Source: The 20% Statistician
NY Times regularly revises its articles after publication. The revisions are substantial, undisclosed, and are nothing like real time updates in developing stories. These are regular articles that undergo dramatic changes that appear as if NY Times editors received a commissar’s call stressing the party line and demanding the article matches it exactly, with the NY Times editors dutifully obliging.
I recently stumbled on one of such revisions. Within hours, the description of Scott Pruitt, the newly appointed EPA head, in the NY Times article went from being an “ally of fossil fuel Industry,” to a “climate change dissenter,” to a “climate change denialist.” Later, I was pointed to a helpful website newsdiffs.org. Newsdiffs archives multiple versions of news articles and shows the differences between them. That article has been revised or rewritten at least six times after its original publication, all without any notice to the readers.
On the topic of climate debate, the most prominent rewrite seen is the replacement of the term “climate skeptic” with “climate denialist.” Also witnessed, is the attempt to do some damage control, like replacing “Obama’s new climate change regulations” that reporters probably heard firsthand from government officials, with “Obama’s new clean air regulations.”
Examples, limited to the climate debate
The following article was completely re-written from its original version on January 14-15. Then, on January 18, the sentence, “Obama’s new climate change regulations are driving electric utilities to shut down coal plants,” was rewritten by replacing the term “climate change” with “clean air,” thus becoming: “Obama’s new clean air regulations are driving electric utilities to shut down coal plants”:
Multiple changes, including changing the word Skeptics to Denialists in the title:
The article was revised 14 times:
(By MICHAEL D. SHEAR, JULIE HIRSCHFELD, MAGGIE HABERMAN)
Multiple changes, including in the authorship:
http://newsdiffs.org/article-history/www.nytimes.com/2017/01/18/science/earth-highest-temperature-record.html (By JUSTIN GILLIS and JOHN SCHWARTZ)
For example, this link shows multiple changes to the body of the article:
The title was completely re-written:
Another title that was re-written:
Multiple substantial changes:
At the time of this writing, some of these articles are different from their last versions innewsdiffs, and at least one seems similar to the initial version in newsdiffs. Probablynewsdiffs monitors the news articles only for short time. Also, NY Times’ website may send different versions of the same article to different readers.
Remember the BBC Scandal in 2008
This brings to mind the well-known BBC scandal, when the BBC changed a published weather-related article to be more climate alarmist after exchanging few emails with Jo Abbess, a climate activist who then gloated about it. (See also JM1 and JM2). One thing that escaped attention: Jo Abbess was active in the local Agenda 21 chapter (Poole Agenda 21) and was connected to other British alarmist organizations. The published email exchange between poor Roger Harrabin and Jo Abbess was just a small part of thepressure and brainwashing campaign that broke the BBC.
Curiously, newsdiffs.org was created with funding from the leftist Knight Foundation largely with the intent to discover content re-writing that’s in favor of conservatives.Newsdiffs.org was covered by the NY Times in 2012. Apparently, NY Times still had some integrity back then. The NY Times has been doing stealthy revising since at least 2015 and seems to increase their frequency and severity after the elections. I will be posting more examples of stealthy content revising and fake news on my site.
Newsdiffs.org monitors only five websites and one cannot easily search in it (I suggest using https://web-beta.archive.org/web/*/newsdiffs.org) but the software is open-sourced and available at https://github.com/ecprice/newsdiffs.
Our founding fathers were a bunch of obnoxious jerks – and I mean that in the most reverent way. They were fiercely opposed to blind obedience to authority and risked their lives to flip it the bird. Oh, how disappointingly – and dangerously – far we’ve fallen. Our constitutional rights are increasingly being eroded, and so many Americans are just standing around blinking like livestock.
This past March, I took a more civilly disobedient approach – which sometimes comes at a price. In my case, $500,000. That’s what a Transportation Security Administration agent’s lawyer demanded from me in a letter for “defaming” her client by saying she had sexually violated me while searching me, and then for “libeling” her by blogging about it.
