Was Clinton's Server Hacked?

I've been silent on this site recently because as of late I don't think anything I say matters. As I've mentioned a few times lately, the blog I respected the most used to be Cilmate Audit. It and its proprietor, Steve McIntyre, had a huge impact on me as I grew up.

I discovered McIntyre's first website back when I was in high school, and I followed his the subsequent blog for well over a decade. Following it taught me a great deal, both about technical matters and how the foibles of people shape aspects of our world. I could go on, but I don't want to as I've lost any and all respect for the site as of late.

To demonstrate part of why I've become disillusioned, I'm going to discuss the question of whether or not Hillary Clinton's private mail server got hacked. Following from this, I'll ask, did someone commit a felony by destroying the evidence which would have shown whether or not that server was hacked? Finally, did the person investigating this topic ignore such a felony to cover things up? Thses may seem like strange questions, but they stem from McIntyre stating:

Comey whitewashed the situation, saying that there was no evidence that the Clinton server had been hacked. “No evidence” because all the server logs had been destroyed. Comey ignored the obstruction of justice.

According to McIntyre, the head of the investigation into Clinton's use of a private mail server, James Comey, whitewashed the situation by ignoring a felony then misled people by saying there was "no evidence" Clinton's server had been hacked when that was tautological as the evidence which would have shown such was destroyed. This narrative is delusional.

For those who don't know, during her time as Secretary of the State, Hillary Clinton used a private e-mail server contrary to government policy. A variety of issues arose from this, one of which being that by doing this, Clinton stymied attempts to get copies of her e-mails via legal Freedom of Information requests. Even worse, when instructed to turn over e-mails, Clinton had staff pre-screen e-mails to filter out ones which were supposedly personal. Because it was her own staff which did this screening, it was impossible to tell whether or not some of the material deleted was relevant government communication.

Another issue was using a private e-mail server created the risk confidential material might fall into the hands of people who weren't supposed to see it. This concern was proven justified as some of the e-mails Clinton received were later found to contain confidential material, One of the questions this raises is, did someone hack into Clinton's private server and gain access to confidential material?

According to McIntyre, someone did hack into Clinton's server:

one of the oddities of the bitly campaign – which has never been discussed – is that it hacked many more hillaryclinton.com addresses than dnc.org addresses, but nothing was ever leaked from the hack of the hillaryclinton.com server. Why not?

According to McIntyre, the logs for the server were destroyed so how could we know the server was hacked if "nothing was ever leaked from" it? McIntyre says we have neither security logs nor material from the server, so what is the basis for saying the server was hacked?

It turns out McIntyre's basis for saying this is a report which noted various accounts on Clinton's e-mail server (she was not the only person who used it) received e-mails from hackers trying to steal people's passwords, and such links were clicked a total of 20 times. The e-mails the hackers sent were like this one I received last week:

The e-mail purports to be from PayPal, with its title telling me I need to update my account information. The body of the e-mail doesn't match that, saying PayPal has updated its User Agreement while providing a link to read it. That contradiction is one of many red flags indicating this e-mail is not legitimate. If I click on the link, I am sent to a page showing this:

That is new. A few days ago clicking on the link would direct me to a page which looked like the normal PayPal login page. Had I typed my username and password into that page, hackers would have collected it and been able to access my PayPal account. That's the same situation people using Clinton's server would have faced, only with Google/Gmail accounts instead of PayPal accounts.

There are a couple things to note here. First, I clicked on that link several times without ever having my account stolen. That's because clicking on a link for a page which wants to steal your information isn't how your information gets stolen. Your information gets stolen when you type it into a form on an illegitimate website. That links sent to people using Clinton's server were clicked 20 times does not mean anyone's account got hacked. I clicked on the link sent to me half a dozen times without being hacked.

Second, if I had been fooled by this e-mail and got my PayPal account stolen, nobody would say PayPal got hacked. If somebody steals my password for a site, that site ehasn't been hacked; my account has been hacked. McIntyre's reference to "the hack of the hillaryclinton.com server" is nonsense because there's no evidence anything was hacked (in this particular phishing capaign), and if there had been a hack, it'd have been of individual accounts, not the server itself. I brought these points up in response to McIntyre's statement, but he didn't respond.

