Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Quote of the day – almost unbearable

“We arrived at midnight on Tuesday and stayed until 3am. I have been at protests which started at 5am, but this was my first that started at midnight, and I was so comforted by the activists who came to be there at such an odd and early hour. We stationed ourselves in a spot where the truck would have to stop at the red light that is actually on a busy highway, but it is quieter at this hour.

We were able to rush to the side of the truck to be near the chickens. Although to avoid us, one truck driver drove through the red light.

Every truck was different as was the placement of the chickens in the crates—some facing us, some not. But one, who I can still see, was a small chicken lying on her side facing me. I could see her baby blue eye and her exhausted face staring back at me, blinking. She was on her side and looked like she was being crushed.

This is where bearing witness becomes almost unbearable. Watching her look at me and not being able to get her out is one of those situations where you fear losing your sanity because you lack the ability to do anything, much less comprehend why this gentle little bird was about to smell death, experience even more fear, and of course, die herself.

As I sit here now, my heart hurts and my eyes burn from the idea that she was probably gone within hours of me seeing her along with so many like her—thousands of them. The image of her will forever be in my heart and mind.

And all I can tell myself is that at least I was able to tell her (and all of them) how sorry I was and that I loved her. Which I repeated over and over…”
- “Bearing Witness”

Monday, August 31, 2015

Historical quote of the day

“[S]uppose for a moment that we lived in a world where psychologists used women as the basis of comparison. We might then be reading articles and books that analyze the following problems that plague men:
• Men are more conceited than women.
• Men overvalue the work they do.
• Men are not as realistic and modest as women in assessing their abilities.
• Men are more likely than women to accuse and attack others when they are unhappy, instead of stating that they feel hurt and inviting sympathy.
• Men have more difficulty than women in forming and maintaining attachments.
Now the same ‘problems’ have to do with male overconfidence, unrealistic self-assessment, aggression, and isolation, not with women’s inadequacies. But you won’t find many popular books trying to help men like George Steinbrenner or Donald Trump, who, as far as I’m concerned, suffer from excessive self-esteem.”
- Carol Tavris, The Mismeasure of Woman (1992), p. 29

She didn’t ask him to answer on behalf of the State Department and CIA

...or to fail to mention his own warmongering. But this is how Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch decided to respond to Amy Goodman’s question about the US role in creating the conditions for mass migration to Europe:
AMY GOODMAN: So what does the United States have to do with it? I mean, you have these massive conflicts that have roiled the globe. Do we have a responsibility here?

KENNETH ROTH: Well, yes. If you look at why people are fleeing—let’s take the Syrians, who are the largest percentage. In an ordinary war, you can get some degree of protection by moving away from the front lines. But in Syria, Assad is dropping barrel bombs in the middle of civilian neighborhoods that happen to be controlled by the opposition. There is no safe place to move in Syria if you’re in opposition-held territory, which is why we have 4 million refugees from Syria today. So one very important thing to do is to go to the root causes of this, to try to put real pressure on Assad to stop barrel-bombing civilians, and to take comparable steps in the other major refugee-producing countries, like Somalia, Eritrea and Afghanistan. You know, let’s not forget why we have this crisis. It’s not that everybody woke up this morning and thought it would be nice to move to Europe. These people are being forced out because of severe conflict and persecution.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Women’s street names in Paris and Ankara

An action this week by a French feminist organization
A feminist group in France has been transforming the streets of Paris after noting that just 2.6 per cent are named after notable women.

Tourists on the Ile de la Cité got a surprise when they found that almost all of the street signs in central Paris had been changed overnight.

…Rather than walking down the Quai de la Tournelle near the Notre Dame, signs told passers-by that they were in fact on the Quai de Nina Simone. Other famous French figures such as record-holding sailor Florence Arthaud and pioneering lawyer Jeanne Chauvin were paid tribute to.
has spread to, and been radicalized in, Ankara:
After women in Paris intervened to name street names after women this week, the action has spread to the Turkish capital of Ankara.

…In Turkey's capital of Ankara, the Nar Women's Solidarity Network has taken up the direct action in their own city. They have so far renamed streets after women like Nevin Yıldırım, serving a life sentence for killing her rapist; Ekin Wan, the woman guerrilla tortured and displayed by Turkish police; sociologist Pınar Selek, framed for a bombing for her political activism; and artist Pippa Bacca, who was raped and killed in Turkey while taking part in a women's performance art action to promote peace.

Quote of the day – “They insisted on our surrender”

“Friends, I am not here today to drum up support for Greece’s crushed democracy.

