February 1, 2014

Crisis+me+ME: SOTU - lies; NSA & climate; open net; probability; pessimism

   "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

crisis -Next  

American State of the Union: A Festival of Lies
'Insane, Disgusting' and 'Epic Treachery': NSA Spied on
     Climate Talks

3. Public to FCC: Don't Give Up On Open Internet
4. On probability and statistics
5. On pessimism

About ME/CFS


There again was not a lot about the crisis
, but I found three items. Because that is not much, I added a bit on probability that is wholly my own, and also a few personal remarks, that explains why I am more pessimistic than many.

1. American State of the Union: A Festival of Lies

First, an article by Glen Ford on Common Dreams, that originally appeared on
This starts as follows - and it is not kind, and is by an American black man:
“Believe it,” said the current Prevaricator-in-Chief, in the conclusion to his annual litany lies. President Obama’s specialty, honed to theatrical near-perfection over five disastrous years, is in crafting the sympathetic lie, designed to suspend disbelief among those targeted for oblivion, through displays of empathy for the victims. In contrast to the aggressive insults and bluster employed by Republican political actors, whose goal is to incite racist passions against the Other, the sympathetic Democratic liar disarms those who are about to be sacrificed by pretending to feel their pain.

Barack Obama, who has presided over the sharpest increases in economic inequality in U.S. history, adopts the persona of public advocate, reciting wrongs inflicted by unseen and unknown forces that have “deepened” the gap between the rich and the rest of us and “stalled” upward mobility. Having spent half a decade stuffing tens of trillions of dollars into the accounts of an ever shrinking gaggle of financial capitalists, Obama declares this to be “a year of action” in the opposite direction. “Believe it.” And if you do believe it, then crown him the Most Effective Liar of the young century.
I agree. There is rather a lot more under the last dotted link, but I agree that Barack Obama is a great president if one becomes one through lying - very sympathetically also - and betraying almost any promise he was elected on.

2. 'Insane, Disgusting' and 'Epic Treachery': NSA Spied on Climate Talks 

Next, an article by Jon Queally on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:
While climate activists from around the world gathered outside the UN climate summit in Copenhagen in 2009 called for "System Change, Not Climate Change' while demanding to be heard by world leaders, the U.S. delegation inside the talks was busy listening to something else: a steady stream of surveillance intelligence on other nations provided by the National Security Agency.

That's according to new documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden and published Thursday by reporters at the Huffington Post and the Danish newspaper Information, with help from American journalist Laura Poitras.

Next, there are two quotes from the original reporters in Huffington Post and Information, that I skip and that you can find yourself under the last dotted link, followed by this:

According to Grim and Sheppard, citing the document, the intel gathered by the NSA was likely "used to brief U.S. officials, such as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and [President] Obama, among others." 

Even more troubling, according to Information's assessment, is that the top secret "document suggests that the NSA's [...] focus in relation to climate change was spying on other countries to collect intelligence that would support American interests, rather than preventing future climate catastrophes."

I am not amazed at all, given what I know now about the NSA and Obama, but I am willing to agree this is 2014 and not 2009. Also, I should say that I never believed in the Copenhagen Top.

Finally, I fail to see what is so specially horrible about the NSA's spying on that particular top, given that by now everybody can know that the NSA spies on everybody, and collects everything they can get, which seems to me more horrible than spying on one's own collaborators on a top.

But I agree it should not have been done, and it was a pretty filthy thing to do.

3.  Public to FCC: Don't Give Up On Open Internet

Next, and the last of today's crisis files, an article by Sarah Lazare on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:
A concerned public is demanding that the Federal Communications Commission refuse to bow down to a judicial blow to internet freedom dealt earlier this month.

One million petitions backed by a coalition of over 80 organizations — including Free Press, Prometheus Radio Project, and the American Civil Liberties Union — call for the FCC to "protect the open internet" and "reassert its clear authority over our nation’s communications infrastructure."

Petitioners say this can be accomplished by reclassifying broadband services as "telecommunications services" — a move that would subject them to regulations that protect net neutrality.

I agree with the petition, which in turn was caused by a federal judge siding with Verizon.

On probability and statistics

Next, something on probability and statistics, that expands the following note that I published yesterday a bit - and no, there will be no mathematical technicalities:
Since I believe in science and scientific hypotheses, I should add two clarifications: (i) that the hypotheses got more probable is a theorem from probability theory: if 0 < pr(F|H)=x < 1 then verifying F implies pr(H|F) > pr(H) - and so that is certain, but (ii) I have not fixed pr(H) in any case, and these may have been quite low in several cases, while the amount by which pr(H|F) > pr(H) also is not fixed.

So in fact my reasoning and my probabilities are qualitative only - which I think is much more often justified in the social sciences than it is used.

Also, you are free to put in your own hypotheticial values - indeed: you generally need to fix three: pr(F|H)=x, pr(F|~H)=y and pr(H)=z - and draw your own conclusions, and I quite willingly agree that if you fix pr(H) small enough, it will not get raised much.
I promised no technicalities, but will explain the notation (which is quite normal): "pr(F|H)" is read as  "the probability of F given H" while "pr(H)" is read as "the probability of H". (So now you at least can read it all.)