I don't think the fact some people clicked on links in phony e-mails, with it being possible/likely multiple clicks came from the same person (such as someone examining e-mails to look into the phishing attempt), means we can say Clinton's e-mail server was hacked. The FBI certainly didn't reach that conclusion. The FBI concluded there is "no evidence" Clinton's server was hacked. McIntyre criticizes this, again, because:

Mills and Clinton have argued that they produced all the non-personal emails, but were never pressed on server logs. Comey whitewashed the situation, saying that there was no evidence that the Clinton server had been hacked. “No evidence” because all the server logs had been destroyed. Comey ignored the obstruction of justice.

If all the logs for a server have been destroyed, it would be disingenuous to say t here is "no evidence" the server was hacked. According to McIntyre, the former Director of the FBI knew the server logs had been destroyed but itnentionally misled people by making the disingenuous statement there was "no evidence" the server had been hacked. According to McIntyre, Comey's dishonesty was so great he ignored a felony (obstruction of justice) committed to destroy that evidence in order to whitewash things.

This is a strange delusion not connected to any factual basis. Nobody destroyed the logs for Clintons' server. As far as I can tell, nobody other than McIntyre has even said that happened. I don't know where he got the idea from, but it's a figment of his imagination. The FBI's report on Clinton's e-mail server which said there was "no evidence" it had been hacked (which Comey relied upon in his public statements) explicitly discusses the server's logs.

Where did McIntyre get this strange idea? I don't know. I responded to note it wasn't true as kindly as I could:

The FBI reported examining the server logs you claim had all been destroyed. Are you saying the FBI not only lied but fabricated specific details about the server logs? That seems a bit far-fetched.

McIntyre responded, questioning where I got this idea from, and I said:

As for the FBI having server logs for the Clinton server, it was widely reported back in March, 2016 that the guy who set up Clinton’s server had provided the logs to the FBI. As one example, here is an article by The New York Times. Server logs were then in the official July, 2016 FBI report on the investigation into Clinton’s e-mail server. Included in this report is a discussion of how a review of IIS logs were used to figure out an e-mail account on Clinton’s server had been broken into. That would have been impossible if the server logs had all been destroyed like you claim.

I have no idea where you’re getting your ideas from, but the only person who “knows” any of this seems to be you.

Numerous media outlets had reported the FBI being in possession of the server logs, and the FBI's report on Clinton's server not only said it examined those logs, but cited those logs in discussing a specific example of someone's account on the server having apparently been accessed by an unauthorized source. When McIntyre responded, he quoted the very portions of the FBI report I referred to and said:

A point that I hadn’t noticed and doesn’t seem to have been widely discussed: this paragraph of the FBI report states that an email account on the Clinton server was “compromise[d]” on (at least) one occasion.

Which struck me as odd given I had brought up that exact example myself, yet he didn't make any reference to me having it brought it up. That was weird, but the more important point is something McIntyre said before that:

I’ve shown an excerpt from page 29 of the FBI report, which, as I read it, describes a review of Internet Information Services (IIS) weblogs, not server logs from the Clinton server. If I’ve misunderstood this, please clarify.

McIntyre's use of "weblogs" throws me off as a "weblog" is a blog. What the FBI examined were "web logs." I'm not sure if that was a simple typo or an example of McIntyre not being familiar with this sort of topic. That latter seems likely as McIntyre draws a distinction between "server logs" and Internet Information Services (IIS) logs. I don't know what distinction McIntyre believes he is drawing, but there is no magical set of files called "server logs." As I explained to him:

As for IIS logs, I don’t understand what distinction you are trying to draw here. There is no single, special thing called a “server log.” Server logs are whatever logs a server creates. They can be created by the operating system, services installed on the server (such as IIS) or even created by something like a homebrew script an admin wrote.

For a Microsoft Exchange server like this, IIS logs are what one would want to examine to look for signs of an intrusion. How confident one could be in saying no attack succeeded would depend on what kind of information the server was configured to log and how many of the entries that got logged were still available (as opposed to being deleted/lost for a variety of reasons, including to save space).

Different types of servers have different types of logs due to how they are programmed/configured. Microsoft Exchange servers are designed to use IIS logs. It would be possible to set up additional logging if one desired, but there's no reason to think that had was done here (and I can't imagine why anyone would have). There is simply no reason to think any server logs had been destroyed. There is certainly no reason to think all server logs had been.

(As an aside, I'll warn readers if you look at the exchange McIntyre and I had, you may find things muddled. That's because McIntyre responds to people with an administrator account whose comments are automatically placed immediately below the comment he responds to. Everyone else has their comments placed in chronological order. As a result, a person reading the exchange will see our exchange has timestamps of: 12:33 PM, 6:21 PM, 12:44 PM, 1:45 PM, 3:42 PM. Not only are they out of order, but McIntyre's comment at 6:21 PM comes before his comment at 1:45 PM.)

