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.
A CFPB investigation concluded that Transunion and Equifax deceived Americans about the reports they provided and the fees they charged.
In personal finance, practically everything can turn on one’s credit score. It’s both an indicator of one’s financial past, and the key to accessing necessities—without insane costs—in the future. But on Tuesday, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced that two of the three major credit-reporting agencies responsible for doling out those scores—Equifax and Transunion—have been deceiving and taking advantage of Americans. The Bureau ordered the agencies to pay more than $23 million in fines and restitution.
In their investigation, the Bureau found that the two agencies had been misrepresenting the scores provided to consumers, telling them that the score reports they received were the same reports that lenders and businesses received, when, in fact, they were not. The investigation also found problems with the way the agencies advertised their products, using promotions that suggested that their credit reports were either free or cost only $1. According to the CFPB the agencies did not properly disclose that after a trial of seven to 30 days, individuals would be enrolled in a full-price subscription, which could total $16 or more per month. The Bureau also found Equifax to be in violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which states that the agencies must provide one free report every 12 months made available at a central site. Before viewing their free report, consumers were forced to view advertisements for Equifax, which is prohibited by law.
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.
American society increasingly mistakes intelligence for human worth.
As recently as the 1950s, possessing only middling intelligence was not likely to severely limit your life’s trajectory. IQ wasn’t a big factor in whom you married, where you lived, or what others thought of you. The qualifications for a good job, whether on an assembly line or behind a desk, mostly revolved around integrity, work ethic, and a knack for getting along—bosses didn’t routinely expect college degrees, much less ask to see SAT scores. As one account of the era put it, hiring decisions were “based on a candidate having a critical skill or two and on soft factors such as eagerness, appearance, family background, and physical characteristics.”
The 2010s, in contrast, are a terrible time to not be brainy. Those who consider themselves bright openly mock others for being less so. Even in this age of rampant concern over microaggressions and victimization, we maintain open season on the nonsmart. People who’d swerve off a cliff rather than use a pejorative for race, religion, physical appearance, or disability are all too happy to drop the s‑bomb: Indeed, degrading others for being “stupid” has become nearly automatic in all forms of disagreement.
The party appears to be struggling to convince the public it represents a better alternative to President Trump and the GOP.
If Democrats want to regain the power they’ve lost at the state and federal level in recent years, they will have to convince more voters they can offer solutions to their problems.
That may be especially difficult, however, if voters think the party and its representatives in government don’t understand or care about them. And according to a recently released poll, many voters may, in fact, feel that way. The Washington Post-ABC News survey, released this week, found that a majority of the public thinks the Democratic Party is out of touch with the concerns of average Americans in the United States. More Americans think Democrats are out of touch than believe the same of the Republican Party or President Trump.
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.”
“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.
From joy and attachment to anxiety and protectiveness, mothering behavior begins with biochemical reactions.
The artist Sarah Walker once told me that becoming a mother is like discovering the existence of a strange new room in the house where you already live. I always liked Walker's description because it’s more precise than the shorthand most people use for life with a newborn: Everything changes.
Because a lot of things do change, of course, but for new mothers, some of the starkest differences are also the most intimate ones—the emotional changes. Which, it turns out, are also largely neurological.
Even before a woman gives birth, pregnancy tinkers with the very structure of her brain, several neurologists told me. After centuries of observing behavioral changes in new mothers, scientists are only recently beginning to definitively link the way a woman acts with what's happening in her prefrontal cortex, midbrain, parietal lobes, and elsewhere. Gray matter becomes more concentrated. Activity increases in regions that control empathy, anxiety, and social interaction. On the most basic level, these changes, prompted by a flood of hormones during pregnancy and in the postpartum period, help attract a new mother to her baby. In other words, those maternal feelings of overwhelming love, fierce protectiveness, and constant worry begin with reactions in the brain.
A new documentary explores how early experiences drive development.
The idea that new babies are empty vessels waiting to be filled with knowledge of the world around them doesn’t sound unreasonable. With their unfocused eyes and wrinkly skin, tiny humans sometimes look more like amoebas than complex beings.
Yet scientists have built a body of evidence, particularly over the last three decades, that suggests this is patently untrue. “When kids are born, they’re already little scientists exploring the world,” said the filmmaker Estela Renner via a video conference from Brazil before a recent screening of her new documentary The Beginning of Life (streaming on Netflix) at the World Bank in Washington, D.C.
That’s something Renner, a Brazilian mother of three, discovered as she spoke with early-childhood experts and parents in nine countries around the world about the impact a child’s environment in the first few years of life has on not only her physical development, but her cognitive, social, and emotional development, too. “I didn’t know that kids were not blank slates,” she said. “It changed the way I look at babies.” If more people recognized that fact, the way communities and policymakers think about and invest in the early years of life might be different.
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.
The new Starz show, adapted from the 2001 book by Neil Gaiman, is extravagantly ambitious and frequently absurd.
It’s a shame the second season of True Detective snagged Leonard Cohen’s “Nevermind” for its opening credits, because the song—menacing, omnipotent, maddeningly vague, and delivered in a husky, bourbon-soaked basso profundo—is downright perfect for the new Starz show American Gods. Adapted by Bryan Fuller (Hannibal) and Michael Green (Kings) from the 2001 novel by Neil Gaiman, the eight-episode show fantasia of ancient mythology and Americana is gorgeously conceived, vastly imaginative, and ludicrously over the top. It also unfortunately falls sway to the worst, most self-indulgent excesses of prestige television, namely terrible pacing, prodigal violence, and a thuddingly unsubtle score that often feels better suited to a high-budget porn film.