November 9, 2015
Crisis: Medical Research, Kissinger, Western Media, The Guardian
 "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


Medical Research: The Dangers to the Human
2. How Kissinger Made Bombing the Iron Fist of US

3. No Matter How Well Russian Media Expose Western
4. More on The Guardian


This is a Nederlog of Monday, November 9, 2015.

This is a crisis blog (I said I would continue!) but it is - perhaps coincidentally - concerned with background matters: Item 1 is about medical research, that cannot be trusted longer, not only according to me, but according to very prominent and smart American medical doctors; item 2 is about how Kissinger laid the found- ations of many of the policies of Bush and Obama; item 3 is about the many lies that are now current in the (main) Western media; and item 4 adds two points about The Guardian that I forgot yesterday.

1. Medical Research: The Dangers to the Human Subjects

The first article today is by Marcia Angell (<- Wikipedia) and is on the New York Review of Books:

This is the first of two articles. I review it for two reasons.

First, because I am ill for 37 years, in which I was diagnosed correctly by a few good medics who knew me well or were simply intelligent, but I never succeeded in getting a diagnosis that satisfied the Amsterdam dole bureaucrats (who are, in my very schooled opinion, mostly a bunch of sick sadists: I am a psychologist), which caused me 15 years of great troubles (that indeed also caused this site and the - mostly Dutch - "ME in Amsterdam").

Second, I have meanwhile learned that very much is wrong in modern medicine, most of which is due to three causes. One is that most medics are fairly easy to corrupt by money or gifts. Another is that most medics know and understand considerably less of scientific methodology and statistics than they should. [1]

The third is that the big pharmaceutical corporations have moved in from ca. 1980 onwards, and intentionally have falsified much of medical science by appro- priating patients data, (re-)writing medical arguments by their propaganda-staffs, and repressing most data that could be used by responsible scientists to rationally assess the evidence on expensive drugs and patients.

The reason for the last development was simply profit: Quite a few "medical experiments" these days are not so much medical experiments, but carefully written propaganda, duly signed by medical KOLs who make millions a year, though rarely written by them, that are based on careful selections from the total evidence - that is declared unfit to be seen by medica; doctors and others, on the ground that the pharmaceutical company owes the data (which is also false, it seems - but they are extremely powerful and rich).

The above is true, to the best of my knowledge, and is in my case based on reading about medicine since 2010 (briefly after getting fast internet). It is certainly true for the pseudo science of psychiatry (see e.g. 1 boring old man and David Healy, both of whom are psychiatrists) [2].

I do not know to what extent it is true for medicine-in-general, but here is dr Marcia Angell, quoted from the Wikipedia article about her:

It is simply no longer possible to believe much of the clinical research that is published, or to rely on the judgment of trusted physicians or authoritative medical guidelines. I take no pleasure in this conclusion, which I reached slowly and reluctantly over my two decades as an editor of The New England Journal of Medicine .

And she is a very prominent American medical doctor of long standing.
Also the above was published in 2009.

So this is why I am interested in her. She starts her present article as follows:

Every year millions of Americans (no one knows exactly how many) volunteer to be human subjects in medical research that compares a new treatment with an old one—or when there is no existing treatment, with a placebo. By something like a coin toss, some volunteers are assigned to get the new treatment (the experimental group), while others get the old one (the control group). This type of research is termed a clinical trial, and at any given time there are thousands underway in the US. Most are sponsored by makers of prescription drugs or medical devices, but many are sponsored by the government, mainly the National Institutes of Health (NIH). A growing number are conducted offshore, particularly in countries with autocratic governments, where they are easier and cheaper to do.
The last statement also implies that the experiments are "easier and cheaper to do" simply because the payments and the health of the patients and others who participate in them are respectively a lot less, and taken a lot less seriously, in actual practice.

It continues as follows, with a bit of knowledge about The Science Of Medicine that should be known better:
The first modern clinical trial was published only sixty-seven years ago, in 1948. Sponsored by the British Medical Research Council, the trial compared streptomycin, a new antibiotic, with bedrest alone in patients with tuberculosis. (Streptomycin proved better, and became part of the usual treatment for this disease.) Before that, human experimentation was fairly haphazard; subjects were treated in one way or another to see how they fared, but there was usually no comparison group. Even when there was, the comparison lacked the rigorous methods of modern clinical trials, which include randomization to make sure the two groups are similar in every way except the treatment under study. After the streptomycin study, carefully designed clinical trials soon became the scientific standard for studying nearly any new medical intervention in human subjects.
If a real science is based on real scientific experiments, medicine started to be a real science ... two years before I was born. Besides (and since methodology and statistics are two of the fields I specialized on), I like to point out that there was proper statistics (at the latest, also) from ca. 1900 or 1910 onwards (I still have "An Introduction to the Theory of Statistics" by G. Udney Yule, that was first published in 1911 [3]).