Despite there being absolutely no factual basis for McIntyre's narrative, with him being forced to rely upon some bizarre distinction between the server's IIS logs and some magical set of "server logs" he can neither define or describe, McIntyre concluded:

So, after review, I do not agree that either of your points invalidate my conclusion that there is evidence of obstruction of justice, though both points were relevant.

McIntyre continued to argue a felony had been committed. Why? I don't know. I asked:

Could you clarify what server logs you think were destroyed? Could you clarify why you think the destruction of those logs should discredit claims there is “no evidence” Clinton’s server was hacked? Could you clarify how this supposed destruction of server logs shows there was obstruction of justice? You say you believe your substantive points remain valid, but I can’t see any basis for any of those three claims.

McIntyre's response was to stop responding. He didn't say another word on the topic. When I then discussed his remark saying the Clinton server had been hacked (in regard to phishing e-mails, as discussed above), McIntyre also chose not to respond. But later, when I noticed I made a typo in a response to someone else then corrected it:

Er, I have no idea how I typed “Hilary for Clinton” instead of “Hillary For America.” Maybe a Freudian slip? I suspect it’s a more accurate phrase.

McIntyre responded:

McIntyre made a bizarre claim to falsely accuse a person of committing a felony, claimed the Director of the FBI ignored that felony in order to whitewash a scandal. Not only did he have no factual basis for his claim, he didn't even attempt to offer one. When challenged on his claim, presented clear evidence what he said was untrue, McIntyre resorted to some weird contortion where he tried to pretend server logs weren't server logs because... reasons. When that made it clear he had no idea what he was talking about, and his entire narrative was some weird delusion, he simply stopped responding.

And that has been the pattern McIntyre has held to for weeks. He keeps saying things that are inaccurate or completely false, insists nothing anyone says changes the substance of his claims, and when he can no longer find ways to contort himself to justify his strange delusions, he simply stops responding.

(While it didn't happen in this case, in some cases McIntyre then jumps into later discussions to pretend the previous discussion stopped with the other person having never responded, flat-out denying they said the things which wwere inconvenient to his views.)

I cannot explain this. I can't even begin to describe the full extent of McIntyre's behavior as of late, as there are dozens of different things he does that are inappropriate/wrong/bizarre. It's gotten to the point where McIntyre does things like cite obscure conspiracy theorist by name, with no introduction, as though he expects people to know who they are. And as shown in a previous post, he deems "plausible" analysis by such conspiracy theorists which are as bad as, "We've identified who this hacker is because we can identify who the picture used in his fake profile is of."

There is so much more wrong about what's been going on at Climate Audit of late, but I've reached the point of not caring. A site I once loved and a person I once respected now promote worse than shoddy work, mindlessly parrot Russian propaganda and refuse to have anything resembling a meaningful discussion with anyone who disagrees. If the "best" site has fallen this low, what's left?

To put it bluntly, I feel like nothing I say or do matters because the entire climate discussion is a blighted wasteland devoid of any intellectual value. Actually, it seems devoid of any value at all. I can't find a single site or group with any sort of standards or integrity. There are still readers who rise above this morass, but they seem to have all but given up participating as they've reached similar conclusions.

There are so many aspects of the climate debate I find interesting, and there are so many problems with what's going on I'd love to discuss, but why bother? I don't mind being on a quixotic crusade, but the vapidity of people and groups today is... well, boring.

29 comments

  1. For people who might have been curious about my silence, you should know I have not simply ignored this site.* I've written five different posts I decided to save rather tahn publish because I'm so disillusioned. My follow-up post on correlations and how they are misused? Why bother posting it. Academics can just lie, and their colleagues won't speak out. What chance is there they'll speak out about methodologies they know to be bogus? There's no integrity in the field of climate science. (Nor in the "Skeptic" community). To this day, researcher still won't even share data. And yeah, I could talk about how the IPCC made false claims and misused data, but why bother? It's not like anybody cares that the IPCC lets authors make changes to the report and its conclusions to promote their own work which the public never gets to review (despite the IPCC constantly praising its review process).

