no evidence supporting Heartland's claim that the Strategic document is fake. A close review of the content shows that it is overwhelmingly accurate ("almost too accurate" for one analyst), and while critics have said that it is "too short" or is distinguished by "an overuse of commas," even the skeptics at weatherguy Anthony Watts's WUWT say that a technical analysis of the metadata on the documents in question does not offer sufficient information to come to a firm conclusion either way.
But in the tradition of the famous, and famously controversial "hockey stick graph," the challenge to the single document has afforded the DeSmogBlog's critics - and Heartland's supporters - something comfortable to obsess about while they avoid answering questions raised by the other documents.
The first two links are to my post, and they are an egregious misrepresentation of what I said.
"Too short" was the least of my concerns with the document, not my central objection, as he implies; and the phrase "almost too accurate" did not bolster the case for the document's authenticity, but rather, referred to the fact that large segments of the document appeared to have been plagiarized from other sources.
The fact that the document was created at a different time, place and manner, from the others, that it makes errors about things like the purpose of Koch funds, and that Heartland has unequivocally denied authorship while seeming to concede the authenticity of the other documents, should lead any honest observer to at least reasonable doubt.
Mr. Littlemore contends that this is a distraction from larger issues, but I cannot agree. The foundation of journalism is accurate sources. Anyone who considers themselves to be in the business of informing the public about the truth should care very deeply when faked documents make it into the public record. They should especially care if their own work has been the vehicle.
Dismissing the possibility of fakery--and the obvious questions about who might have perpetrated it--does not help us focus on the "real issues". I'm afraid "Fake but accurate" just won't do. Nor will trying to shift the burden of proof to the people who are pointing out solid reasons for concern. Instead, the stubborn willingness to ignore obvious problems becomes the story--something that Dan Rather learned to his dismay in 2004.
Moreover, the fact is that this document does not merely confirm facts found in other sources. It substantially recasts those facts, in the case of the Koch donation. And in the selection of facts it presents, and the spin it puts on them, it alters the reporting.
There's a reason that the majority of the quotes in the early blogging and reporting on this story seem to have been taken from the memo, including the initial post on DeSmogBlog. For example, someone named Richard Littlemore wrote "It is clear from the documents that Heartland advocates against responsible climate mitigation and then uses that advocacy to raise money from oil companies and 'other corporations whose interests are threatened by climate policies.' Heartland particularly celebrates the funding that it receives from the fossil fuel fortune being the Charles G. Koch Foundation." That is all taken from the memo, not the supporting documents. The fundraising document actually contains no record that I can see of contributions from oil companies.
The climate blogs presumably relied so heavily on the memo because the quotes were punchier, and suggested far darker motivations than the blandly professional language of the authenticated documents--and because it edited the facts into a neat, almost narrative story.
In the first 24 hours, I saw a lot of comments along the line of "See! They're really just as amoral and dangerous as we thought they were!" based on a memo which I now believe to have been written by someone who, well, thinks that AGW skeptics are amoral and dangerous. (And judging from his update to the original document dump, Littlemore's fellow blogger, Brandon Demelle, is also unsure of the memo's "facts".)
For me, this leaves the most fascinating question of all: who wrote it? We have a few clues:
1) They are on the west coast
2) They own or have access to an Epson scanner--though God knows, this could be at a Kinkos.
3) They probably themselves have a somewhat run-on writing style
4) I'm guessing they use the word "high-profile" a fair amount.
5) They are bizarrely obsessed with global warming coverage at Forbes, which suggests to me that there is a good chance that they write or comment on the website, or that they have tangled with writers at Forbes (probably Taylor) either in public or private.
6) The last paragraph is the biggest departure from the source documents, and is therefore likely to be closest to the author's own style.
7) I have a strong suspicion that they refrained from commenting on the document dump. That's what I'd do, anyway. A commenter or email correspondent who suddenly disappeared when they normally would have been reveling in this sort of story is a good candidate.
8) They seem to have it in for Andy Revkin at the New York Times. There's nothing in the other documents to indicate that Heartland thinks Revkin is amenable to being . . . turned? I'm not sure what the right word is, but the implication in the strategy memo that Heartland believes it could somehow develop a relationship with Revkin seems aimed at discrediting Revkin's work.
Unfortunately, I'd imagine that this is still a sizeable set of people, and it will be hard to identify the author. I suspect that it will be easier to do if the climate-bloggers--who may well know this person as a commenter or correspondent--get involved in trying to find out who muddied the story by perpetrating a fraud on their sites.
To many white Trump voters, the problem wasn’t her economic stance, but the larger vision—a multi-ethnic social democracy—that it was a part of.
Perhaps the clearest takeaway from the November election for many liberals is that Hillary Clinton lost because she ignored the working class.
