Wednesday, March 21, 2018
As we've just learned about the secretly recorded conversations of Cambridge Analytica’s CEO, Alexander Nix, who claimed he had met Trump “many times”- we've also learned of the depths of the psychographic methods used to hoist Doturd into illegitimate office. We also know another senior member admitted the firm was behind the “defeat crooked Hillary” advertising campaign, adding for emphasis:
“We just put information into the bloodstream of the internet and then watch it grow, give it a little push every now and again over time to watch it take shape. And so this stuff infiltrates the online community, but with no branding, so it’s unattributable, untrackable.”
In other words, gestate a sophisticated mind fuck on an unsuspecting populace to effectively put a virtual thumb on the election scales for Donald Trump. And we learned how -once infected by the germinated mind virus - they themselves become viral hosts spreading anti-Hillary memes far and wide, via sharing, likes or other more aggressive means. (Examples of which I will show later in this post). As Sen. Mark Warner - ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee - explained in an interview on Maddow last night:
"Cambridge Analytica is a pretty sketchy firm, known for not only operating on behalf of Trump but in other countries' elections. They were known for their ability to disrupt the electoral process, and it potentially explains in so many ways how the Trump campaign crept up on a lot of folks because of their ability to use data, to use our social media companies. And use them in many ways that these companies were never prepared for. ....especially as Cambridge Analytica had a particular ability to drill down on millions of Americans, their personal wants and needs."
Caught on camera by an undercover team from the UK's Channel 4 News, Nix was also dismissive of Democrats on the House intelligence committee, who had questioned him over Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign. Senior managers then appeared to suggest that in their work for U.S. clients, there was planned division of work between official campaigns and unaffiliated “political action groups”. In the end the implication was it didn't matter if the Trump bunch colluded or not, the political actions groups - by spreading virulent memes and conspiracy theories like 'pizzagate' - were instrumental in getting him into office.
Reinforcing this, the company’s head of data, Alex Tayler, added:
“When you think about the fact that Donald Trump lost the popular vote by 3m votes but won the electoral college vote that’s down to the data and the research. You did your rallies in the right locations, you moved more people out in those key swing states on election day. That’s how he won the election.”
Now we know, including how the psychographics work of Cambridge Analytica helped the Rs grab the Colorado Senate (by 1 seat) in 2016 as reported in today's Denver Post (p. 1A). Well, at least part of the covert forces that were responsible for the Trump takeover of our country, the rest being due to Russian help. (As Sen. Warner noted as well, the Facebook incursions by Cambridge Analytica were supplemented by Russian videos, fake news etc. e.g.
But let's be frank: The Cambridge Analytica operation was only a small part of the colossal clusterfuck that transpired with the 2016 election. As we learned in yesterday's WSJ piece, 'It's Time To Tune Up Your B.S. Detector', p. A14, another huge reason for Trump's success is that so many in the population were plain gullible receptacles for "rubbish, nonsense and fake news". That bespeaks the American populace's lack of skill in spotting such, or to summarize it, "lies and BS".
The article also concedes that B.S. and false information isn't new, but alas, in today's social media environment the mind viruses are created faster and also spread faster For example, the piece cites a new study from MIT published earlier this month in the journal Science. The authors analyzed the spread of 126,000 rumors tweeted by 3 million people over more than 10 years and "found that false news spreads faster than truth."
Well, again, not news exactly. Wasn't it Winston Churchill who once said: "A lie can go halfway around the world before the truth can get its pants on"?
According to Jevin West, a professor of information science at the University of Washington (ibid.):
"We have reached epidemic levels of information pollution and we need to do something about it."
But what exactly? The article expatiates on avoiding being susceptible to B.S. but how does one put that into practice? For example, we learn (ibid.):
"When people hear or see a false claim repeated even just once they are more likely to let it override their prior knowledge on the subject and believe it, according to two studies published together in October, 2015, in the Journal of Experimental Psychology."