    Both sides of the climate debate have sunk low enough that nothing matters anymore. The partisan bickering as devolved to the point I don't think anything could change the course of what's to come. Real scandals and real evidence have no more value than fictitious stories and the spin that accompanies them. If anything, they have less value. There is plenty of good work being done by people who sincerely want to do a good job, but those very same people studiously ignore how the communities they are in devalue anything they do with behavior roughly on par with the clique-ish backbiting one would expect from middle schoolers.

    I don't know why any of this surprises me. It seems to be the human condition. I guess I just thought, back when the subject was newer and positions less established, this topic would be important enough people would try to do better. Hope deferred maketh the heart sick.

  2. Don't it so seriously, Brandon. A smart guy like you should have better things to do and more important things to worry about. Lighten up. This is friendly advice. Trust me.

  3. Don Monfort, I suspect you may think my mood is more serious/gloomy than it actually is. I think the topic of this post is fairly serious, but my overall mood is rather light. While my apathy toward the blogosphere has been growing, that hasn't put me in a bad mood overall. Quite the opposite. I've been having fun spending my free time doing stuff like playing video games.* I even decided to try my hand at making a small card game to play with a few friends. I'm doing the first round of playtesting tonight. I'm looking forward to it.

    If I had to try to summarize my sentiment right now, it'd be, "Man, everyone here sucks. I'm going to go do something else." I may be serious when I explain why I think those people suck, but the something else I'm going to go do will be way more fun. At least, it will be to me. I know stuff like gaming isn't for everyone.

    *For anyone who has played Hearthstone, I tryharded in arena this month to see if I could make it on the leaderboard. I got an average of 6.85 wins per run, I don't know if it'll be good enough.

  4. I was thinking more along the lines of focusing on career, with any free time devoted to wine, women and song. Gaming is not in my vocabulary, except when I get on my 14 y.o. son's case for spending way too much time in his room playing games and not enough time with girls.

    When I was his age, I had started gangstering, drinking seriously and had a 16 y.o. Sicilian bombshell girlfriend. And a couple of black ones on the side. It was the time of the Cuban missile crisis. We used to hang out on the corner singing doo wop and causing trouble. Each night we would say our goodbyes not knowing if we would be around in the morning. I had very vivid dreams featuring mushroom clouds. It didn't last long and we already had bigger problems. Kids these days got it so good.

    Anyway, I also lament the current condition of Steve M. Recently, it seems to me he may have decided to retire from critical thinking. The climate game is also dead right now, as I predicted last Spring that POTUS Trump would render all the yammering moot.

    I have always respected your intellect and your determination to get things right. I just enjoy giving you a hard time, because you never give anybody a break. Mostly they don't deserve a break, but we should make some allowances for human frailty.

  5. Afraid of a nuclear bomb hitting while you sleep? Clearly, you should have slept under a desk. I've seen the PSAs. If the bomb comes, just hide under your desk, That's sure to... stop the blastwave and radiation?

    The reason I like gaming is I find the games I play intellectually stimulating. I play games like Hearthstone for many of the same reasons I'd play poker. In fact, I'd play poker a lot more if not for Black Friday (the day online gambling was more or less banned in the US). I used to enjoy spending an hour or two a day playing poker online. I could make more money than in person, and I could do other things at the same time. The games I play nowadays aren't anywhere near as profitable as poker, but in many ways, they require more thought.

    As for the rest, I'm the kind of person who doesn't kiss and tell. I like to get out and socialize a couple nights a week, but the only things I'll be talking about from that are the darts I throw and the pool games I lose horribly. Nothing else belongs on the internet. Especially not my horrible attempt at karaoke which I've been convinced to do in a couple weeks. I don't know why anyone wants to hear me sing, but I'm sure they'll regret it afterward.

    By the way, this song was on the playlist I had playing when I read your comment. It seemed fitting.

  6. Yeah, come on Brandon. The link doesn't work. I hope it's Motown.

    I am not sure what games my son is on these days. Looks like some kind of scheme to conquer the world. Maps?

    Try this one:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uQFGkGk4PSc

    I had friends in Cincinnati, Isley bros. family, and met George Clinton aka. Dr. Funkenstein several times. George had a really great group of musicians, including Bootsy Collins on bass. If only he had paid them.

    Shout
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nEjLFpU2pJ4

  7. Oops, must have messed up hte HTML. Here's a link for the song:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QbpW418PDxQ

    That song is by Harvey Danger, known for a one-hit wonder he made years before. I came across another album he made by chance a few years later and loved it. It's interesting how a number of one-hit wonders make good music despite never getting another hit.