On March 31, 2011, at the TSA checkpoint in LAX’s Terminal 6, I found that I had no choice but to get the pat-down. Tears welled in my eyes – for how we’ve allowed the Constitution to be torn up at the airport door and because I was powerless to stop a total stranger from groping my breasts and genitals as a condition of normal, ordinary business travel.
I can hold back the tears … hang tough … but as I was made to “assume the position” on a rubber mat like a criminal, I thought fast. I decided that these TSA “officers” violating our Fourth Amendment rights, searching us without reasonable suspicion we’ve committed a crime, do not deserve our quiet compliance. I let the tears come. In fact, I sobbed my guts out as the agent groped me. And then it happened: She jammed the side of her latex-gloved hand up into my genitals. Four times, with only the fabric of my pants as a barrier. I was shocked – utterly unprepared for how she got the side of her hand up there.
Powerless to stop her, but not to vigorously protest what she had done to me, I yelled afterward, “YOU RAPED ME.” I later blogged about it, naming her and urging others to name the agents who grope them (a constitutional violation even when done according to TSA procedure, which the search of me was not). We need to make it as uncomfortable as possible to earn a living violating our rights.
Some believe I’m wrong to suggest this – particularly those who believe that the TSA is keeping us safer. Unfortunately, it is not. Security expert Bruce Schneier notes that during the agency’s multibillion-dollar history, it has yet to thwart a single attempted terrorist attack. He calls the TSA’s efforts “security theater,” observing all the dangerous items it misses. For example, in Dallas last year, a TSA tester sneaked a gun through the body scanner. Not once. Five times! That happened just months after a TSA supervisor said I was “lucky” that he wasn’t confiscating my dull little drugstore tweezers. Confiscating my tweezers? Why? Because I might use them to break in to the cockpit and over-pluck the pilot’s eyebrows?
If the TSA’s actual mission were its stated one – “protect(ing) the Nation’s transportation systems” – checkpoints wouldn’t be staffed by low-wage, unskilled workers, and they wouldn’t be searching everyone. They certainly wouldn’t be waiting until terrorists get to the airport to root them out. Meaningful measures to thwart terrorist acts require highly trained law enforcement officers using targeted intelligence to identify suspects long before they launch their plots.
The TSA’s main accomplishment seems to be obedience training for the American public – priming us to be docile (and even polite) about giving up our civil liberties. The TSA not only violates our Fourth Amendment rights but also has posted signs effectively eradicating our First Amendment right to speak out about it. One such sign, in Denver International Airport, offers the vague warning that “verbal abuse” of agents will “not be tolerated.” Travelers are left to wonder whether it’s “verbal abuse” to inform the TSA agent probing their testicles that this isn’t making us safer, or are they only in trouble if they throw in an obscenity? Not surprisingly, few seem willing to speak out and risk arrest.
I believe I’ve found a less risky, more impactful way to protest, and it’s through sobbing. I’m calling on American women to follow my lead at TSA checkpoints: Opt for the pat-down, and sob your guts out.
Think about the power of it – in airports across America every day, mothers, wives, daughters, and sisters sobbing throughout their government-administered sexual molestation. As the 18th-century economist Adam Smith noted, sympathy for others is a potent human motivator. Because a bureaucracy’s first duty is protecting itself, I believe our best chance of abolishing the TSA’s pointless daily rights grab is evoking wide-scale sympathy through women’s tears. Helpfully, there’s plausible deniability for a sobbing woman. TSA supervisors can suspect she’s manufacturing her tears, but they can’t prove it.
Some find it an absurd contradiction that I write books on manners yet I’m encouraging people to sob at these checkpoints. The truth is, good manners don’t always involve going quietly. Sometimes, like when our civil liberties are violated, the most civil thing a person can do is be as loud and uncivil as possible.
Still, I’m a realist. I know that most people will not follow my lead. But, maybe, every day, at every TSA checkpoint, a few will bust out in tears. And maybe, through the spectacle, we can claw back some of the rights we’ve so docilely handed over.
We cannot ensure our complete physical safety – not even by throwing away all of our civil liberties. Trading our rights for security (or, in this case, “security”) is exceptionally dangerous. Every time we go all “We The Sheeple …,” every time we allow one more civil liberty to be yanked from us, it’s that much easier to take the next and the next, until we wake up one day wondering how we ended up living in a police state. Better that we do our sobbing now than then.
