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Nederlog


  May
5, 2014
Crisis: Post-Constitutional, anti GCHQ, Lapham, Social Sciences, Inequality
   "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
Sections
Introduction

1. The Post-Constitutional Era
2. Green politicians launch legal challenge over GCHQ
     surveillance

3. Lewis Lapham and Thomas Frank Forecast the Next
     American Revolution

4. The Reformation: Can Social Scientists Save Themselves?
5. America Is NUMBER ONE...In Income Inequality
 
About ME/CFS


Introduction:

This is the Nederlog of May 5. It is a crisis issue.

There are several interesting items: The first is by Chris Hedges, who argues, convincingly I think, that the U.S. is in a post-constitutional phase, mostly due to the partiality of the majority of the judges of the Supreme Court for the rich; next is a legal challenge by Green Party parliamentarians to the GCHQ; next a long article of which I quote only one bit on the next American Revolution (according to Lapham an Frank); next is a long article on the issue whether social scientists are capable of saving themselves (I say: No, not if they remain as they have been since 1970, and they probably will: proto- and pseudo-science for the lesser gifted); and finally a piece about the U.S. being easily number one in income inequalities, compared to most European countries.

1. The Post-Constitutional Era

The first item is an article by Chris Hedges on Truth dig:
It starts as follows - and you may need some understanding of the Hedges-Ellsberg-Chomsky-and others case, that the Supreme Court refused to hear, though it is explained after this beginning:
The U.S. Supreme Court decision to refuse to hear our case concerning Section 1021(b)(2) of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which permits the military to seize U.S. citizens and hold them indefinitely in military detention centers without due process, means that this provision will continue to be law. It means the nation has entered a post-constitutional era. It means that extraordinary rendition of U.S. citizens on U.S. soil by our government is legal. It means that the courts, like the legislative and executive branches of government, exclusively serve corporate power—one of the core definitions of fascism. It means that the internal mechanisms of state are so corrupted and subservient to corporate power that there is no hope of reform or protection for citizens under our most basic constitutional rights. It means that the consent of the governed—a poll by OpenCongress.com showed that this provision had a 98 percent disapproval rating—is a cruel joke. And it means that if we do not rapidly build militant mass movements to overthrow corporate tyranny, including breaking the back of the two-party duopoly that is the mask of corporate power, we will lose our liberty. 
This is sharply formulated, but it seems mostly true to me - except that I do not see any "militant mass movements" and I also do not expect much of them.

Then what, you may ask. Keep argueing, I'd say, and perhaps hope for another major crisis, that will destroy the present US state and government, because of its enormous debts.

There is also this, on page 2 of the article:
The goals of corporate capitalism are increasingly indistinguishable from the goals of the state. The political and economic systems are subservient to corporate profit. Debate between conventional liberals and conservatives has been replaced by empty political theater and spectacle. Corporations, no matter which politicians are in office, loot the Treasury, escape taxation, push down wages, break unions, dismantle civil society, gut regulation and legal oversight, control information, prosecute endless war and dismantle public institutions and programs that include schools, welfare and Social Security. And elected officials, enriched through our form of legalized corporate bribery, have no intention of halting the process.
Yes, that also seems to be basically correct and sharply formulated. The next paragraph has this, which I tend to doubt (but I have never been to the U.S.):
Those of us who are condemned as radicals, idealists and dreamers call for basic reforms that, if enacted, will make peaceful reform possible. But corporate capitalists, now unchecked by state power and dismissive of the popular will, do not see the fires they are igniting. The Supreme Court ruling on our challenge is one more signpost on the road to dystopia. 
What I tend to doubt is that "corporate capitalists, now unchecked by state power and dismissive of the popular will, do not see the fires they are igniting": I think they very well may both see this and have planned for this, among other things by militarizing the American police.