    As for taking over the world, that might be Europa Universalis IV. I haven't tried it myself, but it's been popular lately. I tried watching a person play it but got bored because I couldn't follow what was going on as the visual component wasn't very informative, and I couldn't read the text from where I was.

    As for Clinton, I still say the best thing he did was help give us PCU. I know that movie probably isn't good, but I can't help but love it.

  8. Response to the comment of 3:12 pm:
    I for one was a bit curious about the silence in posting, more specific the series on correlations. The last statistics class I took was more than three decades ago and I found your step-for-step approach helpful, so I hope you decide to resume posting in that series sometime in the future.

  9. Hey Michel, I plan on continuing that series. In fact, I have the next post written. I just need to make the code for it turnkey and create some graphs. It's an interesting subject. I just won't expect discussing it to "change anything." Some people may learn from it, but nobody who believed the sort of work it covers will care. No academics will acknowledge any of it or speak out against the misuse of statistics. And an entire field of science will continue to happily embrace a completely bogus methodology even a child could see through.

    It's like standing in an insane asylum and explaining why the things people around you are saying are crazy. It can be interesting and enjoyable, but you're not going to change any of the minds of those who are institutionalized. What's different in my view now is I'm starting to think there is no "outside" to the asylum.

  10. Thanks Brandon. Looking forward to it.

    Belief systems are very powerful and therefor difficult to change. Been there, done that. I was a believer myself, very naive and totally uncritical. At that time I just believed there was a consensus and that it was justified. When someone came forward with counterarguments, I basically ignored it. Like water off a duck's back. It didn't matter to me because I believed that the consensus scientists had it right, whether or not some specific paper would have a problem.

    After I started looking at the "evidence", I slowly moved to the other side and began to see all kinds of inconsistencies/one-sided information/bad methodologies/confusing definitions. With this newly found critical mind I also sometimes wonder why people don't see the obvious ... even when it is meticulously explained. But when I realize where I came from, then I become a bit more understanding. I know that, back then, I didn't see the obvious either, even if it bit me in the nose.

    So I can understand your frustration. I don't agree however that it is so simple that even a child could see through it. It is very difficult to see through something when it is in line with one's own belief system. Then people don't see it, how good it might be explained or just accept it without checking.

    You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink.

  11. Michel:

    So I can understand your frustration. I don't agree however that it is so simple that even a child could see through it. It is very difficult to see through something when it is in line with one's own belief system.

    The thing is, what you describe is nothing a child cannot handle. My experience is children handle it as well as, if not better than, adults. It's not that things are complicated or difficult to understand. It's that people don't want to understand them. What you describe isn't some inherent complexity or difficulty of a problem which prevents people from handling it. It's people choosing not to do what they coudl do if they wanted to.

    I might be able to find some sympathy for this if people refused to listen to things which contradict some view they hold as important. That's not what happens though. It's not that people refuse to listen to things because they feel the need to protect some important idea they believe in. People react this way in regard to even the simplest points, points which wouldn't impact their overall beliefs.

    The reason people often refuse to admit any error/mistake, even trivial ones which don't impact results, isn't that they feel some need to protect an important belief. If all they needed to do was protect some important belief, they could acknowledge small points which don't change that belief. Instead, people often refuse to admit anything, no matter how trivial. I have nothing but contempt for that.

    The other thing I hold a great deal of contempt for is people who know about problems/errors but choose not to speak out. I've communicated with dozens of academics who know fully well criticisms of work by people like Lewandowsky or Mann are correct. Every one of them has refused to speak out. When they give reasons, those reasons are either, "I don't care about that topic" or, "It's not my responsibility." Even worse, they usually give those reasons with an attitude of, "This is perfectly reasonable. You have no reason to think worse of me for it."

    The same is true with Skeptics. They're no different or better, though since I've been more associated with them, they've been more open about it. I've had multiple people tell me they knew what I was saying about X was right but they wouldn't be willing to say so publicly. Back when I first started criticizing Richard Tol, I even had one Skeptic e-mail me to say I should stop talking about the subject even though my points were all correct. The reason? It'd be bad for any sort of "career" I had in blogging.

    People insist this is a natural part of the human condition. I don't get it. Maybe it's because I've never been good at making friends or being accepted in groups in the first place, but I could never imagine doing these sort of things.