NOTE: Top First Amendment lawyer Marc J. Randazza called the TSA agent’s case “meritless” on First Amendment grounds (and SLAPP grounds, as well). Other lawyers and legal scholars have concurred.
Accordingly, there’s been no court filing and no contact since the initial letter in late July from the TSA agent’s lawyer, Vicki Roberts, a publicity seeker who hopes to have her own reality show. See Roberts’ site, RestMyCase.com, and press releases like this one Roberts sent out about herself.
The initial letter from Roberts and Randazza’s beautiful response detailing why the TSA agent has no case are at TechDirt.com
The national-security community pioneered the “Red Team” methodology to test assumptions and analyses, identify risks, and reduce—or at least understand—uncertainties. The process is now considered a best practice in high-consequence situations such as intelligence assessments, spacecraft design and major industrial operations. It is very different and more rigorous than traditional peer review, which is usually confidential and always adjudicated, rather than public and moderated.
The public is largely unaware of the intense debates within climate science. At a recent national laboratory meeting, I observed more than 100 active government and university researchers challenge one another as they strove to separate human impacts from the climate’s natural variability. At issue were not nuances but fundamental aspects of our understanding, such as the apparent—and unexpected—slowing of global sea-level rise over the past two decades.
Summaries of scientific assessments meant to inform decision makers, such as the United Nations’ Summary for Policymakers, largely fail to capture this vibrant and developing science. Consensus statements necessarily conceal judgment calls and debates and so feed the “settled,” “hoax” and “don’t know” memes that plague the political dialogue around climate change. We scientists must better portray not only our certainties but also our uncertainties, and even things we may never know. Not doing so is an advisory malpractice that usurps society’s right to make choices fully informed by risk, economics and values. Moving from oracular consensus statements to an open adversarial process would shine much-needed light on the scientific debates.
Given the importance of climate projections to policy, it is remarkable that they have not been subject to a Red Team exercise. Here’s how it might work: The focus would be a published scientific report meant to inform policy such as the U.N.’s Summary for Policymakers or the U.S. Government’s National Climate Assessment. A Red Team of scientists would write a critique of that document and a Blue Team would rebut that critique. Further exchanges of documents would ensue to the point of diminishing returns. A commission would coordinate and moderate the process and then hold hearings to highlight points of agreement and disagreement, as well as steps that might resolve the latter. The process would unfold in full public view: the initial report, the exchanged documents and the hearings.
A Red/Blue exercise would have many benefits. It would produce a traceable public record that would allow the public and decision makers a better understanding of certainties and uncertainties. It would more firmly establish points of agreement and identify urgent research needs. Most important, it would put science front and center in policy discussions, while publicly demonstrating scientific reasoning and argument. The inherent tension of a professional adversarial process would enhance public interest, offering many opportunities to show laymen how science actually works. (In 2014 I conducted a workshop along these lines for the American Physical Society.)
Congress or the executive branch should convene a climate science Red/Blue exercise as a step toward resolving, or at least illuminating, differing perceptions of climate science. While the Red and Blue Teams should be knowledgeable and avowedly opinionated scientists, the commission should have a balanced membership of prominent individuals with technical credentials, led by co-chairmen who are forceful, knowledgeable and independent of the climate-science community. The Rogers Commission for the Challenger disaster in 1986, the Energy Department’s Huizenga/Ramsey Review of Cold Fusion in 1989, and the National Bioethics Advisory Commission of the late 1990s are models for the kind of fact-based rigor and transparency needed.
The outcome of a Red/Blue exercise for climate science is not preordained, which makes such a process all the more valuable. It could reveal the current consensus as weaker than claimed. Alternatively, the consensus could emerge strengthened if Red Team criticisms were countered effectively. But whatever the outcome, we scientists would have better fulfilled our responsibilities to society, and climate policy discussions would be better informed. For those reasons, all who march to advocate policy making based upon transparent apolitical science should support a climate science Red Team exercise.
Mr. Koonin, a theoretical physicist, is director of the Center for Urban Science and Progress at New York University. He served as undersecretary of energy for science during President Obama’s first term.
