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."
1. Obama Envoy John Allen: No
'Short-Term Solutions' for
Stopping Islamic State
2. The retraction war
3. Pulp’s Big Moment
4. The CIA and Other Government
Agencies Have Long Used
Propaganda Against the
5. Watch ‘Outfoxed: Rupert
Murdoch’s War on Journalism’
6. William Hazlitt
This is a Nederlog of Friday,
January 2, 2015.
This is a crisis file, and there are 6 items with 6 dotted
links: Item 1 is about an interview with an
American general; item 2 is about science and
retractions; item 3 is about paperbacks (not a real
crisis item, but quite important for me); item 4 is
about the massive amounts of secret propaganda that the CIA spreads; item 5 is not an article but a film about Rupert
Murdoch's career; and item 6 is not a crisis item but is about William Hazlitt, who now has a fine
article on the Wikipedia.
Also, I have
updated all the year indexes of Nederlog (from 2004 onwards) with a
link to 2015, and relinked dutchhome.htm: I
may not have done everything related to a painless change from
2014 to 2015, but most things have been done, and the rest will
happen the coming days. (One is updating the crisis index.)
Envoy John Allen: No 'Short-Term
Solutions' for Stopping Islamic State
item is an article by Matthias Gebauer and Holger Stark on the
international Spiegel site:
This starts as follows:
I say. Does the general
perhaps get a foul taste in the mouth when he says the word "state"? In
any case, someone with such propagandistic airs must be a liar.
General John Allen, 61,
has served as special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to
Counter the Islamic State (IS) under US President Barack Obama since
September. He previously served for three years as the deputy commander
of the US forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.
In an interview with
SPIEGEL, Allen uses the Arabic term "Daesh" when referring to IS in
order to prevent having to say the word "state".
Here is just one part from the interview:
General Allen seems to
assume that the U.S. will be fighting in Iraq for another ten or twenty
years (he says in the interview his job is safe the next ten years) and
unfolds the skeleton of a plan of major American interference
in the whole region, that goes far beyond military
SPIEGEL: It took
more than a decade to halfway stabilize Afghanistan. The situation in
Syria seems even worse. When will you be able to say "mission
Allen: I wouldn't
put a timeline on it, frankly. This is a difficult moment. The
components of instability that we face with Daesh are found widely in
the region. It's not just about Daesh, Iraq or Syria. There are
broad-based undercurrents of difficulty -- social difficulties,
economic difficulties, governance challenges -- that created
opportunities for extremism to emerge and the radicalization of
populations. So, while we are all interested in dealing with Daesh as
the immediate threat, more broadly we're interested in the underlying
factors that create these problems. A useful conversation to have is:
How can we take action together to eliminate some of these social,
ethnic, religious and economic problems that have combined in so many
places? There are no short-term solutions. It's going to require
concerted action by the community of nations. It's going to require
ownership of the problem in the region.
How can we take
action together to eliminate some of these social, ethnic, religious
and economic problems that have combined in so many places? There are
no short-term solutions.
This seems just bullshit to me,
although I also assume that the U.S. will be trying to
implement various military "solutions" to various "social, ethnic, religious and economic
problems". But they will
not succeed, firstly because this is propaganda;
secondly because there is no infinite supply of money; and thirdly
because most of the money spent on warring in Iraq should be
spend on the "social,
ethnic, religious and economic problems" of the United States.
There is considerably more in the interview, but as I said: it
seems all public
relations to me, with scarcely an honest word.
The second item is an article by Jill Neimark on
This starts as follows:
On 5 August 2014,
a celebrated Japanese scientist was found dead, hanging by his neck at
his workplace, his shoes politely removed and placed on the landing of
the stairs. Yoshiki Sasai, 52, was a legendary stem-cell expert, widely
regarded as an exceptional scientist, who worked at the RIKEN Center
for Developmental Biology in Kobe. Seven months before he killed
himself, Sasai and colleagues in Japan and Boston announced a
stupefying research breakthrough in two papers in Nature. They
claimed that ordinary mouse blood cells could be transformed into
powerful stem cells – the holy grail of regenerative medicine – by
simply bathing them in a mildly acidic solution (called STAP, for
stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency).