  12. "The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool."
    Richard P. Feynman

    I think the above explains most of what I read in the climate blogosphere

  13. I certainly agree that sometimes it is not inherent complex or difficult. I you find that there is no data to support a certain condition in a survey, but the opposite of the tested condition is just assumed to be true, then even a child could understand that any conclusion that comes out of this must be taken with some truckloads of salt.

    However, from the sentence "It's people choosing not to do what they coudl do if they wanted to", I think you understood it as I was describing a conscious, rational decision. This is not the case. I was describing an internal, emotional response to something that was opposing my world views, making me tuning out. I think it is an instinctive defense mechanism and this is what makes it so difficult to break through. This is also an explanation for why people become entrenched in their position, whatever proof is explained to them.

    My previous experiences give me a plausible explanation for why "an entire field of science will continue to happily embrace a completely bogus methodology" (which is the statement that I reacted to). If the consensus belief is mainstream and people have an instinctive defense mechanism towards the things contrary to their beliefs, then it doesn't really matter what is logically proven true or false. People then will just accept the conclusion without checking it or will ignore the inconvenient finding ("it is just a trick to fool me" or "it is not peer-reviewed" or "maybe I can't disprove it myself, but the real experts can" or "the messenger is just a shill of Big Industry" or whatever).

  14. Michel:

    However, from the sentence "It's people choosing not to do what they coudl do if they wanted to", I think you understood it as I was describing a conscious, rational decision.

    Nah. It's willful ignorance. It's not that people consciously choose to disregard contradictory evidence every time they come across it. It starts small with a little excuse here and a little justification there. Over time it grows, until eventually the person builds up such a repertoire of subconscious self-defense mechanisms they become incapable of examining things "rationally," even when doing so would benefit their position (such as correcting minor mistakes that don't affect their position).

    But while the ultimate result of that is largely subconscious, it arises from conscious decisions. People may lie to themselves so much they come to believe the lie and thus speak it while believing it is true, but that only happens because they chose to lie to themselves. It's basically, "I lied to myself to fool myself so now when I say it to other people it's not a lie."

    Understanding how these mentalities arise doesn't make me have less contempt for them. There are some cases where I don't blame the person, such as a child whose parents push them into such a situation or a prisoner who comes to identify with their kidnappers. Depending on the force applied to a person to shape their mentality and the amount of freedom they had in developing it, I accept culpabiilty can be limited. If letting yourself get brainwashed by a person holding you captive is the only way you can survive, I can forgive that.

    I can feel sympathy for someone who's been brainwashed. What I can't feel sympathy for is the people who do the brainwashing. When it's one and the same...

  15. By the way, I understand fully well why people might want to do this sort of thing. I've never been popular or well-liked. Growing up, I did all sorts of things to try to fit in, including things I knew were wrong. I even tried to tell myself the same lies the other kids told themselves. I could never make myself believe those lies though. I could never make myself not feel bad for joining in the bullying of someone, for not speaking up when people cheated on a test, etc. I knew going along with the group was wrong, and I never stopped feeling terrible about doing it. But for some years, that self-loathing seemed better than being alone and an "enemy" to the group.

    I get the motivation of deluding oneself perfectly well. I'd be wealthier and more popular if I had been able to convince myself of the lies I tried to tell myself. I couldn't though. I don't know if that's because of some strong moral foundation (as if), some deep respect for myself or if maybe I'm just a freak.

  16. I assume you are talking about Richard Tol's analysis of the 97% BS, Brandon. I know next to nothing about stats but I could see flaws and omissions in his critique and commented on such. Not that anybody took note. I believe most skeptics didn't care about the flaws, because Tol was somewhat correct and he was on the right side. When you are in a propaganda war, you don't criticize your useful idiots.

    And Climateaudit seems to be deteriorating precipitously. How low can they go?

  17. Nope, I'm talking about his academic work which gets him attention because he argues it shows global warming will be economically beneficial. That conclusion is the main reason skeptics embraced him, and it's one he has put a great deal of work into defending/promoting despite it being complete rubbish. In his academic work, his tactics have included a variety of things like somehow taking estimates of the harm of global warming, reversing the sign and saying they show benefits. People criticizing that sort of error led to him repeatedly changing what mathematical model he used in to perform his curve-fitting over and over until he could find one which would let him continue to claim global warming would be beneficial. (Not that he has ever corrected his data errors. Every time he "corrected" one set of errors he'd fail to correct some things and add in new errors. And each new publication has added more. And he's refused to provide details on how he came up with some of his data, mocking anyone who asked for not being able to do the work themselves. Then when forced to reveal how he came up with the data, he provided different results which didn't match his previous ones.)

