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A Week Where I Check The Sources On Everything I Read

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19 min read from miscellaneous on 2020-01-29

Welcome back to this collection of loosely related blog posts on the Internet, I’m your host “Ouiaboo Mike” and today we will be discussing fake news.

Do I read fake news? Do you read fake news? Is all news fake? To put this to the test I’m going to actually check the sources on the news articles I read for once! But only for one week because I’m lazy.

Oh and also: January 31st is National nix News Corp day. So if you are subscribed to a publication run by News Corp, please stop. I don’t really read anything from News Corp anyway, so we’re going to ignore it.

One more thing: this is probably going to become very political (if it hasn’t already), so here’s a trigger warning for you snowflakes.

January 23, 2020

First is “World’s consumption of materials hits record 100bn tonnes a year” from The Guardian on January 22, 2020

Wow wee, what a fun start. I’ll be providing a summary if you are too lazy to read it:

The amount of material consumed by humanity has passed 100bn tonnes every year, a report has revealed, but the proportion being recycled is falling.

The materials used by the global economy have quadrupled since 1970, far faster than the population, which has doubled.

It shows that, on average, every person on Earth uses more than 13 tonnes of materials per year.

The report found that 100.6bn tonnes of materials were consumed in 2017, the latest year for which data is available.

The lion’s share of the materials - 40% - is turned into housing.

Almost a third of the annual materials remain in use after a year, such as buildings and vehicles.

A third of the materials is treated as waste, mostly going to landfill and mining spoil heaps.

The report they site is an interactive page from the Circle Economy think-tank, with the actual report linked at the bottom. Before we get into the report, I should explain what a “circular economy” is given that it is the entire basis behind the Circle Economy.

“In a circular economy, economic activity builds and rebuilds overall system health”[1]. Underpinned by a transition to renewable energy sources, the circular model builds economic, natural, and social capital. It is based on three principles:

  • Design out waste and pollution
  • Keep products and materials in use
  • Regenerate natural systems

The report states that “Today, the global economy is only 8.6% circular — just two years ago it was 9.1%”. This is the underlying problem that the report tries to address with its “100 billion tonnes” number, which it says we reached in 2017 (p 12).

The number seems to have come from the International Resource Panel (IRP) which forecasts that “by 2050 material use will amount to between 170 and 184 billion tonnes”. Cool, another report to read.

And according to that report, the data is sourced from “the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Energy Agency (IEA), the United States Geological Service (USGS) and the United Nations International Trade Statistics Database (COMTRADE)“ (p 27).

I really don’t want to go any further down this rabbit hole, but those are all pretty trustworthy sources so I think it’s safe to say: NOT FAKE.

That took me a bit under an hour to read through everything. But I, Ouiaboo Mike, am committed to this quest for truth! Let us continue to check to sources on what we read!

In case you were wondering, I won’t actually cover every article I read. Because some things don’t really need their sources to be checked. Like, do I really need to go out and clarify that U.S. airlines will limit service animals on planes to trained dogs? Sometimes the news is the source itself, so we’re going to mainly look at articles that cite statistics.

January 24, 2020

Okie, next is “Homes with higher energy ratings sell for more. Here’s how Australian owners could cash in” from The Conversation on January 23, 2020.

An energy performance rating is one way to show how “Energy hungry” a home could be.

Previous research showed this increases the value of buildings with higher energy ratings.

The majority of the 27 relevant studies we reviewed found more energy-efficient homes fetch higher prices than less energy-efficient, but otherwise comparable, homes.

Once a property’s energy performance is rated and disclosed, the government has a powerful policy lever to drive improvement of the energy efficiency of the existing building stock.

In the UK, owners are obligated to improve the energy performance of any property they wish to offer for rent to at least grade E. Our review of international academic literature suggests home buyers typically value a more energy-efficient home.

Energy rating disclosure policies can help consumers make informed decisions that will result in lower energy bills and more comfortable homes.

Oh look here, they say they reviewed 27 studies! And reading through the review it looks like, yep 27 studies are in fact cited! A lot of those studies are behind a paywall so I’m not going to read them and trust the reviewers when they say the majority (23) “found more energy-efficient homes fetch higher prices than less energy-efficient, but otherwise comparable, homes”. Because it seems kinda obvious that they would sell for higher prices anyway.

