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.
New presidents often err by either trying to impose their will on Congress or being too hands-off. Trump is on course to commit both errors on his top two legislative priorities.
Mucking up an interaction with Congress is a rite of passage for every new president—usually on health care, and especially for those with limited experience in Washington.
The twin pitfalls for a new president are the same ones the great Tommy Lasorda described in his approach to baseball: “I believe managing is like holding a dove in your hand. If you hold it too tightly you kill it, but if you hold it too loosely, you lose it.” A president can try to push his vision aggressively on Congress, risking backlash from members—let’s call that the Bill Clinton approach. Alternatively, he can try to hang back and let Congress act, risking the chance that without presidential leadership, members will come up with something he doesn’t like, or even worse that they can’t pass. We’ll call that the Barack Obama approach.
The MIT economist Peter Temin argues that economic inequality results in two distinct classes. And only one of them has any power.
A lot of factors have contributed to American inequality: slavery, economic policy, technological change, the power of lobbying, globalization, and so on. In their wake, what’s left?
That’s the question at the heart of a new book, The Vanishing Middle Class: Prejudice and Power in a Dual Economy, by Peter Temin, an economist from MIT. Temin argues that, following decades of growing inequality, America is now left with what is more or less a two-class system: One small, predominantly white upper class that wields a disproportionate share of money, power, and political influence and a much larger, minority-heavy (but still mostly white) lower class that is all too frequently subject to the first group’s whims.
In 1985, Neil Postman observed an America imprisoned by its own need for amusement. He was, it turns out, extremely prescient.
Earlier this month, thousands of protesters gathered at Washington’s National Mall to advocate for an assortment of causes: action against global climate change, federal funding for scientific research, a generally empirical approach to the world and its mysteries. The protesters at the March for Science, as scientists are wont to do, followed what has become one of the established formulas for such an event, holding clever signs, wearing cheeky outfits, and attempting, overall, to carnivalize their anger. “Make the Barrier Reef Great Again,” read one sign at the March. “This is my sine,” read another. “I KNEW TO WEAR THIS,” one woman had written on the poncho she wore that soggy Saturday, “BECAUSE SCIENCE PREDICTED THE RAIN.” Three protesters, sporting sensible footwear and matching Tyrannosaurus rex costumes, waved poster boards bearing messages like “Jurassick of this shit.”
Princeton freshman Tal Fortgang was right that "privilege" is a problem, but not about why.
Poor Tal Fortgang. (Well, perhaps “poor” isn’t the right word.) Not long ago, the Princeton freshman’s white male privilege was known only to those in his life. Then he published an essay about this privilege in a conservative student publication, arguing that because his ancestors had struggled, he personally doesn’t benefit from unearned advantage. If he’s not privileged, no one should be asking him to check his privilege, right? After all, some of his advantage was earned; he just doesn’t happen to be the one who earned it.
Because “privilege” is clickbait, Fortgang’s piece made the rounds, culminating in the New York Times interviewing his classmates about his privilege and whether he had, in fact, checked it. The consensus is that he did not. Fortgang’s privilege has now been checked not only by his classmates and Facebook friends but by the entire Internet.
“Somewhere at Google there is a database containing 25 million books and nobody is allowed to read them.”
You were going to get one-click access to the full text of nearly every book that’s ever been published. Books still in print you’d have to pay for, but everything else—a collection slated to grow larger than the holdings at the Library of Congress, Harvard, the University of Michigan, at any of the great national libraries of Europe—would have been available for free at terminals that were going to be placed in every local library that wanted one.
At the terminal you were going to be able to search tens of millions of books and read every page of any book you found. You’d be able to highlight passages and make annotations and share them; for the first time, you’d be able to pinpoint an idea somewhere inside the vastness of the printed record, and send somebody straight to it with a link. Books would become as instantly available, searchable, copy-pasteable—as alive in the digital world—as web pages.
Will you pay more for those shoes before 7 p.m.? Would the price tag be different if you lived in the suburbs? Standard prices and simple discounts are giving way to far more exotic strategies, designed to extract every last dollar from the consumer.
As Christmas approached in 2015, the price of pumpkin-pie spice went wild. It didn’t soar, as an economics textbook might suggest. Nor did it crash. It just started vibrating between two quantum states. Amazon’s price for a one-ounce jar was either $4.49 or $8.99, depending on when you looked. Nearly a year later, as Thanksgiving 2016 approached, the price again began whipsawing between two different points, this time $3.36 and $4.69.