I am here to lend the Greek people’s support and solidarity to France’s democracy. For this is what is at stake. French democracy. Spanish democracy. Italian democracy. Democracy throughout Europe. Greece was and unfortunately remains a laboratory where the destructive power of self-defeating austerity was tried and tested. Greece was never the issue for the Troika and its minions. You are!

It is not true that our creditors are interested in getting their money back from the Greek state. Or that they want to see Greece reformed. If they were, they would have discussed seriously our proposals for restructuring Greece’s public debt in a manner ensuring that they get most of it back. But they could not care less. They instead insisted on our surrender. It was the only thing they cared about. They cared uniquely about one thing: To confirm Dr Schäuble’s dictum that elections cannot be allowed to change anything in Europe. That democracy ends where insolvency begins. That proud nations facing debt issues must be condemned to a debt prison within which it is impossible to produce the wealth necessary to repay their debts and get out of jail. And so it is that Europe is turning from our common home to our shared iron cage.”
- Yanis Varoufakis, speech at Frangy-en-Bresse, France, August 23, 2015

Friday, August 28, 2015

Uprising in Guatemala

“Now, there’s fear in Washington. There’s fear among the oligarchs that this whole Pandora’s box could be opened, because the people are in the streets. Now the people are in the streets talking about the corruption, but if they start more intensively talking about the blood, if they follow that trail of blood, it leads directly back to Washington. It leads directly back to the suites of CACIF, the oligarchs who own Guatemala.”
Allan Nairn returned to Democracy Now! yesterday to talk more about the mass protests in Guatemala and the continuing role of the US government in propping up the oligarchy:

(Transcript available here.)

Quote of the day

“Over the past couple of years, SeaWorld’s visitor numbers have fallen, its stock has plummeted, lawsuits have confronted their business practices, legislation has challenged what goes on at Shamu Stadium, and reported profits were down 84% on the previous year.

People ask me whether this is a win. I can only say that it was inevitable, and that I hope it’s only the beginning. Today’s kids are increasingly becoming part of the ‘I can’t believe we used to do that’ generation. They know that killer whales are not suitable for captivity.”
- Gabriela Cowperthwaite, director of Blackfish

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Quote of the day - a reasonable standard

“In this murky area of standards for retraction, there are some no-brainers – fabrication of data and plagiarism as prime examples. I would propose that journals add another no-brainer. When an article is part of a conviction or settlement for a crime, it is by definition ready for immediate retraction.”
- 1boringoldman, January 10, 2013, referring to Study 329 (see here for more)

Restoring Study 329

“Study 329: The Final Chapter Coming Soon”:
Arguably the most controversial drug study ever, Study 329, published in July 2001:
1. Concluded that paroxetine was a safe and effective medication for treating major depression in adolescents;
2. Is still widely cited in the medical literature, providing physicians with assurance about the usefulness of paroxetine;
3. Was criticized by a few alert and concerned journalists and academics. Their voices were buried by a tsunami of positive marketing and promotion by vested interests;
4. Resulted in a successful New York state fraud lawsuit against GSK;
5. Resulted in 2012 in the biggest fine in corporate history – $3 Billion; and
6. Remains unretracted.
In June, 2013 Peter Doshi and colleagues published “Restoring invisible and abandoned trials: a call for people to publish the findings” in the British Journal of Medicine (BMJ).

They referred to this proposed protocol as RIAT, and described its purpose as follows:
Unpublished and misreported studies make it difficult to determine the true value of a treatment. Peter Doshi and colleagues call for sponsors and investigators of abandoned studies to publish (or republish) and propose a system for independent publishing if sponsors fail to respond.
A team of researchers undertook to re-analyze the original data and publish a new analysis under the RIAT protocol.

In August, 2015, after a year and seven drafts, BMJ notified the team that their submission would be published in September, 2015. This will be the first ever trial with two completely different takes on the same data.

This new study, Restoring Study 329: Efficacy and harms of paroxetine and imipramine in the treatment of adolescent major depression: restoration of a randomised controlled trial, should shock all who care about integrity in drug safety. Find out the inside story when this site goes live.
How does this thing - resulting in a $3 billion fine for GSK, almost invariably referred to with adjectives like “infamous” and “notorious” - remain unretracted?

Some background here:

(Transcript, of sorts, available here.)

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Catastrophe in Yemen

“4,500 killed in Yemen in 150 Days of Saudi-led bombing.”