It ends as follows:
Our corporate masters will not of their own volition curb their appetite for profits. Human misery and the deadly assault on the ecosystem are good for business. These masters have set in place laws that, when we rise up—and they expect us to rise up—will permit the state to herd us like sheep into military detention camps. Section 1021(b)(2) is but one piece of the legal tyranny now in place to ensure total corporate control. The corporate state also oversees the most pervasive security and surveillance apparatus in human history. It can order the assassination of U.S. citizens. It has abolished habeas corpus. It uses secret evidence to imprison dissidents, such as the Palestinian academic Mazen Al-Najjar. It employs the Espionage Act to criminalize those who expose abuses of power. A ruling elite that accrues for itself this kind of total power, history has shown, eventually uses it.
Yes - that is: "they expect us to rise up", and indeed the most likely outcome of such an uprisal is that it "will permit the state to herd us like sheep into military detention camps", from which almost no one will come back.

And as I also see very few willing to rise up, my message is to keep argueing, and, perhaps, keep or start hoping that the existing U.S. system will collapse, from debts, from incompetence, from greed, from stupidity, from internal strife or from other reasons.

There is considerably more under the last dotted link, and it is better if you read all of it.

2. Green politicians launch legal challenge over GCHQ surveillance 

The next item is an article by Rob Evans on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:

Two politicians have launched a legal action to challenge the government's ability to spy on parliamentarians.

The pair allege that GCHQ is violating a long-established rule that bans intelligence agencies from eavesdropping on MPs and peers. They say their communications are likely to have been intercepted by GCHQ, which gathers and stores data on millions of people "on a blanket basis".

The claim by Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion, and Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, the Green party's two representatives in parliament, adds to a growing number of legal challenges over the large-scale harvesting of emails, phone calls and other internet traffic by GCHQ.

Their complaint focuses on a rule introduced by 1966 by the then prime minister, Harold Wilson, instructing Britain's intelligence agencies not to tap the telephones of MPs and peers unless there is a national emergency.

Also, the present government has affirmed that the rule still is in place, as the rest of the article makes clear.

I am for it, although I believe that nearly all people should not be surveilled. But parliamentarians at least have some special right not to be surveilled, precisely because they may be mailed or written to by many persons, and indeed Harold Wilson agreed to that.

Then again, I am not very confident about the outcome, which I expect will go as the SCOTUS rulings: You cannot prove that you are surveilled (for this is done in secret, if it is done), and "therefore" you have "no standing" - case dismissed. That is effectively: "Our government's secret services are and must be free to do whatever they please - Trust UsTM", but then they have done so since 9/11/2001, both in the U.S. and Great Britain.

But I am for it. There is considerably more under the last dotted link.

3. Lewis Lapham and Thomas Frank Forecast the Next American Revolution

The next item is an article by Alexander Reed Kelly on Truth Dig:

This contains the following, by Lewis Lapham, that in a sense continues the first item:

“I suspect that if any genuinely revolutionary change takes place it will be forced upon us by a collapse of some kind in the system,” he told the bookstore audience. “That’s another form of revolution that you find across time where the civilization or the ancien regime falls apart of its own dead weight. And in the ruins, the phoenix of a new idea or a new thought or a new system of value takes its place. But that’s not something that can be organized by a committee or preached from a column in the New York Times, or even by a four-day conference about American values sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation.”

“I don’t think we have to be concerned that we’re not parading around in the streets,” he added. “It will come of its own accord sooner rather than later.”

Yes, that seems mostly correct. There is more in the last dotted link, and a lot more in the next link (which I did not read all):

4. The Reformation: Can Social Scientists Save Themselves?

The next item is an article by Jerry Adler in Pacific Standard - The Science of Society:

It is over 100 Kb, and it is here mostly because I am a psychologist and a philosopher, who also has argued and written a lot about related questions.

The article starts - correctly - with
postmodernism and how that was mostly killed by the Sokal Hoax (<-Wikipedia: interesting), which was an intentional fraud by a leftist professor of physics, who thereby showed that leading postmodernists did not know at all what they were talking about, as indeed was the case.