January 25, 2020

Now let’s look at “Exclusive Poll: 80% of Young Voters Think ‘Global Warming Is a Major Threat to Life as We Know It’” from VICE on January 24, 2020.

President Donald Trump’s response to climate change may be, “I don’t believe it,” but a new poll shows just how dramatically out of step that leaves him with young Americans.

The poll, shared exclusively with VICE News, found that 80% of Generation Z and Millennials believe “Global warming is a major threat to human life on earth as we know it,” according to the U.S. Conference of Mayors-Zogby Strategies National Youth Poll.

Bemis, the co-chairman of the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ youth engagement efforts, said that despite climate denialism from Trump and much of the national Republican Party, these poll numbers help reinforce that the GOP will have to change to remain relevant.

The poll also found that a quarter of the respondents try to reduce their carbon footprint practically every day and 35% try to in major life decisions only.

The poll was conducted over email in early December and polled 1,000 18- to 29-year-old registered likely voters nationwide, randomly sampled from an Ohio-based email list provider.

The poll shared with VICE News also found that gun violence is also a defining issue for Generation Z and Millennials and also dug into why.

The poll also presented some interest, if not disjointed, information about how young voters see their jobs prospects and the economy, which a plurality of 29% chose as the most critical issue affecting who they’ll vote for.

Yes, I’ll come clean here - every article I’ve talked about so far has been vaguely related to climate change. I’ve not been doing it on purpose, I suppose it’s just what I come across on a daily basis. I think I’ll start actually searching for other things from now on.

Anyway the poll is linked in the article, and looking at the sample size of 1000 people it seems reliable (although in my opinion that’s the bare minimum number of people to sample in a national poll) with a pretty wide range of demographics to be representative of the US.

I’d actually recommended to go and read the report, it’s not too long (unlike the other ones), and is somewhat interesting. Page 23 asks “Which of the following news sources do you trust in covering the 2020 Presidential election?” And I was surprised to see that Fox News and CNN were so high up compared to other (arguably better) outlets like NYT or even NPR. Also interesting (but not surprising) was how whites were the only ones with Fox News in their top 3.

January 26, 2020

Here’s our "not about climate change” report: “The NDIS leaves workers behind” from Independent Australia on January 24, 2020.

Under the NDIS, the Federal Government makes an open-ended commitment to fund people on the basis of need. The years-long waiting lists of the old systems are gone.

What of the 162,000 full-time equivalent workers in the disability sector? How have they fared? The pay and conditions of disability support workers were never especially good.

Paid workers bring a set of skills that permit families to focus on family relationships while the paid workers do the coordinating, the connecting, the analysis and the structural work that make support work a valuable occupation.

Paid workers bring a different type of relationship to the people they are assisting - a working relationship that empowers a person to develop and grow.

The NDIS should guarantee that workers will be appropriately supervised, managed, mentored and trained.

Failing to fund those things sends a clear signal that workers are viewed as atomised gig workers who don’t need support.

Disability support work should be a respected profession in which workers can hone their craft and enjoy a career.

The problems with how the NDIS treats workers reflect a wider structural phenomenon in our society.

To be honest, I’ve never been a big fan of how Independent Australia does their reporting (especially how they cite their sources). It always feel more like an opinion piece more than a “news report”. I’m guessing this has something to do with the fact that they seem to get the experts in the field to write the some of the articles instead of trained journalists which doesn’t seem that bad in my opinion. Although I’m entirely familiar with how IA does things so I’m might be wrong.

But I digress, let’s get back on topic.

For context the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) will provide $22 billion in funding a year to an estimated 500,000 Australians aged under 65, who have permanent and significant disability[2].

The NDIS can provide all people with disability with information and connections to services in their communities such as doctors, sporting clubs, support groups, libraries and schools, as well as information about what support is provided by each state and territory government.

As stated in the article, “it replaces the fragmented and financially constrained state and territory disability support systems with a national scheme funded by the currency issuer.”

This is were our first issue arrises. The source to explain how “the currency issuer’s spending is constrained by real resource availability, not by finance” is just a blog post. Worse yet, that post also does not provide any form of evidence to back up their point. But whatever it’s fine, these first paragraphs admittedly don’t have much to do with the main point the report will attempt to make.

