Prev-IndexNL-Next

Nederlog

June 24, 2015
Crisis: TPP Passed, Google Accused, Snowden, France, Statistics Widely Abused
  "They who can give up essential 
   liberty to obtain a little temporary
   safety, deserve neither liberty
   nor safety."
 
   -- Benjamin Franklin
   "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. 'A Great Day for Corporate America': US Senate Passes
     Fast Track

2. Google Accused of “Abusive” Conduct in Privacy App Case
3. Council of Europe Calls on U.S. to Let Snowden Have a
     Fair Trial

4.
François Hollande calls emergency meeting after
     WikiLeaks claims US spied on three French presidents

5. Some Pointers on How to Catch the Dubious Use of
     Statistics


This is a Nederlog of Wednesday June 24, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: item 1 is about a major move towards fascism and terrorism: Obama's fast tracking succeeded, and therefore the TPP and also the TTIP and TiSA will very probably be approved (while few senators read any of them), which is the start of a major attack on democratic government everywhere, since all its laws and decisions will now be subject to one rule and one rule only: the expected profits of the multi- national  corporations are holy and trump any other consideration; item 2 is about Google, that - very probably quite rightly - got accused (in Europe) of abusing its users; item 3 is about the European Council that is pro Snowden (but seems to me to be merely an instrument for European politicians to get richer and more famous, and I don't expect anything from this decision); item 4 is about French president Hollande's emergency meeting after he learned that he and the previous two French presidents were spied upon by the NSA; and item 5 is about something that interests me a lot, but few others: statistics seem mostly abused in most sciences without a strong mathematical component (and they definitely are understood in those sciences only by a small minority).

So this is a sad blog, especially in view of item 1 and item 5. I will think about it
but since I receive about 2 emails per year about my site (from literally hundreds of thousands of readers - and since I got a lot more mail until 2008, with a much smaller site, that was much less visited, I tend to blame the Dutch NSA, who - if they did it - also cleaned up my spam), I probably will not publish my thoughts.
1.  'A Great Day for Corporate America': US Senate Passes Fast Track

The first item today is an article by Deirdre Fulton on Common Dreams - and she is right: It is a very sad day for everyone who does not belong to the 1%:
This starts as follows:

In a win for multinational corporations and the global one percent, the U.S. Senate on Tuesday narrowly advanced Fast Track, or Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) —ensuring for all practical purposes the continued rubber-stamping of clandestine trade agreements like the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

The cloture motion to end debate needed 60 votes and it got just that, passing the chamber 60-37. The full roll call is here. A final vote will come on Wednesday. Having overcome the biggest hurdle, the legislation is expected to pass, and will then be sent to President Barack Obama's desk to become law.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who campaigned vigorously against Fast Track, said the vote represented a win for corporate America. "The vote today—pushed by multi-national corporations, pharmaceutical companies and Wall Street—will mean a continuation of  disastrous trade policies which have cost our country millions of decent-paying jobs," the presidential candidate said in a statement.

Yes, indeed. There is also this:

Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, pointed out that the vote only came about via "elaborate legislative contortions and gimmicks designed to hand multinational corporations their top priority."

Such contortions were necessary, she added, "because the American people overwhelmingly oppose these deals, notwithstanding an endless barrage of propaganda."

Indeed, response from the progressive grassroots was fast—and furious.

"We’re outraged that Congress today voted to fast track pollution, rather than the job-creating clean energy we need to address climate change," said May Boeve, executive director of 350.org. "It's clear this deal would extend the world’s dependence on fracked gas, forbid our negotiators from ever using trade agreements in the fight against global warming, and make it easier for big polluters to burn carbon while suing anyone who gets in the way. That’s why we’re so disappointed President Obama has taken up the banner for ramming this legislative pollution through the halls of Congress, in a way he never pushed for a climate bill."

Yes. As far as I am concerned, and this is a prediction: This was a very major vote against democracy, against decent and legal government, and was a very major vote for the multinational corporations: they can now attack any law by any government on the ground that such laws diminished their expected profits, and will be assured of meeting a secret "court" manned by lawyers from the multinational corporations, also without any possibility of appeal.

