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."
2. Corbyn will confront a
bankrupt foreign policy. That's why
he must be backed
3. Canada Charges Syrian Officer
with Torture in Rendition
Case — Despite U.S. Silence
4. Antipsychotic drugs may be used as 'chemical cosh' to
5. originator bias?…
This is a Nederlog of
September 2, 2015.
This is a crisis
blog. There are 5 items with 6 dotted links: Item 1
is about (The Guardian's term) "China's meltdown"; item
2 is about an interesting argument
in favor of backing Corbyn as the new Labour leader; item
3 is about Canada's
decision to prosecute a Syrian officer for torturing a Canadian
citizen; item 4
is about a finding that anti-psychotics are used as blackjacks (that is
what "cosh" means, in this context) to shut up people with
learning disabilities (which is very improper, in case you
doubted that); and item 5 is - in fact - about
whether psychology and psychiatry are real sciences, now that
of 100 psychological articles published in top journals
out of 3 turned out to be not replicated.
1. China's meltdown
"The first article today" in fact consists of two articles, and
I - for once - made up the title, although I did use words that occur
in one of the two titles. Also, my reason to open with this is that I
think China - the world's second economy - is quite important.
So here is the first of two articles, by Dominic Rushe on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:
There is more in the article,
including words from the head of the IMF that were clearly meant to
quiet the speculators, which I will not quote because they are not based on any real economic fact. (But
the news is that there is nothing to worry, which I find worrisome.)
World stock markets got
off to a rocky start in September closing sharply down on fears that
China’s slowing economy will hurt economies across the globe.
In the US all the major
indices closed down, the second fall of the week, following similar
falls in Europe and Asia. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 2.8%
at 469 points, the S&P 500 closed down 2.95% and the Nasdaq down
2.95%. US stocks are on course for their worst performance since the
end of 2011.
The sell-off came after
more signs of weakness in China’s economy. Data on China’s
manufacturing sector suggested output slumped to a three-year low in August. US
markets closed down on Monday too, ending their worst August in three
What does count is that "all the major indices closed
down"; that it was the same in the US, Europe and Japan; that more than
1/50th of the total value was lost; and that the US stocks did not
perform as bad since 2011.
But I will not engage in attempts to predict or foresee the
futures of the stock exchanges, and instead turn to another article on
The Guardian, which is this time by Editorial:
contain the phrase "China's meltdown" and starts as follows:
Clad as it is in
jargon and technicalities, financial meltdowns can often seem like an
elaborate spectacle taking place in a foreign country. So it is with
the trillions wiped off shares since 24 August’s “Black Monday”. Obviously it’s a huge deal,
but beyond the numbers on Bloomberg terminals it’s hard to put into
perspective. Yet one way to think about what has happened in China over
the past couple of weeks is the drawing to a close of an
entire system for running the world economy.
I agree with the
beginning: Yes, there was a financial meltdown that started in China,
and this consisted in trillions of - speculative - dollars being lost;
and no, that is about all one can rationally say, apart from a whole
lot of "jargon and
technicalities", for no one
can rationally predict the movements of stocks.
Next, in view of the very widespread very large losses,
I think The Guardian may be correct in believing this to be a major
sign that there is a
to a close of an entire system for running
the world economy"
though that is a
Then again, there is
considerable background for this diagnosis: Here is a summary of the
past twenty years:
Over the past two
decades, globalisation has fired on two engines: the belief that
Americans would always buy the world’s goods, of which the Chinese
would make the lion’s share – and lend their income to the Americans to
buy more. That policy regime was made explicit during the Asian crisis
of the late 90s, when Federal Reserve head Alan Greenspan slashed US
borrowing rates, making it cheaper for Americans to buy imports. And it
was talked about throughout the noughties by central bankers fretting
about the “Great Wall of Cash” flooding out of China and into western
That seems a sensible
summary. Next, what has changed seems to come down (in The Guardian's
estimate) to two points. The first is this:
First, it exploded the
assumption that China can keep racking up double-digit growth rates
forever. Stock markets are only the aggregate of investors’ estimates
of the future profitability of the companies listed on them. The crash
on the Shanghai Composite suggests that shareholders are no longer so
confident of the prospects for Chinese businesses – and with reason:
data shows that China’s manufacturing, investment and demand
for commodities are all on the slide.
