Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Eric Schneiderman Is Enjoying Himself With Lamarr Smith

There are times, times dear readers where something speaks so well for itself that Eli practically has nothing to add.  Today Eric Schneiderman slammed the ball back into Lamarr Smith's court.  Schneiderman is the New York State Attorney General, Smith the Chair of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.  Smith has been feebling in defense of Exxon, and subpoenaed Schneiderman for all and everything that the NY Att. Gen had on Exxon.

Schneiderman was amused

The Subpoena is an unprecedented effort to target ongoing state law enforcement “investigation[s] or potential prosecution[s].” If enforced, the Subpoena will have the obvious consequence of interfering with the NYOAG’s investigation into whether ExxonMobil made false or misleading statements in violation of New York’s business, consumer, and securities fraud laws. Although the Committee purports to be acting out of First Amendment concerns, those concerns cannot be anything but pretense as “the First Amendment does not shield fraud.”
Good faith, you want good faith, well the NY Att Gen is willing to play
The Subpoena brings us one step closer to a protracted, unnecessary legal confrontation, which will only distract and detract from the work of our respective offices. Accordingly, we continue to hope that the Committee Staff will be in touch, as they said they would be, to schedule a time to speak, with minority participation, about the Committee’s requests. While the NYOAG will not allow a Congressional investigation to impede the sovereign interests of the State of New York, this Office remains willing to explore whether the Committee has any legitimate legislative purpose in the requested materials that could be accommodated without impeding those sovereign interests. Unfortunately, our attempts to initiate such a discussion—by telephone call to Committee Staff and in our written response to you on July 13—were met with a subpoena.
Oh yes, the states rights thing that the Republicans love tastes just loverly. .
The Committee’s demand for documents and communications from the office of a duly elected State Attorney General regarding an ongoing investigation of potential state law violations raises grave federalism concerns.
And oh yes, WTF are you talking about
These problems are compounded by the inability to ascertain the subject under inquiry (due in part to the Chair’s and certain members’ vague and shifting statements), how the Subpoena’s requests are pertinent to that subject, or even the Committee’s source of authority for the putative investigation. See Watkins v. United States, 354 U.S. 178, 214–15 (1957).
much detailed legal follows but the conclusion is a straight out FU
While the Committee considers these objections the NYOAG will continue to explore whether the Committee has any legitemate legislative purpose in the requested materials that could be provided without impairing the sovereign interests of the State of New York.  We look forward to the opportunity of being heard by the Committee as a whole on these objections.
Oh yes, those interested in tossing Smith a further boat anchor can contribute to Smiths Democratic opponent, Tom Wakely.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Just Because You're Paranoid Doesn't Mean Somebunny Isn't Out To Get You

Now, Eli has been tweeting a bit trying to put some sense into the Bernie Bots who are in the process of screwing the pooch.  Rather than subjecting his loyal readers to what Russell would not approve of, the sense of it is well captured by a tweet from Leah McElrath

And indeed, as Ralph Nader showed in 2000, pure snowflakes can wreak any chance of getting what they want by demanding it all.  That and screwing the rest of us.

However, that is not the point of this post, rather when looking over the Google statistics for the blog Eli saw this rather odd pattern.  AFAEK he really does not have a lot of Russian speaking fans, indeed this is the first time such a pattern has appeared.

What he asks is going on.  Is Mr. Putin looking for another web site to hack after the DNC job?  That, of course raises even more interesting questions.

These questions include why the US Congress is not mounting a full bore investigation into why the Russians are "helping" Mr. Trump out.  There is a good argument that without Russian money Trump is flat broke and two of the advisors closest to him, Paul Manafort and Carter Page, are mobbed up with Putin.  Eli uses the term mobbed up with intent.  Russia is not an autocracy, it is a kleptocracy. 

Ms Rabett, who has some experience in such matters on the compliance side of the fence, points out that money laundering violations define the expensive real estate market in places like NY and SF, as brokers have accept money from peculiar sources.  It is certain that the Trump Organization has accepted the money.  What is not certain until law enforcement serves papers, is whether they did their due diligence and reporting.  Eli suspects not, and if systematically done, which Eli suspects so, that is a RICO violation.

Eli must also ask whether Wikileaks is a front for Russian intelligence. Julian Assange more or less admitted that with the usual, you can't prove it.  That puts a different twist on a whole bunch of things they have done in the last five years.  Or perhaps they are just stooges for the Russians, sort of like the dead end Bernie Bros.