It was manipulated through the millionaires of Congress, who for the most part did not know the law and did not care other then for themselves and the rich, and it was done by very conscious illegal and indecent means, and by an utterly immoral and dishonest president.

So there we are... [1]

2Google Accused of “Abusive” Conduct in Privacy App Case

The next item today is by Ryan Gallagher on The Intercept:

This starts as follows:

An award-winning company founded by former Google engineers is taking legal action against the search engine giant over claims it has engaged in a “pattern of abusive behavior” and is violating privacy rights on a “massive scale.”

Disconnect, a U.S. firm that designs privacy-enhancing technology, has filed a complaint with European antitrust regulators after its Android app was banned from the Google Play Store. The app was designed to protect smartphone users from invisible tracking and malware distributed through online advertisements.

The complaint was submitted earlier this month, but the full allegations were not made public at the time. The Intercept has obtained a copy of the 104-page complaint, which attacks Google over its claimed commitment to privacy and accuses the tech titan of trying to stop people from using the Disconnect app because it poses an “existential threat” to its revenue sources.

There is also this:

Disconnect argues in its complaint:

[I]nvisible, unsolicited tracking is Google’s lifeblood. The company makes virtually all of its revenue from advertising. Tracking permits Google to target its ads and, hence, to charge advertisers far more for ad placement. Indeed, Google is under enormous pressure from the financial community to increase the “effectiveness” of its tracking, so that it can increase  revenues and profits. Giving a user the ability to control his own privacy information (and to protect himself from malware) by blocking invisible connections to problematic sites constitutes an existential threat to Google.

Google is dismissing Disconnect’s allegations as “baseless.”

There is considerably more in the article, and I take it Disconnect is right, but given that the TPP and probably also the TTIP and the TiSA will be laws in the United States, and soon in Europe as well, is my guess, it will be extremely
hard to prove it is right in any court of law.

3. Council of Europe Calls on U.S. to Let Snowden Have a Fair Trial

The next item today is by Jenna McLaughlin on The Intercept:

This starts as follows:

The Council of Europe, the self-proclaimed “democratic conscience of Greater Europe,” urged the United States on Tuesday to allow NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden to return home and make the case that his actions had positive effects.

The call for Snowden to be allowed a “public interest defense” — something not available to whistleblowers charged under the Espionage Act of 1917, as Snowden has been — was part of a resolution to improve international protections for whistleblowers passed overwhelmingly by the 47-nation council’s parliamentary assembly at its meeting in Strasbourg, France.

After the vote, Snowden spoke to the assembly by video from Moscow, where he has temporary asylum. “It would be committing a crime by discussing your defense,” Snowden said of his current legal prospects if he returned to the U.S.

“I think it’s incredibly strong,” he said of the council’s resolution. “It’s a major step forward. … If you can’t mount a full and effective defense — make the case that you are revealing information in the public interest — you can’t have a fair trial.”

Well...what is "The Council of Europe", in the first place, since I have never heard of it while I read a good Dutch daily, while it was good, for 45 years?

Here is the beginning of an answer:

The council is a forum for representatives of the member governments to meet, discuss and promote important human rights issues. It doesn’t carry any formal or legal weight, but has acted as a leader on human rights issues in Europe since it was founded in 1949.

O Lord! No, I am sorry: This is just another parliamentary organization that exists to sluice money and fame to European parliamentarians. And if this is the
"
leader on human rights issues in Europe" - well...I am out.

4. François Hollande calls emergency meeting after WikiLeaks claims US spied on three French presidents

The next item today is an article by Kim Willsher on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:

The French president, François Hollande, is holding an emergency meeting of his country’s defence council after claims that American agents spied on three successive French presidents between 2006 and 2012. According to WikiLeaks documents published late on Tuesday, even the French leaders’ mobile phone conversations were listened to and recorded.

The leaked US documents, marked “top secret”, were based on phone taps and filed in an NSA document labelled “Espionnage Elysée” (Elysée Spy), according to the newspaper Libération and investigative news website Mediapart. The US was listening to the conversations of centre-right president Jacques Chirac, his successor Nicolas Sarkozy, and the current French leader, Socialist François Hollande, elected in 2012.

