Friday, February 8, 2019

Who wrote the overview?

Yesterday CNBC published an article Ocasio-Cortez's Green New Deal offers 'economic security' for those 'unwilling to work'.

They reference an "overview" of the Green New Deal that they say first is being "circulated by proponents" and later describe as being "released by New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's office." They say they reached out to her office. They don't say what they heard back, or if they heard back.

The document itself is ... interesting. It includes a bunch of stuff that is consistent with the formal resolution introduced yesterday by AOC and Sen. Markey.

It also includes the line that it wants to guarantee "Economic security for all who are unable or unwilling to work."

I don't have any proof that the document is inauthentic, but I do see some flags that it might well be a fake.

The "Overview" document that CNBC links to seems to be hosted at documentcloud.org. I've never heard of that site, but as far as I can tell, it's a legitimate place where anybody can post anything that they want to store, or analyze, or share. There's an NPR article about the actual resolution (not the "overview") that refers to an earlier version of the resolution, and the link for that goes to a document at documentcloud.org.

But there's a subtle difference.

The URL that NPR sends you to starts www.documentcloud.org, and the tab that comes up in my browser has a little "cloud" icon.

The URL that CNBC sends you to for the "overview" starts assets.documentcloud.org, and the tab that comes up in my browser has a generic icon that comes up when I open a PDF in my browser.

So my first question is whether the "overview" is posted at a spoof site that is pretending to be documentcloud.org.

Second, the document itself has numerous linguistic oddities.

“The Green New Deal resolution a 10-year plan” [missing the word “is”]

“IPCC Report said global emissions must be cut by by 40-60%” [missing “The”, which is stylistically inconsistent with other places in the document]

“When JFK said we’d go to the by the end of the decade, people said impossible.” [missing the word “moon”, and “people said impossible” is weird diction]

“At the time, the U.S. had produced 3,000 planes in the last year.” [“previous” would be more idiomatic]

“This is massive investment in our economy” [“a massive investment” would be more idiomatic]

“the greatest middle class the US has seen.” [“the US has ever seen” would be more idiomatic]

“We set a goal to get to net-zero, rather than zero emissions, in 10 years because we aren’t sure that we’ll be able to fully get rid of farting cows and airplanes that fast,” [OK, this is partly weird — taking as my null hypothesis that this is from AOC’s office, are they laughing at themselves by talking about farting cows and completely eliminating airplanes? Under the alternative hypothesis, that this is a ratfuck, do they think this is going to look simultaneously ridiculous but credible that AOC’s office would write it?]

I stopped there, but let me just comment that all the language issues I called out, with the exception of missing the word “moon”, are consistent with a Russian speaker. Russian doesn’t usually use the present tense of “to be” — if there’s no verb in a sentence, then assume that the verb is “am/is/are”. Russian doesn’t have articles, so even fairly accomplished speakers of English are prone to drop “the” and “a” when they’re needed, or occasionally stick them in when they’re not.

None of this proves that the "Overview" document is a fake, but it does raise some questions.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Putting down the chalice

Remarks delivered at the community conversation on renewable energy and economic development in the 21st century, held January 17th, 2019, in Oneonta, NY

The video is at the jump, with my face holding a weird grimace in the still.

And here's the text, more or less verbatim what's on the video:

I get it.

I get why people love fossil fuels.

They’re these really powerful, concentrated, flexible sources of energy that allow us to accomplish things our ancestors couldn’t even have dreamed of.

They’re like a surprise inheritance from an eccentric relative you didn’t even know you had.

The executor reads out the will, and it turns out that there’s all this valuable stuff in the ground, and it’s yours to use.

Sure, you have to do the work of digging it out of the ground and figuring out how to use it, but as you start doing that, you realize that this stuff is gold. Actually, it’s so powerful that it makes gold look silly.

You’ve been handed a pile of stuff that will help you achieve quadrillions of dollars worth of wealth, and it’s yours to spend.

About a hundred years after you come into the stuff, the executor pulls out a small, scribbled note that says that there might be unexpected consequences of spending this inheritance.

But you’re busy fighting a world war, dealing with a Great Depression, fighting another world war, and then getting locked into an existential struggle against communism (or, from another perspective, an existential struggle against capitalism).