I call these disinformation memes which amount to a form of lie, or again a deleterious mind virus. These memes or mind viruses also pack more punch, or enhanced mind fuck potential, when accompanied by imagery - photos. For example, let's take this debased one that's been making the rounds among the Right's lowbrows the past month or so - or since the activism of Stoneman student David Hogg has come to the fore:
The image and the embodied meme are total, absolute bullshit. Placing Hogg in the same image with Hitler amplifies the bullshit and the essential virulence which then makes for further circulation in the bottom dregs of the net, such as 4chan, Reddit, Breitbart.com, Infowars etc. In other words, the same bunch that gave us pizzagate.
Further reinforcing the disinformation that Hogg and Hitler are in favor of "disarming citizens" is the given text which itself is just a pithy fabrication, or if you want - codswallop. Hogg, for one, is not for disarming anyone. He made clear his support for the 2nd amendment in his appearance on HBO's Real Time a fortnight ago with school mate Cameron Kasky. What Hogg is all about is getting the military style weapons like the AR 15 off the scene, which btw, are not protected anyway under the Second amendment, e.g.
As for the Hitler- attributed text, repeated thousands of times by yahoos across the net, there's no evidence Hitler ever said any such words. It is possible, however, they represent a massively truncated paraphrasing of words directed in a different context. In this regard, in “Hitler’s Table Talk,” we find the Führer making the following statement in 1942, regarding the colonization and denationalization of conquered territories:
So let’s not have any native militia or native police. German troops alone will bear the sole responsibility for the maintenance of law and order throughout the occupied Russian territories."
Which would be totally sensible in the context of controlling an occupied populace. I mean, why the hell would you want any of them gaining access to arms? But that has nada to do with the regulation or seizure of guns in Nazi Germany itself. Logically speaking, it is stupid because - to seize weapons ("disarm citizens") - the country would already have to be conquered. Germany was not "conquered" it was foursquare behind Hitler (for the most part) in the search for Lebensraum (living space). Second, if the majority of Germans had wanted to use their guns to fight the Nazis, they could have. But they didn’t. The ignoramuses that circulate that stupid meme ignore the fact that the Nazis enjoyed significant popular support, or at least, broad acquiescence. Given that popular support they had no reason at all to fear a popular revolt or uprising- again in Germany proper..
When the Nazis did come to power, they used whatever gun records they had to seize weapons from their enemies, but Dagmar Ellerbock- an expert on German gun policies at the Dresden Technical University- has noted the files included very few of the firearms already in circulation. According to him:
"In my records, I found many Jews who well into the late 1930s possessed guns,"
This was confirmed by three former Wehrmacht troops I had occasion to speak with about the war and the Hitler era, when I traveled to Bielefeld (then West Germany) with Janice in 1985. The three former German troops, a translator (Reinhardt) and myself had extensive conversations about the war in the Teutoburger Forest,
Hans Borchers, the oldest of the former German troops, affirmed he "knew many Jews who possessed rifles and pistols long after Hitler attained the Chancellorship in 1933".
The Nazis DID adopt a new gun law in 1938. Bccording to an analysis by Bernard Harcourt, a professor at Columbia University School of Law, it loosened gun ownership rules in several ways:
1) It deregulated the buying and selling of rifles, shotguns and ammunition.
2) It made handguns easier to own by allowing anyone with a hunting license to buy, sell or carry one at any time. (i.e. You didn’t need to be hunting.)
3) It extended the permit period from one year to three and gave local officials more discretion in letting people under 18 get a gun.
The regulations to implement this law, rather than the law itself, did impose new limits on one group: Jews.
On Nov. 11, 1938, the German minister of the interior issued the Regulations Against Jews Possession of Weapons. Not only were Jews forbidden to own guns and ammunition, they couldn’t own "truncheons or stabbing weapons." In addition to these restrictions, confiscation was also present, thus the Nazis had already been raiding Jewish homes and seizing weapons. But according to Ellerbock, also confirmed by Dieter - another Wehrmacht soldier:
"The gun policy of the Nazis can hardly be compared to the democratic procedures of gun regulations by law. It was a kind of special administrative practice (Sonderrecht), which treated people in different ways according to their political opinion or according to ‘racial identity’ in Nazi terms."