The loss of
confidence seems fair and rational enough in view of the fact that "China’s
manufacturing, investment and demand for commodities are all on
The second point seems a lot less rational, though I am willing
to accept it:
More importantly, the
last few weeks have shattered faith in the Beijing politburo as
technocrats with an incomparably sure touch. Whatever doubts economists
might have had over the sustainability of China’s dirty-tech,
investment-heavy economic model, they would normally be quelled with
the thought that Beijing’s “super-elite” had a textbook for every
occasion. But that was before the shock devaluation of the yuan on 11 August,
followed by a jittery press conference called by the People’s Bank of
China – after which it spent hundreds of billions buying yuan to keep
it strong, effectively reversing the devaluation.
It is a lot
less rational because in real life there simply is no “super-elite” with "a textbook for every occasion", although I am willing to accept the
that many investors believed so, as long as the boom lasted.
The boom ceased, quite suddenly and quite radically, and what is now
the case, according to The Guardian, is this:
But what’s coming to an
end is a terribly skewed system in which western consumers made up for
disappointing wages by borrowing money from Chinese producers, who in
turn bought up western bonds, banks and land. This is no bad thing for
the west or China. Eight years ago, a wise man described China’s
economy as “unstable, unbalanced, uncoordinated and
unsustainable”. That expert was Wen Jiabao, then the country’s prime minister.
I say - for this
means (as far as I can see) that "western consumers" (whose wages have
been "disappointing" since 1980, at least for the 90%!) will have to
pay for the Chinese losses, it seems rather in the way that "western consumers" were forced to pay in 2008/2009 for
the billions of losses of Western banks.
And it seems to me that it is false to say that this "is no bad thing for the west or China": It seems a bad thing for both.
But we shall see what
evolves - and it seems to me either of two things may happen, in the
next couple of months:
Either the losses
will be mostly straightened out again (by unpredictable stock
movements, that have to tend upwards on average) or else they
will not, and there will be less investment and less demand most
2. Corbyn will confront a bankrupt foreign
policy. That's why he must be backed
next article is
by Peter Oborne on Middle East Eye:
First something about
You may think I wrote
a fair amount about his chances to be elected as the new Labour leader,
and I will grant you I probably did because he is the first
somewhat hopeful Labour leader - according to me - since before Blair
(and no, I probably disagree with him about many things, but at
least he is a real leftist and he is not a liar, and
since Blair that is quite odd in "New Labour"). And you should
also realize that I skipped most that I read about Corbyn: The
Guardian is full of tendentious articles most of which try to tear him
down (with a few exceptions by Owen Jones and Seumas Milne) for no good
reasons I could see.
Next, about the
present article: I chose to review this, because it seems sensible and
it is not by a staunch Corbyn lover. It starts as follows:
With barely two weeks to go until the
election of a new Labour leader, a British establishment project has
been launched to stop Jeremy Corbyn at any cost.
Plan A involves halting
Corbyn before he reaches the winning post. Tony Blair, Peter Mandelson,
David Blunkett, Alastair Campbell and most of the leading Blairites
have already been deployed.
Their mission looks like
failing. So Plan B is also in place in the event Corbyn wins. The
intention is to make it quite impossible for the MP for Islington North
to lead the Labour Party.
Most of the mainstream
media as well as the majority of Labour MPs and party donors are part
of this conspiracy to nobble the front-runner.
Even though I do not
share many of his views, the purpose of this article is to make the
case for Mr Corbyn. My argument will be a familiar one to those who
follow political events across the Muslim world.
I quite agree with
this beginning. Then there is this:
Some Labour strategists envisage that
Jeremy Corbyn should be duly defenestrated if he becomes Labour leader
in 15 days time - so that Labour supporters can be made to vote again.
I am not a Labour voter, let alone a member of the Labour Party with a
vote in the current election. However, I am certain this would be a disaster
for British public life.
