Gaslight Much, Nancy?

On the Twitter this week, an interesting video snippet of Nancy Pelosi describing a tactic called (in her words) “the wrap-up smear“:

“We call it the ‘wrap-up smear.’ You smear somebody, with falsehoods and all the rest, and then you merchandise it,” Pelosi said at a press conference last year.

“And then you write it, and then they’ll say ‘See? It’s reported in the press that this, this, this and this,’ so they have that validation that the press reported the smear, and then it’s called the ‘wrap-up smear.’ Now I’m going to merchandise the press’s report on the smear that we made.”

Sounds an awful lot like the attempted “suckers and losers” smear of Donald Trump by Jeffrey Goldberg writing last week in The Atlantic. Astute tweeters resurrected the old clip.

In October 2018, Snopes.com “debunked” an Infowars.com post which linked the video clip and observed, “Sounds eerily similar to what we saw happen to Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation process.”

As a longer clip and transcript clearly show, Pelosi was calling out Republicans for conducting wrap-up smear campaigns, not touting the phenomenon as a go-to strategy for Democrats.

Nancy Pelosi is a cagey old pol with a lot of tools in her kit. You’d have to be an idiot to think that she was saying “Here’s our strategy …”

On the other hand, I’m not the first to observe that the Democrats engage in projection: In general, if Dems are accusing the Republicans of something, you can bet they’re guilty of the same thing themselves.

The Democrats tried the wrap-up smear on Justice Kavanaugh, and they tried it again with President Trump. In neither case did the rumors have substance. Of course Nancy’s not going to admit it. She merely described the tactic.

But what really motivated me to write this blog was the “added context” that Snopes provides, the full exchange between Speaker Pelosi and ABC’s Jake Tapper. Since the original article was written, certain facts have been revealed that make the following passage rather hilarious. All the emphasis is mine.

TAPPER: So, let’s start with President Trump’s allegation, so far evidence-free, that President Obama sought to have him wiretapped during the campaign. You’re part of the Gang of Eight. That’s a group of House and Senate leaders, both the leadership and the leadership of the Intelligence Committees, that would be privy, one suspects, to such information. Do you have any idea what he’s talking about?

PELOSI: Well, the president, you know, is the deflector in chief, anything to change the subject from where the heat is. And, as one who has been engaged in intelligence, a member of the Gang of Eight, for a long time, I can tell that it’s just ridiculous for the president, President Trump, to say that President Obama would ever order any wiretap of an American citizen, any president. That’s just not — we don’t do that.

And, so, this is — it’s called a wrap-up smear. You make up something. Then you have the press write about it. And then you say, everybody is writing about this charge.

It’s a tool of an authoritarian, to just have you always be talking about what you want them to be talking about. Rather than Russia, we’re talking about, did President Obama do thus and so?

Turns out, as far as Russian collusion and the Trump campaign, there was no there there. And we’ve pretty well confirmed that President Obama did do “thus and so”.

Who’s the authoritarian? And who is the deflector in chief?

Gaslight much, Nancy?

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

“What if it was YOUR (grand)parent?”

That was the rhetorical question posed on the Twitter this morning. The implication being that because our elder population is the demographic most vulnerable to the ravages of the coronavirus, any caring person is for the full monte: quarantine, masks, lockdowns, hobbling the economy, you name it.

As my Mom (not my Dad) would have said, bullsh*t.

Continue reading
Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

“Dear Dr. Maley Steve”: On the Value of Peer Review

Several hurricane seasons ago, I wrote a letter to the editor of The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, one of the most prestigious journals among academic researchers. Even submitting a letter (this one was a rebuttal of a particularly egregious example of junk science that I’ve blogged about before)was an arduous task; it required submission of an academic and professional C.V. which I completed honestly. (I have a B.S. in engineering and I told them I was “Chief of the Operations Directorate” at my company. I was entitled to a little fun, after all.)

So my letter to the editor as published.

Ever since, I occasionally receive email solicitations from various journals to submit papers for “peer-reviewed” publication. Most of them seem to be from third-world countries, but they always have a prestigious-sounding title. The subject matter of these journals ranges from statistics (a topic relevant to my letter) to gynecology (thanks for your consideration …).

They are always addressed to “Dr. Maley”. The most recent example is below.

Dear Dr. Maley Steve,

Greetings! JSM Environmental Science & Ecology is gathering research exploring new frontiers of Environmental Science, exploring investigative areas of basic science to complex Ecology.

Why we reached you?

One of our previous authors recommended your important work entitled on Statistics show no evidence of gender bias in the public’s hurricane preparedness and thus we request your similar important study for publishing to the journal. 

Why us?

·   Global reach-out

·   Research visibility through our social platforms

·   Research Specific Campaigns of your published work-Improving your citations is our basic priority

·   High Profile Subject Experts

·   Stringent Peer Review Process

We invite unique significant work for peer review those are patient centered, share and disseminate knowledge to patients and other stakeholders, and train future leaders of our field.

Current Issue Focus: Environmental Disasters

Closing date: September 10, 2020

We hope that you will join us in our journey to disseminate research in Environment related topics diagnostic tools and treatments, and to answer fundamental questions about Ecology.

