2020-07-22

Into the distance disappear the mounds of human heads

covid Mandlestam, of course. But it isn't quite working out like that. My graph shows a puzzle: in orange, right axis, the USA new cases. In blue, right axis, new stiffs. Both with Excel's finest 7-point smoothing applied, without which you see a distinct weekly cycle.

When the case numbers started going up - quite a while ago now - you could fairly hear the slavering in some quarters. But the deaths - whilst higher than we'd like - are resolutely refusing to skyrocket1. And even the new cases seems to be slowing somewhat. Before you splutter with outrage into your cornflakes, I'm not claiming this is a glorious success.

Explanations for the odd failure of deaths to increase vary. If you're Trump, you'll laud the increase in testing. There was some weak evidence I saw suggesting more Yoof were getting it, and they don't tend to die. And maybe the sawbones have worked out how to keep it from killing people.

The Russia Report


Meanwhile in the UK the Russia Report turned out to be rather dull. In other news, the US maintains a chain of radio stations intended to influence behaviour. The best they could do was The British government and intelligence agencies failed to conduct any proper assessment of Kremlin attempts to interfere with the 2016 Brexit referendum, which does seem rather careless. OTOH, comparisons with the Dem leaks seems foolish: we didn't find out about those due to the spooks, we found out because they were published. And all this is the product of 18 months’ work involving evidence taken from the UK’s spy agencies and independent experts - how you can take that long to draw such negligible conclusions is hard to understand, unless you're on per diem. Disclaimer: I haven't read the actual report. Has anyone else bothered to, and if so, does it say anything interesting? James has his own conclusions.

Jem Bendell is an idiot


ATTP has belatedly discovered that Jem Bendell is an idiot.

Notes


1. I do hope this post doesn't jinx them.

Reading the report


I found the report (thx Graun) and am obliged to say that they get the Commies spot-on in their intro:

The security threat posed by Russia is difficult for the West to manage as, in our view and that of many others, it appears fundamentally nihilistic. Russia seems to see foreign policy as a zero-sum game: any actions it can take which damage the West are fundamentally good for Russia. It is also seemingly fed by paranoia, believing that Western institutions such as NATO and the EU have a far more aggressive posture towards it than they do in reality. There is also a sense that Russia believes that an undemocratic ‘might is right’ world order plays to its strengths, which leads it to seek to undermine the Rules Based International Order – whilst nonetheless benefitting from its membership of international political and economic institutions. Russia’s substantive aims, however, are relatively limited: it wishes to be seen as a resurgent ‘great power’ – in particular, dominating the countries of the former USSR – and to ensure that the privileged position of its leadership clique is not damaged.
I don't care for The clearest requirement for immediate action is for new legislation, because yet more bloody legislation is always the answer any of the cttees always produce, and the govt happily jumps on it. And in this case they are vague as to what it might be; the usual "throw some more words at the problem" approach.

Although the reports asserts that GCHQ assesses that Russia is a highly capable cyber actor with a proven capabilityto carry out operations, all the examples it then gives are either abroad, or mere attempts. There's nothing about actual success in the UK. This seems rather a large gap. Are we forced to assume that Ivan's successes against the UK are so brilliant (and well hidden?) that we'd better not mention them? There is a link to Reckless campaign of cyber attacks by Russian military intelligence service exposed which do appear to be reckless and rather badly targetted, unless they really intended to damage their own central bank.

Continuing, Russia’s promotion of disinformation and its attempts at broader political influence overseas have been widely reported, which is nice, but this is all publicly available stuff and so also rather dull. They do have the grace to say We note that Russia’s disinformation efforts against the West are dwarfed by those which the Russian statec onducts against its own population.

By para 31 we're onto The UK is clearly a target for Russia’s disinformation campaigns and political influence operations and must therefore equip itself to counter such efforts. Unfortunately, being the sort of people they are, their ideas for doing this are all fun sekrit stuff, rather than the dull but necessary business of building civil society. For example, we could have a govt that people trust to provide statistics on Covid deaths, thereby helping to remove FUD. And then predictably enough they go in for another round of fb bashing; clowns.

I think that's enough great analysis for now. Oops no just one little extra gem: The impact of any such attempts [Russia sought to influence the2016 referendum] would be difficult – if not impossible – to assess, and we have not sought to do so looks like a cop-out.