This story is moving fast and the reaction of the Benghazi crazed Republicans in the US Congress will provide some interesting tales.  For example, Trump has conceded that his Russian "friends" were behind the hack.

Dear Lord.

ADDED: For those interested in the nitty gritty details that point to Russian intelligence being behind this effort to support Donald Trump, Eli recommends this article in Motherboard
The forensic evidence linking the DNC breach to known Russian operations is very strong. On June 20, two competing cybersecurity companies, Mandiant (part of FireEye) and Fidelis, confirmed CrowdStrike’s initial findings that Russian intelligence indeed hacked Clinton’s campaign. The forensic evidence that links network breaches to known groups is solid: used and reused tools, methods, infrastructure, even unique encryption keys. For example: in late March the attackers registered a domain with a typo—misdepatrment[.]com—to look suspiciously like the company hired by the DNC to manage its network, MIS Department. They then linked this deceptive domain to a long-known APT 28 so-called X-Tunnel command-and-control IP address, 45.32.129[.]185.
and CrowdStrike has even more 


Plan: 1. Agree with Patrick Moore. 2. Scour self with coarse sand


For some reason I subscribed to Heartland Institute's Environment and Climate News podcast and have listened to some. Mostly unsurprising, although one celebrating the return of eastern brook trout to reforested and some suburban areas seemed reasonable. I don't think the reforestation of the Eastern US is a huge secret that environmentalists don't want the world to know, but I also don't see a problem with refuting Breakthrough Institute thinking that civilization and nature are incompatible.

And then there's climate denialist/general denialist Patrick Moore - what a sad and unethical man. It's hard to imagine that he could actually believe his lies, and hard to understand why he doesn't just stop - he doesn't have a long career ahead to advance at this point, so does he really to finish it with gigantic lies? I'm sure he falls somewhere into John Mashey's typology (which I can't find online right now), but I guess it's continuing acclaim that matters to him, even if it's due to him spouting lies.

So what's really hard then is agreeing with much of Moore's diatribes against groups fighting research on GMO golden rice (around 24 minutes into the link). He goes overboard but I think there's no alternative but agree that opposing research on golden rice is clearly unethical. Here's Greenpeace's response, and it's completely unconvincing.

There's a difference between acting unethical in one particular situation and making the lack of ethics the basis of one's career. Greenpeace has messed up on golden rice, but people really can fool themselves on occasion. Patrick Moore must know what he's doing on a daily, continual basis.

Finally it's worth noting that anyone claiming that golden rice somehow justifies the overall application of GMO technology has got to be smoking something genetically altered. Golden rice has been on magazine covers for two decades and have yet to help a single person, while GMO crops take over the agricultural world. Greenpeace is right that GMO proponents have to look elsewhere to point to successes, but wrong to say that just because golden rice hasn't worked yet, we should shut down attempts to make it work.


Sunday, July 24, 2016

70, 75, 80, 85 When. . . ?

Neven, of course, has been tearing it up on the Arctic Ice Blog.  Eli, well Eli learns from Neven and the Nevenettes, and peaks at the Uni Bremen AMSR sea ice maps.  Frankly Neven finds that  this year is pretty confusing compared to the patterns of the past decade or more when Arctic Ice Blogging has been a thing

This being a hot Sunday, Eli took a look




and was scared.  Within a few days there is damn little ice left south of 75 N latitude.  It might be an interesting bet if any will be left before the end of the melting season, and with good enough odds you could probably find a bunny interesting in betting on 80 N.  The experts say depends on the weather, but the weather is really hot up there recently.  

Here, for the obsessive, is a neat site with Arctic station data

Sunday, July 17, 2016

President Mike Pence? De facto President Corey Lewandowski?