Looking forward hearing your valuable response.

Best regards,
Ricky Martin
Editorial Manager– JSM Environmental Science & Ecology

[No discussion of the cost, but it’s usually a few hundred bucks. Ed.]

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Who’s Awarding Pinocchios for Environmental Journalism?

Article at NOLA.com, the online presence of the New Orleans Advocate/Times-Picayune:

Seafloor damage from BP spill vastly underestimated in rush for legal settlement

Excerpt:

Published in the journal PLOS One in June, [Texas A&M researcher Paul] Montagna’s full analysis of his 10-year-old samples showed damage to seafloor organisms stretching across at least 124 square miles. That’s nearly two times larger than the 66-square-mile footprint described in the abbreviated report Montagna turned over for the disaster’s Natural Resource Damage Assessment.

That paragraph is displayed right under the following graphic:

“Oh, my!” you might say. “Seafloor creatures were damaged almost all the way to Destin!”

But wait just a minute…

Even though the title purports to show “Damage to Seafloor Creatures”, note the legend: these blobs portray the areas assessed by Montagna’s study. The little scale bar on the upper right is 20 miles; a square that size would enclose an area of 400 square miles.

It’s not hard to portray the areas actually impacted by the spill; in fact, the graphic is part of the paper (linked in the quote block above).

The scale on the upper image (A) is zoomed in on the Macondo blowout area. The scale of the lower image (B) is comparable to NOLA.com’s in-house graphic; you’ll note Southeastern Louisiana and the mouth of the Mississippi River on the upper left of the image.

The Montagna paper notes:

The footprint of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill … was 321 km2  [124 mi2](Table 2). The most severe impacts were found in an area of approximately 58 km2 [22 mi2] around the Macondo well (Fig 5A). The footprint area of 321 km2 includes only the red and orange zones around the Macondo oil well, but not the coastal areas further to the north, which were likely affected by hypoxia of the “dead zone” (Fig 5B). The shape of the impact zone around the wellhead was approximately elliptical, stretched in an approximate southwest to northeast direction.

Emphasis mine.

The text of the NOLA.com reports the correct size of the assessed damage, but the combination of the headline, the graphic, and its title seem designed to create a lasting, and incorrect, impression of Gulf-wide devastation.

As Montagna’s Table 2 shows, less than 0.3% of the assessed area was rated as severe or moderate impact in the most recent study; 79% was assessed “no impact” or “pristine”.

Why did NOLA.com create an entirely new graphic to go along with the paper when an accurate graphic already existed to portray the true extent of the damage? Your guess is as good as mine, but I suspect it has something to do with advancing a narrative that 10 years out, wide swaths of the Gulf are still reeling from Macondo damage. That narrative is detached from reality.

Posted in BP Spill, Energy, Environment, Louisiana, New Orleans | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

We’ve Been Worried About the Wrong Sickness

  1. President Trump – Enough with the tweets, enough with the tough guy act. Our country needs a leader now more than ever. We don’t need another blue-ribbon commission or task force. The peaceful protesters need to feel that justice will be done. Right now, they need evidence that their voice is heard.
  2. You are correct to designate ANTIFA as a terrorist organization. To the extent there are Proud Boys or other extremist groups involved in the violence, they deserve the same designation. These groups may not have an org chart, but they have organization, communication, coordination, and funding. Root it out.
  3. What I know about urban policing I’ve picked up from watching “Blue Bloods”, but I can’t help feeling that police unions and cop culture are a big part of the problem. The alleged bad actor in this case had been reported 18 times for excessive force. Is that typical? Three other cops watched as he kneeled on a cuffed and incapacitated suspect. If what we’re down to is thugs in blue protecting us from thugs in black, we’re toast.
  4. Face masks and distancing have robbed our society of the humanity it had left. Count me out. We need handshakes. We need hugs. We need smiles and affirmation. We need to protect our old folks and get on with our lives.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Remembering the Deepwater Horizon Tragedy, Ten Years Later

April 20 marks the ten-year anniversary of the disastrous blowout and fire that led to the sinking of the drilling rig Deepwater Horizon and the loss of 11 of the drilling crew. The well, operated by BP and dubbed the Macondo Prospect, spewed an estimated five million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico over the ensuing three months, until it was finally controlled in June.

The spill was an avoidable accident that we all hope never happens again. I blogged extensively about the spill at the time, and continued to write about its regulatory aftermath for several more years; this post from April 2011 contains links to other relevant posts: BP’s Macondo Disaster, One Year Later

The New Orleans Times-Picayune/Advocate marked the anniversary with this article: A decade after BP spill, Gulf of Mexico has rebounded, but wounds still visible (Apr 18, 2020). That article contains links to another TP/Advocate article from March 3, which drew heavily on a report from the George Soros-backed Center for American Progress. This trio of posts inspired me to update my blog.