If climate change isn’t considered sufficiently high-consequence to justify the gold standard for high-consequence situations, maybe we should conclude it isn’t very high-consequence after all. (As Glenn Reynolds says, “I’ll believe it’s a crisis when they start acting like it’s a crisis.”)
I tell my constitutional law students that there are a couple of statements that indicate that a speaker is a constitutional illiterate who can safely be ignored. One is the claim that the Constitution views black people as ⅗ the worth of white people (actually, it was all about power in Congress, with slaveowners wanting black people to count 100% toward apportionment so that slaveowners would get more seats in Congress, and abolitionists wanting them not counted at all so that slaveowners would get fewer seats in Congress; the ⅗ compromise was just that, a compromise).
The other hallmark of constitutional illiteracy is the claim that the First Amendment doesn’t protect “hate speech.” And by making that claim last week, Howard Dean, former governor of Vermont and Democratic presidential candidate, revealed himself to be a constitutional illiterate. Then, predictably, he doubled down on his ignorance.
In First Amendment law, the term “hate speech” is meaningless. All speech is equally protected whether it’s hateful or cheerful. It doesn’t matter if it’s racist, sexist or in poor taste, unless speech falls into a few very narrow categories — like “true threats,” which have to address a specific individual, or “incitement,” which must constitute an immediate and intentional encouragement to imminent lawless action — it’s protected.
The term “hate speech” was invented by people who don’t like that freedom, and who want to give the — completely false — impression that there’s a kind of speech that the First Amendment doesn’t protect because it’s hateful. What they mean by “hateful,” it seems, is really just that it’s speech they don’t agree with. Some even try to argue that since hearing disagreeable ideas is unpleasant, expressing those ideas is somehow an act of “violence.”
There are two problems with that argument. The first is that it’s idiotic: That’s never been the law, nor could it be if we give any value to free expression, because there’s no idea that somebody doesn’t disagree with. The second is that the argument is usually made by people who spend a lot of time expressing disagreeable ideas themselves, without, apparently, the least thought that if their own rules about disagreeable speech held sway, they’d probably be locked up first. (As Twitter wag IowaHawk has offered: “I’ll let you ban hate speech when you let me define it. Deal?”)
The response to Dean was merciless: First Amendment law expert Eugene Volokh responded, “No, Gov. Dean, there is no ‘hate speech’ exception to the First Amendment.” If there were, neither the Westboro Baptist Church — whose hateful speech the Supreme Court recently held protected — nor the many people referring to Trump supporters as Nazis and “deplorables” would enjoy free speech.
As Volokh writes, if people want “hate speech” to be unprotected, they’re calling for a change to the First Amendment, and it’s a big one. They should not only admit that, “they should explain just what viewpoints the government would be allowed to suppress, what viewpoints would remain protected and how judges, juries and prosecutors are supposed to distinguish the two. And claiming that hate speech is already ‘not protected by the First Amendment,’ as if one is just restating settled law, does not suffice.”
Dean then doubled down with the constitutional illiterate’s usual fallback, that you could ban “hate speech” as “fighting words” under the 1942 case of Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, which allows a ban on “fighting words.” (Journalist Dan Gillmor commented: “Disappointing, to say the least, to see Dean digging the hole deeper on his flatly incorrect original statement.”)
But “fighting words” aren’t hate speech. Fighting words are direct, person-to-person invitations to a brawl. Expressing political or social views that people don’t like isn’t the same thing, even if people might react violently to those views.
And that’s good. If, by reacting violently to views they didn’t like, people could get the government to censor those views as “hate speech” or “fighting words,” then people would have a strong incentive to react violently to views they don’t like. Giving the angry and violent the ability to shut down other people’s speech (the term we use for this in constitutional law, Gov. Dean, is “heckler’s veto”) is a bad thing, which would leave us with a society marked by a lot more violence, a lot more censorship, and a lot less speech.
Is that really what you want? Because that’s what we’d get, if we followed the advice of constitutional illiterates.
Is there a Wealth Fairy who swoops down and bestows success on whites?