The next source is the “162,000 full-time equivalent workers in the disability sector”, and yep, that comes straight from Parliament so we can say it's reliable. The following points on how “the NDIS has made disability support work more casualised“ and “the Productivity Commission was clearly not convinced that disability support is or should be a skilled occupation” are also sourced from reputable origins (a report from The Centre for Future Work at the Australia Institute and the other by the Productivity Commission).

Although I find it weird to use a blog post as one of the sources, the report is trustworthy enough.

Reading all this stuff is actually really tiring. The amount of material I have to read to get through one article is pretty much tripled, and my goodness I don’t really have the time for that. But so far I haven’t found anything I’ve been skeptical of, so let’s go to some publications I don’t trust as much for funsies.

January 27, 2020

I’ve decided to browse news.com.au for the first time in my life because I see a lot of people on the train read it so it can’t be that bad can it?

Nope.

This is complete shit. It normally takes some time for me to find something I think deserves to be reported on as well as something I care about, but fuck me there’s nothing here.

Maybe it’s just a bad day? There’s a bunch of articles capitalising on Kobe Bryant’s death, a bunch of coronavirus scare mongering, more celebrity gossip, and… a washing machine life hack? It could just be because news.com.au seems like an aggregator for other News Corp outlets rather than an actual source of news, so in other words: an aggregation of bullshit.

Anyway, after a few minutes of wading through garbage I found something. “More workplace inspectors to target unions” from Australian Associated Press via news.com.au on January 27, 2020.

The construction industry watchdog is boosting the number of workplace inspectors to crack down on rogue union officials.

Australian Building and Construction Commission boss Stephen McBurney said Queensland worksites were particularly bad. “There’s a level of defiance in Queensland challenging us to devote more resources in Queensland than we are in any other state,” he told The Courier-Mail on Monday.

Mr McBurney said the construction union had shown no contrition or remorse after being penalised in courts.

The ABCC’s actions have led to $2.7 million worth of fines in Queensland since December 2016.

Last week, the ABCC defended spending almost $3.2 million of public money over three years in proceedings against unions, officials and workers.

In contrast the commission spent $164,336 on cases against employers and $117,076 on a proceeding involving both an employer and a union.

CFMEU national construction secretary Dave Noonan launched a scathing attack on the ABCC for not prosecuting a single employer over sham contracting.

For any of those numbers you just read, they cited no sources. I also found it interesting how short this article was. That 7 paragraph summary is almost exactly 50% off the original. Previous articles we’ve gone through have been cut down by around 85-95%, you can make what you will of that.

But I guess It’s up to me to find those sources. I’m not one to dig deep in boring legal documents, so normally the easiest thing to do is just to find more articles that talk about the same things but actually provide sources.

Here’s another article on the topic: “ABCC defends focus on pursuing unions” from The Australian on January 22, 2020. It provides the same numbers but again with no sources.

While “Building watchdog doubles number of industry investigations” from The Sydney Morning Herald on 21 October, 2019 uses the ABCC’s annual report to show how the Construction Forestry Maritime Mining And Energy Union (CFMMEU) “continues to be over-represented in the agency’s (the ABCC) legal matters”, it doesn’t provide the same numbers. “Federal Election 2019: ABCC denies industrial action against CFMMEU secretary Mick Buchanan a ‘political move’” from WA Today on April 24, 2019 (updated April 25, 2019) also seems to have different numbers.

So in summary, the general story - that the ABCC unfairly focuses on unions and ignores employers seems to be correct, but there isn’t very much information (or information I know the origin of) on the exact amount.

January 28, 2020

For the penultimate day I’m going to take a break from all this depressing news and instead we’re going to look at some fun stuff.

The Corruption Perceptions Index 2019 from Transparency International was released today and Australia is still in the top 20, so that’s good.

“Bitcoin Gold hit by 51% attacks, $72K in cryptocurrency double-spent” from TNW on January 27, 2020. Wait that’s not fun, god dammit.

The Haskell IDE Engine and Ghcide teams are joining forces on a single IDE. Now that’s some great news, hopefully It’ll be able to help me write Haskell that doesn’t suck.

“Leaked Documents Expose the Secretive Market for Your Web Browsing Data” from VICE on January 28, 2020. Don’t use anti-virus software. Seriously don’t do it. But if you “need” it, get one that you have to pay for (this applies to VPNs as well).