Another reason why I like Marcia Angell are her sources. One of those she lists in the present article is "The Nuremberg Code" (on medicine) that comes from the "
Trials of War Criminals before the Nuremberg Military Tribunals", which I know more about than most people because my father survived over 3 years and 9 months of imprisonment (as a communist) in 4 Nazi concentration camps, about which he also compiled an exhibition, with other formerly imprisoned people, for which he was knighted. [4]

Here is some of the evidence she quotes on how "medical experiments" were conducted in German concentration camps:

The most horrifying and grotesque of these were the medical experiments carried out by Nazi Germany during World War II on inmates in concentration camps. Although it is difficult to believe now, the people who designed these experiments—among them some of the most prominent physicians in Germany at the time—did have a purpose. They wanted to gain information that could save the lives of German troops in battle. In one experiment in Dachau, for example, their aim was to find the maximum altitude at which it would be safe for pilots to parachute from stricken planes. To that end, they put inmates in vacuum chambers that could duplicate progressively lower air pressure, up to the equivalent of an altitude of about 68,000 feet. About 40 percent of the victims died from lack of oxygen during these hideous experiments.

In another experiment, the researchers wanted to study how long pilots who had parachuted into the frigid North Sea could survive. They immersed victims in tanks of ice water for up to three hours, and many froze to death.

There is a lot more in the article, all very well worth reading (I thought), and there will be more on this if part 2 is published.

2. How Kissinger Made Bombing the Iron Fist of US “Diplomacy”

The next article is by Greg Grandin on Naked Capitalism, and originally on Tom Dispatch:

In fact, Greg Grandin wrote a book on Kissinger: "Kissinger's Shadow: The Long Reach of America's Most Controversial Statesman". Here is a small part of his argument. First, there is this on his general responsibility:
During his time in office, Kissinger had been involved in three of the genocides Power mentions in her book: Pol Pot’s “killing fields” in Cambodia, which would never have occurred had he not infamously ordered an illegal four-and-a-half-year bombing campaign in that country; Indonesia’s massacre in East Timor; and Pakistan’s in Bangladesh, both of which he expedited.
Henry Kissinger is, of course, not singularly responsible for the evolution of the U.S. national security state into a monstrosity. That state has had many administrators. But his example — especially his steadfast support for bombing as an instrument of “diplomacy” and his militarization of the Persian Gulf — has coursed through the decades, shedding a spectral light on the road that has brought us to a state of eternal war.
Then there is this on how Kissinger conducted the bombing of Cambodia - and "Menu" was the name of the American plan to bomb Cambodia:
Given that Nixon had been elected on a promise to end the war in Vietnam, Kissinger believed that it wasn’t enough to place Menu in the category of “top secret.” Absolute and total secrecy, especially from Congress, was a necessity. He had no doubt that Congress, crucial to the appropriation of funds needed to conduct specific military missions, would never approve a bombing campaign against a neutral country with which the United States wasn’t at war.
This means that he acted as a war-criminal. What happened was this:
In fact, he would supervise every aspect of the bombing. As journalist Seymour Hersh later wrote, “When the military men presented a proposed bombing list, Kissinger would redesign the missions, shifting a dozen planes, perhaps, from one area to another, and altering the timing of the bombing runs… [He] seemed to enjoy playing the bombardier.” (That joy wouldn’t be limited to Cambodia. According to Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, when the bombing of North Vietnam finally started up again, Kissinger “expressed enthusiasm at the size of the bomb craters.”) A Pentagon report released in 1973 stated that “Henry A. Kissinger approved each of the 3,875 Cambodia bombing raids in 1969 and 1970” — the most secretive phase of the bombing — “as well as the methods for keeping them out of the newspapers.”
And this is one of the lessons Greg Grandin draws:
Here, then, is a perfect expression of American militarism’s unbroken circle. Kissinger invokes today’s endless, open-ended wars to justify his diplomacy by air power in Cambodia and elsewhere nearly half a century ago. But what he did then created the conditions for today’s endless wars, both those started by Bush’s neocons and those waged by Obama’s war-fighting liberals like Samantha Power. So it goes in Washington.
There is a lot more in the original, and it seems to me that the lesson I just quoted is quite justified. Indeed, part of "the conditions for today's endless wars" is precisely the classification and secrecy of nearly everything the American government does in its present wars.

Also, while I do not know whether this is intentional, "so it goes" seems a quotation of Kurt Vonnegut (that at present can't be found anymore in the Wikipedia on Vonnegut, though it was there before: I suppose this is a sign of the "continuing improvement" of Wikipedia).

3. No Matter How Well Russian Media Expose Western Lies …

The last article for today is by Eric Zuesse on Washington's Blog:

Like the previous two articles, this is concerned with "background to current events" rather than with reporting new facts. The subject of this article is (and this is the opening statement of the article):

Western ‘news’ media simply refuse to report the lying that’s done by Western ‘news’ media and their governments.

I think that is correct - but indeed it is very difficult to get from the Western news media, especially not if they do lie about many things, which I think they do, and indeed to a considerably larger extent than before, if only because there are far fewer papers, with far fewer owners, and these owners are generally rightist billionaires, who also control much of TV.