If Trump wins, he might not play president for four years. Much more so than in the case of other candidates, we have multiple reasons why:

  • He might quit, getting bored with doing actual work and angry at the criticism dished at him while Rome burns. I'm sure he could find multiple parties to blame for his quitting.
  • Even if he doesn't officially quit, he may withdraw from day-to-day presidenting and let someone else do all the work. He's already decided he'd act more like a Board Chairman than a CEO, suggesting a lighter workload, and he might take it farther. It's also not hard to imagine him getting mad at how his businesses are being run by his kids and reinsert himself in the latest Trump University And Steakhouse dustup, despite promises to stay away from the businesses.
  • The 70-year-old candidate has refused to release any medical records beyond a sycophantic half-page letter from his doctor claiming he'd be "the healthiest individual elected to the presidency." That's an obvious lie (c.f. both Bushes and Obama) which puts the letter's brief assertions of good health in question. For all we know, he could keel over at any time.
  • He could get impeached and removed, or quit to avoid the inevitable. It's hard but not impossible to imagine a Republican House doing this (Trump may not have thought through the implications of making Pence his Veep). Alternatively, two years of chaos leads to a change election in 2018 like the 2006 wave, and then he's gone. Most likely series of events leading to impeachment, btw: Trump gets someone to do something illegal for him on the promise of a pardon, Trump tries to get out issuing the pardon but is manipulated to issue it, and the world finds out the real reason for the pardon.
  • He may trust his judgment of security over that of the Secret Service, and get himself shot.

The risk of someone else running the show is yet another factor in the dumpster fire that is the Trump candidacy. As hard as it is to realize that someone worse than George Bush may become president, we don't know who may actually run the country instead of Trump at some point in the next four years. It could be someone worse yet.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Post Modern Views of Science

A couple of days ago, Eli went off and ranted about an old philosopher, James Blachowicz, and his take on science, which to Eli was, well, given the history of this thing, Eli pretty much thought that Prof. Blachowicz was eating magic mushrooms.

Given the placement in the New York Times, not surprisingly, there were a few other comments, and not surprisingly (to Eli, Eli being always right) they pretty much agreed with Eli

Jerry Coyn, writing under the Rommian title of "Is this the worst popular philosophy piece ever? A philosopher argues that science is no more reliable than philosophy at finding truth" and pretty much concludes that it was

If the NYT can publish tripe like this, perhaps it’s time for someone to pull a Sokal-like stunt, writing a bogus philosophical analysis of science and submitting it to The Stone. But perhaps that’s exactly what Blachowicz has done!
Ethan Siegel in Forbes discusses how Blachowicz' understanding of Kepler (and Galileo) is, to put it softly, lacking and Derek Lowe at Science also has a few words.

For a while now, Eli has been pushing the idea that science is characterized by coherence, consilience and consensus.

The Red Queen can hold any number of contradictory thoughts in her mind before breakfast but that only leads to confusion and is deadly for understanding. The Wikipedia has a useful description of consilience and why it is necessary for reaching a scientific consensus
evidence from independent, unrelated sources can "converge" to strong conclusions. That is, when multiple sources of evidence are in agreement, the conclusion can be very strong even when none of the individual sources of evidence is significantly so on its own. Most established scientific knowledge is supported by a convergence of evidence: if not, the evidence is comparatively weak, and there will not likely be a strong scientific consensus.
Kuhn pointed out that the consensus was very hard to change for good reasons, because a lot of evidence (consilience) had to be gathered and linked (coherence) to establish the consensus. That the consensus could be changed on very rare occasions is irrelevant because the overthrow (e.g. Relativity, QM) extended a strong consensus into new areas where it really had never previously been tested.  New science EXTENDS old science.

The tough part of this is that one has to have a strong understanding of the various threads which establish the consensus to appreciate the consensus and its strength.  Many do not.

They interpret the ability to modify the consensus as meaning that nothing can be certain, and if it cannot be certain then all statements are equally valid.  Einstein and Kuhn are frequently invoked.

For example, some, not to be named, but including philosophers and lawyers and liberal arts types claim that it is equally true to claim that the Sun revolves around the Earth as visa versa.

As to the Earth and the Sun, if you believe that the Sun revolves around the Earth, you basically don't believe in Newtonian gravity or the laws of motion.  There is some nonsense that should not go unchallenged, but that takes time.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Mike Pence. I remember that name....

UPDATE: others are also doing blasts from the past, turns out we should know him as Mike "Smoking Doesn't Kill" Pence.


Here it is, from my old blog back in 2009:

 

Mike Pence: skeptical of warming, but "reducing CO2 would be a good thing"

 

There's not much point in reducing CO2 unless anthropogenic climate change is real - it has no other negative impacts.*

Pence is the third-highest Republican Congressman in the House, considered a rising star, and appears to simply be stupid. His latest anti-climate change, plus refusal to acknowledge evolution is here. Yglesias has more on him not being very bright here, here(author of the Republican budget plan with no numbers attached to it), and especially here (couldn't understand the economic concept of moral hazard, even when explained to him).