Quote of the day

“It’s a moment where the entire system of Guatemala is shaking. And in some senses, Guatemala is leading the world. They’ve achieved a level of civilization far higher than that of the U.S. It’s inconceivable that the U.S. could bring an American president to trial in an American court for mass murder of civilians. But Guatemala has done that. And now the people who are in the streets demonstrating are trying to take it farther by bringing down a sitting president.”
- Allan Nairn on Democracy Now!

Of course, we in the US hear little of these protests, or those in Honduras, or Beirut,…

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Historical quote of the day

“Anti-American activism caused by resentment of U.S. policy is open and pervasive in the Middle East. To improve the climate, Americans need to bypass commercial media and become aware of the core grievances held against U.S. policy. First, the U.S. is held directly responsible for the imposition of oppressive regimes against the wishes of their people. It is unlikely that the Jordanian, Egyptian, Kuwaiti, Bahraini, Tunisian, and Moroccan regimes would have survived until today if it was not for direct U.S. military, intelligence, and political support. And despite the lofty language of human rights and democracy during Carter’s administration and beyond, the people of the Middle East know better. They understand that the U.S. support is based purely on economic and military considerations, and that those interests are fundamentally at odds with democratization and human rights. So when U.S. officials speak about ‘moderate’ and ‘friendly’ Arab governments, the American public needs to realize the people living under those governments do not find them moderate or friendly. But moderation and friendliness are defined purely in terms of subservience to U.S. interests, not the interests of the country’s civil society.”

…“The U.S. has certainly dominated in the initial military phase of the campaign. But responses are sure to follow, regardless of whether bin Laden is killed or survives. U.S. military actions are certain to produce more angry youths and more clerics and leaders, just as successive Israeli oppression of Palestinians has not succeeded in ending the violent methods of struggle by Palestinians.”

…“The war against terrorism will likely not come to a clear end. It could drag on for years, if not decades.”
- As’ad AbuKhalil, Bin Laden, Islam, and America’s New “War on Terrorism” (2002)

The existentialism of Between the World and Me

Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me (2015) is almost an existentialist manifesto. Here are a few quotes:
“Hate gives identity. The nigger, the fag, the bitch illuminate the border, illuminate what we ostensibly are not, illuminate the Dream of being white, of being a Man. We name the hated strangers and are thus confirmed in the tribe.”

“There is no them without you, and without the right to break you they must necessarily fall from the mountain, lose their divinity, and tumble out of the Dream. And then they would have to determine how to build their suburbs on something other than human bones, how to angle their jails toward something other than a human stockyard, how to erect a democracy independent of cannibalism.”

“I am convinced that the Dreamers, at least the Dreamers of today, would rather live white than live free. In the Dream they are Buck Rogers, Prince Aragorn, an entire race of Skywalkers. To awaken them is to reveal that they are an empire of humans, are built on the destruction of the body. It is to stain their nobility, to make them vulnerable, fallible, breakable humans.”
Coates’s Dream is Sartre’s and Beauvoir’s bad faith. It’s Baldwin’s innocence. And his vision of living and struggling authentically is an existentialist one. The book contributes to the long and great tradition of humanistic, atheistic political writing.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Quotes of the day

“If disorders flare up in Iran as a result of nationalization, the Russians may intervene, grab the oil, even unleash World War III. To call Mossadegh a fanatic may be correct, but it explains almost nothing. Mossadegh is a far more complex character than the most baffling men the West has yet had to deal with, including misty yogis like Nehru and notably unmisty commissars like Josef Stalin…. Mohammed Mossadegh, with his faints, his tears and wild-eyed dreams, is a whirling dervish with a college education and a first-rate mind.” - Life magazine, 1953, quoted in Stephen Kinzer’s The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, and Their Secret World War (2013)
“For a fleeting few years the South American nation of Venezuela and its histrionic late President Hugo Chavez made waves on the global stage. While he upended the country’s economy and exploited class conflict at home, he blamed the world's woes on the U.S., insulted the American president at the United Nations, and exhorted other leftists in the region to challenge the prevailing economic model and follow his path to ‘21st century socialism’.

Since Chavez died, the world mostly stopped paying attention. That, however, may soon change.

The Venezuelan people have endured a catastrophic economic collapse that is sure to grow worse in the months ahead. If someone had set out to destroy the country they could hardly have done it more effectively than Chavez and his chosen heir, who has followed the same disastrous policies, driving the country into the abyss.

As his predecessor did, Maduro blames the shortages on the opposition, on his political enemies, and on the rich. But the real reason why the economy is simply not functioning is that the government has introduced wrong-headed policies that defy all logic.” - Frida Ghitis, CNN oped, days ago