Corruption

End of science (as we once knew it)

Citation cartels help some mathematicians—and their universities—climb the rankings | Science | AAAS

Cliques of mathematicians at institutions in China, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere have been artificially boosting their colleagues’ citation counts by churning out low-quality papers that repeatedly reference their work, according to an unpublished analysis seen by Science. As a result, their universities—some of which do not appear to have math departments—now produce a greater number of highly cited math papers each year than schools with a strong track record in the field, such as Stanford and Princeton universities.

These so-called “citation cartels” appear to be trying to improve their universities’ rankings, according to experts in publication practices. “The stakes are high—movements in the rankings can cost or make universities tens of millions of dollars,” says Cameron Neylon, a professor of research communication at Curtin University. “It is inevitable that people will bend and break the rules to improve their standing.” In response to such practices, the publishing analytics company Clarivate has excluded the entire field of math from the most recent edition of its influential list of authors of highly cited papers, released in November 2023.

Corporations tend to choose survival over morality in the absence of countervailing power.

Apex predators

Acktivism | No Mercy / No Malice

Scott Galloway

An apex predator known as an activist investor has escaped its cage and is now attacking social issues. What happens to Harvard is a sideshow. Ackman’s billionaire tantrum represents a far more dangerous virus that has plagued humans throughout history: the concentration of power.

Parallels between Argentina and Britain’s inept political class

The parallels between Argentina and Britain’s inept political class – New Statesman

John Gray in the New Statesman.

The catastrophic meltdown in public finances that very nearly happened during Liz Truss’s short spell as prime minister was not the result of a one-off act of political folly. Her madcap dash for deficit-financed growth revealed Britain’s heavy dependency on global capital flows and acute vulnerability if they come to a sudden stop. Since then, UK government borrowing costs have risen. Quantitative easing after the financial crisis of 2007-08, the costs of lockdown, and energy subsidies have left colossal levels of public debt.

In effect, the British state is operating as a highly leveraged hedge fund.

It won’t end well.

Timing

Rishi Sunak used helicopter for trip from London to Norwich | Rishi Sunak | The Guardian

Rishi Sunak has used a helicopter to travel to and from an engagement in Norwich, a trip of little more than 100 miles, Downing Street has confirmed, in another example of the prime minister’s fondness for flying brief distances.

UWE Bristol rugby player waited five hours for ambulance, inquest hears | Bristol | The Guardian

A 20-year-old university student who died after being injured in a rugby match and acquiring an infection in hospital lay in agony on the pitch for more than five hours while she waited for an ambulance, an inquest has heard.[she had a dislocated hip]

Patients in England will be first to access seven-minute cancer treatment jab | Cancer | The Guardian

Patients in England will become the first in the world to benefit from a jab that treats cancer in seven minutes.

It is expected that the majority of these people will now get the drug via a seven-minute injection instead of intravenously, which usually takes 30 minutes to an hour.

How many months they wait to be seen, scanned or started off on treatment is not mentioned.

An ode to regulation

Guardrails | No Mercy / No Malice

People have always been stupid, and everyone is stupid some of the time. (Note: Professor Cipolla’s definition is people whose actions are destructive to themselves and to others.) One of society’s functions is to prevent a tragedy of the commons by building safeguards to protect us from our own stupidity. We usually call this “regulation,” a word Reagan and Thatcher made synonymous with bureaucrats and red tape. Yes, Air Traffic Control delays and the DMV are super annoying, but not crashing into another A-350 on approach to Heathrow, not suffocating as your throat swells from an allergic reaction, and being able to access the funds in your FTX account are all really awesome.

The NHTSA is one of the many boring state and federal agencies critical to a healthy society. Before the Food and Drug Administration, the sale and distribution of food and pharmaceuticals was a free-for-all. The Federal Aviation Administration is the reason your chances of dying in a plane crash are 1 in 3.37 billion. Next time someone tells you they don’t trust government, ask them if they trust cars, food, pain killers, buildings, or airplanes.

Amen.

Call my agent

Friday 7 July, 2023 – by John Naughton – Memex 1.1

(The following via John Naughton — link above. Original report in the Irish Times)

Fintan O’Toole on RTE’s slow-rolling crisis.

JN: RTE is Ireland’s national broadcaster and it’s now embroiled in an epic crisis because of revelations about its chaotic management, casual ethics and undercover payments to a leading broadcasting celebrity named Ryan Tubridy. The trigger point for the crisis was the discovery of undercover payments made to Tubridy during the Covid lockdown to compensate him for reductions in his non-broadcasting income caused by the pandemic.

JN: Since public money is involved, the Republic’s legislators opened hearings on the matter, which meant that from Day One my fellow-citizens have been enthralled (and increasingly enraged) by daily revelations about the managerial chaos, ineptitude and arrogance that prevailed in the country’s leading media organisation.