While a party led by stupid people will be easier to beat, it can still cause a lot of damage in the American political system.

*I highly doubt this Republican party genius even knows about ocean acidification, and if he does, he just groups it into his climate change skepticism.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Interestingly, I just came across this statement from Yglesias yesterday saying he was too hard on Pence way back when, and that Congressmembers are institutionally driven to spend time on anything except learning the subject matter. I'm not buying it - they can and should know basics about the areas they specialize in, and if Pence can't understand a subject like moral hazard when explained to him, that's pretty bad.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

The Scientific Method and the Philosopher Is Stoned


Have the bunnies ever noticed that in the dog days of summer, when nothing is happening, and even when it is, there always emerges an article on there is no such thing as science, or science is nothing special.  Well, the New York Times has done the usual and dredged up flem from another old philosopher who would enjoy a day in the sunday papers.  It agrees with the editor's stoned high school fantasies about science, a subject that they hated, just hated.  Amongst their other bad habits, editors and journalists are saps for post modernist denigration of science.  They don't quite understand why others value something they never understood, or tried to, and they want some of that.

A bunny, or at least Willard, might start with the ontology but at times it is easier to say what is not and why.  For example take the writing of a poem, something that the author of the article under consideration, James Blachowicz, did.  He relates how a poet, Stephan Spender, described the process of creating a poem, how Spender begins with a first draft, how he then evaluates the draft as to whether it expresses what he wanted to express and whether the form was pleasing to him.  The poet then modifies the draft to optimize the two criteria.

Blachowicz claims that this editing process is similar to "those associated with scientific investigation", and he generalizes his guff to wondering whether there is such a thing as a scientific method.  Eli, were he not such an understanding bunny, would think this is clear evidence of  confusion, of course it is hard to be more understanding than some such at ATTP who is, IEHO, too willing to excuse fuzzy thoughts.  But, dear bunnies let us forge forward.

Could a poem be a work of science?  What would poets be required to do?  The first criteria would be not whether the poem expressed what the poetry team wanted to express but that it accurately described the emotion that they were trying to describe, the second, that the poem was consistent with related poems that had been accepted by the poetry community.  If not, the poet would have to explain why.  A pleasing thing to a good poetry team would be if the poets could say, although there was some inconsistency with past work, how theirs extended and enlarged understanding of the emotions under consideration.  Of course, a terse and powerful poem that captured the source of many emotions would be meet with a stronger positive reception.

In other words, poetry would be characterized by consistency, consensus and consilience, which it is not.  No loss to poetry, but then again poetry is not science although some comes close.

Now Eli is fond of a good argument, meaning one that leads to careful thought, but Blachowicz goes three year old, segueing into a disputation about "justice" and "courage" and how neither can be defined although everybunny knows what they are.  Well sorry, justice and courage are social constructs, and the definition varies with time and place.  To think about Blachowicz' example

When Socrates asked “What is justice?” there was never any doubt that his listeners knew what the word “justice” meant. This is confirmed by the fact that Socrates and his listeners could agree on examples of justice. Defining justice, on the other hand — that is, being able to explain what it was conceptually that all these examples had in common — was something else altogether.
is to fall right down the Rabett hole.  People and societies do not agree on what justice is.  On the other hand electrons, climate sensitivity, DNA,  these all have definitions that scientists agree on, although they may disagree about the numerical values of some and try and improve the precision and accuracy of others.  It is the agreement on definitions and other basics that allows scientists to talk to each other.  Agreeing to definitions, such as what is a meter, what is a kilogram and so forth are the charge of scientific organizations such as IUPAC.  Eli wonders if philosophers have similar mechanism for agreeing on the meaning of justice.  He suspects not, but then again, IEHO this entire section of Blachowicz' writing is simply a confusion, a smoke screen.