In short, Nazi-era Germany imposed greater gun restrictions for Jews (and other perceived enemies, e.g. communists) at the same time it loosened gun restrictions for other groups. German citizens as a whole were not disarmed by the Nazis. Jews and other supposed enemies of the state were subject to having their weapons seized. But for most German citizens, the Nazi period was one in which gun regulations were loosened, not tightened.
The above discourse is merely meant to show how a B.S. or fake historical idiom can be generated whether via carelessness, ignorance or intent. In the first and second cases we can regard the mind virus as more incidental than weaponized. But if it spreads it has the same punch as if weaponized (For example, photo-shopped images showing Hitler putting his arm on the shoulders of David Hogg - as if to support his activism.. This again is pure B.S. spread by ignorant yahoos.)
The desperation with which these lowbrow lowlifes are attempting to smear Hogg and his student associates is also embodied in other disinformation they've tried to spread. One example comes from the actor James Woods - who once played Roy Cohn, the degenerate attorney pal of Trump's who tried to bring down Larry Flynt in a criminal law suit. Woods has actually fired off texts and tweets that Hogg is like the Hitler Youth who reported on their parents if they so much as talked about guns, or tried to smuggle any into the home. This again is total bullshit, which my late friend (and former Hitler Youth) Kurt Braun put down way back in 1978 when we saw him in Frankfurt-Am-Main:
Kurt still had photos from the 1930s-early 40s of his home that featured rifles mounted on the walls.
"Didn't Hitler seize all those guns at the time?" I asked him.
"Ach! Nein! What kind of schwein hund told you that? We could keep all the guns we wanted! We weren't Jewish after all!" (Kurt's family used the rifles to hunt Wild Boar.)
He basically reiterated the points made earlier on the history of weapons regulations in the Reich. Woods' B.S. elicits the question of why he'd try to spread it. In the case of the WSJ article we understand that such B.S. tends to be generated when:
"People feel obligated to have an opinion about something they know little about."
So, because certain Reich wing bloggers are upset by Hogg's student activism, and they may have seen or been told Hitler wanted to "take guns" from Germans, they concoct the B.S. that Hogg is a "useful idiot" for Hitler types (usually "Left Nazis") and then invent images like that shown which they ignorantly spread to other ignoramuses who then spread them to others. In this way a similar mind virus "epidemic" is created to what the tools of Cambridge Analytica did.
In another version of the desperation to impugn Hogg, some dolts try to tie him to one of the leaders of the Women's March (Linda Sarsour) who also helped to organize the student's walkout March 14th. They claim Linda Sarsour is a fan of "cop killers" because she once made some remarks that were construed that way. In any case, even if she did make some extreme remarks, the dolts fail to note the association is only incidental . Hogg doesn't even know Sarsour- never met her - and besides, the actual effort by Hogg and Co. is this Saturday for the "March for Our Lives". But again, because the lowlifes were unable to tar Hogg with the "child actors" tripe, they are now attempting to use incidental associations to bring him and his fellow Stoneman survivors down. Can you say 'sick'?
This begs the question of whether B.S. and mind viruses can be reined in using "B.S. detectors" which are "tuned". I would like to believe this, but I doubt it. There are two reasons for this: 1) The Dunning Kruger effect which has captivated a significant segment of the populace, and 2) the gross lack of knowledge- especially historical, concerning so many things.
In the case of the last, we are informed by Lisa Fazio - a professor of psychology and human development at Vanderbilt that (ibid.):
"It's easier to accept things especially when repeated because it's easier to process the second time you year or see it. It is also time consuming and difficult to access one's previous knowledge so we go along with information if we think it's close enough".
But that could be a serious mistake as I showed above with the alleged Hitler quote: "To conquer a nation you must first disarm its citizens". So Prof. Fazio is saying that it's much easier to just accept the quotation as is than to do the scut work to ferret it out, historically or logically - or by talking to actual German sources who lived at the time.