Walter Williams pointed out that Blacks who grow up in houses with lots of books tend to be a lot more successful than Blacks who didn’t. Maybe the Wealth Fairy can be lured with certain kinds of bait, like books in the house.
You may see this trope (tripe?) in Facebook posts and other social media. Like so many of these, it’s pithy enough to fit on a bumper sticker, and takes at least a page to refute.
Berkeley’s Center for Labor Research and Education estimated that the national and state governments paid out $153 billion in 2013 to finance health benefits, food stamps, and cash assistance to people in families containing a breadwinner who works at least part time and at least half the year.
A remarkable feature of the reaction to the report is that many readers interpreted the government aid dollars to represent a subsidy to low-wage employers (for example, here, here, and here). According to this view, government assistance to low-income families constitutes a handout to Walmart, McDonalds, and other low-wage employers. The assistance allows these companies to pay their workers lower wages than would be possible in the absence of the government aid.
For the majority of programs analyzed by the Berkeley researchers, this interpretation of government assistance payments is flatly wrong. Instead of subsidizing low-wage employers, most assistance programs reduce the availability of low-skill adults who are willing to work for low pay and lousy benefits. By shrinking the pool of workers willing to take the worst jobs, the programs tend to push up rather than push down wages at the bottom of the pay scale. Low-wage employers do not receive an indirect subsidy from the programs. Many must pay somewhat higher wages or recruit more intensively to fill their job vacancies.
Most careful analysis of the impact of this kind of means-tested program concludes the programs discourage work. The availability of health insurance, food coupons, and cash assistance when potential breadwinners do not work means that paid employment is less necessary. The fact that government benefits are reduced when the breadwinner’s earnings rise means that work is financially less rewarding. Both these effects tend to reduce, at least modestly, the amount of paid work that eligible breadwinners are willing to do. I do not argue the impact is large or that it affects most adults who are potentially eligible to collect means-tested benefits. On balance, however, benefit programs offering more generous payments to people with zero earnings than to people with comfortable incomes tend to reduce the supply of workers who are willing to accept very low pay.
There are two important exceptions to this generalization: the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and child care subsidies targeted on working parents who earn low incomes. Because benefits under these programs are only payable to low-income families containing a parent who is gainfully employed, this kind of government subsidy encourages adults in eligible families to enter or remain in the job market rather than to drop out of it. By boosting the supply of potential low-wage workers, the two programs can put downward pressure on pay, indirectly benefiting employers who depend on less-skilled workers. Even in these cases, however, the main effect of the aid is to lift the net incomes of breadwinners earning low pay.
Consider the April 17 broadcast of Fox News Channel’s Special Report with Bret Baier (a show on which I am an occasional commentator).
Casey Stegall reported on the legal battle in Arkansas, where officials want to execute eight death-row inmates in eleven days before their supply of midazolam expires. This is one of the drugs used to carry out lethal injections.
Stegall did his legwork. He talked to Susan Khani, the daughter of the woman murdered, execution-style, by Don Davis in 1990. She told Stegall the last quarter century has been agony for her, adding: “He is just a very cruel person. He needs to be put to death.”
Stegall then talked to the usual death-penalty opponents. First was Robert Dunham, of the Death Penalty Information Center, who said, “There is a myth that family members of murder victims will get closure out of executions. In fact, for many of the family members, that does not happen.”
So let’s start there. To say that something is a “myth” is to suggest that it is untrue. The Loch Ness Monster is a myth. Bigfoot is a myth. But on Dunham’s own terms, some family members do get closure. He didn’t say, “No family members of murder victims get closure.” He said “many,” a subjective term that could mean pretty much any number short of “most.”
Stegall then talked to Stacy Anderson, of the American Civil Liberties Union, which is concerned that we might execute the wrong person. “We know that 156 innocent people have been found on death row in the last 20 years,” she said.
Added Stegall: “The ACLU says cost is another driving force of the decline. Litigating death-penalty cases is expensive since the condemned often spend years filing appeals and lawsuits.”
This is also true. But you know what group is arguably most responsible for raising the cost of the death penalty? The American Civil Liberties Union.