To summarize…

  • The CAP study is cherry-picked specifically to show the industry in a bad light. The offshore safety and environmental record shows decades of improvement; why does CAP show only recent data with no historical context?
  • The Times-Picayune/Advocate article attempts to reconstruct the offshore fatality record from press reports and suggests that regulatory reform led to a 2019 spike in fatalities. Of the nine fatalities tallied in 2019, five souls were lost in two helicopter incidents. Four were victims of falls.
  • BSEE does not regulate helicopters; yes, they are hazardous. Falls are responsible for a large fraction of offshore injuries/deaths. BSEE is rolling back technical well operation and design issues. Regulatory reform did not increase the likelihood of falls.

More below the fold….

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Contemplating President Joe Biden

On Election Day, November 3, 2020, Joe Biden will be 2-1/2 weeks short of his 78th birthday: the exact age, to the day, as President Ronald Reagan on his last day in office.

Donald Trump, at 70, was the oldest President in history upon his first inaugural. He would achieve the age of 78 a few months before the end of his second term.

We’ve all seen Biden’s videos. Troubling. Even in comfortable settings, faced with the softest of softball questions, Biden stumbles, fumbles, stammers, wanders off-camera, and loses his train of thought.

Now, if you will …

  • Imagine a Biden State of the Union. Oof.
  • Imagine Biden with the passcodes for the nuclear football.
  • Imagine Biden in a time of true national crisis, like a 9/11, a Katrina, or a pandemic.

That scares the holy bejeezus out of me. Now …

  • Imagine a Biden vs Trump debate. There will be three.

That’s gotta scare the holy bejeezus out of the DNC.

It’s a long time from now until the Democratic Convention in August. My gut says there will be some compelling reason for Joe to step aside, to be lauded for a lifetime of service to his country. He’ll be replaced by acclamation, by a candidate with no delegates who has sidestepped the primary circus process.

But if I’m wrong, Joe’s choice of VP candidate matters. A lot.

The Constitution will also matter. Especially Amendment #25, Section 4.

God help us.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

COVID-19 at the Peak

Based on data through April 8, it would appear that we are at a peak (“inflection point” — see original post) of new COVID-19 cases, as reported by the states and compiled by the New York Times. The data are available at github.com.

This is about what I predicted for the nation back on March 30. I had also predicted New York to peak around April 3 or 4, but New York persists on more-or-less a plateau.

(Actually, the peak number of new cases nationwide, as well as in NY and US ex-NY, all happened on April 4, last Saturday. I’m relying on the 7-day moving average, as opposed to daily data, to call the inflection point as it takes any day-of-the-week influence out of the data.)

The highest day for deaths across the board was April 7, two days ago. That is good news, although the moving average for deaths persists above the inflection point. If this curve trends down, that will be very good news. On the current trend, the inflection point is still a few days away (about April 15 — See below.)

Mortality Apr 8

Growth Rate plot of 7-day moving average trends. The projection crosses 1.0 on or about 4/15.

Overall, the number of cases is tracking below my estimates. I’ll stand by my estimate of 800K to 1 million diagnosed infections, although I’ll revise the range of deaths slightly downward to 45- to 55K. If the trends continue improving, those numbers will be revised downward. (The last IHME numbers I saw were updated April 4, and had been revised down to 60,400 deaths, with a range from 32K to 137K. So we’re converging.)

LogLogNew CasesTotal US

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

COVID-19: Updated Curves & Forecast (April 6)

2020-04-06_14-06-21

New Cases continue to track below my estimate. I discount the significance of the recent dip in the curves; I think the 7-day moving average curves applied in the Growth Rate curves are more significant.

2020-04-06_14-05-46

2020-04-06_14-03-402020-04-06_14-04-522020-04-06_14-04-26Curves are generally tracking below my original estimates but may peak April 8 or 9. Click to enlarge.

A look at Italy has caused me to adjust my projection of both ultimate cases and deaths. According to Italy curves (worldometer.com – see below), the peak in deaths lagged the peak in “new cases” by about six days. The current ratio of reported deaths to cumulative cases of six days ago is roughly 5.9%.

If the “new cases” curve is symmetrical, half the total cases would occur after the peak. The curve for Italy is skewed to the right, however, suggesting that the majority of cases occur after the peak.

Using the above logic, and my estimate that Total U.S. Cases will peak at 400K cumulative, by estimate of ultimate cases is in the range 800K to 1 million.

Applying the 5.9% to remaining cases suggest ultimate mortality of 48K to 60K.

The IHME estimate of deaths has been updated as of April 4. Estimated deaths 81.8K with a range of confidence from 50K to 137K.

State data courtesy New York Times at github.com.

IMG_0499

Italy “New Cases” (above) and Italy “Deaths from worldometer.com. It appears that New Cases peaked on March 21, while Deaths peaked March 27. Note that neither curve appears particularly symmetrical about the peak.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

COVID-19: Updated Plots (April 4)

All data is courtesy New York Times via github.com. (Link is free, but requires registration.)

Original post here.

2020-04-04_13-08-232020-04-04_13-07-352020-04-04_13-05-512020-04-04_13-04-382020-04-04_13-03-46

Posted in Pandemic | Leave a comment