Then there is the prevalence of the Dunning-Kruger Effect. An article by Dunning, “,” provides both humorous and serious examples showing just how pervasive the problem is and it certainly transcends all age groups as well as disciplines. In at least one aspect the false knowledge syndrome dovetails with Dunning -Kruger. Easily seen if one goes through the New York Times' comments sections for any given article, wherein one can see hundreds of spurious conclusions based on sketchy knowledge. However, the paradox is the Dunning -Kruger subject will apply none of the criteria to himself, i.e. in highlighting his shortcomings. As far as he is concerned, he has none. By the same token, the false knowledge adherent can't conceive that the knowledge which he possesses is actually inferior to the knowledge of most well educated people.
In like manner, too many global warming deniers suffer from the same syndrome. Devoid of sufficient background knowledge- say of thermal physics - they are convinced they can simply opine on issues outside their specialty fields like global warming - or the alleged absence for it- without doing any hard work or proper research. They believe they can simply bloviate from their armchairs or keyboards.
Related to the preceding is what philosopher George Lakoff cites as the concept of hypocognition— i.e. that “we don’t have all the ideas we need.” One example he cited was the concept of reflexivity, “the fact that thought is part of the world. That when you’re thinking, it’s not separate from reality, it’s part of reality. And if your understanding of the world is reflected in what you do, then that thought comes into the world through your actions.”.
Take the Stoneman Douglas students for their newfound activism and eloquence in speaking truth to power. Many if not most who criticize them are simply unable to see themselves at the same age doing those things, or even being coherent in front of cameras. The bugbear in their heads is: "If I couldn't do that why should I believe they can?"
Lakoff’s discussion of hypocognition naturally comes to mind here. What could be a worse idea to miss than the very idea of missing ideas? If you don’t think the possibility for articulate and confident kids exists, you’ll never go looking for them—never believe anyone who behaves this way, either. If you honestly don't believe there can be such things as confident, articulate student activists- then you will always believe they must be actors - i.e. kids who left school (like many nitwits claim Hogg did) and are now coming back ....to act.
If you can't take Hogg down to size with that B.S. then the next tack is to delegitimize him and his fellow students using tarring by associations, e.g. with Linda Sarsour, the Women's March organizer. If you can't do that, well then use photo-shopped images of Hogg with Hitler. In other words, try every sordid trick in the books to force your stew of sliming into the open to try to spread it.
My pessimism of B.S. detection is based principally on the fact too many - especially on the Right- are unwilling to use it to come to the truth. They are too invested in bringing those with whom they disagree down, and that means no interest in either furthering their own knowledge, or abandoning the fact they are themselves "confident idiots" to use the phrase of Dunning.
The problem with misdirected anger is that it leads to misdirected policies that could undermine the internet’s capacity to catalyze much-needed social change. We need to ensure that when we think about internet policy we think about it with a political lens: how can we ensure the internet will enable us as citizens to share ideas freely, coordinate around common interests, and act in defense of our rights and interests? How can we ensure that people are afforded these conversations as a right today and in the future? How can we ensure these protections even in scenarios where the powers-that-be feel profoundly challenged by people’s capacity to coordinate?
If we accept that the internet has become a key tool for politics in this broad sense of the term, we can see the internet is indeed facing a problem. A problem that is often neglected for being less tangible, but that underlies much of what concerns the public about the internet. A problem that not only reflects but can reinforce current social problems, and frustrate the goal of ensuring meaningful political participation: centralization.
Tuesday, March 20, 2018
The WSJ op-ed ('Doomsday Climate Scenarios Are A Joke', p. A17) makes the usual blunders in assessing the anthropogenic aspects of greenhouse warming on our already over-stressed planet. To remind readers, the temperature of the planet is currently out of balance by 0.6W/ m2 and this is almost entirely due to the annual rate of CO2 concentrations increasing. Every increase in CO2 concentration by 2 ppm increases the radiative heating effect by 2 W/ m2.
Go to climate research centers such as at the Geophysical Institute of the University of Alaska- Fairbanks and you will find atmospheric science researchers examining ice core samples dating from nearly 600,000 yrs. ago showing rising CO2 concentrations coinciding with much warmer periods.In addition, one has permafrost - bearing methane, as in interior Alaska. When the permafrost melts, the methane can be released. For example, the submerged East Siberian Arctic Shelf contains much of the same stored carbon as the dry tundra to the south but also at least 17 teragrams of methane. (One teragram is equal to one million tons). See e.g.