The ACLU is well within its rights to clog the courts with lawsuits. But there’s something remarkably cynical about barraging the courts with often frivolous complaints that raise the costs of the death penalty, then pretending that your objection is the cost.
Indeed, Arkansas is racing to use its drugs before they expire because death-penalty opponents have worked tirelessly to make such drugs extremely difficult to obtain.
The same cynicism applies to concerns about innocent people being wrongly executed. I’m in favor of the death penalty. You know what? I’m also passionately opposed to executing the wrong person.
But Don Davis eventually admitted to murdering Jane Daniels in cold blood after breaking into her home, so objections that some other death-row inmate might be innocent have no bearing on his case.
Ironically, immediately after Stegall’s report, anchor Bret Baier announced: “A massive manhunt is under way at this hour for a suspect who police say engaged in a heinous public crime that can truly be called a sign of the times.”
The suspect was Steve Stephens, the so-called Facebook Killer, who videotaped himself admitting that he was about to murder someone randomly. He then got out of his car, walked up to 74-year-old Robert Godwin, a father of ten and grandfather of 14, and casually executed him. Stephens then posted the video on Facebook.
Stephens killed himself two days later. But say he hadn’t. Obviously, he would have gotten a trial. Let’s suppose he was found guilty and got the death penalty. We would still be subjected to all of the sleight-of-hand rhetoric about the risk of executing innocent people, the costs, etc., even though there would be zero doubt in this instance.
We’d probably also hear that the death penalty is “racist” — Stephens was black — despite the fact that Stephens’s victim was black as well. Meanwhile, Don Davis is white.
It is entirely legitimate and honorable to oppose the death penalty on principle. The problem is that this is a constitutionally ridiculous position given that the plain text of the Constitution itself allows for the death penalty in several places.
Acolytes of the “living Constitution” want to believe that nothing bad (as defined by them) can be constitutional. I don’t think the death penalty is bad, but if you want to get rid of it, amend the Constitution. Otherwise, opponents should stop pretending their real objection is something else.
It didn’t take Congress or the president to force these changes. It wasn’t the courts (though lawsuits are pending). We didn’t need a new law or regulation. It was the pressure brought by individual consumers and investors acting on their preferences (and self-interest) in a free market.
This is hardly the first time that companies have had to respond to consumers pressure. From both right and left, consumer boycotts, bad media, and shareholder activism have forced companies to improve workers’ rights, product safety, political bias, the treatment of women and minorities, and more. Neither conservatives nor liberals will always agree with the purpose of such campaigns, but no one can deny that they work. Abuse your customers, they won’t buy from you. Abuse your employees, they won’t work for you. Produce a lousy product, someone else will produce a better one and put you out of business. That’s the power of free-market competition. Produce a lousy product, someone else will produce a better one. That’s the power of free-market competition.
Compare this to how government responds when it fails. We are still waiting for the Veterans Administration to change its behavior or punish those responsible for its various scandals over many years. The public schools fail year after year, decade after decade, and their response is to demand more money and try to prevent parents from going elsewhere.
Two days before the election, every talking head on television was assuring us that Trump didn’t have a chance, because he lacked a “ground game.” After his victory, one had to wonder whether some part of his ground game had been conducted night after night after night on television, under flattering studio lights and with excellent production values and comedy writing.
Though aimed at blue-state sophisticates, these shows are an unintended but powerful form of propaganda for conservatives. When Republicans see these harsh jokes—which echo down through the morning news shows and the chattering day’s worth of viral clips, along with those of Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert, and Seth Meyers—they don’t just see a handful of comics mocking them. They see HBO, Comedy Central, TBS, ABC, CBS, and NBC. In other words, they see exactly what Donald Trump has taught them: that the entire media landscape loathes them, their values, their family, and their religion. It is hardly a reach for them to further imagine that the legitimate news shows on these channels are run by similarly partisan players—nor is it at all illogical.
I see the same thing in my Facebook feed. A number of otherwise intelligent and sensible people drop into a mindless “auto-loathe” mode when they post about Trump. The more Trump opponents reflexively parrot this hatred of Trump and anyone who supports him, the more convinced I become that I voted the right way.
“That’s how you get more Trump.”