The Sokal Hoax was published in 1996, which is nineteen years after I first had argued, in published writing, against the beginnings of postmodernism, but that ended in 1977 by attacks on my character, while I was in 1988, briefly before taking my M.A. in philosophy, removed from the faculty of philosophy, "because of my published ideas", as the Board of Directors of the University of Amsterdam wrote me
[2], which was the only case any Dutch student was ever removed from a university since WW II, namely "because he had published ideas" (that consisted only and exclusively of questions: See here, in English).

Incidentally, that is another example of the willful blindness I had an item about yesterday:

Almost no one in the Dutch "academic world" saw any problem with postmodernism from its start in the nineteen seventies to its finish (as a major stream of quasi-"thought") in the nineteen nineties (although parts still live on), just as almost no one saw any problem with the postmodernistic slogans that "everybody knows that truth does not exist" and "everyone knows that everybody" - you, Einstein and Eichmann - "is equivalent".

And they did not see any problem with it, because of willful blindness and conformism, and besides almost no one had a brilliant mind or an independent individualist attitude.

Next (and I am skipping a lot), Adler writes:

Something unprecedented has occurred in the last couple of decades in the social sciences. Overlaid on the usual academic incentives of tenure, advancement, grants, and prizes are the glittering rewards of celebrity, best-selling books, magazine profiles, TED talks, and TV appearances. A whole industry has grown up around marketing the surprising-yet-oddly-intuitive findings of social psychology, behavioral economics, and related fields. The success of authors who popularize academic work—Malcolm Gladwell, the Freakonomics guys, and the now-disgraced Jonah Lehrer—has stoked an enormous appetite for usable wisdom from the social sciences. And the whole ecosystem feeds on new, dramatic findings from the lab.
Yes - but this is clearly due to a combination of market forces and stupidity (or lack of real intelligence), and in fact in Holland something similar happened to prizes for writers of literature: The literature keeps being mostly as awful and horrible as it always was, but there now is a lot of money available for prizes - that gets earned back by the sales of awful books to the majority of dimwits (who these days also lack the knowledge of foreign languages, and therefore can't see how awful it is).

I do not think it will last long, but I may be mistaken, for the universities are not what they used to be, until the 1960ies. In any case, Adler moves next to Diederik Stapel and some colleagues, who made up the data, because that made him and them famous, that is, until Stapel and the others were found out.

Next (still skipping) there is this problem:
OUTRIGHT FAKERY IS CLEARLY more common in psychology and other sciences than we’d like to believe. But it may not be the biggest threat to their credibility. As the journalist Michael Kinsley once said of wrongdoing in Washington, so too in the lab: “The scandal is what’s legal.” (..)  It is called “p-hacking,” or, more colorfully, “torturing the data until it confesses.”
Yes, indeed - and this is why I've said (long ago already, and in quite a few Nederlogs) that I generally distrust p-values - but I was the only psychologist to do so in the 1980ies and 1990ies, albeit also almost the only one with a good knowledge of philosophy of science. (Basically, the rest didn't care, and wasn't interested in the truth either, and agreed it didn't exist.)

Back to Simmons:

As Simmons showed, psychologists who deploy enough statistical sleight of hand can find “significance” in almost any data set. How often do researchers give in to this temptation?
Yes, indeed - and Adler cites several fine examples, that I leave to you. Then (again skipping) there is this:
The idea that experiments should be replicable, producing the same results when run under the same conditions, was identified as a defining feature of science by Roger Bacon back in the 13th century. But the replication of previously published results has rarely been a high priority for scientists, who tend to regard it as grunt work. Journal editors yawn at replications.
Quite so, at least in psychology and sociology. The basic formal reason that replications are rarely done is that they are harder to publish; the underlying real reason is that almost all social scientists have very little real understanding of philosophy of science (which requires knowledge of mathematics and logic, both of which tend to be too difficult for social scientists).