    There is way too much to cover the details, but that should give you an idea of what his work is like. If Michael Mann had published papers like Tol's, Skeptics would have a field day tearing them apart. Instead, they've defended it. What's fascinating about this is Tol's work provided a perfect example of how the IPCC process is untrustworthy, one far more damning than things like the IPCC's screw up with Amazon forests or Himalayan glaciers which Skeptics spoke about ad nauseum.

    In the last IPCC assessment report, there were several drafts of the report which underwent external review. After the last round of review, it was somehow decided a section of the report which deal with Tol's work (amongst others) would be moved from one chapter to the chapter Tol was a lead author of. When it got moved, somewhat (presumably Tol) rewrote parts of the section to tone down favorable things it said about work which contradicted his views while adding in remarks/references to praise his work. A new figure and table were also added to the section, derived solely from Tol's work.

    On top of this, Tol wrote an entirely new section, a section which relied solely upon his own work while misstating what his work showed. Neither the section that got moved to the chapter then modified nor the new section Tol created underwent any sort of external review. Tol had somehow managed to rewrite the IPCC conclusions that involved his work, to the point of creating an entirely new section based solely upon his own work, all in secret with no external reviewers getting to see or comment on the changes. (It's even worse if one examines the details of the section and Tol's numerous false statements about what was done when this all came to light..)

    If IPCC authors can do that, then the IPCC's process obviously cannot be trusted. The IPCC likes to claim that thousands of scientists review every draft of the report with the IPCC making changes to address what reviewers say, but Tol's actions show the IPCC's portrayal to be false. If Skeptics had pushed this story, it could have easily made it to the MSM. This wasn't some error or misstatement like other stories raised to criticize the IPCC. It was a single person changing the IPCC report on his own purely out of self-interest. And since it was done to promote results which downplay the seriousness of global warming, it'd have been difficult to dismiss it as just a skeptic talking point.

    But Richard Tol is a Skeptic "rock star" who can't be criticized. He's an academic who says things about global warming not being dangerous and criticizes John Cook's "consensus" message, and there aren't many academics who will do either. That means he gets a free pass to do anything he wants/ It doesn't matter that speaking out against Tol would help the Skeptic movement far more than defending him does.

  18. By the way, I've talked about all that stuff in previous posts on this site, but another topic I've talked about here is Tol's nonsensical criticisms of the Skeptical Science consensus paper. A central point Tol relied upon was completely insane. Skeptical Science published (some of*) the ratings they assigned to abstracts of papers. It sorted these ratings by the year the paper was published then the title of the paper. So papers from 1991 came first, in alphabetical order.

    Tol examined that data and found there were patterns in it. One pattern he found was there was "drift" where the later ratings tended to lean more toward endorsing the consensus than not. That shouldn't have surprised anyone. Even the paper Skeptical Science wrote pointed that result out. As Skeptical Science said, their data showed the "consensus" grew stronger over time. If you sort the papers they examined by the year they were published, that would mean you'd find a pattern of a strengthening "consensus." It was completely unremarkable.

    Tol made a huge deal out of it. Tol claimed that pattern (and others) proved the Skeptical Science group changed how they rated things as they went on, possibly due to fatigue. He went on and on about this, defending it for months. It didn't matter that the authors had rated the papers in a random order, one which had no connection to the order of the papers in the data file. Tol just kept on insisting that patterns he found in a sorted data set proved the ratings done in a random order were biased. He's never admitted that was wrong and impossible... and crazy. Very few people have have. For the most part, Skeptics have defended it. Even Carrick (who I wouldn't classify as a Skeptic) defended it over at lucia's place. People will defend Tol no matter how nuts the things he says are. (Interestingly, people were less quick to defend him the first time I criticized him. Back before he was as well known, he had written a completely nonsensical response to a post over at Judith Curry's place. I pointed out how completely uniformed his remarks were. A number of people sided with me, to the point a few even suggested I write a guest post there. Then Tol became more important to the Skeptic movement and people stopped agreeing with my criticisms.)

    *To this day, Skeptical Science has not published data for the abstracts they filtered out for various reasons. The result is data for approximately 500 of the papers they examined has never been released. Other than me, I haven't seen anyone comment on this. I find that remarkable since Tol repeatedly requested/demanded more and more data from Skeptical Science, wanting things like timestamps. While going after that data may make sense, when only 64 papers were rated in the highest endorsement (of the consensus) category and only 10 in the lowest, surely the fact data for hundreds of papers was excluded deserved some attention.