Mr Corbyn is the most
interesting figure to emerge as a leader of a British political party
for many years.
This is because he stands
for a distinct set of ideas and beliefs which set a new agenda in
British politics. If he wins on 12 September, he will be the first
party leader to come from right outside the British mainstream since
Margaret Thatcher in 1975.
Again I quite agree - and
no: I am not even "a socialist", but I do think real leftist
parties are necessary to defend the rights of ordinary people,
and since Blair "New Labour" ceased being leftist (and I am a
leftist liberal), I think there is a pressing need for a really
leftist party in Great Britain.
Part of the next part
of Oborne's article places Corbyn - quite correctly - on the left, and
traces some of his intellectual backgrounds, such as Paine and Cobbett.
This I will skip. (And you can check out the article.)
Here is part of the reason why Peter Oborne expects more from Corbyn
than from the current New Labour Party:
For two decades both main
parties have shared the same verities about British foreign policy.
They have regarded Britain as automatically subservient to the United
States. This in turn has meant that we have interpreted the partnership
with the Gulf dictatorships - such as Saudi Arabia and UAE - as central
to Britain’s Middle East focus, while taking the side of the Israeli
state against the Palestinians.
No matter which party was
technically in power, British foreign policy has remained unchanged.
David Cameron is indistinguishable in foreign policy terms to Tony
Blair. (Indeed, the former prime minister has become one of Mr
Cameron’s most valued foreign policy advisors.)
Yes, that again seems quite
true to me. The last quotation is this:
Without examples, I am less
certain of the first paragraph, though I quite agree with the second.
Most people would agree that on the most
intractable foreign policy issues of our time Corbyn has tended to be
right and the British establishment has tended to be wrong. What Corbyn
does or thinks today is likely to be vindicated a few years later. Hard
though it is for the British establishment to stomach, Corbyn’s foreign
policy ideas have generally been more balanced and far-sighted than
those of his opponents.
This certainly does not mean that he is
But overall, my own main arguments for Corbyn are that he is quite
credible (with similar political proposals since decades), he is a real
leftist (one of the few left), and he is honest, and none
of these things holds for New Labour or for its leaders.
Charges Syrian Officer with Torture in Rendition Case — Despite U.S.
next article is
by Murtaza Hussain on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:
The reason this is
reviewed is that it is almost the only case of rendition that has come
to a US or Canadian court, which itself is a great shame.
Canada has charged a
Syrian intelligence officer with torturing Maher Arar,
the Canadian whose 2002 rendition to Syria by U.S.
authorities became a cause célèbre.
The criminal charge
against Col. George Salloum is reportedly the first of its kind in
Canada and marks a formal acknowledgment that Arar was tortured
after the U.S. handed him over on suspicion of terrorist links. An
earlier official Canadian inquiry declared Arar innocent of any
The Royal Canadian
Mounted Police, who brought the charge against Salloum, are calling for
him to be extradited to Canada. Salloum allegedly oversaw Arar’s
torture in Syria’s notorious Sednaya prison.
In case you have never heard of Maher Arar, this
is a link to the Wikipedia lemma on him that is quite long, and that
seems good. One of the rather astounding and disquieting facts that
emerge from that is the complete irresponsibility of speakers for the
4. Antipsychotic drugs may be used as 'chemical cosh' to
next article is
by Sarah Boseley on The Guardian:
This starts as follows, and is
reviewed here mostly because I am an M.A. in psychology - and
perhaps you should read Study delivers bleak verdict on validity of
psychology experiment result that I published on August 28:
I am not amazed at all, but
this is one of the - many - reasons why I do not regard
psychology or psychiatry as real sciences: You should not give
anti- psychotics to people, except if they have been diagnosed
as psychotics (and even then it may be unwise, for most anti-psychotics
have side effects, and they also are not safe in other ways, and are
uncertain to work-as-stated).
numbers of people with learning disabilities are being prescribed
strong psychiatric drugs, possibly as a “chemical cosh” to quieten
those with challenging behaviour, according to new research.
A study published online by The British Medical
Journal found that the number of people registered with GP
practices with an intellectual or learning disability, who are being
treated with psychotropic drugs far exceeds those with mental illness.
