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Nederlog

March 30, 2015
Crisis: Hedges, China, Obama, "The Free Press", "Evidence-Based"
  "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















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Sections
Introduction

1. No One Is Free Until All Are Free
2. As China Rises, What Game Is President Xi Jinping
     Playing?

3. Will Obama Finally Order Corporations With Federal
     Contracts To Reveal Their Political Spending?

4.
NYT Publishes Call to Bomb Iran
5. Moneyballing Justice: "Evidence-Based" Criminal
     Reforms Ignore Real Evidence


Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Monday, March 30, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about the latest column of Chris Hedges; item 2 is about China and president Xi Jinping; item 3 is about Obama; item 4 is about the very much sunken standards in the American press; and item 5 is a fine article on (so-called) "evidence-based" criminal reforms that are hardly based on real evidence, as indeed is the case with most psychology and - especially - psychiatry.

1. No One Is Free Until All Are Free

The first item is an article by Chris Hedges on Truthdig:

This starts as follows, and sounds indeed rather like the title:

The scourge of male violence against women will not end if we dismantle the forces of global capitalism. The scourge of male violence exists independently of capitalism, empire and colonialism. It is a separate evil. The fight to end male violence against women, part of a global struggle by women, must take primacy in our own struggle. Women and girls, especially those who are poor and of color, cannot take part in a liberation movement until they are liberated. They cannot offer to us their wisdom, their leadership and their passion until they are freed from physical coercion and violent domination. This is why the fight to end male violence across the globe is not only fundamental to our movement but will define its success or failure. We cannot stand up for some of the oppressed and ignore others who are oppressed. None of us is free until all of us are free. 

First the title: I disagree with it because it is a gross overstatement.

There are quite a few ways to see this (if you don't), and two of these are very simple observations: (1) very few people know more than a few hundreds of persons somewhat well (and most know fewer) and (2) there are three times more persons in the world than there are seconds in the life of a 70 year old.

The third is an inference from these two basic facts:

Even if one agrees to the sentiment in the title, there are very many more people than one ever can get to know, and freedom is mostly local and legal i.e. it depends in considerable part on the ethics and morality of the people one deals with in one's life, which in turn depends in considerable part on the society one lives in, its laws, and the extent to which these are factually practised.

Second, the statement that "Women and girls, especially those who are poor and of color, cannot take part in a liberation movement until they are liberated" also is a gross overstatement:

Liberation movements are not only maintained by liberated persons; what and who is "liberated" anyway is a difficult question, although it is clear there are very many degrees of liberation, and quite a few kinds; and indeed if I translated the statement to males it seems rather a lot like saying that a man like my father, who was a quite intelligent marxist for some 45 years (with an IQ over 135), could not take part in the communist movement until he had finished a university (for which there was no money) in which he would have learned to liberate himself of his lack of - say - academic economic knowledge.

It so happens that I think my father was mistaken, but then so are all people in quite serious ways as well (and there are as many ways to be mistaken as there are human mistakes), while he did as well as he could and as he knew.

So while I agree with some of Chris Hedges' sentiments and indeed agree with
him on prostitution more than not, it seems to me this first paragraph is seriously exaggerated in some points.

Here is some background (and Hedges' article is put together from the speech he made at Simon Fraser University):

On Friday night at Simon Fraser University—where my stance on prostitution, expressed in a March 8 Truthdig column titled “The Whoredom of the Left,” had seen the organizers of a conference on resource extraction attempt to ban me from the gathering, an action they revoked after protests from radical feminists—I confronted the sickness of a predatory society.

This is quite true: On March 9 I reviewed the mentioned column, with some praise and some criticisms, but more praise than criticism, and on March 15 I angrily dismissed the attempts of (it seems: anonymous) "sex workers" to deny Chris Hedges' right to speak.

Here is - to start with -  Chris Hedges' appreciation of neoliberal capitalism:

These vast predatory enterprises hold up the possibility of personal wealth, personal advancement and personal power at the expense of everyone and everything else. They create a huge, permanent divide between the exploiters and the exploited, one that is rarely crossed.

I mostly agree, and indeed would add that the propagandists of neoliberal capitalism, the so-called "public relations" corporations, have widely spread the  complete lies that "personal wealth, personal advancement and personal power"
are there for everyone, and succeeded in convincing especially the many who are dumb and poor that they too may get rich.

And this is Chris Hedges' extension of his theme to prostitution:

Sexual slavery—and not incidentally pornography—is always one of war’s most lucrative industries. This is not accidental. For war, like destroying the planet for plunder, is also a predatory endeavor. It is a denial of the sacred. It is a turning away from reverence. Human beings, like the Earth itself, become objects to destroy or be gratified by, or both. They become mere commodities that have no intrinsic value beyond monetary worth. The pillage of the Earth, like war, is about lust, power and domination. The violence, plunder, destruction, forced labor, torture, slavery and, yes, prostitution are all part of unfettered capitalism, a single evil. And we will stand united or divided against this evil. To ignore parts of this evil, to say that some forms of predatory behavior are acceptable and others are not, will render us powerless in its face. The goal of the imperialists and corporate oligarchs is to keep the oppressed divided. And they are doing a good job.