In the days after her shocking loss, Democrats complained that Clinton had no jobs agenda. A widely shared essay in The Nationblamed Clinton's "neoliberalism" for abandoning the voters who swung the election. “I come from the white working class,” Bernie Sanders said on CBS This Morning, “and I am deeply humiliated that the Democratic Party cannot talk to where I came from.”
But here is the troubling reality for civically minded liberals looking to justify their preferred strategies: Hillary Clinton talked about the working class, middle class jobs, and the dignity of work constantly. And she still lost.
Trump's election has reopened questions that have long seemed settled in America—including the acceptability of open discrimination against minority groups.
When Stephen Bannon called his website, Breitbart, the “platform for the alt-right” this summer, he was referring to a movement that promotes white nationalism and argues that the strength of the United States is tied to its ethnic European roots. Its members mostly stick to trolling online, but much of what they do isn’t original or new: Their taunts often involve vicious anti-Semitism. They make it clear that Jews are not included in their vision of a perfect, white, ethno-state.
On the opposite side of American politics, many progressive groups are preparing to mount a rebellion against Donald Trump. They see solidarity among racial minorities as their goal, and largely blame Trump’s election on racism and white supremacy. Three-quarters of American Jews voted against Trump, and many support this progressive vision. Some members of these groups, though, have singled out particular Jews for their collusion with oppressive power—criticisms which range from inflammatory condemnations of Israel to full-on conspiracies about global Jewish media and banking cabals.
The HBO drama’s finale hinted at a dark, meta message.
This post contains spoilers for the season finale of Westworld.
In 2013, a widely cited study published in Science suggested that reading literature increases a person ability to understand other peoples’ emotions. In 2016, another study seemed to debunk it, finding the original study’s results irreplicable and its resulting media coverage way too broad. “Reading Literature Won’t Give You Superpowers,” went The Atlantic’s headline from last week about the reversal.
It might seem laughable in the first place for anyone to think literature bestows superpowers. But that’s actually one of the more abiding beliefs of popular culture, and the question of whether stories improve the soul and mind—and better humanity more broadly—remains eternally in dispute. It’s a question that HBO’s Westworld has riffed on for 10 episodes, with the popular drama’s finale last night suggesting a cynical take on the social value of storytelling.
SNL parodied the president-elect’s impulsive tweeting last weekend, and he responded by tweeting about it.
Saturday Night Live has been on television for nearly 42 years, and in that time, it has mocked seven presidents, with an eighth, Donald Trump, now firmly in its sights. The show’s satire is essentially part of the political scenery; at best, a president might knowingly reference it as a sign of self-awareness. Chevy Chase, in his portrayal of Gerald Ford, mocked the president as clumsy and accident-prone. President Ford did not respond by publicly demonstrating his grace and poise, obeying the old maxim about not protesting too much.
Playing Trump on last weekend’s show, Alec Baldwin mocked the president-elect’s impulse control in a sketch that saw him retweeting random high-school students during a national security briefing. The real Trump was not pleased. “Just tried watching Saturday Night Live - unwatchable! Totally biased, not funny and the Baldwin impersonation just can’t get any worse. Sad,” he tweeted at 12:13 a.m., about halfway through the episode. The irony couldn’t have been more plain: In response to a sketch mocking his propensity for impulsive tweeting, the president-elect ... impulsively tweeted about it. Satire in the age of Trump has already been difficult for Saturday Night Live, but it seems increasingly caught in a feedback loop: Any ridiculous heightening of his behavior is doomed to instant irrelevance by Trump’s reaction to it.
A professor of cognitive science argues that the world is nothing like the one we experience through our senses.
As we go about our daily lives, we tend to assume that our perceptions—sights, sounds, textures, tastes—are an accurate portrayal of the real world. Sure, when we stop and think about it—or when we find ourselves fooled by a perceptual illusion—we realize with a jolt that what we perceive is never the world directly, but rather our brain’s best guess at what that world is like, a kind of internal simulation of an external reality. Still, we bank on the fact that our simulation is a reasonably decent one. If it wasn’t, wouldn’t evolution have weeded us out by now? The true reality might be forever beyond our reach, but surely our senses give us at least an inkling of what it’s really like.
Confronting racism can be crucial, even when it’s not persuasive.
In the brushfire wars since Donald Trump won the presidency, skirmishes over how to speak to his coalition of voters have consumed liberals. Leading the vanguard in those conversations is a collection of writers and thinkers of otherwise divergent views, united by the painful process of reexamining identity politics, social norms, and—most urgently—how to address racism in an election clearly influenced by it. Though earnest and perhaps necessary, their emphasis on the civil persuasion of denizens of "middle America" effectively coddles white people. It mistakes civility for the only suitable tool of discourse, and persuasion as its only end.