The new Peugeot 508 seems nice. Probably wouldn’t buy it, but Peugeot seems to be getting better at making cars I don’t think are garbage. Even though my name is Ouiaboo Mike, I must admit that Alpine is the only French car manufacturer that isn’t complete trash, and that my brother “Weeaboo Jack” is correct when he says Japanese cars are better.

Last and most definitely least, “Sir Philip Pullman calls for 50p boycott over Oxford comma” from BBC on January 28, 2020. I couldn’t care less, although I am not a fan of language purism and it made me a bit annoyed so maybe I do care. Actually no, I don’t care! I had to look up who Sir Philip Pullman even was so why should I care about his opinion? It’s petty prescriptivist and misguided point-scoring from those who want to feel that they are vague ‘language experts’ but haven’t fully thought through the implications, origins, and lack of fundamental significance of what is just one of multiple conventions.

You know what? I’m going to stop using the Oxford comma in this post from now on in spite of this guy. That’ll show you how much I don’t care, because I really don’t. If there was a list of people who care about this boycott, I would not be on that list. But if there was a list of people who didn’t care, I would be on that list - because I don’t care. And for more proof here’s a survey on people who don’t care:

survey

According to the survey: “100% of people who do not care about Sir Philip Pullman’s 50p boycott over the Oxford comma do not care about Sir Philip Pullman’s 50p boycott over the Oxford comma.” So you know for FACT that I do not care.

January 29, 2020

“This trip sure was fun wasn’t it? So much happened I swear… These last 50 7 days were truly fun” — Joseph Joestar, 1988.

Haha what a nice quote. My brother told me to put that in, I’m not sure where it’s from, but I hope it’s not anything sad.

But since I haven’t seen any fake news so far, I’ve decided to check out Breitbart. “Law Professor: Dems Are Turning ‘Legitimate Acts’ into ‘Impeachable Conduct’” from Breitbart on January 28, 2020.

Democrats seek to frame President Donald Trump’s “Perfectly legitimate” actions as “Impeachable conduct” by accusing the president of malicious intent, explained John Yoo, professor of law at the University of California, Berkeley, visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, and visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution.

“The only thing that really separates for the Democrats what would be perfectly legitimate on its face - asking for the investigation , delaying the aid [to Ukraine] a little bit - to something impeachable, the only thing that makes it impeachable is what was in President Trump’s mind when he did it,” said Yoo.

Yoo went on, “Things that are perfectly legitimate actions of government are transformed into misdeeds and even into impeachable conduct just because [Democrats] think President Trump has the wrong motives or state of mind. That is impossible to prove, and if you allow a Congress to impeach presidents in the future just for things they think or [for having] a bad motive - but the actions themselves are perfectly legitimate - you would destroy the independence of the presidency which would, I think, would do long-term harm to the country.”

“Why not say, ‘So what if the president said please investigate Hunter Biden [and] please investigate CrowdStrike?’ Basically what’s on the transcript of the call. You could even go farther and suppose the president did delay the dispersal of all this $400 million in aid. It’s still not grounds to remove the president during an election year for a number of reasons.”

Yoo explained that even if Democrats’ accusations regarding Trump’s motives behind his conduct towards Ukraine are true, the president’s conduct does not amount to impeachable conduct.

Yoo added, “Even if everything the Democrats allege is true - and it’s not clear that it is - but suppose you did, it just doesn’t come close to doing the country any harm, and in fact, one could say that the president ending up supporting Ukraine with lethal aid and defending Ukraine against Russian aggression far more effectively than anything the Obama administration did.”

“It is legitimate for the government and for the president to say, ‘I want to make sure federal taxpayer dollars are being spent properly so I want to make sure - someone, some country - some recipient isn’t corrupt.”

Is this fake news? The professor “John Yoo” does in fact say these things, the problem is that it’s… you know… completely wrong.

I’m not a legal expert or anything, but I don’t think bribery is a “legitimate act”.

But seriously, does this count as fake news? He says the stuff that they’re reporting on. If you report on bullshit, does that make your report bullshit? I didn’t listen to very much of the audio part, but I don't think they ever say Yoo is correct, only that he said it.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to defend Breitbart or anything. I'm genuinely curious as to whether you can consider this fake news. Like maybe it is fake news because they aren't calling Yoo out on the fact that it's bullshit?

Eh, I dunno. I’m tired of this shit, make up your own mind.


[1]: https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/circular-economy/concept

[2]: https://www.ndis.gov.au/understanding/what-ndis