This then gets further
explained, which I leave to your interests, except for the fact that
Yoshiki Sasai seems to have failed in litttle else than bad oversight
of the scientists who were responsible for the fraud, for that is what
Almost instantly, the work
was called into question.
The STAP story is
a tale of all that’s troubled in the scientific enterprise today:
scientists seeking demigod status and flying too close to the sun with
their claims; journals smitten with a potential blockbuster finding,
and overlooking vexing questions ahead of publication; retractions on
the rise, entering mainstream awareness, and leaving an entire
scientific community frightened of the resulting stigma.
Actually, there is more.
Thus, for example, the big pharmaceutical companies declared themselves
the owners of the data of many experiments, and often refuse to publish
these, in full or even in part. This is quite relevant for
medicine as a science, for it effectively removes the empirical
basis of real science:
It is still not
mandatory for every scientist to upload raw data to a hosting site (a
common one is Figshare), even though online storage is now essentially
infinite and cheap or free. Many journals have policies that data
should be deposited and freely available, but most do not enforce those
policies. And it’s nearly impossible to investigate suspected fraud
without access to the raw data. Wager tells of journal editors
complaining that authors had conveniently lost data in ‘lab fires,
floods, catastrophic computer crashes, or more bizarrely, attacks by
Yes, indeed. Besides, it seems
to me that much of science has changed since the 1970ies (when
I started studying, and saw this starting):
There are many more nominal
scientists produced by the universities, but they are, on average, less
intelligent than in the hundred years from 1870-1970, when at most 2-5%
graduated; they are less educated, because the courses they took were
designed to give the average student a good chance to graduate; and
also the scientific morality seems to have radically weakened.
The reason I am putting
this in terms of "seems" is not so much that I doubt this (I have been
a regular attendant of the university for some 25 years, and what I
said is certainly true for Holland), but that I have not made a serious
study of the issues, simply because doing this well is beyond my powers.
Here is the last quotation, that in fact is relevant to the disease I am now having for the 37th
year, and that all these years has gotten very minimal support for
real medical research:
Ivan Oransky, the
co-founder of Retraction Watch, says: ‘We need to change the
unparalleled power of the published paper.’
This is relevant for me and
for M.E. (the disease I have)
because I basically wasted two years, namely from October 2009
till October 2011, spending much attention on the commotions generated
by a paper published in Science in October 2009, that indeed was
retracted by the end of 2011 (which was in fact rather quickly), and
that may have been fraudulent, though probably nobody will be able to
establish that with any certainty. 
A single paper published in Nature,
Cell, Science or other elite journals can
set a scientist’s entire career on secure high ground.
There is a lot more under the last dotted link, and I liked the
article, though it is also a bit too journalistic for my tastes.
third item is
an article by Louis Menand on The New Yorker:
In fact, this is a long
review of “American
Pulp: How Paperbacks Brought Modernism to Main Street” by Paula Rabinowitz. This is quoted
from the beginning:
Then, one day,
there was a revolution. On June 19, 1939, a man named Robert de Graff
launched Pocket Books. It was the first American mass-market-paperback
line, and it transformed the industry.
The story that follows
is mostly about the U.S. but that doesn't matter much, and indeed much
of my own reading of English, that seriously started around 1967, would not have been
possible without cheap paperbacks, which in my case were, initially at
least, mostly Penguins and Pelicans, that I, almost from the start, got
even cheaper than they were sold first hand, for I bought most of them
second hand (which also requires a place like Amsterdam, that had many
bookshops, both first and second hand - but then I was born in
Amsterdam, and lived there most of my life). 
Neither the theory nor the
practice of mass-market-paperback publishing was original with de
Graff. Credit is usually given to an Englishman, Allen Lane, who was
the founder of Penguin Books. According to company legend, as Kenneth
Davis explains in his indispensable history of the paperback book,
“Two-Bit Culture,” Lane had his eureka moment while standing in a
railway station in Devon, where he had been spending the weekend with
the mystery writer Agatha Christie and her husband. He couldn’t find
anything worthwhile to buy to read on the train back to London. And so,
in the summer of 1935, he launched Penguin Books, with ten titles,
including “The Murder on the Links,” by Agatha Christie. The books sold
well right from the start.