Refs


BlueSkiesResearch.org.uk: Back to the future; ATTP: Climate sensitivity – narrowing the range (and links therein);

2020-07-14

Biden Announces $2 Trillion Climate Plan

74324786_1511965192333129_1503775106073515566_o Or so says the NYT. Which appears to be having a spot of bother just recently. Not to mention SlateStarCodex. Never mind, we'll press on. If you're at all familiar with my thinking, you'll guess with no trouble that I think his plan is stupid. Without even having to read it! How can I know this? Because his principal aim is to spend $2T. Instead, implement a carbon tax, sit back in your golfisnoozemobile and bask in the warm glow of a job well done.

There are two articles: first, July 9th, In ‘Buy American’ Speech, Biden Challenges Trump on the Economy; then July 14th, Biden to Release $2 Trillion Climate Plan which refs the first. The first is obviously stupid: economic nationalism is dumb, and attempting to out-orange the Mango is even dumber. Why can't Biden make a principled stand for free trade, lower barriers between nations, international friendship and cooperation, instead of trying to outdo idiot protectionism? There must be a constituency in the USA that is economically literate and probably includes many Conservatives who are sick of Trump's vandalism in this regard and would like the chance to vote for someone who isn't an economic vandal. So let's move on to the second.

The NYT worries the plan will also test whether Mr. Biden has found a way to win over environmental activists and other progressives who have long been skeptical about the scope of his ambitions on climate. But anyone like that is already a not-Trump-therefore-Biden voter - unless they're mad - so doesn't need appeasing. I react very badly to The plan also calls for establishing an office of environmental and climate justice at the Department of Justice. And The plan also will call for investing in carbon capture and storage technology is doubtful: CCS wasn't ready for the big time a year ago and I don't think it is now.

The Graun offers The new proposal outlines $2tn for clean energy infrastructure and other climate solutions, to be spent as quickly as possible in the next four years, what would be the Democrat’s first term in office. Last year, he proposed $1.7tn in spending over 10 years (my bold) and that just looks like a recipe for disaster.

Enough second hand stuff. Why not just read his own words. First para: create millions of good-paying jobs blah blah motherhood-n-apple-pie, and a bad idea. Second para: he's talking about Trump. FFS. This is supposed to be his plan! Has he really got so little to say? Third para: he's still talking about Trump! Skips a bit: Create millions of good, union jobs rebuilding... No, I can't read any more. What's the most important thing to do to curb police brutality in the USA? Curb the police unions. what's the most important thing to improve public-school teaching? Curb the teaching unions.

I can't raise any enthusiasm for Biden. He's better than Trump, he's better than Sanders, he's more likely to get elected than Clinton, but that's about it.

Meanwhile, speaking of stupidity, Huawei 5G kit must be removed from UK by 2027. Although, we've mostly caving in to pressure from the Mango Mussolini. Perhaps if Biden gets in we'll just change our mind again.

Refs


The world’s wealth is looking increasingly unnatural - Economist

Wikipedia: the dim and distant history of NPOV

blog-grant2 Someone asked me by email about the shifting history of NPOV on wiki; as is my wont, I'll answer by blog. For those not part of the in-crowd, that's Wikipedia:Neutral point of view:
All encyclopedic content on Wikipedia must be written from a neutral point of view (NPOV), which means representing fairly, proportionately, and, as far as possible, without editorial bias, all the significant views that have been published by reliable sources on a topic. NPOV is a fundamental principle of Wikipedia and of other Wikimedia projects. It is also one of Wikipedia's three core content policies; the other two are "Verifiability" and "No original research". These policies jointly determine the type and quality of material that is acceptable in Wikipedia articles, and, because they work in harmony, they should not be interpreted in isolation from one another. Editors are strongly encouraged to familiarize themselves with all three. This policy is non-negotiable, and the principles upon which it is based cannot be superseded by other policies or guidelines, nor by editor consensus.
So that's all very nice. How does it actually work?

Describe the controversy?