I do not quite agree, but surely this is more correct than its denial, also in view of the following, that seems mostly correct to me:

Imagine what it would be like for your mouth, your vagina and your rectum to be penetrated every day, over and over, by strange men who called you “bitch,” “slut,” “cunt” and “whore,” who slapped and hit you, and then to be beaten by a pimp. This is not sex. And it is not sex work. It is gang rape.

Back to (neoliberal) capitalism and its offshoots:

The object of corporate culture, neoliberal ideology, imperialism and colonialism is to strip people of their human attributes. Our identity as distinct human beings must be removed. Our history and our dignity must be obliterated. The goal is to turn every form of life into a commodity to exploit. And girls and women are high on the list.

You may think this is also exaggerated, but it certainly is the case that "(t)he object of corporate culture" "is to turn every form of life into a commodity to exploit" - or perhaps rather to insist that what cannot be made a fine profit on
must be quite worthless (which I completely disagree with, but which is the dominant value of neoliberal capitalism).

My final quotation is about what the ethics of neoliberal capitalism - whatever is not profitable is worthless; whoever does not make big profits is worthless; greed is good, and selfishness is moral - will lead to:

The ethic peddled by capitalist and imperialist elites, the cult of the self, the banishing of empathy, the belief that violence can be used to make the world conform, require the destruction of the communal and the destruction of the sacred. This corrupt ethic, if not broken, will mean the end of not only human society but the human species. The elites who orchestrate this pillage, like elites who pillaged parts of the globe in the past, probably believe they can outrun their own destructiveness. They think that their wealth, privilege and gated communities will save them.

I mostly agree (though I am not a great fan of "the communal" or "the sacred"), although I am cynical enough to believe that the very rich may succeed in destroying 90% of mankind and may try to live ever happily afterward.

2. As China Rises, What Game Is President Xi Jinping Playing?

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

This is mostly a review of an article by Natalie Nougaryede in The Guardian, but since I think she is neither clever nor has the right intellectual equipment (I am sorry, but that is what I think) I skip that, and merely quote the former PM of Australia, Kevin Rudd, who summed up Xi Jinping as follows:

First, in the face of “endemic corruption ... concerns about China’s ability to maintain strong growth” and rising “pollution levels that can provoke public outrage,” Xi wants to maintain the central authority of the Chinese Communist Party.

Second, “Xi wants to re-gear China’s economy from an old (export-led) economic model to a new (domestic consumption-led) model. ... a huge task, especially when growth rates are slowing down.”

Third, “China wants to continue to seize what its official lexicon calls a ‘strategic opportunity’ to increase its global influence.” This requires a commitment by China to lower tensions between Asian nations.

That seems fair enough - and China probably will overtake the U.S. this century, and become the strongest nation in the world (which may and probably will change a lot).

3. Will Obama Finally Order Corporations With Federal Contracts To Reveal Their Political Spending? 

The next item is an article by Steven Rosenfeld on AlterNet:
This startd as follows:

After years of fruitless negotiating with Republicans, the White House has turned to the power of its pen — executive orders — to make progress on many needed national priorities.

So why is President Obama still hesitating on what should be a no-brainer: requiring corporations with federal contracts to reveal their political spending?

Corporations owned by David and Charles Koch, which have received an estimated $100 million from the federal government in recent years, would be affected. The libertarian industrialists have put hundreds of millions into an array of pro-GOP groups in recent years, according to painstaking reporting. They are perhaps the best-known example of using very big money to tilt electoral outcomes, but they are hardly alone in today's political culture. 

I selected this article because I wanted an answer to the question its title asks, but this I did not get.

And I cannot forego the opportunity to ask why President Obama supported the banks' managers, why President Obama and his government did not prosecute the completely corrupt and fraudulent bank's managers, why President Obama supports the TTP, and why President Obama supports the TTIP?!

(My answer: Because he wants to. He wanted power, not "Change!", and he got it.)

4. NYT Publishes Call to Bomb Iran

The next item is an article by Robert Parry on Consortiumnews:
This starts as follows:

If two major newspapers in, say, Russia published major articles openly advocating the unprovoked bombing of a country, say, Israel, the U.S. government and news media would be aflame with denunciations about “aggression,” “criminality,” “madness,” and “behavior not fitting the Twenty-first Century.”

But when the newspapers are American – the New York Times and the Washington Post – and the target country is Iran, no one in the U.S. government and media bats an eye. These inflammatory articles – these incitements to murder and violation of international law – are considered just normal discussion in the Land of Exceptionalism.

On Thursday, the New York Times printed an op-ed that urged the bombing of Iran as an alternative to reaching a diplomatic agreement that would sharply curtail Iran’s nuclear program and ensure that it was used only for peaceful purposes. The Post published a similar “we-must-bomb-Iran” op-ed two weeks ago.

Indeed. I agree with Robert Parry that this is quite crazy, but nowadays seems to be accepted in the top of the leading papers in the U.S.

There is considerably more in the article, that is good
.