This exploration of how to best win over white Americans to the liberal project is exemplified by reactions to Hillary Clinton’s placing many of Donald Trump’s supporters in a “basket of deplorables.” The debate about whether to classify these voters as racist or bigoted for supporting a candidate who constantly evinced views and policies many believe to be bigoted is still raging. As Dara Lind at Vox expertly notes, Clinton’s comments themselves were inartful precisely because they seemed focused solely on “overt” manifestations of racism, like Klan hoods and slurs. That focus ignores the ways in which white supremacy and patriarchy can function as systems of oppression, tends to forgive the more refined and subtle racism of elites, and may ultimately lead to a definition of racism in which no one is actually racist and yet discrimination remains ubiquitous.
Open-web advocates are preparing for a renewed policy war as net neutrality’s future remains uncertain.
Talking about net neutrality is so boring, the comedian John Oliver once quipped, that he would “rather listen to a pair of Dockers tell me about the weird dream it had” than delve into the topic.
So it’s unsurprising that Donald Trump—an entertainer with a flair for the dramatic and little interest in wonky details—has stayed away from the issue almost entirely.
If you want to captivate a nation, discussing thorny telecommunications policy is generally a terrible way to do it. (For those who have managed to avoid reading up on net neutrality thus far, the term refers to open-web principles aimed at curbing practices that give certain companies competitive advantages in how people access the internet. The FCC formally established rules last year that allow the agency to regulate broadband the way it oversees other public utilities. Those rules ban internet service providers from throttling—or slowing—connections to certain content online, and prohibit providers from offering faster connections to corporations that can afford to pay for premium web services. The rules also discourage zero-rating—in which an internet service provider subsidizes a consumer’s cost of going online but often does so in exchange for a competitive advantage.)
Firefighters have now found 36 bodies inside the artist collective where dozens of people lived together.
Rescue workers say 36 people were killed in Oakland, California, in a fire that torched an artist-collective warehouse known locally as the “Ghost Ship.” It may take weeks to identify everyone killed, because the flames have charred some bodies so badly they’ll have to be identified through dental records. The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office has also opened a criminal investigation into what caused the fire. So far, it’s thought to have been an accident—the result of too many people in a place with rampant building-code violations. But already some of the artistic community’s frustration seems aimed at both the warehouse’s artistic leader as well as the Bay Area’s unaffordable rent.
The fire started Friday during a late-night rave being held at the warehouse, home to a couple dozen artists. The blaze grew so quickly that flames and smoke trapped many of the people inside, and forced some to leap out of the second-floor windows. Since firefighters extinguished the flames early Saturday morning, rescue workers have methodically removed bits of ash and debris, putting them in dump trucks to be taken to an offsite location, where they can be sorted and checked in case they contain human remains. It is one of the worst U.S. fires in recent memory, bringing to mind the 2003 blaze in West Warwick, Rhode Island, that killed 100 people at a nightclub called the Station.
Without any promising answer to the problem of fake news, outlandish false claims like a pedophilia ring running out of D.C. restaurant will continue to grow.
After weeks of debate about the theoretical and abstract dangers of fake news, there’s finally a concrete incident to discuss. On Sunday, a North Carolina man walked into Comet Ping Pong, a pizzeria in an affluent corner of Northwest D.C. wielding an assault rifle, which he fired at least once.
The man, 28-year-old Edgar Maddison Welch, told police he intended to “self-investigate” a bogus story alleging that Hillary Clinton was running a pedophilia ring out of the restaurant. The story, dubbed, deplorably, “Pizzagate” has spread around certain fake news circles, culminating in Welch’s expedition to Comet on Sunday.
So much of the discussion about “fake news” has involved vague questions about, for example, whether Russian-backed propaganda could have been a factor in Donald Trump’s victory. A big Washington Post report suggested that Russia had played a role in spreading lots of fake news; Adrian Chen, among others, convincingly argued that one major basis for that report was extremely fraught. There’s a broader question of the extent to which a foreign power could influence the election, and the extent to which that would really be anything new. Jack Shafer suggests not.
What it means, what the law says, and what comes next
Updated on December 5 at 12:50 p.m. ET
Surely some of the protesters believed they would prevail, but among the experts—the law professors, financial analysts, and industry journalists who pride themselves on knowing the ins and outs of federal rules—almost no one expected it. The so-called experts were getting ready to shake their heads and sigh, to lament that once again a federal agency had failed to respond to a historic protest and had failed to protect the most vulnerable.
And then the incredible happened.
On Sunday afternoon, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers legally blocked the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, denying it a needed easement to drill beneath the Missouri River.
The corps will now investigate and write an environmental-impact statement, a roughly two-year process that will assess the risks of building a pipeline so close to the Standing Rock Sioux’s water supply. It will specifically examine whether the pipeline should be moved or cancelled altogether.