One way of "dealing" with a difference of views is to simply write down the two opposing sides, perhaps in some sense doing so at length proportional to the weight (in vociferousness or reliability) of either side. There's a strong tendency for articles to veer in this direction, sometimes as a result of editorial compromise: you want this bit of text, I want that bit, let's put both in. But this he-said-she-said type of text doesn't work for the reader, and this has been policy for ages: Segregation of text or other content into different regions or subsections, based solely on the apparent POV of the content itself, may result in an unencyclopedic structure, such as a back-and-forth dialogue between proponents and opponents. It may also create an apparent hierarchy of fact where details in the main passage appear "true" and "undisputed", whereas other, segregated material is deemed "controversial", and therefore more likely to be false. Try to achieve a more neutral text by folding debates into the narrative, rather than isolating them into sections that ignore or fight against each other. So the answer is that ever since I've been aware of this, the idea is to have one unified text. The ultimate unversion of this is the POV-fork, where people attempt to have two independent articles presenting different viewpoints. This is forbidden, correctly.

Due and undue weight, balance, false balance


The good book tells us that Neutrality requires that each article or other page in the mainspace fairly represent all significant viewpoints that have been published by reliable sources, in proportion to the prominence of each viewpoint in the published, reliable sources. In the case of global warming, this presents a problem for the nutters, because their views are almost invariably published in unreliable sources like blog posts (pttiiiing!!!) or drivel on the Heartland site or similar. So - and I'm going by memory here rather than tedious trawling back through diffs and long-archived talk pages - the "compromise" by the Forces of Good was to actually allow more "septic" content than was really warranted; since even a decade or more ago the scientific balance was at least 95% "pro" GW, the "anti" sections would have been very short indeed had we followed the "prominence" guideline, from a scientific point of view. There's a get-out, of course, in that we can also include political prominence, but then the septics tended to get sad when we write things like "of course it was politically controversial but they had no science to back up their politics".

Fight!


All of this used to be dead exciting and it was a constant - chooses word carefully, who knows, people might quote me - struggle to keep content scientifically sane against the forces of unreason. I am not, of course, speaking only of my own efforts. But nowadays the Forces of Evil seem to have pretty well given up the fight; the height of their ambition appears to be to remove the dreaded D-word from  articles of no importance, and when their feeble efforts come to naught they simply slink away. This has had mostly good effects: people can get on with improving articles without worrying that some idiots will hack them up. Sometimes though the lack of stimulus leads to articles stagnating somewhat; I think that Attribution of recent climate change isn't as up to date as it could be, for example.

Ch-ch-ch-changes


And how has this all evolved over time? This alas is a difficult question as I kept no notes and my memory is fallible. Per The dim and distant history of Global Warming on Wiki: Introduction, when I first arrived in 2003, things were very much Wild West and almost anything went, there wasn't even any 3RR, can you believe that? And when 3RR did turn up, it was very strictly 3R in 24h, which you could keep up for days; nowadays you'd get blocked for that.

I don't think the policies themselves evolved much (other than WP:BLP) but people's awareness of them did, and how much people used them in argument. Example: I was an active climatologist back then and Knew Stuff so quite often I'd simply write things into articles with no sources. Naughty me. But recall back in those days there were far fewer online sources. Over time, we attached sources to the words. My point of view was that truth was more important than exact sourcing, and in this I differed from policy. But I was always happy with the NPOV policy.

During the initial Wild West there was a tendency for articles to end up somewhat he-said-she-said, but this was always against policy; it's just we didn't know it, or know how to reach an acceptable compromise. Over time, this got flattened out; partly as newer editors came on board. And the gradual shift in tone of, say, the GW article reflects the change in science over the last ~2 decades: naturally, the "voice" has firmed up as things once tentative became clear. This you would expect. The appearance of successive IPCC reports were I think milestones in this process; they were exactly the kind of synthesis that wiki asks for (it prefers secondary sources to primary ones).

The Great Big Arbcomm Case


See here on my talk page for full - ahem - details; or see my blog post of the time, They make a wasteland and call it peace. As you'll notice, I wasn't happy with that: unthinking and stupid is a fair brief summary. But by then I already knew that Arbcomm collectively were idiots, like most committees, however intelligent they might be individually. But note that in terms of content it had little effect.

Water vapour


Not vapor, Yankee scum. The role of water vapour in GW is an interesting case in point. Septics like to say it is far more important than CO2. Sane people have been pointing out for ages that Water vapour is not the dominant greenhouse gas. But the problem was that (since tis was f*ck*ng obvious to people of the meanest intelligence) no-one had bothered write it down in a scientific paper or other RS. Eventually (if I recall this right) Gavin actually did some work to quantify things; and now there are perfectly decent sources.