The main point of the note is the middle paragraph, for which there are quite a few reasons. Here are some of them:
1. Most users of probability and statistics - in medicine, in sociology, in psychology - do not really understand probability, and understand even less of statistics.
Anybody who has studied medicine, sociology or psychology knows this is a fact:

Firstly, more than half of the students who failed, failed over statistics: they just could not do them; secondly, no one learned any probability theory (apart perhaps from a sketch of the very basics in a statistics book); and those who made the statistics, and were not send off from the university in a study that requires it, only did so because they learned to apply a not really understood, and indeed also quite difficult, mathematical theory, but without having any good understanding of what they applied or why it worked, in general, or in this case.

At the very least this is quite odd, for it are precisely probability and statistics that are the core of the scientific method - but only a very small minority of those who use them can clearly explain the mathematics and the mathematical assumptions on which they are based.

This means that in fact much of probability and statistics as these are used in medicine and the social sciences are used as a cookbook is, with factually very little understanding, and that very little understanding includes usually not really knowing why the specific tests that were used were appropriate (although that is itself a far simpler question than about the mathematical foundations of it all).
2. All statistics, of any kind whatsoever, is based on quite a few idealizing assumptions, that are rarely stated and rarely tested. These consist in part of the assumption that all basic statements about elementary things are each and all equally probable, and the assumption that all basic starements are independent of each other.
One problem here is that several assumptions are rarely stated and rarely tested, some of which are quite difficult mathematically, and which are made to make the application of statistics possible. I merely remark this here, and leave it.

The other problem is that one knows, as a matter of fact, that many elementary things are not independent, nor equally probable, namely simply from ordinary knowledge: tomatoes are more likely to be red or green than purple or blue, and so on. And while it is true that with sufficiently large samples, one can generally find out what are the real distributions of the various kinds of things one studies (approximately), many (by far the most, for reasons of costs) actual samples are not large and presume the elementary things one studies are equal in several respects, not because they are, but because of statistical theory.

I could make quite a few other points. I will not, and observe just one more thing: The facts I refer to in 1. are completely uncontroversial, though my own direct evidence for it is almost 35 years old, and comes from the study of psychology,  circa 1980.

In case you think that this means that it has or may have improved, you must be mistaken: Since then the study times have halved; the entry conditions have become even less; and many students who started studying in Holland in a university (ca. 2008-2010) could not even answer elementary mathematical questions, themselves, without using a computer or a calculating machine, such as "how much is 1/3 + 1/4?". (But they were all admitted.)

5.  On pessimism

Next and last, there was another note that I made yesterday, that went like so:
Here is the main reason why I am inclined to pessimism: The average intelligence is low, and there is nothing anybody can do about that.
Let me start with pointing out that pessimism and optimism are attitudes rather  than objective facts (and both links are to my Philosophical Dictionary - which reminds me to put in a working link to wishful thinking, since many - hundreds - seem to have missed it, after I made a wrong link somewhere).

This does not mean that it is not a fact that one is a pessimist or an optimist, in general or about specific classes of things, but that this fact refers to one's tendencies of judging things to succeed or not, as one pleases, rather than judging the things themselves: optimists tend to be - for example - more confident their plans will work out than pessimists.

This also means that, within broad limits at least, that exclude being depressed or being manic, there is no provable correctness about many of one's pessimistic or optimistic judgements.

At this point, I wanted to give some reasons for my pessimism about political events, but I skip them and instead offer an observation on the last part of my quote: Actually, something could be done, although this is very impopular.

There are currently 7 billion people, which is far too many, given the available technologies. The only people who have done something about this are the Chinese, who have limited the amount of children by means of the one child policy (which has, at least according to the Wikipedia, 70% support, and which also includes various provisos that may allow one two children).

Well... this policy could be extended, to non-Chinese, and also could have some more provisos, such as that people with university degrees or an IQ over 130, could have several children.

Note please that this does not serve either mmy self or my family: I and my brother are the last of my family, and we will not have any children. I am merely throwing it up because I think (1) there are too many people, which is what most sensible people agree to, and (2) of the many there are, there are far too little really intelligent ones, which is what most really intelligent people agree to (and as it happens my parents and my brother and I all at least have IQs over 130), which also is the reason of very many social problems - or that is what I think.

Then again, I am living in a country where there also live millions of white trash, quite a few with many children, and mostly with the opinion that either "everybody is equivalent" (meaning: no one has the right to even suggest that they might be, in some respects, a bit superior to any white trash) or else (and more recently) that "everybody who is white and has a Dutch family name is equivalent to everyone who is white and has a Dutch family name".

So democratically, under the existing circumstances, as long as these last, my idea (that may be spelled out in quite a few different ways) does not stand a chance: Half of the current population has an IQ below 100.

Which makes me rather pessimistic, especially given the enormous problems there are.



[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.)

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)[2]

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

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