While you’re engaged in that existential struggle, you start getting more notes from the executor. It turns out that if you spend too much of this inheritance, at some point in the future there may be some warming.

But this is rather vague.

How much is “too much”?

When is “at some point in the future”?

And warming? Why is that a problem?

Besides, that existential struggle against communism is over, and you won—congratulations!—but now you’re dealing with the threat of global terrorism. (Or, from the other side of the fence, Struggle against capitalism is over. Congratulations—you lost. You are now capitalist. Sort of.)

But you keep getting more notes from the executor, and the writing is getting clearer.

Friday, October 5, 2018

The altar of Donald Trump's need

Dear Senator Flake,

I am grateful you used your leverage to get some sort of FBI inquiry into the allegations made against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, but I’m wondering what follow-up you have in mind.

You’ve said that if the FBI finds that Judge Kavanaugh lied to the Senate Judiciary Committee, his nomination is over. But you didn’t need the FBI to know that he was lying. Not necessarily about what did or didn’t happen in 1983, but numerous statements the judge made in his September 27th testimony are documentably false, down to whether he watched Dr. Blasey Ford’s testimony (a Republican aide says he did watch it; Judge Kavanaugh stated in the hearing that he did not).

The FBI investigation itself indirectly raises other questions. Your colleague Sen. Collins said she found the investigation to have been complete, but that’s transparently false. The Bureau didn’t interview the witnesses proposed by Deborah Ramirez. They didn’t interview numerous college classmates of the judge who came forward to offer their eyewitness testimony about his drinking behavior during college (and thus speak to whether he was truthful with the Senate Judiciary Committee).

Most damningly, they interviewed neither Dr. Blasey Ford nor Judge Kavanaugh. During the most recent testimony, the judge was not only combative, but notably evasive in responding to questions from Democratic senators. In an FBI inquiry, belligerence and evasion don’t work, and so the failure to interview Judge Kavanaugh looks very much like an intentional measure to avoid making him answer difficult questions.

The background issue here is what purpose you had in mind for an FBI investigation. If you wanted to be able to point and say, “The FBI looked, they didn’t find anything, so my conscience is clear in voting ‘Yes,’” then you got what you wanted, what you needed.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Welcome to the world of InstaChat

For the second time in about four days, I've been in a stall in a public bathroom when someone else has come in and started narrating their inner world.

Today's running commentary:

"It smells like, Oh my god.

It smells like, a god, who's pissed at the world, because it shits dicks."

I hear a dog barking in the hall outside the the bathroom.

"I know that dog."

A-a-a-and, we're out.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Day 38: Apparently, dictatorship is fine

My Congressman supports Trump being a dictator.

Well, he hasn’t said that in so many words, but I’ve been asking for a while whether he would vote for impeachment if Trump were to murder someone who was investigating him.

He hasn’t answered.

And when I say “a while,” I mean since June 4th.

That’s seven-and-a-half weeks ago. 52 calendar days. Or Day 38 if we take June 4th as Day 1 and count only work days.

