January 3, 2014

Crisis: Academics, Speculators, Cameron, Drug companies, Nader to Bush

   "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.
   "Power tends to corrupt, and   
   absolute power corrupts
   absolutely. Great men are        
   almost always bad men."
   -- Lord Acton

Prev- crisis -Next  

1. Academics against surveillance

2. Overthrow the Speculators
3. David Cameron's internet porn filter is the start of
     censorship creep

4. Drug companies accused of holding back complete
     information on clinical trials

5. Ralph Nader: Letter to George W. Bush

About ME/CFS


This is another ordinary crisis file. There are fewer items than yesterday, but that is not my fault. Also, the first item shows a declaration signed by over 250 academically employed scientists from 26 countries, who protest mass surveillance.

1. Academics Against Mass Surveillance

The first item is a declaration by over 250 scientists from 26 countries (the NRC-Handelsblad very helpfully adds, for its many academic readers: "different" before "countries"):
It reads  as follows, and I quote all of it:

Academics Against Mass Surveillance

This summer it was revealed, largely thanks to Edward Snowden, that American and European intelligence services are engaging in mass surveillance of hundreds of millions of people.

Intelligence agencies monitor people's Internet use, obtain their phone calls, email messages, Facebook entries, financial details, and much more. Agencies have also gathered personal information by accessing the internal data flows of firms such as Google and Yahoo. Skype calls are "readily available" for interception. Agencies have purposefully weakened encryption standards - the same techniques that should protect our online banking and our medical files. These are just a few examples from recent press reports. In sum: the world is under an unprecedented level of surveillance.

This has to stop.

The right to privacy is a fundamental right. It is protected by international treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights. Without privacy people cannot freely express their opinions or seek and receive information. Moreover, mass surveillance turns the presumption of innocence into a presumption of guilt. Nobody denies the importance of protecting national security, public safety, or the detection of crime. But current secret and unfettered surveillance practices violate fundamental rights and the rule of law, and undermine democracy.

The signatories of this declaration call upon nation states to take action. Intelligence agencies must be subjected to transparency and accountability. People must be free from blanket mass surveillance conducted by intelligence agencies from their own or foreign countries. States must effectively protect everyone's fundamental rights and freedoms, and particularly everyone's privacy.

January 2014

If you check out the last link, you can also read who signed. I should also say that this seems to be an an initiative from four persons who work for the University of Amsterdam, but that I recognized no Dutch name.

This last fact means that my generation of babyboomers, who all were - they said or suggested - "marxist" or "semi-marxist" radicals during the 25 years that the Dutch universities were governed "democratically" by yearly elections amongst the students, and who publicly taught that "everybody knows that truth does not exist" and "everybody knows that all men are equivalent", kept silent and keep parasiting on their very good - civil servant - incomes or pensions.

However, this is not very important, although it does confirm my suspicions. More importantly: Will this make a difference? Not by itself, but I like that it was done, although I also think that around 250 academics in 26 countries is, in fact, a low number, since academically employed scientists should know what is involved.

Then again, the "universities" have radically changed the last 45 years, although hardly anyone discusses or acknowledges this, and it may well be that the average "scientist" who currently works there has an average IQ of 115, and really does not care for anything, except himself, his income, his iphone and his family and friends. (I do not know, but I would not at all be amazed if I am right, especially about Holland.)

2. Overthrow the Speculators

Next, an article by Chris Hedges on Truthdig:

This starts as follows:

Money, as Karl Marx lamented, plays the largest part in determining the course of history. Once speculators are able to concentrate wealth into their hands they have, throughout history, emasculated government, turned the press into lap dogs and courtiers, corrupted the courts and hollowed out public institutions, including universities, to justify their looting and greed. Today’s speculators have created grotesque financial mechanisms, from usurious interest rates on loans to legalized accounting fraud, to plunge the masses into crippling forms of debt peonage. They steal staggering sums of public funds, such as the $85 billion of mortgage-backed securities and bonds, many of them toxic, that they unload each month on the Federal Reserve in return for cash. And when the public attempts to finance public-works projects they extract billions of dollars through wildly inflated interest rates.

Yes, indeed. In fact, the article is a plea for public banks, and gives good arguments and examples why these are very much needed. I agree with the argument, and leave the rest to you, except for the final paragraph:

We won’t be saved by anyone in Washington. We will have to save ourselves. We will have to transform our communities, cities and states into places where the consent of the governed is no longer a joke. We will have to take back power, which in a corporate state is financial power, from the venal class of speculators who hold us hostage. In open defiance we will have to build our own independent institutions. Of course the speculators will fight back. And they will fight dirty—they know the consequences of this revolt. Public banks are not just about the economy. They are about liberty.