Refs


* NPOV Blues - 2004; promising title, but alas not informative.
* Firing and the Left by Bryan Caplan

2020-07-13

Orange Man Bad

Via TF comes this glorious piece of nonsense: USA TODAY: The claim: Trump campaign shirts feature imperial eagle, a Nazi symbol: Our ruling: True. Fortunately, the Trump campaign is onto this one, responding This is moronic. In true "we don't really have a clue, but we know we don't like Trump" style, the article ends by twisting the claim into a new form: The claims that a Trump campaign T-shirt has come under criticism for using a symbol similar to a Nazi eagle is TRUE.

But much as it is fun to shoot fish in a barrel, what I actually wanted to post about was the Dork Side (sorry, slumming again) who respectfully name check your humble author. The article is Climate Wars: Try Removing the Word “Denier” from a Wikipedia Entry wherein Willie Soon (for it is he) complains I should have stated more clearly the big problem in Wiki related to William Connolley; the tyrant at Wiki. None of us can correct for the entries calling us climate change deniers: start with Robert Carter and Sallie Baliunas.

Nice though it is to be the source of all evil, I had nothing to do with this, but I was vaguely watching. So EW removed the dreaded D-word, saying Removed the word "denier". People who dispute the climate consensus find the term "denier" offensive, is it really necessary to use it. This is charmingly naive: Wiki, as it says of itself, is Not Censored; and if it is going to post images of Mohammed, then "I feel a bit sad about this" isn't going to go anywhere. Though FWIW, I think that the sourcing for the D-word in the article is dubious. Thankfully, that nice DS has now fixed it.

If you make the mistake of reading the desultory comments, you'll find some idiot demonstrating their anti-wiki credentials with You will not find a Wikipedia description of how China attempts to use diplomatic pressure to stop the Dalai Lama from meeting with foreign government leaders in the US President. And yet 14th Dalai Lama contains The Chinese Foreign Ministry has warned the US and other countries to "shun" the Dalai Lama during visits and often uses trade negotiations and human rights talks as an incentive to do so.[61][62][63][64][65][66][67][68][69] China sporadically bans images of the Dalai Lama and arrests citizens for owning photos of him in Tibet.[70][71][72] Tibet Autonomous Region government job candidates must strongly denounce the Dalai Lama, as announced on the Tibet Autonomous Region government's online education platform, "Support the (Communist) Party’s leadership, resolutely implement the [Chinese Communist] Party’s line, line of approach, policies, and the guiding ideology of Tibet work in the new era; align ideologically, politically, and in action with the Party Central Committee; oppose any splittist tendencies; expose and criticize the Dalai Lama; safeguard the unity of the motherland and ethnic unity and take a firm stand on political issues, taking a clear and distinct stand".[73] The Dalai Lama is a target of Chinese state sponsored hacking... Naturally, no-one points out this crass error. Saying ridiculously stupid things goes all across the spectrum.

No Parlez


WS expressed himself on Parlez, cos that is dead fashionable nowadays. I now have an account, no prizes for guessing my handle. So now I can see WS's wildly exciting... parle? To encourage him, I've added a helpful comment, sadly I can't work out how to link to it direct.

I'm somewhat disconcerted that Parlez's suggestions for people to follow includes the Daily Heil and Prager U.

Update


PG - who was the editor EW credited with trying to help - now feels rather let downI have now been made aware of the [[Watts Up With That?]] article [https://wattsupwiththat.com/2020/07/12/climate-wars-try-removing-the-word-denier-from-a-wikipedia-entry/ Climate Wars: Try Removing the Word “Denier” from a Wikipedia Entry] where Eric Worrall says he started this as "an experiment". Oh. Then I shouldn't have taken it seriously. Unless others indicate support, I won't continue this particular argument. [[User:Peter Gulutzan|Peter Gulutzan]].

Refs


SOON DENIES EINSTEIN CALLED THE TYRANT A GANGSTER - vvutts.
When asked about George Floyd’s death by CBS News, President Trump said it was terrible but stated more white than Black people are killed at the hands of police in the U.S., without giving any evidence of the claim - Reuters, via TF