JN:From the outset, though, Tubridy maintained an air of high-minded detachment. All of those non-disclosed payments had been negotiated by his agent, Noel Kelly, disclosed to the revenue authorities, and the tax due on them had been duly paid. “Nothing to see here: any questions see my agent” was the general tenor of his responses.

JN: This pose has exasperated Fintan O’Toole, Ireland’s leading opinion columnist, and he penned a terrific column about it the other day. Like most of his stuff it is hidden behind the Irish Times’s paywall, but since I pay through the nose for a subscription I think it’s time some of his high-octane indignation got a wider airing. So here goes…

He starts with a story about Seamus Heaney, Ireland’s greatest poet since Yeats.

In 1981, Seamus Heaney wrote to his American agent, Selma Warner, about the fees she was demanding for readings by him on US campuses. He was angry because they were too high.

Heaney was not yet quite as famous as he would become, but his reputation was already very considerable and he was a mesmerising performer of his own work. Warner had started to ask for $1,000 for a reading – the equivalent of about $3,300 today.

Heaney’s complaint was that this was too much money:

I do not wish to be a $1,000 speaker. Apart from my moral scruples about whether any speaker or reader is worth anything like that, I do not wish to become a freak among my poet friends, or to press the budgets of departments of literature at a time when the money for education is drying up in the United States.”

Which later brings him (FO’T) to Tubridy:

Let’s not succumb to “my agent made me do it” stories. Agents, however colourful and assertive, are intermediaries: these deals were done between RTÉ and Tubridy.

It was Tubridy’s job to have the “moral scruples”. Kelly is not his Father Confessor – he’s his attack dog. It is always up to the conscience of the client as to whether the dog should be called off before he bites off any particular pound of flesh.

Remember Johnson’s line: no official told me having a piss-up was against the law.

Intellectuals as protectors of integrity

Via Adam Tooze

On the courage of Vladimir Kara-Murza (his words below are via Tooze)

At one point during my testimony, the presiding judge reminded me that one of the extenuating circumstances was “remorse for what [the accused] has done.” And although there is little that’s amusing about my present situation, I could not help smiling: The criminal, of course, must repent of his deeds. I’m in jail for my political views. For speaking out against the war in Ukraine. For many years of struggle against Vladimir Putin’s dictatorship. For facilitating the adoption of personal international sanctions under the Magnitsky Act against human rights violators.

Not only do I not repent of any of this, I am proud of it. I am proud that Boris Nemtsov brought me into politics. And I hope that he is not ashamed of me. I subscribe to every word that I have spoken and every word of which I have been accused by this court. I blame myself for only one thing: that over the years of my political activity I have not managed to convince enough of my compatriots and enough politicians in the democratic countries of the danger that the current regime in the Kremlin poses for Russia and for the world. Today this is obvious to everyone, but at a terrible price — the price of war.

In their last statements to the court, defendants usually ask for an acquittal. For a person who has not committed any crimes, acquittal would be the only fair verdict. But I do not ask this court for anything. I know the verdict. I knew it a year ago when I saw people in black uniforms and black masks running after my car in the rearview mirror. Such is the price for speaking up in Russia today.

But I also know that the day will come when the darkness over our country will dissipate. When black will be called black and white will be called white; when at the official level it will be recognized that two times two is still four; when a war will be called a war, and a usurper a usurper; and when those who kindled and unleashed this war, rather than those who tried to stop it, will be recognized as criminals.

“Honest” Boris

Johnson looks done for from TheEconomist

Boris johnson is an honest man. It is possible to tell this by the sheer number of times he declares his honesty.

In his written submission to the committee of mps investigating whether he intentionally misled Parliament over Partygate, the word “honest” popped up around 20 times in one form or another. In a three-hour hearing on March 22nd he offered yet more honesty, at one point even “hand on heart.” And little speaks more of honesty than declaring your honesty 20-odd times in two days.

A deceit

A deceit at the heart of democracy.

No politician would fly in a plane built by politicians.

No offence

‘Dirty wee torturers’: Northern Irish man tells of British army abuse during Troubles | Northern Ireland | The Guardian

A doctor examined Auld and declared him fit for interrogation. For at least seven days and nights he was subjected to what became known – in reports by Amnesty International and other organisations – as the five techniques: the stress position, hooding, white noise, deprivation of sleep and little food and drink. When Auld moved from the stress position he was beaten. Occasionally the hood was removed and lights were shone into his eyes.

Several of the men, including Auld, were bundled on to a helicopter and thrown out, thinking they were high up. They were a few feet from the ground.

Auld assumed he would eventually be killed so tried to end his suffering by hurling himself at heating pipes to break his neck. “But I just hurt my head. That, for me, was the worst because I couldn’t die. That sense of helplessness and isolation was horrendous.”