Again: Yes, indeed. This is again an article you should read all of, though I am willing to agree that the theme itself is not very thrilling. (But it is about money, and nearly everyone is interested in money.)

3.  David Cameron's internet porn filter is the start of censorship creep

Next, an article by Laurie Penny in the Guardian:

This starts as follows:

Picture the scene. You're pottering about on the internet, perhaps idly looking up cake recipes, or videos of puppies learning to howl. Then the phone rings. It's your internet service provider. Actually, it's a nice lady in a telesales warehouse somewhere, employed on behalf of your service provider; let's call her Linda. Linda is calling because, thanks to David Cameron's "porn filter", you now have an "unavoidable choice", as one of 20 million British households with a broadband connection, over whether to opt in to view certain content. Linda wants to know – do you want to be able to see hardcore pornography?

How about information on illegal drugs? Or gay sex, or abortion? Your call may be recorded for training and monitoring purposes. How about obscene and tasteless material? Would you like to see that? Speak up, Linda can't hear you.

The government's filter, which comes into full effect this month after a year of lobbying, will block far more than dirty pictures. That was always the intention, and in recent weeks it has become clear that the mission creep of internet censorship is even creepier than campaigners had feared. In the name of protecting children from a rotten tide of raunchy videos, a terrifying precedent is being set for state control of the digital commons.

Yes, precisely: The socalled "porn filter" is just like the socalled "terrorism": A pretext to impose all manner of restrictions on users of the internet - in the name of protecting children "from porn" (though I am not aware of any research that showed this was damaging, for children [2]), you and the parents will be denied access to many other things as well, all as a matter of course, and all because the creeps that presently govern Great Britain do not want you to know or find out things yourself.

For example:

The category of "obscene content", for instance, which is blocked even on the lowest setting of BT's opt-in filtering system, covers "sites with information about illegal manipulation of electronic devices [and] distribution of software" – in other words, filesharing and music downloads, debate over which has been going on in parliament for years. It looks as if that debate has just been bypassed entirely, by way of scare stories about five-year-olds and fisting videos. Whatever your opinion on downloading music and cartoons for free, doing so is neither obscene nor pornographic.

Cameron's porn filter looks less like an attempt to protect kids than a convenient way to block a lot of content the British government doesn't want its citizens to see, with no public consultation whatsoever.

Precisely. And what makes the British government such superior adults that they (ten or twenty) can manage what others (tens of millions) will not see? Only that these ten or twenty people who decide these things are the creeps who govern Britain at the moment - and yes, I do not like the British Tories, and yes, I certainly think their behavior, and also their faces, often are creepy. And that is keeping it polite.

Then there is this:

The worst thing about the porn filter, though, is not that it accidentally blocks a lot of useful information but that it blocks information at all. With minimal argument, a Conservative-led government has given private firms permission to decide what websites we may and may not access. This sets a precedent for state censorship on an enormous scale – all outsourced to the private sector, of course, so that the coalition does not have to hold up its hands to direct responsibility for shutting down freedom of speech.

Quite so, although I would have written " "porn filter" " rather than " porn filter ", given that the aim is not so much to block porn (though that also) as it is to block lots of other information that the present creepy British government doesn't want the people who may elect it again to see, for example, because if their electorate would see what their government is really up to, they would not elect them again.

But this is a good article, and I recommend you read it all: There is considerably more.

4. Drug companies accused of holding back complete information on clinical trials

Next, an article by Rajeev Syal in the Guardian:

This is again an article about the fargoing corruption of medical science, mostly by drug companies, but much helped by many doctors who've seen a chance to become a millionaire through corruption that these days either is not prosecuted at all, or only prosecuted with the intent to make them part with a part of their profits, for which price they also are washed clean from having engaged in criminal behavior.

It starts as follows:

Clinical trial results are being routinely withheld from doctors, undermining their ability to make informed decisions about how to treat patients, an influential parliamentary committee has claimed.

MPs have expressed "extreme concern" that drug manufacturers appear to only publish around 50% of completed trial results and warned that the practice has "ramifications for the whole of medicine".

Further down, there is this:

Richard Bacon, a senior member of the committee, said the practice of holding back results was undermining the ability of doctors, researchers and patients to make informed decisions about treatments. "Regulators and the industry have made proposals to open up access, but these do not cover the issue of access to the results of trials in the past which bear on the efficacy and safety of medicines in use today," he said. "Research suggests that the probability of completed trials being published is roughly 50%. And trials which gave a favourable verdict are about twice as likely to be published as trials giving unfavourable results.