  19. God, talking about the nonsense Tol has pulled over the years is restoring a bit of my motivation to write blog posts. It is crazy how many things Tol has gotten away with over the years. Maybe I should at least write a post about the first one I saw, the one at Judith Curry's place. I've never really written about it except on her blog. It might be good to have a discussion of it available here. I mean, it was hilarious.

    Basically, Richard Tol saw people had used detrended fluctuation analysis (DFA) and started going on and on about how that was completely inappropriate because what we were interested in was the "trend" in the temperature record. He didn't say a word about what DFA actually does or what it is used for. He just saw it had the word "detrended" in it and concluded it was inappropriate when one wants to know about the trend in a data set.

    Of course, the purpose of DFA is to remove the "trend" in data so you can examine the noise patterns in it. Once one understands the nature of the noise in the series, one can try to guess if the "trend" which had been removed might have arisen naturally from such noise. DFA is exactly the sort of thing one would use if they wanted to try to tell if a "trend" in a series was real or just a figment of the noise in the series. Tol didn't know that. All Tol knew is the methodology's name has the word "detrended" in it so it must have been completely inappropriate.

  20. I recalled the 97% BS, because I thought it was amusing that a highly educated entity like Tol didn't really get it, in some significant aspects. And I recall you calling him on it and so did I, believe mostly on Lucia's blog, which also has gone downhill, in my humble opinion. The climate blog scene is like a TV genre that is fun for a while, but gets stale and deteriorates. Anyway, I don't recall that Tol answered. Like Steve M. I avoid reading papers, so I am not familiar with Tol's mistakes in his published work. I wouldn't be surprised.

  21. Oh, Tol responded. Many times. The exchanges we had at lucia's place over that issue were bizarre. Some time later, he even came to this site and responded to defend his claim. He said he did because he hadn't realized I run this site, otherwise he wouldn't have bothered.

    Now I'm curious if you were involved in that discussion at lucia's place. It's been some time so I don't remember who all was. I know Richard Tol and myself disagreed, Carrick sided with Tol and... I think Kenneth Fritsch challenged Tol? I'm not sure if I'm spelling his name right, but I think it was him. Other than those names, the only one that comes to mind is I think omnologos spoke up at Bishop Hill to say my point was right. Not sure. It's been a long time so I don't remember what most people in the discussions said.

  22. I went back and found the topic in question. It took a little longer than I expected as lucia has blocked search engine bots from indexing her site, but you were indeed there.

  23. That's the one. Tol was active, though ineffective.

    I said you were right. I don't see why there was any argument over that paper. It was so obviously trash. And you weren't testy, at all. Just kidding.

  24. Brandon, you know how the online poker has the autoplay option? I was once in a tournament where I realized that everyone at my table was doing this. I quickly started raising, hoping they didn't reset tables. I ended up near the top with my decupling, but then when everyone was out, the whole site crashed.

  25. MikeN, did the site credit you for the winnings? When I first started playing online poker, I didn't have any accounts I could link to it to deposit money so I did the free rolls, or whatever they called those tournaments with free entry that let you win a small amount of cash. The first time I won cash in one was one where every player at my table went all-in hand, and I was the big blind. I had 10 J suited so I joined them. I won the hand with a flush and bullied my way through the rest of the tournament.

    I also used to make a little money exploiting the autoplay feature you describe. In small Sit & Gos, I noticed some people would play for a while they switch autoplay in the hopes of idling long enough enough people would drop out so they'd make it in the money. Combine that with a healthy dose of bullying,* and I'd win ~75% of time if I made it to the top 4-5 players. It was weird. I did great at finishing out events, but I struggled so much during the first 75% of them.

    It's amazing how many hands people will fold if you raise to just double the big blind. Every now and then I'd find myself at a table where I could raise every hand because I would make more money bullying people than I'd lose from the bad bets. I actually followed a project some college students worked on where they were making bots to play online poker and would take advantage of stuff like that. I'm not sure if they ever got it to be profitable. I wish their site was still online.

  26. I wonder if maybe the reason those people were using autoplay wasn't that they got disconnected. Or perhaps there was some sort of server crash where everyone experienced the same thing you did.

  27. I think the server crash was because the whole table got cleared out, and the code didn't have that case. The timing matched, while it wouldn't match for anyone else.

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