Indeed, the referenced paper shows for the first time there exists actual empirical support for a "natural thermostat" that keeps the Earth habitable. The problem is the discovery of said thermostat offers no hope for an escape from humanity's current climate predicament. While the geological weathering thermostat - affecting rocks like granite - warms and cools the planet on a scale of hundreds of thousands of years, this is far too slow to help moderate the meteoric rise in atmospheric CO2 generated by human activity. The latter, again, is responsible for the mean global temperature being out of balance by 0.6 W/ m2. or a radiative heating effect equivalent to 2.5 x 10 7 TJ injected each year into the atmosphere, roughly 400,000 Hiroshima size A-bombs.
This must be borne in mind when considering Oren Cass' claim, which amounts to yet more cherry-picking to attempt tp paint climate models as unstable, untrustworthy or outright irrational. But what can one expect from a tool whose' aim is to prop up the likes of global warming arsonist Scott Pruitt at the EPA? Having said that, Cass is correct regarding his initial point (ibid.) This is where he cites a 2015 Nature paper, e.g.
The findings indicate climate change will widen global inequality, perhaps dramatically, because warming is good for cold countries, which tend to be richer, and more harmful for hot countries, which tend to be poorer. In the researchers’ benchmark estimate, climate change will reduce average income in the poorest 40 percent of countries by 75 percent in 2100, while the richest 20 percent may experience slight gains.
Cass ridicules this analysis as "silly", which is correct. Not all climate change papers, especially when they veer into economic projections, are sound. By 2100 with our planet approaching a mean global temperature increase of 4- 6 C, we will be on the cusp of the runaway greenhouse effect and there will be no "special islands" of economic growth. The projected map is shown below:
The analysis - such as it is - takes no account of Rayleigh scattering in concert with standard gray atmosphere radiative transport models, e.g. applicable to the terrestrial atmosphere. The equation of transfer that applies is:
-dI/dt (1/k r ) = I – J
Where k is a mass scattering coefficient, r is the molecular density (e.g. in cloud cover) and J is the vector source function for a specific intensity I. If the correct Stokes parameters (I, Q, U, V) which describe degree of polarization are included, and the appropriate incidence angle of radiation, we can expect the propagation of radiant energy from the S. hemisphere to the north very effectively. The planet will hence come to a uniform warming that impacts all economies as well as economies of scale. My point is that Cass' citing of this loopy paper doesn't prove doomsday scenarios of warming are daft or not applicable.
His next gambit is to cite an EPA study that "assumes that a day counting as unusually hot for some city in 2000 will cause a similar mortality increase in that city in 2100 even if climate change makes it no longer unusual." Adding:
"The result is a projection that a hot day will kill massive numbers in Northern cities by 2100 - though such temperatures are already routine at lower latitudes with no such ill effects."
Huh? Is he living on the same planet? Is he forgetting the deadly Indian heat wave that killed hundreds in 2002? See e.g.
"India baked today in a heat wave so intense that mud huts became as hot as ovens and birds in trees dropped dead, villagers said. Temperatures 7 percent above the already hot normal have killed more than 600 people nationwide this month."
By 2100, given a 4-6 C increase in mean global temperatures an Indian heat wave will likely see daily 135- 150 F temperatures and especially failing to cool below 110-120 F at night, which will lead to the most deaths, as is par for nearly all such events. It is not inconceivable a death toll in the same region could tally over 10,000 - possibly as high as 20,000.
Cass next looks at a "second study" from the American Climate Prospectus, contradicting a "first study" (covering 1968-2002) during which hot days, e.g. over 90F caused higher mortality. This second study "found mortality rates on hot days declined precipitously" and because of the adoption of air conditioning, "The United Sates is well adapted to the high temperature-related mortality impacts of climate change".
Two critical aspects overlooked by this happy babble are:
- Collapse of power grids and energy infrastructure, i.e. from being unable to meet demand in a climate where 130- 140 F is hit in most cities around the world daily.