Which is to say: The pharmaceutical companies have basically corrupted - albeit with the very willing, very well-paid assistance of many medical KOLs, that is: key opinion leaders - all of medical science, in so far as this depends on objective scientific research into drugs, which is much more often the case than not.

Note also that all of this corruption, that includes many ghostwritten articles, signed but not written by KOLs, and the suppressing of all or most negative data, is apart from the pharmaceurical targetting of medical doctors by sales representatives, who study the doctors they visit in great detail, so as to be able to "advice" them to sell the company's drugs to their patients, either against a percentage or for other reasons, such as paid trips. (See Gwen Olsen and my
DSM-5: Medicine is a very sick business in the US - 2.)

And again further down there is this:

The committee noted that an NHS National Institute for Health Research review in 2010 estimated that the chance of completed trials being published is roughly half. Trials with positive results were about twice as likely to be published as trials with negative results.

Dr Fiona Godlee, editor-in-chief of the British Medical Journal, told the MPs that the pharmaceutical industry published more positive results than negative ones from their trials. She noted that the journal had published very clear summaries of systematic reviews of data on individual medicines or classes of medicines where, "when you add together the published and unpublished evidence, you get a very different picture of the quality and effectiveness of those drugs".

There is considerably more in the article.

Also, I can add something that is not in the article, though perfectly consistent with it:

In Holland, something very similar happened with the same drug Tamiflu. That is, enormous amounts of it were bought by the government, on the advice of one person, who was found, after the Tamiflu was bought, to have financial relations with the makers of Tamiflu, which he of course denied to have any relevance. Also one has his word that he did not profit. (See: Ab Osterhaus, in Wikipedia.)

Having seen this happened in Great Britain and in Holland, one wonders in how many other countries the same happened - and note that:
A review of 20 existing studies into Tamiflu by the Cochrane Collaboration concluded it 'did not reduce influenza-related lower respiratory tract complications'.

5. Ralph Nader: Letter to George W. Bush

Next, an article by Ralph Nader, on his site:
I like Nader (who is 79, and will turn 80 in February), who began this year with writing a letter to former president Bush, that begins as follows:

Dear Mr. Bush:

A few days ago I received a personalized letter from your Presidential Center which included a solicitation card for donations that actually provided words for my reply. They included “I’m honored to help tell the story of the Bush Presidency” and “I’m thrilled that the Bush Institute is advancing timeless principles and practical solutions to the challenges facing our world.” (Below were categories of “tax-deductible contributions” starting with $25 and going upward.)

Did you mean the “timeless principles” that drove you and Mr. Cheney to invade the country of Iraq which, contrary to your fabrications, deceptions and cover-ups, never threatened the United States? Nor could Iraq [under its dictator and his dilapidated military] threaten its far more powerful neighbors, even if the Iraqi regime wanted to do so.

Today, Iraq remains a country (roughly the size and population of Texas) you destroyed, a country where over a million Iraqis, including many children and infants (remember Fallujah?) lost their lives, millions more were sickened or injured, and millions more were forced to become refugees, including most of the Iraqi Christians.

There is more:

The Bush/Cheney sociocide of Iraq, together with the loss of tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers’ lives, countless injuries and illnesses, registers, with the passage of time, no recognition by you that you did anything wrong nor have you accepted responsibility for the illegality of your military actions without a Congressional declaration of war. You even turned your back on Iraqis who worked with U.S. military occupation forces as drivers, translators etc. at great risk to themselves and their families and were desperately requesting visas to the U.S., often with the backing of U.S. military personnel. Your administration allowed fewer Iraqis into the U.S. than did Sweden in that same period and far, far fewer than Vietnamese refugees coming to the U.S. during the nineteen seventies.

And more, that I leave to you. (But yes, this is very clearly a part of the crisis.)



[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] I am not saying it is harmless: I am saying I have never read any good evidence it is harmful. (But my suspicion is ordinary porn is of little interest to children.) And in any case: The parents should decide what their children can and cannot see on the internet, and not the government.

About ME/CFS
(that I prefer to call M.E.: The "/CFS" is added to facilitate search machines) which is a disease I have since 1.1.1979:
1. Anthony Komarof

Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS(pdf)

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)
Maarten Maartensz
Resources about ME/CFS
(more resources, by many)

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