If people without mental
illness are given psychotropic drugs, such as the powerful
antipsychotics more usually prescribed for people with schizophrenia or
bipolar disorder, it is probably to control their behaviour, say the
study’s authors, from University College London (UCL).
There is this by the lead author of the paper:
“I think there’s been
concern for a long time that psychotropic medications are being
overused in people with intellectual disabilities,” said Rory Sheehan,
an academic clinical fellow at UCL and lead author of the paper.
He and his fellow authors
were concerned, he said, because it is quite difficult to justify the
use of strong drugs such as antipsychotics, which can have problematic
side effects, except in specific circumstances or as a last resort.
“You wouldn’t want to give these medications without quite strong
justification,” he said.
I agree with him, but it
also seems clear to me that most of the doctors who prescribed
anti-psychotics to non-psychotics perceive it otherwise - or
may just not care much, and are simply trying to shut up people -
patients - from complaining.
And while I don't know this, it seems rather strong
given some numbers:
That is: if you have
learning disabilities (which may be of many kinds, some of
which do not suggest your intelligence is impaired ) and your doctor thinks you
About a third of those in
the study, or 11,915 people, had a record of challenging behaviour, 47%
of whom – or 5,562 people – had received antipsychotic drugs. Only 13%,
or 1,561, had a record of severe mental illness.
complain too much, your chances are about half (in Great Britain) that
your doctor will prescibe anti-psychotics - which he (or she) also will
probably neither clearly say nor attempt to clarify or
justify, even though the chance that you will develop
side-effects (which may be quite serious, and may last the rest of your
life) is appreciable.
5. originator bias?…
The last article of
by 1 boring old man, who is in fact a partially pensioned psychiatrist,
who is quite untypical for a psychiatrist:
In fact, this
is about the finding I discussed on August 28: Study delivers
bleak verdict on validity of
psychology experiment result and this time I disagree with 1 boring old
Here is the first quotation (and there is a lot more in the
original, in part also quoted from others):
That’s a very long
introduction to this – a lot of the tutorials had examples from studies
done by social psychologists. After all, who teaches the Statistics
courses? Often statistics professors come from that very discipline.
And over and over, working through the examples, I thought about the softness of the experiments compared to
medicine [even psychiatry]. I don’t mean that disparagingly. It’s the
nature of their subject matter. The study examples were kind of
interesting in their own right, and I think it prepared me for this
report about an article in Science [Estimating the reproducibility of psychological
that was a major undertaking – having 100 studies from their main
journals repeated by other unrelated groups and comparing the outcomes.
I wasn’t as surprised as the press seemed to think I ought to be at the
low reproducibility figures:
Here are some reasons
why I disagree with this:
First, and probably mostly accidentally: while I studied psychology
statistics were given by somebody who had studied mathematics, physics
and psychology, who also was one of the very few decent
met in the University of Amsterdam.
Second, I completely disagree with this bit:
And over and over,
working through the examples, I thought about the softness of the experiments compared to
medicine [even psychiatry]. I don’t mean that disparagingly. It’s the
nature of their subject matter.
No, that is in fact a
You can be fairly certain that the properties of copper or water (that
still holds mysteries!) are the same whatever bit you pick for your
experiments, and also that nearly all or all of the properties are invariant,
which makes it relatively easy to do experiments, just as you can be
certain that human beings and living things are far more complicated
than atoms or molecules, and that their properties differ, and that
many of their properties also are not invariant, all of which makes
making good experiments a lot more difficult - but this
does not mean that "the
nature of their subject matter" justifies shoddy and generally unreplicated
That amounts to saying: Because living things are more
complicated than non-living things, we will require less strong
experiments and less strong experimental evidence when
investigating living things - and in particular
we will rarely (or never) replicate or test
experimental outcomes. 
I agree this happens a lot (that experimental outcomes in
psychology are rarely replicated) but the article that showed that - in
an attempted reply to many criticisms of social psychology after Diederik Stapel's many frauds were
unmasked - two out of three of 100 psychological experiments
in top scientific journals were not replicable simply
showed that (probably) 2 out of 3 (or more) "experimental findings" in
psychology are no such things: Neither real findings, nor based
on real experiments.