The recorded conversations, which were handled by the summary services unit at the NSA, were said to reveal few state secrets but show clear evidence of the extent of American spying on countries considered allies. WikiLeaks documents suggest that other US spy targets included French cabinet ministers and the French ambassador to the United States.

There is also this:

The revelations come as France gives its domestic intelligence and surveillance services controversial greater powers to combat jihadist networks, with more permissions to bug phones and licences to carry out mass surveillance on the internet.

In an article co-authored by Julian Assange, the French newspaper Libération pointed out that in matters of spying, there are no friends: “Spying abroad is the ultimate ‘grey zone’ in surveillance – it is also, in France, the real blind spot of the planned law on surveillance, expected to be adopted this Wednesday.”
And there are the usual bland denials by the NSA, while there is more in the article.

5. Some Pointers on How to Catch the Dubious Use of Statistics

The last item today is an article by Yves Smith on Naked Capitalism that is about a theme that is close to my heart since 1977 (!) but - alas - to few others:
This starts as follows:
A long standing pet peeve is how the use of figures has been fetishized in political discourse and in our society generally, to the point where many people too easily swayed by argument that invoke data (I discussed this phenomenon at length in the business context in a 2006 article for the Conference Board Review, Managementt’s Great Addiction).
The main argument is this, with boldings by me (and you are adviced to read this closely):

If you are interested in more on this topic, I strongly urge you to read the classic and widely-cited 2005, Why Most Published Research Findings Are False. Note that this paper’s warnings apply most strongly to research where the investigator creates his own data set for study, such as medical research. Here is the abstract:

There is increasing concern that most current published research findings are false. The probability that a research claim is true may depend on study power and bias, the number of other studies on the same question, and, importantly, the ratio of true to no relationships among the relationships probed in each scientific field. In this framework, a research finding is less likely to be true when the studies conducted in a field are smaller; when effect sizes are smaller; when there is a greater number and lesser preselection of tested relationships; where there is greater flexibility in designs, definitions, outcomes, and analytical modes; when there is greater financial and other interest and prejudice; and when more teams are involved in a scientific field in chase of statistical significance. Simulations show that for most study designs and settings, it is more likely for a research claim to be false than true. Moreover, for many current scientific fields, claimed research findings may often be simply accurate measures of the prevailing bias. In this essay, I discuss the implications of these problems for the conduct and interpretation of research.

I downloaded and read through "the classic and widely-cited 2005" paper and it is OK as far as it goes, though you do need some statistics to understand all of it.

My own general point is this:

I have been protesting - in writing, in speaking, in university politics - against the hardly scientific level of education I got since 1977. Since then I have been removed, seriously ill as well, from the faculty of philosophy as a student, briefly before taking my M.A. in philosophy (which thus was made impossible), because I spoke the truth about my teachers: they were all utterly incompetent, did not publish anything whatsoever, and were essentially grossly overpaid whores of reason; after my removal I got an excellent M.A. in psychology, mostly on mathematical, statistical, logical and physical grounds, since by the time I got an M.A. in psychology I felt long certain (in fact: since 1980) that only a small part of psychology is a real science, while I also have been investiga- ting psychiatry since 2009, and have learned
that this is a very fraudulent pseudoscience.

I still think what I thought and said and wrote is true, and I have also decided (already in 1980) that I don't believe anymore in psychology as a real science, and similarly for other sciences without a large mathematical component, including medicine (that these days "experiments" to get its expensive drugs approved, with "scientific" papers written by its public relations staff, but signed, for a nice price, by Key Opinion Leaders in medicine).

So it seems much of science these days is mostly corrupt, and indeed it will not get better as long as the universities are as bad as they are (which is, with a few exceptions, worse than while I studied, if only because most studies have been both simplified and shortened, mostly in order to give very averagely gifted people also a chance to get a B.A.).

Ah well... [1]

-----------------------------------------------------------
Notes

[1] I am very glad I was born in 1950 and not later. But indeed this will not help the majority of those born later than I am. Fortunately or unfortunately,
most of these don't believe me, and indeed the vast majority also knows a whole lot less of real science.

       home - index - summaries - mail