5. Moneyballing Justice: "Evidence-Based" Criminal Reforms Ignore Real Evidence

The last item for today is an article by Nancy A. Heitzeg and Kay Whitlock:
This starts as follows:

Proponents of the new wave of "criminal justice reform" claim that their efforts are nonpartisan, non-ideological and "evidence- based."

This "evidence-based" frame asserts that mass incarceration and "overcriminalization" will be remedied by a handful of sentencing reforms affecting "low-level" offenders. An essential element of such reform is the widespread use of "evidence-based risk-assessment" instruments to purportedly help authorities objectively determine who is "dangerous" - and therefore must remain in prison - and who is not.

This isn't a miracle cure; it is a lavishly funded public relations campaign advancing unfettered free-market "solutions" to criminal justice dilemmas and the politics of austerity. "Bipartisanship" is driven by a right-wing agenda and support from a constellation of libertarian and neoliberal economic interests. It is funded by Koch Industries and a handful of foundations and deep-pocketed donors. Yes, some high-profile people and groups considered liberal have signed on - but to messaging and strategic direction already established by the right.

There is a lot more, for this is a long article, that is also quite good, and that deserves to be read.

In fact, I selected this article because it contained the term (including the quotation marks) ""
Evidence-Based"", since I know that as soon as "a science" insists it is "evidence-based" it is using a purely propagandistic term ("evidence-based") that very strongly suggests that the "science" (if it ever was a real science) is no longer being used in a really scientific way. [1]

I will explain, but must start this explanation by pointing out that I have an excellent B.A. in philosophy and an even better M.A. in psychology (average: 9.3 out out of 10 maximal), while in both studies I was mostly interested in mathematical logic, philosophy of science and statistics, and I know a whole lot of these subjects (that I will not use in this section, but which is a quite relevant fact).

Also, while the article - very correctly - finds fault with "evidence-based" criminology (which in fact is not a real science) I found out what is wrong with
"evidence-based" "science" when I researched psychiatry, that also is not and never was a real science. (It is a pseudoscience, like criminology.)

What
"evidence-based" "science" means is this - and I present it as a series of steps that a supposed "scientist" who is employed in some university may follow:

(1) pick out a theme that interests journalists and politicians (2) select some 14-18 "volunteers" and a p-value (3) reduce the theme to 8 or 10 multiple choice questions (4) let the ca. 15 "volunteers" - usually first-year students - answer the 8 or 10 questions  (and steps (2)-(4) are glossed over by Diederik Stapel and his many dishonest "scientific" mates: they make their own evidence, in secret) and (5) calculate whether the p-value is contradicted (6) if it is, send in the paper for publication and phone or mail a journalist or two (and inform some politicians); if it is not, forget about it and try another theme.

And that is it - and with some luck you become "a world famous scientist" like
Diederik Stapel, and you can "prove" that
- Garbage in the streets leads to discrimination
- Meat-eating leads to boorishness and anti-social behavior
which again will be used by politicians to motivate spending millions on this and siimilar bullshit that is supposedly "scientifically justified" by this crap. Or alternatively, you can "prove" that psychiatric medicines "work".

What is wrong with this? In brief: Everything. This is not science but fraud:

Your theme should not be chosen as one that interests journalists; the volunteers are far too little and generally also not varied enough; the p-value, that is supposed to measure the chance that you are right, is generally completely unlike any p-value physicists use (1 in 20 versus 1 in 10 million are good examples) and far too small; the questions that reduce the theme to experiment are complete reductions of the theme to "empirical outcomes", and are generally false and misleading; the reason to publish - "Wow! We are 95% correct! This is publishable!" - is generally bullshit (for real science you need experiments with a much higher probability), and this whole way of doing "science" is fundamentally fraudulent - but is the norm in "sciences" like psychology and psychiatry.

For more, see my "
The excellence of Dutch science & psychology: Diederik Stapel" and Paul Lutus's "Is psychology a science?" As to Stapel:

No journalist ever got a chance for a really decent interview; he has not been punished for 15 years of scientific fraud and at least 55 fraudulent articles; he has a new job in which he makes again good money; he avoided being prosecuted; he did not cooperate to establish which of his articles were frauds; and his book "Derailment", in which he tried to excuse himself, seems again full of lines that were not thought of by himself but by James Joyce and Raymond Carver.

In brief: Fraudulent science pays very well, and the few who get caught - at least if they are Dutch - are hardly punished. Besides: one may be a fraudulent scientist without being dishonest (or just a little), which is also what Diederik Stapel says.


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Note

[1] Here is the reason "evidence-based" is propaganda (that is also wholly apart from the fact that the methodology of "evidence-based" is total bullshit):

It very strongly and quite falsely suggests that the "science" or science before
it was formally declared to be "
evidence-based" was not based on evidence - which is completely false (i) because every real empirical science is based on evidence, and (ii) because the evidence it was based on was in general not a carefully crafted fraudulent method that forced decisions on the basis of reductive statistical tests with a p-value that can be "tested" with 16 or so "volunteers" on the basis of some multiple-choice questions.


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