Auld was eventually transferred to a prison, then a mental health hospital, before returning home. He was not charged with any offence.

In a case taken by the Irish government, the European court of human rights ruled in 1978 that the treatment of the “hooded men” was inhuman and degrading but not torture. Auld received £16,000 in compensation. After 9/11 the Bush administration cited the ruling to defend its “enhanced interrogation” policy.

End of an error

The SVB debacle has exposed the hypocrisy of Silicon Valley | John Naughton | The Guardian

The first thing to understand is that “Silicon Valley” is actually a reality-distortion field inhabited by people who inhale their own fumes and believe they’re living through Renaissance 2.0, with Palo Alto as the new Florence. The prevailing religion is founder worship, and its elders live on Sand Hill Road in San Francisco and are called venture capitalists. These elders decide who is to be elevated to the privileged caste of “founders”.

Error? Era? Hope so.

The Need for an Organised Ambulance Service in 1904.

I came across this article by chance while trying to track down same old papers on skin cancer. It was published in the Lancet in 1904. A few days ago I heard a story about a colleague’s problem in trying to order an ambulance for somebody having a MI.

It is remarkable how institutions can fail, and competence be something that now only exists in the past. This is not a difficult issue to solve. We no longer have a functioning health service. We have stepped back in time. But, hey, it only affects other people.

At an inquest held at Lambeth on nov. 21st Mr.Troutbeck inquired into the death of a girl, named Alice Wood,aged 17 years, of Camborne-road, Southfields, who died in a laundry van as she was being removed to st. Thomas’s hospital to undergo an operation for perforated gastric ulcer.

On Nov. 16th she complained of severe pain in the chest and about midnight Dr. E. A. Miller of Upper Richmond-road was called. He found the girl collapsed and, having diagnosed the condition, decided that an operation was her only chance. No cab could be obtained but at about 2A.M.on Nov.17th a laundry van was procured and in this she was driven to the hospital where on arrival she was found to be dead. Dr. L. Freyberger, who made the post-mortem examination, said that death was due to heart failure following acute peritonitis caused by the rupture of an internal ulcer and that it was accelerated by the jolting of the van. The coroner’s officer said that a horsed ambulance was kept at the Wandsworth Infirmary but that a relieving officer’s order was necessary for its use. The jury returned a verdict of “Death from natural causes,” and added a rider expressing the opinion that there was urgent need for an improvement in the system of providing horsed ambulances for the various metropolitan districts. With this we quite agree and we earnestly hope that the London County Council, which recently received a deputation from the Metropolitan Street Ambulance Association, will see its way to make proper provision.

Vampire squids

The Economist

Rolling Stone described Goldman[Sachs]as “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money”.

We should forgive a cliché when it becomes true.

Salve Lucrum: The Existential Threat of Greed in US Health Care

Salve Lucrum: The Existential Threat of Greed in US Health Care | Health Care Economics, Insurance, Payment | JAMA | JAMA Network

In the mosaic floor of the opulent atrium of a house excavated at Pompeii is a slogan ironic for being buried under 16 feet of volcanic ash: Salve Lucrum, it reads, “Hail, Profit.” That mosaic would be a fitting decoration today in many of health care’s atria.

The grip of financial self-interest in US health care is becoming a stranglehold, with dangerous and pervasive consequences. No sector of US health care is immune from the immoderate pursuit of profit, neither drug companies, nor insurers, nor hospitals, nor investors, nor physician practices.

Avarice is manifest in mergers leading to market concentration, which, despite pleas of “economies of scale,” almost always raise costs.

Yep. Don Berwick on fine form.

Politics and medicine

China’s Covid patients face medical debt crisis as insurers refuse coverage | Financial Times

Echoing Rudolf Virchow, frequent bedfellows. The spectrum includes the UK.

A doctor at Shanghai No 10 Hospital said staff had been instructed by the city’s health commission to limit Covid diagnoses. “We are advised to label most cases as respiratory infection,” the doctor said.

“What is certain is that the government can’t afford to treat everyone for free.”

China’s National Healthcare Security Administration said on Saturday that it would fully cover hospitalisation for Covid patients, but continued to exclude complications. Hospitals are also under pressure to reduce medical costs after the national insurance fund was strained by the costs of the sprawling zero-Covid apparatus.

In the eastern city of Hangzhou, Frank Wang, a marketing manager who bought a Covid insurance plan early last year, was refused proof of illness after he developed lung and kidney infections after testing positive for the virus.

“The hospital made it clear that Covid proof is not easy to obtain as the disease diagnosis has been politicised,” said Wang, who paid more than Rmb20,000 for treatment. “That makes patients like me a victim.”

The deserving and the undeserving sick redux; more crony capitalism.