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Nederlog


  October
18, 2013
Crisis+me+ME: Snowden, EU-rules, science, me + ME   
  "They who can give up essential 
   liberty to obtain a little temporary
   safety, deserve neither liberty
   nor safety."
   -- Benjamin Franklin [1]
   "All governments lie and nothing
   they say should be believed.
"
   -- I.F. Stone.











Sections
Introduction
  1. Edward Snowden: I brought no leaked NSA documents
       to Russia

  2. New EU rules to curb transfer of data to US after Edward
       Snowden revelations
 
  3. How science goes wrong 
  4. me + ME  
About ME/CFS

Introduction

There is an earlier file today, but it is a Dutch issue in my autobiographical series. Also, today there wasn't much I could find on the crisis, but I report three items, while the fourth section is about me and my M.E.

1.  Edward Snowden: I brought no leaked NSA documents to Russia 

The first item today is about Edward Snowden, and is an article by Ed Pilkington in the Guardian:

This starts as follows:

Edward Snowden, the source of US National Security Agency leaks, has said he left all the leaked documents behind when he flew from Hong Kong to Moscow and there is no chance of them falling into the hands of Russian or Chinese authorities.

In an interview with the New York Times, Snowden said he had decided to hand over all digital material to the journalists he had met in Hong Kong because it would not have been in the public interest for him to hold on to copies. "What would be the unique value of personally carrying another copy of materials onward?"

Snowden disputed speculation that he had run the risk of China and Russia gaining access to the secret files. He said he was so familiar with Chinese spying operations, having himself targeted China when he was employed by the NSA, that he knew how to keep the trove secure from them. "There's a 0% chance the Russians or Chinese have received any documents," he said.

Incidentally, the interview with the New York Times above will display only - it seems - if you are a paid viewer (which I can't afford, and don't need).

As to what he says: I am quite willing to believe him, though I think his statement on chance is quite strong, also because he has meanwhile given the documents to others.

He also said several more things, of which I select two. First he said:

"If the highest officials in government can break the law without fearing punishment or even any repercussions at all, secret powers become tremendously dangerous."

Quite so - and it is quite ridiculous (and dangerous) that a man like Clapper can lie under oath, and not be punished in any way. But indeed it is not just Clapper, and also it are not just the laws dealing with secrecy or the NSA: it seems that in the present US there are two systems of law, one very strict one, for the poor and the dissident, and one very lenient one, for the rich and non-dissident, and for those that govern and have some leading position.

Next, Snowden said:
"The secret continuance of these programmes represents a far greater danger than their disclosure. It represents a dangerous normalisation of 'governing in the dark', where decisions with enormous public impact occur without any public input."

Yes indeed, and again this comprises more than merely securrity and the NSA: The Obama administration seems to be more secret than any other US  administration, and seems to have classified at least 90 million documents (which, since they have been classified, can also not be tested by independent judges, courts or persons, whether they were classified with any decent ground, as some documents indeed have).

2. New EU rules to curb transfer of data to US after Edward Snowden revelations 

Next, an article by Ian Traynor, again in the Guardian:
This starts as follows:

New European rules aimed at curbing questionable transfers of data from EU countries to the US are being finalised in Brussels in the first concrete reaction to the Edward Snowden disclosures on US and British mass surveillance of digital communications.

Regulations on European data protection standards are expected to pass the European parliament committee stage on Monday after the various political groupings agreed on a new compromise draft following two years of gridlock on the issue.

The draft would make it harder for the big US internet servers and social media providers to transfer European data to third countries, subject them to EU law rather than secret American court orders, and authorise swingeing fines possibly running into the billions for the first time for not complying with the new rules.

Note first this is explicitly owed to Edward Snowden's revelations. Then again, the proposed regulations are so far only a draft, and certainly will not close all loopholes, nor regulate everything, as Ian Traynor makes clear in the rest of the article.

But it is a beginning, and it shows Snowden's revelations are taken serious, also by the EU, which is certainly a step forward.

3. How science goes wrong

Next,
a paper in The Economist, or rather two papers at The Economist:
The first one starts as follows:

A SIMPLE idea underpins science: “trust, but verify”. Results should always be subject to challenge from experiment. That simple but powerful idea has generated a vast body of knowledge. Since its birth in the 17th century, modern science has changed the world beyond recognition, and overwhelmingly for the better.