Note that I did not say they know nothing of it: Most know about falsification, and all can use the term "paradigm" in a Kuhnian way (that is, with 26 different meanings). The problem is that very few know more, and most are not really interested either, especially not if it contains mathematics.

Here is my last quotation:

LEST YOU THINK THAT these problems of fraud, statistical analysis, and replication are merely endemic to the “soft sciences,” think again. Over the past few years, the skepticism surrounding high-profile psychological findings has bled over into other fields, raising awareness generally of scientific misconduct and error.
I say. Well... I welcome that, but now I will do something Adler did not really do, namely answering the question in the title of his essay (that I do like) namely "Can Social Scientists Save Themselves?":

I graduated while I was ill (and studied also while ill) but did so with the best possible marks, but I never published anything in psychology after 1981. The reason I did not and will not is that it has become very clear to me that the vast majority of those who qualify as psychologists or sociologists, including the vast majority of those who become tenured academics, at least in Holland, are utter dimwits, who do not really like science, do not really understand science (other than as "a career opportunity"), and do not really care for science: all they care for is an easy life and possibly some personal fame and status, however gained.

Besides, psychology and sociology are not real sciences, as are physics and chemistry, except in the hands of a very few, such as William James and Max Weber, and that is also far less due to their subjects than to their personal brilliance.

So my answer is: No, not in a really scientific way. The very great majority of the social scientists studied a social science because they are no good in mathematics, and therefore can't do physics or chemistry;
the very great majority of the social scientists I've known had serious problems with the elementary statistics they had to pass; the very great majority of the social scientists is not really interested in real science, in real philosophy of science, or in real mathematics.

There are a few exceptions, and indeed I have met two, but in 35 years, and seeing or knowing of several hundreds of social scientists, at least, that is very little.

Finally, although this is quite clear to me, it is quite conceivable "the social sciences" will continue, if only because they have been university subjects for almost a hundred years now: They give occasion for small and tiny minds to get a Ph.D. in "a science" and, with sufficiently many graduates, now and then someone will even publish something with some value, but by and large, if they continue to exist, they will exist as they have done the last nearly hundred years: As proto-scientific "studies", at best, that are mostly undertaken by the less intelligent, and that are really worthwile and "readable" only for those making a career in it, which will be nearly always with trivia or nonsense.

5. America Is NUMBER ONE...In Income Inequality

The next and last item is not an article but a video, by The Young Turks:
This is from May 3, and under the item it says:
When it comes to income inequality, no other developed economy does it quite like the U.S.A. If you need some proof, here it is.
In fact, this is a very convincing video, and here are two parts of the reasons why: Two graphics.

The first shows 12 countries between 1975 and 2007, and shows how much of the total incomes growth (without capital gains!) were divided over the 90%, the top 9%, and the richest 1%:



Conclusion: Very much more went to the 1% in the U.S. than happened in other countries, especially in Denmark, Portugal and Sweden, where (re-)distribition is much more equitable, though Denmark is a capitalist country.

Next, a chart of how much top incomes surged between 1981 and 2012:



Again, the 1% of the rich of the U.S. grew much more than any other country.

This seems to me a very clear illustration that indeed things are much better for the few rich than they are elsewhere, which they owe to all American presidents since Reagan.

As to the numbers and graphics: These are derived from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and therefore may be regarded as quite safe.

Finally, I should say the research is from the Huffington Post. See the article by Maxwell Strachan, that is quite readable and not long:

P.S. May 6, 2014: I corrected a few typos.
---------------------------------
Note
[1] Here it is necessary to insist, with Aristotle, that 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 one of the citizens: upon the same principle, if it is advantageous to place the supreme power in some particular persons, they should be appointed to be only guardians, and the servants of the laws.
(And I note the whole file I quote from is quite pertinent.)

[2] This took so long because both my ex and myself were (and are, to the best of my knowledge: we separated a long time ago) ill since 1.1.1979. This entailed many things, and one was that I did not attend university from 1983-1988.


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 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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