Also, it is quite easy to say what would have been the really
Change the experiments, in part by taking more
subjects , and in part by requesting that only
experiments that have been replicated two or more times
(independently) and stood up each time are credible
science, if the science is psychology or psychiatry (etc.).
The reason this alternative is not followed is simple:
Psychologists and psychiatrists are - as a rule, with exceptions - far
more interested in scoring a personal success (that is good for
their careers and payments) much more than
in producing a real body of real experimental facts.
cure is quite simple, but it will not be followed as long as
the universities are as bad as they are.
Here is another remark of 1 boring old man:
I rearranged the
frequency plots from the figure to clarify the central point. The
effect sizes fell by a half and the number that were statistically
significant by two thirds. I guess they expected some fall in
reproducability, but nothing quite so dramatic. It’s a wake up call for
their field, actually for all of us – replication being the gold
standard in scientific experimentation and analysis:
First, I completely agree with
the last part: "replication" is
"the gold standard in scientific experimentation and analysis" - but this is also why neither psychology
nor psychiatry are real sciences: Very little of the
purported "experimental scientific findings" of these supposed sciences
have ever been replicated - and
once 100 experiments in top scientific journals are
replicated, 2 out of 3 "findings" turn out to be not
therefore are not real findings, I am done: A science of which
2/3rds of top
"findings" are not findings is not (yet) a real science.
Second, the beginning strongly suggests that the third part that was
replicated may have been doctored with (as Diederik Stapel
insisted his colleagues did), namely to make the outcomes more
significant than they were in fact. (There are many ways to do this.)
Finally, here is the last quotation from the article:
I obviously spent
some time thinking about this report. The authors seemed worried that
they would discredit their discipline with this low reproducibility
finding. I felt the opposite, impressed that they were examining the
precision of their metrics. Because of the subjectivity of the social
sciences, it felt like familiar territory to my own corner of things,
psychotherapy, where confirmation is so ethereal and replication is
I disagree, though I as well "spent some time thinking about this report".
First, I agreed with the authors, indeed to the extent that my
be put as follows: I had very strong doubts about the
scientificality of psychology and psychiatry since the late 1970ies
(when I studied psychology and philosophy),
but since there are extra-ordinarily few replications in psychology, I
had little data. Now that I know that 2 out of 3 of 100 of the best
articles were not replicated, it seems a fair conclusion to
infer that indeed psychology is not a real science, for a real
science has a majority of replicable experimental findings.
Second, the author of this article (1 boring old man) confuses two
senses of "subjectivity": One is admissible, and refers to the
practice of psychologists
and psychiatrists, and is indeed why I have maintained for a long time
while these were not real sciences, nevertheless some their practicians
be doing decent work. But this does not extend to experimental
the theories of science: If these are "subjective" as well,
then there simply is no science, but merely the - financially
quite profitable - pretense of science.
And I am afraid that is where it's at, for most psychiatrists and
although I still except 1 boring old man and a few others, who at least
example, the daughter of a former friend of mine is quite to very
intelligent, but she is also seriously dyslectic, indeed like her
father. Also, because she is quite intelligent, and a good speaker, she
probably will be seen by her doctors - also in view of the fact that
she got very little assistance with a serious learning disability - as
posing "challenging behaviour".
 I have investigated the process of science in
psychology in 1980, when I found that the average Dutch psychologist
published 2 1/4 (two plus one quarter) paper in a working life of 40
years, and disdained replicating psychological experiments.
years later, with "psychologists" who studied half the time I
had to do
for the same diploma, and whose IQs were on average less than
time, I don't know about how many papers are produced per Dutch
psychologist, but it is a virtual certainty almost none of then are
 All the experiments I had to
participate in (in 1980-1) were quite shoddy, hardly scientific (and
most psychologists simply did not understand the statistics
apply), and were all with the minimal number of "experimental subjects"
to make it - statistically, if everything
were perfect - probable
would be "a significant outcome".