But success can breed complacency. Modern scientists are doing too much trusting and not enough verifying—to the detriment of the whole of science, and of humanity.

Too many of the findings that fill the academic ether are the result of shoddy experiments or poor analysis (see article). A rule of thumb among biotechnology venture-capitalists is that half of published research cannot be replicated. Even that may be optimistic. Last year researchers at one biotech firm, Amgen, found they could reproduce just six of 53 “landmark” studies in cancer research. Earlier, a group at Bayer, a drug company, managed to repeat just a quarter of 67 similarly important papers. A leading computer scientist frets that three-quarters of papers in his subfield are bunk. In 2000-10 roughly 80,000 patients took part in clinical trials based on research that was later retracted because of mistakes or improprieties.

And this is from the second one, though not from the beginning:

John Bohannon, a biologist at Harvard, recently submitted a pseudonymous paper on the effects of a chemical derived from lichen on cancer cells to 304 journals describing themselves as using peer review. An unusual move; but it was an unusual paper, concocted wholesale and stuffed with clangers in study design, analysis and interpretation of results. Receiving this dog’s dinner from a fictitious researcher at a made up university, 157 of the journals accepted it for publication.

That is, over half of the peer reviewed journals accepted total rot, that was created as rot on purpose. In case you say that this must have been the journals, here is the next paragraph:

Dr Bohannon’s sting was directed at the lower tier of academic journals. But in a classic 1998 study Fiona Godlee, editor of the prestigious British Medical Journal, sent an article containing eight deliberate mistakes in study design, analysis and interpretation to more than 200 of the BMJ’s regular reviewers. Not one picked out all the mistakes. On average, they reported fewer than two; some did not spot any.

Then there is this, from the second paper:

Fraud is very likely second to incompetence in generating erroneous results, though it is hard to tell for certain. Dr Fanelli has looked at 21 different surveys of academics (mostly in the biomedical sciences but also in civil engineering, chemistry and economics) carried out between 1987 and 2008. Only 2% of respondents admitted falsifying or fabricating data, but 28% of respondents claimed to know of colleagues who engaged in questionable research practices.

And this is from the ending of the second paper
Bruce Alberts, then the editor of Science, outlined what needs to be done to bolster the credibility of the scientific enterprise. Journals must do more to enforce standards. Checklists such as the one introduced by Nature should be adopted widely, to help guard against the most common research errors. Budding scientists must be taught technical skills, including statistics, and must be imbued with scepticism towards their own results and those of others. Researchers ought to be judged on the basis of the quality, not the quantity, of their work. Funding agencies should encourage replications and lower the barriers to reporting serious efforts which failed to reproduce a published result. Information about such failures ought to be attached to the original publications.

And scientists themselves, Dr Alberts insisted, “need to develop a value system where simply moving on from one’s mistakes without publicly acknowledging them severely damages, rather than protects, a scientific reputation.”
Then there is this, from the first paper:
In the 1950s, when modern academic research took shape after its successes in the second world war, it was still a rarefied pastime. The entire club of scientists numbered a few hundred thousand. As their ranks have swelled, to 6m-7m active researchers on the latest reckoning, scientists have lost their taste for self-policing and quality control. The obligation to “publish or perish” has come to rule over academic life. Competition for jobs is cut-throat. Full professors in America earned on average $135,000 in 2012—more than judges did. Every year six freshly minted PhDs vie for every academic post.
And to the above, one must add the following, which happened in Holland over the last 45 years, and no doubt is quite similar in most other European nations and in the US, where similar developments occurred, all starting in the second half of the 1960ies:
  • The entry-conditions of the universities have been roughly halved, over a period of 40 years or so.
  • The educations the universities give have also roughly halved, over the same period.
  • Almost nobody cared, for "getting a degree" was made much easier, which made many more people - nominally - eligible for high paying jobs.
  • Besides, almost no one saw, for it happened mostly slowly, and piece by piece, just as the payments for degrees increased, also slowly.
  • In 1984 the average IQ in the University of Amsterdam was 115, which means that at present, with many more students, who have even worse pre-university educations, it must be considerably lower.
  • Until the late 1960ies, every Dutch student could read at least three foreign languages; at present most only know English, and that not well.
  • Some five years ago, it was announced 18-year olds who were admitted to engineering studies could not do simple algebra that I (and everybody else my age) had to do at 12/13, in the early 1960ies - but, while they also had to finish within 3 years, this was "solved" by "remedial teaching", and since then the papers just don't write anymore about it.
In brief: This is why I must regard myself as one of the last proper scientists, and that not because those younger than me are more stupid [2] but because all of them have received a much worse education than I did, and than anybody else did, who got into any university in any faculty, and was born in 1950, as I was, or before. And this applies to both the pre-university education, and to the university-education, that these days is mostly fit for nearly all or all of the more intelligent half of the population, instead of for 2-5% or 10% at most.