We live in the age of the variable airfare, the surge-priced ride, the pay-what-you-want Radiohead album, and other novel price developments. But what was this? Some weird computer glitch? More like a deliberate glitch, it seems. “It’s most likely a strategy to get more data and test the right price,” Guru Hariharan explained, after I had sketched the pattern on a whiteboard.
Cases of brain-infecting amoebae underscore the importance of purifying water before you pour it into your sinuses.
Allergy season is upon us once more, and for many allergy sufferers, that means it’s time to pull two crucial items to the front of the medicine cabinet: 24-hour non-drowsy loratadine, and a neti pot—a teapot-like device used to flush the nasal passages with saline in order to clear allergens and soothe sinus pressure. (It can be seen in action in this very popular gif.) The constant mockery of my loved ones doesn’t prevent me from using a neti pot to ease my congestion. It’s too effective to give up for the sake of pride. But I have also used my neti pot with considerable apprehension since 2011.
That year, a 20-year-old man from Louisiana died of encephalitis caused by Naegleria fowleri, an amoeba commonly found in lakes and rivers in the American South—but which rarely causes infection. More unusual still was the fact that the young man hadn’t had been swimming in freshwater lakes or rivers anytime recently. Then, a few months later, a 51-year-old Louisiana woman also died of encephalitis—primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM) to be exact, which is the condition caused when Naegleria fowleri infects the brain. Shortly before she passed away, her doctor learned that while she hadn’t had been swimming in freshwater either, she had recently used a neti pot. Researchers later learned that the other victim had also used a neti pot, and subsequent testing found Naegleria fowleri in both patients’ brain tissue as well as the tap water in their homes. Using a neti pot had allowed the amoeba to reach their brains.
The author of a new book explains the science behind the cringeworthy feeling—and how to overcome it.
It’s when a fist bump unwittingly meets a high-five. It’s when Ben Carson tries, unsuccessfully, to walk onto a stage. It’s trying to introduce an acquaintance to someone else at a party and then realizing you don’t actually remember their name. It’s awkward, and like so many other things, you know it when you see it.
We all experience awkwardness, of course, but some people seem chronically susceptible to it. In his new book, the appropriately titled Awkward, the writer and psychologist Ty Tashiro explores why certain people seem more prone to these cringe-inducing moments, and what they can do about it. I recently interviewed Tashiro; an edited transcript of our conversation follows.
Olga Khazan: Do you consider yourself awkward? What are some of the awkward things you do or used to do?
For better or for worse, all roads to avoid global calamity run through Beijing.
President Donald Trump is right: North Korea’s nuclear program is on a dangerous trajectory. But there is no quick fix. Nor is there an imminent threat, and it does not help to create the impression that there is one. A show of force, if carefully calibrated, can be helpful. But rhetorical excess, personal provocations directed at North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un, and stunts like calling the Senate to a White House briefing don’t help.
Moreover, for all the bellicose posturing from Washington and Pyongyang, the most likely outcome of this latest flare-up of tensions around North Korea is more stalemate, as the Kim regime continues work on its nuclear-weapons program—unless the Trump administration considers some new, non-military, approaches.
Recent border battles have once again redrawn the lines of the metro area.
On the Saturday before Election Day last November, Jason Lary, a former insurance executive, crouched on a rough patch of grass at the center of a busy intersection 20 miles outside of Atlanta in DeKalb County. Lary was holding a hammer, and he tapped carefully on the thin wire base of a campaign sign. “My hand is like Fred Flintstone’s right now because I banged my hand in the night,” he said, noting his latest sign-related injury. This hazard, though, was worthwhile: “If you don’t start [the sign] with your hand, it will bend. It takes longer—guys are 10 times faster than I am. But my sign’s still gonna be up.”
This was a non-trivial advantage for Lary, who for the past month had begun most mornings with a kind of ground-game whack-a-mole. He would put up signs under the cover of night, only to have his opponents dislodge them by hand or, when that failed, run over them with their cars. Nevertheless, Lary was feeling good. “My opposition? Worn down,” he told me. “They don’t even have any more signs. And I kept a stash, knowing this time was coming. This is not my first picnic with nonsense.”