For what you ask, well for a comment on Kepler's studies of the orbit of Mars.  Long and short, Kepler determined after much work that the orbit was an ellipse, after rejecting a circle and then an oval.  For those interested, the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory has many of the papers on Kepler's notes which are extensive.  But where did the idea of a circle come from, as some of the commenters on Blachowicz' piece note, it came from philosophers, and in their case from the kind of esthetic argument that Blachowicz uses.  Kepler was not happy about that
My first error, was to suppose that the path of the planet is a perfect circle, a supposition that was all the more noxious a thief of time the more it was endowed with the authority of all philosophers, and the more convenient it was for metaphysics in particular.”
Kepler tried an oval, but it did not work very well, and then an ellipse which did.  Blachowicz sees this in a pecular light
Kepler could have hammered out a patchwork equation that would have represented the oval orbit of Mars. It would have fit the facts better than the earlier circle hypothesis. But it would have failed to meet the second criterion that all such explanation requires: that it be simple, with a single explanatory principle devoid of tacked-on ad hoc exceptions, analogous to the case of courage as acting in the face of great fear, except for running away, tying one’s shoelace and yelling profanities.
Simplicity is nice, but not necessary, this argument fails on the same ad hoc esthetic basis as the circle, indeed, except for the simplest situations there are often multiple principles at work which must be teased apart and Blachowicz himself describes one.

But why, as the saying goes, does science work?  Blachowicz' answer is
If scientific method is only one form of a general method employed in all human inquiry, how is it that the results of science are more reliable than what is provided by these other forms? I think the answer is that science deals with highly quantified variables and that it is the precision of its results that supplies this reliability. But make no mistake: Quantified precision is not to be confused with a superior method of thinking.
Which, make no mistake, IEHO is a mistake.  Scientific results are not all highly quantified, indeed many are not quantified at all.  Consider anatomy if you will.  What science and the scientific method provide, as Kepler showed, is insistence on checking either the scientists own results, or the results of others.  This is, as it were, close to the viewpoint of Popper.  Of course, again IEHO, Kuhn does a better job of describing how scientists work, their method as it were.  The scientific method does not require quantified precision (though that is often good), it does require careful checking of any result and a delineation of the conditions under which the result is to be trusted.

Weird rhetoric behind "believe me" and "finding out what is going on"

 
Someone who made better use of rhetoric

One small benefit from the Trump phenomenon is better sensitivity to the same tricks, regardless of the speaker's tribal affiliation. I listened to a prominent speaker on my side of the environmental fence the other day, and was struck by how much he sounded like Trump, liberally interspersing his comments with "believe me," "I'm telling you" and similar. I'm not sure I would've noticed if it hadn't been for how often Trump would say those phrases, followed by outrageous assertions with no evidence to back it up. I eventually figured out that those words, "I'm telling you" are the support the speaker is giving for the factual assertion that follows.

So whenever you hear a speaker say "believe me" you are likely about to hear a conclusory assertion offered with no proof other than the credibility of the speaker. That's not always a bad thing - maybe the person's an expert and it's better to get many quick opinions rather than one deep backgrounder - but it's helpful to know that's all you're getting. And it's a rhetorical trick when used by a speaker you sympathize with - you think you've been told something and don't notice you've been offered no proof.

So, thanks Trump for the realization. In the case of my speaker, he was making predictions about the future, notoriously the hardest of predictions, based on "I'm telling you". I'm not giving it a lot of weight.

The other weird Trumpian rhetoric is saying we should ban Muslim immigration until we "figure out what is going on." What does that mean - could one possibly come up with a more vague metric for determining policy? What part of terrorism is Trump saying that we don't understand?

Of course someone could get a PhD in comparative studies of terrorism and not fully understand the subject, but that's not what Trump is talking about. This phrasing means to take vaguely formed fears and hate, or even a multitude of specifically formed fears and hate in the minds of listeners, and fit it all into something that pretends to be policy. As for "what's going on," Trump is letting people fill that void with whatever's in their minds, specific or vague, and think that Trump is saying the exact same thing. It's even trickier and more poisonous than figuring out what people want to hear and saying it back to them.

I'm sure it's been called out somewhere, but what's going on is cheap rhetorical manipulation.


UPDATE:  thought I'd add that Trump also often appends "believe me" to the end of an assertion about something he's going to do or an outcome that's going to be achieved, when he'd have no legal ability to do what he claimed and the outcome is pie in the sky. Democratic presidential candidates aren't free of this either on climate change, talking way too much about policies that require repeated 60-vote majorities in the Senate and a majority in the House, but obviously there's no comparison.