Then again, I do know that only "a fascist terrorist elitarian" like me has the courage to write these things, while almost no decent Dutchman thinks like this.
Even so, I write these thoughts because I think them, and I think them, because I think a real university should be for the genuinely talented, and that is a fairly small minority always.

Just as it is the case in professional soccer and sports, where every Dutchman agrees with me...

4. me + ME

Finally, a bit about myself and my ME/CFS, just to keep the few who want to know informed - and the links that follow in the next paragraph are to Wikipedia:

I am doing rather well, in the circumstances, with ME/CFS since 35 years, and keratoconjunctivitis sicca and Dupuytren's contracture, that are both autoimmune diseases, since over 1 1/2 years now, and am doing a bit well since June, and rather well since the end of August, when my eyes (finally) allowed me to sleep again for 8 hours a day, which had been quite impossible for more than a year then.

Also, the last 4 1/2 months I cleaned out my house, which was impossible the last few years; and I bought a bike for the first time this millenium, and cycled most days for 1 1/2 month now, for three quarters of an hour to two hours, which is more than I could do since 2001, also without collapsing or getting worse (and in fact getting better, at cycling).

The only cogent explanation I can give is the mB12 protocol that I follow, that also is the only explanation for my
not having more problems with more than a year of sleep between 4 and 6 1/2 hours.

Also, I should say that I am a psychologist and a philosopher (having - excellent - academic degrees in both), and that I have ME/CFS for 35 years now, since I was 28, and have all the time since I was 28 lived from student loans or from Dutch dole, and have all the time gotten no help, namely "because your disease is psychosomatic", always pronounced by medical doctors who did not know anything about me, and also did not want to know, and did do no research of any kind, and were almost totally ignorant about ME/CFS, but who did decide for the Dutch bureaucratic institutions.

Since I also took my MA in psychology with an average of 9.3 out of 10 maximally, while doing all of my studies while I was ill, this seems pretty good evidence that I was and am genuinely ill, for living in the dole, while one is ill and gets no help, is quite difficult, and I would almost certainly have had an academic job, given my marks, and also given some professors who knew me, had I not been genuinely ill.

---------------------------------
P.S. Oct 19, 2013: I added a link, a bolding, and a few words.

Note


[1] Here it is necessary to insist, with Aristotle, thay the governors do not rule, or at least, should not rule: The laws rule, and the government, if good, is part of its executive power. Here I quote Aristotle from my More on stupidity, the rule of law, and Glenn Greenwald:
It is more proper that law should govern than any of the citizens: upon the same principle, if it is advantageous to place supreme power in some particular persons, they should be appointed to be only guardians, and the servant of laws.
(And I note the whole file I quote from is quite pertinent.)

[2]
Although most of them are, in IQ-terms, for I do have a very high IQ, but that is neither to my credit nor to their demerit, and does only mean that I am scholastically quite capable - but what it means in terms of real talent for a real science is not very clear, at least.

About ME/CFS (that I prefer to call M.E.: The "/CFS" is added to
facilitate search machine) which is a disease that I have since 1.1. 1979:

1. Anthony Komaroff

Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS(pdf)

2. Malcolm Hooper THE MENTAL HEALTH MOVEMENT:  
PERSECUTION OF PATIENTS?
3. Hillary Johnson

The Why  (currently not available)

4. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2003)
5. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2011)
6. Eleanor Stein

Clinical Guidelines for Psychiatrists (pdf)

7. William Clifford The Ethics of Belief
8. Malcolm Hooper Magical Medicine (pdf)
9.
Maarten Maartensz
Resources about ME/CFS
(more resources, by many)



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