Here is one example of a lie:

And (...) the media are still not reporting that Barack Obama lies saying that the August 2013 sarin gas attack in Syria was from Assad’s forces and not from the rebel side — which it actually was. (Obama repeats this lie every time he ‘justifies’ his invasion of Syria. He’s actually supporting the people who did  that sarin attack — and he knows  it.)

I think that is very likely true - and my "very likely" is mostly based on (i) my prior conviction - that amounts to decent knowledge in the case of Obama - that Obama often lies, while (ii) I am not a specialist on the war in Syria, and (iii) I know about that war mostly from media and press sources that are - let's say - not very accurate, usually.

Then there is this:

When will Western ‘news’ media start behaving as if they’re actual news-media in an authentic democracy, instead of mere propaganda-outlets for their government against the various nations that the local aristocracy (the Western aristocrats who also own the ‘news’ media) want to take over or else destroy — first, Libya, then Ukraine, now Syria — all allies of Russia (as had been Saddam Hussein’s Iraq), which Russia is the American aristocracy’s actual ultimate target here.

It’s like George Orwell’s 1984, in “the West.” It’s no  real democracy here. It’s fake. It’s built on lies. (Just as all U.S. Presidents since the end of the Soviet Union have been lying about Russia.)

I agree mostly with the second paragraph (yes, there is no more democracy here, except very minimally, and yes, much that I hear about it is fake), but the first paragraph seems naive to me: The "Western news media" are no longer functioning in "an authentic democracy", and they will not become more honest unless they are forced to, which they rarely are.

Something similar holds for the following:

We know why the Bushes did this. Why is Obama doing it? Who are his  friends?

And, above all: When will the Western ‘news’ media start  reporting about their own fakeness? Isn’t that the pre-condition for any intelligent  consumer of news to start to take them seriously? (Perhaps Western ‘news’ executives don’t think so; perhaps they think that, instead, hiding  their fakery is the only way to keep  their ‘dumb’ audience’s trust.)

Actually, I do not know why Bush did as he did, although I do know that both Cheney and Rumsfeld had strong ties to the oil companies. The same holds for Obama: I am quite sure he lies about many things, but his real reasons are not known to me (apart from the fact that he probably will get quite rich as soon as he ceases to be president, as did Bill Clinton, who personally owes $111 million, or so it seems).

Also, "
the Western ‘news’ media" will not even "start  reporting about their own fakeness", and especially not if lying is much of their current trade, as I agree it is.

Then again, the article contains quite a few links, and I agree with the thesis that much of the Western media's reporting, and especially about politics, is based on lies or on misrepresentations.

But I do not see this end, unfortunately.

4. More on The Guardian

I reported yesterday on the fact that The Guardian cannot be copied anymore since the day before yesterday, but I did not say anything about its causes nor about whether I am the only one thus treated (or abused, for I don't like it).

As to the causes: it is very probably part and parcel of the enormous amounts of Javascript that The Guardian packages these days with its articles (all without revealing this to naive readers). I didn't check this out (and there is an enormous amount of dense code), but this is by far the most likely (though I also think it fairly tricky that this effects Ctrl-C on my computer).

And as to whether I am the only one: No, that is extremely unlikely, in my opinion. Indeed, I would be fairly amazed if anyone on The Guardian knows who I am or even that my site exists.

So no, it is far more likely that The Guardian instituted the policy because they can, and because they want to protect their own income. (I think it is stupid, for a widely read English paper, but I do not earn an income from The Guardian.)

P.S. Nov 14, 2015: Reformatted.

[1] You may disagree, but in fact scientific methodology and statistics are
two of the fields on which I specialized, and indeed I expected to work in methodology. And since I have spoken to quite a few more medical doctors than most who are not doctors (simply because I am ill for 37 years), none of whom could explain his or her position in a rational way to me (about a subject I know at least considerably more than they do) I think I am rather certain of this.

[2] Both 1 boring old man and David Healy are psychiatrists (the last also a professor), and I do not know whether they would agree with me (a philosopher and a psychologist) that psychiatry is a
pseudo science. Maybe they will not - in fact I have no idea - but the links I gave in the text give access to rather a lot of well-based rational criticism of the claims of many psychiatrists. Then again, they are in - an intelligent - minority among psychiatrists.

[3] There also was rather a lot of statistics in the 19th Century, and indeed also a whole lot more after 1910 and after 1948. The point of drawing attention to Yule's book is that I liked it, and - while there is no precise model for a design with randomly assigned persons in it - there was more than enough to give a much better statistical practice than was actually used in medicine, from 1900-1950.

[4] This was in fact very rare: Although the only political party that went into the resistance in Holland was the Communist Party (that also made up most of the real (armed) resistance, though there also were some Christians who resisted), which led to the loss of thousands of communist lives, there were only two communists knighted after the war for their heroics. (The - utterly false  - theory was that communists were traitors to Holland, simpy because they were communists. Also, the communists were treated much worse than very many Dutch Nazi-collaborators, nearly all of whom never even faced a judge, possibly in part because many Dutch judges also were Nazi-collaborators, and continued to be judges after the war.)

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