Here’s today’s conversation (earlier ones are linked at the end of the post).
Last week Mr. Faso issued a statement criticizing the president’s handling of the press conference after the Helsinki summit.
Since then, we’ve heard hints from the Russian side about what was agreed to in the summit itself, and sometimes we get confirmation from the White House, sometimes we get silence.
And the president apparently agreed to some very dangerous things, like ratifying the Russian seizure of Crimea and potentially ratifying the occupation of eastern Ukraine.
In dealing with this, we have no coherent report from the American side, and no coherent response within the U.S. government, because the president ignored everyone’s advice beforehand and went in one-on-one—the only other American in the room was his translator.
This is not mishandling a press conference. This is, at best, massive incompetence in the conduct of foreign policy. But it also looks like subservience to a foreign dictator.
Is Mr. Faso doing anything about this threat to our country?
What you like him to do?
Is he doing anything other than criticizing a press conference?
I want to know, first, what he thinks of the deeper, more serious issues about the summit itself.
And he could perhaps have hearings, ask to talk to the Secretary of State or others involved in foreign policy.
[Takes name and contact info, promises to pass along my concerns.]
While I have you, I just need to follow up on another question that I’ve been trying to get an answer on since June 4th. That’s seven-and-a-half weeks ago. If I’ve spoken to you before, you probably know what it is.
The president’s lawyer says he could kill James Comey and it would still be illegal to indict him, because the only remedy for a president is impeachment. So I want to know: If the president were to kill someone who was investigating him, would Representative Faso vote to impeach him?
I have not spoken to the Congressman as to whether he would vote to impeach if the president were to murder someone investigating him.
Well, as I said, I’ve been asking this question for seven-and-a-half weeks, and everyone I’ve spoken to about it has said that they would see that the Congressman got the question, so presumably someone has spoken with him about it, but I guess it wasn’t you.
This is the first I’ve heard of it.
And this is not some bizarre hypothetical. The president’s own lawyer brought it up.
This is an absurdly easy question. If you don’t support impeachment for a president who murders investigators, then you support dictatorship.
It’s beyond pathetic that Mr. Faso can’t answer this question.
The question is basically, Can the president murder his opponents without being impeached? Can the president murder his opponents without being impeached?
Why is that even a question?
You should be able to say, “Of course Mr. Faso doesn’t believe the president should be able to murder his opponents without being impeached.”
But you can’t say that, because Mr. Faso hasn’t seen fit to answer the question.
And that is simply absurd.
I will certainly see that he gets asked this question.
Do you personally interact with the Congressman?
Yes.
Do you think you personally could put this question to him?
Yes, I can do that.
And can you convey to him how absurd it is that he can’t answer it?
Yes, I will do that.
And perhaps at some point in, oh, the next two years, I might get an answer, but by now I fully expect not to get one. Though I will keep asking.
Mm-hm.
What kind of world is this, where a congressman can’t answer this question?
I don’t know.
You have a good day sir.
I would have a better day if my elected representative believed in democracy. You have a good day, too.
In case you're in John Faso's district, the number for his D.C. office is (202) 225-5614. He'd love to hear from you!

Earlier calls:

Thursday, July 19, 2018

How to ruin small-talk

Everybody knows that feeling when you walk away from a conversation, then five minutes later think “That’s what I should have said.”

You know that feeling, right?

I still don’t have that feeling.

It’s been half a day, and I’m still at, “What should I have said? Should I have said something?”

I was in the grocery store and I almost collided with another customer. His physical type was one you encounter pretty often here in upstate New York: 60-ish, a rough, full beard, and a weathered face.

Oh, and on his chest, in something like a baby carrier, he was wearing a Chihuahua.
It was basically this model. Now replace the woman wearing it with a gristled 60-year-old man in a rural New York Price Chopper.
Image from https://usak9outfitters.com/STCRPP.htm

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Day 32: Don't expect action

On Monday I called the office of John Faso (NY-19), expecting that he wouldn’t have yet figured out what to say about Trump’s Surrender Summit in Suomi.

To my surprise, the staffer had a statement there to read to me (which I later learned was also on Faso’s website). I was so surprised, that I said I agreed 100%, but I think it was more that seeing my congressman criticize Trump as much as he did was a bit like seeing a dog talk. On reflection, the dog was only making a little sense. (Still, yay dog for talking at all, right?)

Since my call on Monday, Trump had sort of walked back his dis of U.S. intelligence in favor of Putin’s view of what happened in 2016, but not really, and then had gone ahead and full-on ignored the intelligence community’s assessment of risks for 2018.

So I thought I’d check in with Faso.
I’m calling to find out what Congressman Faso is doing to follow up on his statement from Monday regarding the president’s summit with Vladimir Putin.
I haven’t had a chance to speak with him about that. Is there a message you’d like to pass along?
There are two very specific actions that Congressman Faso should take.
First, he should work with his colleagues on closing the loophole in the Defense Authorization Act that allows the president to waive sanctions on the Russian military.
And the second?
He should vote with the rest of the House to release the president’s tax returns. Every other presidential nominee for the last 45 years has released his or her tax returns. Trump said he would do it if he was elected. We’re now 20 months past the election, and we still haven’t seen them.