There is rather a lot in the article that I found interesting, but I
will quote just two more bits. The first is about the major change in
the distribution of books that came with paperbacks:
paperback was therefore designed to be displayed in wire racks that
could be conveniently placed in virtually any retail space. People who
didn’t have a local bookstore, and even people who would never have
ventured into a bookstore, could now browse the racks while filling a
prescription or waiting for a train and buy a book on impulse.
I had not
realized this, but it is quite clearly true, and it made the way for
selling far more books to far more people, even if many
of the books were popular trash ("pulp").
And there is this assessment of the influence of paperbacks on the book
the book business in the same way that 45-r.p.m. vinyl records
(“singles”), introduced in 1949, and transistor radios, which went on
sale in 1954, changed the music industry, the same way television
changed vaudeville, and the same way the Internet changed the news
business. They got the product cheaply to millions.
Yes, indeed - and I do
owe a lot to paperbacks.
CIA and Other Government Agencies Have Long Used Propaganda Against the
The fourth item
is an article by Washington's Blog on his site:
This is a long article
with many links. I quote just two brief bits.
First, there is this on the extent of the propaganda
that the CIA - a secret service (!) - furthers (and propaganda is
lying or distorting or deluding people):
An expert on propaganda testified under oath
during trial that the CIA now
employs THOUSANDS of reporters and OWNS its own media organizations. Whether or not his estimate is accurate, it is
clear that many prominent reporters still
report to the CIA.
And there is this on the
There is a whole lot
more under the last dotted link - and in case you ask why I worry: I
think propaganda is an evil, and I think states whose
secret services use tax money to influence the opinions of the voters
in dishonest ways are bad.
Of course, the Web has
become a huge media platform, and the Pentagon and other government
influencing news on the web as well. Documents released by Snowden
show that spies manipulate
polls, website popularity and pageview counts, censor videos they don’t
like and amplify messages they do.
The CIA and other
government agencies also put enormous energy into pushing propaganda
television and video
5. Watch ‘Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on
The next item is not an article but a film, that I found
linked by Peter Scheer on Truthdig:
So far, I've only seen
the beginning of it - for it is 1 hr 17 min - but that is good.
6. William Hazlitt
Finally, an item that does not belong to the crisis series:
This is the
Wikipedia-article on William Hazlitt (1778-1830), that I did not read
for several years, and that now is quite good and quite long.
I doubt this will interest many persons, but it is here because I
regard William Hazlitt as one of the greatest writers and finest minds
I've ever read - which, I am glad to say, is something that these days
is admitted - that he had a very find mind, and wrote an exquisite
English - by some of the best judges of English literature. (And yes, I
have read most of the great philosophers and many of
the great writers - but I found very few of Hazlitt's many qualities).
I discovered him in 1983, in the best bookshop I know - the second hand
bookshop Tĥe Book Exchange,
in Amsterdam, to whom I owe most of my education and most of my books
since 1978 - and I immediately thought what I said in the previous
paragraph, although at that time, and for many years afterwards, I knew
no one who had even heard of him.
In case you are interested in him, the above dotted link is a fine
introduction. And if you are interested in Hazlitt's texts: There are many on my site
including all of Table
Talk, that may be his best book.
 I did learn quite a few things, both about the
current practice of medicine and about the anonymous members of forums,
for example, but - judging after the facts - I would have done wise to
disregard everything about XMRV and M.E.
until after I had known of at least three independent
investigations that confirmed the findings (which, of course, never
happened). And here is my - fairly detailed - sum-up after precisely two years.
 That I lived in Amsterdam some 30 years
after the paperback industry was started are two facts that influenced my life in major
ways, for I very probably would have read a lot less if I hadn't found
that books, also English books, are plentifully supplied in