- Associated collapse of utility electrical pumping stations, i.e. to provide enough water for a much larger population. (because electric power is needed to pump water for use)
In combination, these factors will engender massive deaths from disease, especially if potable water isn't available. Absence of safe water sources, especially, dramatically enhances the chance of getting water-borne diseases including (in the runaway greenhouse cusp world) amoebic dysentery and cholera. Absence of electrical power further increases risk of diseases spreading especially given lack of refrigeration in heat wave conditions (see also the link at the end of this post).
This leads to Cass' next error which is to hype the human ability for adaptation "which is not an esoteric detail for science and economics". He argues that "if you imagine that society is static and incapable of innovation then prospect of climate change must be terrifying."
Well true, but that doesn't mean useful innovation and adaptation are inevitable. For example, I already dealt with a number of impractical "innovations" i.e. from the authors of 'Super Freakonomics', here:
Less commonly addressed in the media is the inevitable spread of tropical diseases including cholera, dengue fever and worm parasite infestations, e.g.
Thus, millions more tapeworm cyst infections of human brains in affected areas can be expected- perhaps four fifths of the population of Earth by 2100. Yes, adaptation is possible but requires enormous supplies of anti-worm serums, meds such as Ketrax. I recall here my own worm infestation while in Peace Corps - noticed only after being awakened one night by intense itching and a twitching sensation on the inner thighs. I switched the night light on and spotted wriggling movements in discrete locations on the skin, I realized the worms would spread if I didn't act. The cure? Ketrax, prescribed by the spoonful (by a dermatologist) three times a day. After a few bouts of vomiting out the vermin (visible wriggling in the vomit), all had been eliminated. I don't know that people will even be properly diagnosed as multiple worm infestations spread on approaching the cusp of the runaway greenhouse.
Finally, Oren delivers a lot of happy talk at the end, writing:
"The 1970s fear of impending limits to growth made sense, assuming that society could not expand a finite supply of resources."
But see, that's precisely it. Earth does have a finite supply of resources which by definition means that can't be "expanded", i.e. beyond that finite allotment. To fix ideas, we're rapidly approaching the threshold at which there will simply be too many people to feed given existing resources- water, arable soil, fertilizers etc.. The projections now are for at least 10 billion people by 2050, and an 80 percent probability of 12.3 billion on Earth by 2100. Simply put, there simply aren't the resources to support even the lower addition. At root, the issue is sustainability - especially for water which is needed for crops. NO water, no crops to feed a growing population. The graphic below puts this into perspective;
The interpretation of the graph (upward) is simple. By June, 2030 TWO full Earths - that is the resources therein - will be needed to support the then population. Already we are at 1.5 Earths. Every year Global Footprint Network raises awareness about global ecological overshoot with its Earth Overshoot Day campaign. Earth Overshoot Day is the day on the calendar when humanity has used up the resources that it takes the planet the full year to regenerate. Just like the hands of the 'doomsday clock' approaching 'midnight' for nuclear cataclysm
The continually increasing population is also exacerbating the problem of finding and implementing adequate (aggressive consumption) fuel -energy sources . Global energy consumption rose from barely 21 EJ in 1900, to 318 EJ in 1988, to close to 400 EJ today. Solar, geothermal + wind by the end of this year, will therefore have contributed only:
(6/ 400) x 100% = 1.5% of the total global demand
But this is exactly the rate of increase in global population per year! In other words, the added total alternative energy benefit is exactly lost because we added an extra percentage of humans to consume the benefit! This is why the economists proposing increased global population to enhance GDP are shooting themselves in the foot.
The stage is set to add 50% MORE humans by 2050, topping off at 10 billion, which will necessitate - if we still plan to retain solar in the mix - converting an area the size of Europe to solar panel arrays. In addition, to feed all those hungry mouths, we will need to add an agricultural area the size of the whole continent of South America - especially given how the eating habits of Chinese and Indians have now altered to become more "American" .
Whether Oren Cass wants to admit it or not, we are constrained by limits to growth - perhaps not as much now at 7.5 billion humans, but definitely by the time we add another 2.5 b and need an additional Earth to support them.
See also this article on why heat waves are so deadly: