who can give up essential
liberty to obtain a little temporary
safety, deserve neither liberty
-- Benjamin Franklin
"All governments lie and nothing
say should be believed."
"Power tends to corrupt, and
absolute power corrupts
absolutely. Great men
almost always bad men."
State of the Union: A Festival of Lies
Disgusting' and 'Epic Treachery': NSA Spied on
3. Public to FCC: Don't
Give Up On Open Internet
4. On probability and statistics
5. On pessimism
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.
State of the Union: A Festival of Lies
First, an article by Glen Ford on Common Dreams, that originally
appeared on Blackagendareport.com:
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.
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
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.
Disgusting' and 'Epic Treachery': NSA Spied on Climate Talks
Next, an article by Jon
Queally on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:
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
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:
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.
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
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
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.
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.
I agree with the petition,
which in turn was caused by a federal judge siding with Verizon.
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.
4. 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.
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.)
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Which makes me rather pessimistic, especially given the enormous
problems there are.
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
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.
note the whole file I
quote from is quite pertinent.)
(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: