Sunday, December 6, 2015

Venezuela in the mesh

Jean-Paul Sartre’s 1948 In the Mesh – a scenario for a film which was never produced as such – isn’t his best work. His emerging themes of political responsibility and the use of violence in liberation movements are largely sidelined in favor of a melodramatic portrayal of a love quadrangle (which itself is marred by sexism), the characters and their relationships are simplistically drawn, and many of the events are improbable.

But it’s of interest for two reasons. First, for its suggestions of experimental film techniques, marking a different artistic path for Sartre, who preferred “transparent” writing that didn’t draw attention to itself. Film, it seems, freed him to try new creative approaches. More important, for the premise of the film, even if it wasn’t realized as well as it could have been. It was prescient for 1948 and is of continuing relevance today.

The movie is set in a small, oil-rich country. It begins with a revolutionary storming of the presidential palace, and the action follows a hastily convened trial of the overthrown president for his seven years of repressive rule. We understand through trial testimony and flashbacks that he himself had been a revolutionary leader who rose to power in similar circumstances, and is seen to have betrayed the very movement he once led. While he came to power with a promise to nationalize the oil fields, he hasn’t done so. He’s restricted the press and refused to call free elections. He’s undertaken a mechanization of agriculture in the face of mass opposition from the country’s farmers and violently repressed their rebellion. The insurgents demand explanations.

We learn over time that he was operating under powerful constraints from the start. Moments after entering office, he was informed by the representatives of the government controlling oil concessions – presumably the US, but never named – that any nationalization would be regarded as an act of war and would result in an invasion and/or occupation. All of his actions, in his view, have responded to this dreadful possibility. He couldn’t nationalize, and democracy would have led immediately to legislative decisions to do just that. He was caught in the mesh. The only option he saw was to stall long enough for the superpower to become involved in a dispute with the other superpower and lose interest, which could take years but appeared to him the best of the very limited options.

Sartre set the film for some reason in Europe, but it would have more plausibly taken place in Iran or another less powerful nation of the global south. The constraints on movements and governments attempting to claim popular sovereignty, nationalize national resources, and institute social welfare policies in the face of US imperialism became all too clear in the years that followed. Outright invasion and occupation have been joined by covert actions: staged and assisted coups, the installation of puppet regimes, destabilization, underground support for the rightwing opposition, economic and resource warfare, financial warfare, diplomatic warfare, propaganda and (social) media warfare,…

Venezuela is facing these offensives, and has been since 1999 when it openly defied US dictates. Reading Sartre’s scenario, you wonder why the leader didn’t tell his comrades about the threat or include them in the decision, why he didn’t reach out to those in other countries in a similar situation. But that was to come in reality. In response to Venezuela’s defiance, as Sartre foresaw, the attacks never end, or even abate. A news search for the country reveals a constant barrage from the US government and its subservient media. Determined to have their way – or what they foolishly believe is their way - they won’t stop.

Whatever happens in today’s legislative – not presidential, as the English-language corporate media would have us believe – elections, the one certainty in the immediate future is that Venezuela will continue to be caught in, and its people to struggle against, the mesh.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

“A Dream of Secular Utopia in ISIS’ Backyard”

Will wonders never cease? A long article about Rojava in the New York Times Magazine.

Quote of the day – “what we call the moderate opposition”

Speaking of McFaul, he’s been one of the mouthpieces MSNBC has been turning to today for expertise on the downing of the Russian fighter. He’s repeated the same line (or they’ve repeated the video of him using the line – I haven’t been paying close attention) that the Russian government has been targeting not ISIS but “what we call the moderate opposition, what they call terrorists enabled by Turkey.” None of the MSNBC journalists have seen fit to inquire about the reality – well, are they a moderate opposition or terrorists? – or about the strange use of “what we call.”

It sounds like a plain giveaway. If McFaul and those whose bidding he’s doing truly believed that these forces constituted a moderate opposition, he would simply refer to them as that. It seems evident that he doesn’t regard them as moderates (naturally, he’s not even asked what “moderate” means concretely in this context). Note that he doesn’t name the specific groups he’s talking about. Who, specifically, are these alleged moderates? What’s their moderate vision for Syria? What’s their relationship with ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra, Ahrar al-Sham? Even if “moderates” opposed to the Islamists exist on the ground, how would they become a powerful political force? (I’ve just found a Twitter thread or whatever where these questions were put to McFaul in early October. I guess their only result was the change of wording from “the moderate opposition” to “what we call the moderate opposition.”)

The people of Rojava are open with the media and happy to describe their radically democratic, feminist, ecological movement.* But the US government and its media representatives aren’t publicizing that. They prefer to propagandize about this moderate ghost army that will lead Syria to peace and democracy.

* The article at that link, incidentally, was originally published by teleSUR. Venezuela is yet another country in which the US government’s and media’s hostility to democracy and to anyone who resists their imperialism is on full display. (I wonder what will happen to global oil prices after the legislative elections there on December 6th…)

So now they’ve shot down a Russian jet

Several days ago, Patrick Cockburn reported in the Independent, in a story which received virtually no attention elsewhere, that the US government would be allying with the Turkish government to take the stretch along the Syria-Turkey border controlled by ISIS: “‘Seventy five per cent of Syria’s northern border has so far been shut down [preventing Isis’s access to Turkey]’, said US Secretary of State John Kerry. ‘And we are entering an operation with the Turks to shut off the remaining 98km’.” (Who exactly would control this stretch on the ground, I wonder.) They weren’t interested in acknowledging previously stated Kurdish plans to take this area or the Turkish government’s attacks on those Kurds.

David Graeber provided context in an important article in the Guardian a few days ago:
In the wake of the murderous attacks in Paris, we can expect western heads of state to do what they always do in such circumstances: declare total and unremitting war on those who brought it about. They don’t actually mean it. They’ve had the means to uproot and destroy Islamic State within their hands for over a year now. They’ve simply refused to make use of it. In fact, as the world watched leaders making statements of implacable resolve at the G20 summit in Antalaya, these same leaders are hobnobbing with Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a man whose tacit political, economic, and even military support contributed to Isis’s ability to perpetrate the atrocities in Paris, not to mention an endless stream of atrocities inside the Middle East.

How could Isis be eliminated? In the region, everyone knows. All it would really take would be to unleash the largely Kurdish forces of the YPG (Democratic Union party) in Syria, and PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ party) guer[r]illas in Iraq and Turkey. These are, currently, the main forces actually fighting Isis on the ground. They have proved extraordinarily militarily effective and oppose every aspect of Isis’s reactionary ideology.

But instead, YPG-controlled territory in Syria finds itself placed under a total embargo by Turkey, and PKK forces are under continual bombardment by the Turkish air force. Not only has Erdoğan done almost everything he can to cripple the forces actually fighting Isis; there is considerable evidence that his government has been at least tacitly aiding Isis itself.

…And then there are Erdoğan’s actual, stated positions. Back in August, the YPG, fresh from their victories in Kobani and Gire Spi, were poised to seize Jarablus, the last Isis-held town on the Turkish border that the terror organisation had been using to resupply its capital in Raqqa with weapons, materials, and recruits – Isis supply lines pass directly through Turkey.

Commentators predicted that with Jarablus gone, Raqqa would soon follow. Erdoğan reacted by declaring Jarablus a “red line”: if the Kurds attacked, his forces would intervene militarily – against the YPG. So Jarablus remains in terrorist hands to this day, under de facto Turkish military protection…. [links removed]
As I said last week, these actions and alliances would seem perfectly mad to anyone thinking the US government was genuinely determined to defeat ISIS and promote democracy and human rights. And now Obama is on television suggesting that the Russian government is at fault for supposedly focusing not on ISIS but on the moderate, democratic elements of the FSA (do they think the constant references to these mythical elements will somehow conjure them into existence?). Real democratic forces capable of taking on ISIS militarily are being marginalized and sacrificed in order to cooperate with an authoritarian government murderously hostile to them and long complicit with Islamists. And they’re still obsessed with overthrowing Assad. The fateful alliance with Erdoğan (not to mention Saudi Arabia, Israel,…) will continue; the Kurds will continue to be betrayed and abandoned.

We can of course expect the corporate media, with that dupe Richard Engel in the lead, to dutifully repeat their claims. (Last month, Rachel Maddow, evidently surprised and displeased that Tulsi Gabbard didn’t read from the government script,

the next week invited Michael McFaul,

who didn’t disappoint.)

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Quote of the day - “If the Western powers leave the Kurds alone to face Turkey,…”

“If the Western powers leave the Kurds alone to face Turkey, they will only be infusing new blood into IS. Attacks by anti-Kurdish forces will leave the Middle East facing a bloody destiny.

But what we have learned from the Paris massacre is that the West will not be immune to such a bloody destiny.”
- Irfan Aktan, “Paris attacks spoil AKP’s G-20 game plan”

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

AMA calls for ban on DTC drug ads

Better late than never, I suppose.

The Charlie Hebdo response

Here’s the newest cover:

Also, from cartoonist Joann Sfar on Instagram:


“A lawmaker who spent a decade in a Turkish prison after speaking in Kurdish in parliament, again began her oath in Kurdish during a swearing-in ceremony in Ankara on Tuesday.

Turkey’s parliament convened on Tuesday for the first time since the November 1 election, as newly-elected deputies were sworn in to the 550-seat assembly.

Leyla Zana could not be sworn in after she started to speak in Kurdish and changed the wording in the oath of office.

At the swearing-in ceremony, Zana began her oath by saying, ‘With the hope of an honorable and lasting peace’, in Kurdish and finished by changing the official wording of ‘Turkish people’ to ‘people of Turkey’.

The acting speaker of parliament, Deniz Baykal, asked Zana to return to the lectern for an exact recitation but she left the chamber, live footage on state broadcaster TRT showed….”

Friday, November 13, 2015

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Friday, November 6, 2015

Quote of the day – a system of violence

“What’s missing is what happens in between and always, and that is the status quo of military occupation, which is itself a system of violence, a system that holds Palestinians, that holds human beings, in a condition that is contrary to the natural human condition of freedom, and uses force, uses violence, to keep them in that position. So this systematic violence, which Palestinians are essentially acting out against in these outbursts, which eventually get covered, does not get covered the way that it should. And so what we end up getting is a very skewed representation in our media of what the real dynamics of violence are.”
- Yousef Munayyer

Irish accent + “intifada” = beauty

“No US Tax Dollars for Israel’s Occupation” protest this Monday in DC, and AAA vote on boycott of Israeli academic institutions

Popular Resistance:
An unprecedented coalition of 29 faith-based Palestine solidarity groups as well as peace and justice organizations are planning a rally and protest from 5-8 p.m., Monday, Nov. 9, 2015 outside the National Building Museum, where the American Enterprise Institute will be honoring Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The groups will be forwarding one main message: “No US tax dollars to Israel,” as a way to protest American financial, political and diplomatic support for Israel despite its continual violations of international and American laws. The coalition calls for an end to US military aid to Israel until it complies with international law and end[s] its occupation of Palestinian lands.

WHAT: Rally and protest

WHEN: 5-8 p.m., Monday, Nov. 9, 2015

WHERE: Outside National Building Museum, 600 Block of 401 F. St. NW, Washington DC,

Also, on November 20th at its annual meeting in Denver, CO, the American Anthropological Association will vote on whether to boycott Israeli academic institutions.

Monday, November 2, 2015


Behold the forehead:

She’s an extraordinary cat - brave, determined, vivacious, shockingly intelligent. It’s going to be so much fun watching her grow.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Quote of the day – Why the media blackout on Diagnosisgate?

“Brill goes to great lengths – in 15 chapters published one per day – to document a vast amount of the Risperdal story, so it is perplexing to try to imagine whether he might have missed those crucial pages near the beginning of the Rothman Report or whether something else happened. And if it is the latter, what could it possibly be?”
- Paula Caplan

When I read the otherwise excellent* Steven Brill series “America’s Most Admired Lawbreaker,” I noticed and noted that Brill mentioned the actions associated with Diagnosisgate only very briefly and, even stranger, didn’t name the prominent individuals involved. I share Caplan’s interest in the reasons for this omission. (She notes in the comments at my first link above that she contacted Brill when his series was beginning, but didn’t even receive a reply. What’s going on here?)

* He does uncritically accept the claim that “the drug benefits many people,” presumably those alleged to be suffering from “schizophrenia,” which is unfortunate.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Quote of the day – UNC children’s clinic

“[F]or the rest of us Krispy Kreme represents the siren call of diabetes, obesity, clogged hearts, and death - we can only hope a death that takes place in the Krispy Kreme Challenge Children’s Specialty Clinic, which I’m sure is a very good hospital with some now very terrible branding.”
- Sam Biddle

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Quote of the day – democracy and the TTIP

“I do not take my mandate from the European people.”
- EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström in reply to questions about her continuing promotion of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership despite strong opposition in Europe

(I first read the quote in this article about the Israeli government’s efforts to use the secretive trade pact – among other means - to suppress BDS and other transnational solidarity and human rights actions.)

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Quote of the day – the joint struggle

“We offer this statement first and foremost to Palestinians, whose suffering does not go unnoticed and whose resistance and resilience under racism and colonialism inspires us. It is to Palestinians, as well as the Israeli and US governments, that we declare our commitment to working through cultural, economic, and political means to ensure Palestinian liberation at the same time as we work towards our own. We encourage activists to use this statement to advance solidarity with Palestine and we also pressure our own Black political figures to finally take action on this issue. As we continue these transnational conversations and interactions, we aim to sharpen our practice of joint struggle against capitalism, colonialism, imperialism, and the various racisms embedded in and around our societies.”
- 2015 Black Solidarity Statement with Palestine (read the whole thing here)

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Historical quote of the day - the drive for life and the drive for destruction

“It would seem that the amount of destructiveness to be found in individuals is proportionate to the amount to which expansiveness of life is curtailed. By this we do not refer to individual frustrations of this or that instinctive desire but to the thwarting of the whole of life, the blockage of spontaneity of the growth and expression of man’s [sic] sensuous, emotional, and intellectual capacities…. In other words: the drive for life and the drive for destruction are not mutually independent factors but are in a reversed interdependence. The more the drive toward life is thwarted, the stronger is the drive toward destruction; the more life is realized, the less is the strength of destructiveness. Destructiveness is the outcome of unlived life. Those individual and social conditions which make for suppression of life produce the passion for destruction that forms, so to speak, the reservoir from which the particular hostile tendencies – either against others or against oneself – are nourished.”
- Erich Fromm, Escape from Freedom, pp. 181-182

Quotes of the day

From the MSNBC news “ticker” during Rachel Maddow tonight:
“Three people killed and more than 20 injured in stabbing and shooting attacks in Israel.”

“Secretary of State Kerry condemns attacks on Israeli civilians, says violence ‘has got to stop’.”

“Israeli PM Netanyahu vows ‘aggressive’ response to recent spate of violence.”
Another perspective.

Does the Israeli government think this can go on forever? It can’t, and it won’t.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Many killed and wounded in bombings of peace march in Ankara

A deadly attack on a leftwing, Kurdish rally for peace and justice.

Terrifying rightwing mobs rampage in Israel

US media remain silent. State officials continue to encourage racist rioting. As Rania Khalek argues, “As Israel’s culture of hatred spirals out of control, the media outlets concealing the incitement from top Israeli leaders and the ‘death to Arabs’ riots they help spawn are complicit, again.”

Meanwhile, this is the march the vegwashers want some activists to see.

Report: The Palestine Exception to Free Speech

Palestine Legal and the Center for Constitutional Rights have produced a new report documenting efforts to censor and silence Palestinian rights activists on US college and university campuses:

“The tactics used to silence advocacy for Palestinian rights frequently follow recognizable patterns. Activists and their protected speech are routinely maligned as uncivil, divisive, antisemitic, or supportive of terrorism. Institutional actors—primarily in response to pressure from Israel advocacy groups—erect bureaucratic barriers that thwart efforts to discuss abuses of Palestinian rights and occasionally even cancel events or programs altogether. Sometimes the consequences are more severe: universities suspend student groups, deny tenure to faculty, or fire them outright in response to their criticism of Israel. Meritless lawsuits and legal threats, which come from a variety of Israel advocacy groups identified in this Report, burden Palestinian rights advocacy and chill speech even when dismissed by the courts. Campaigns by such groups have even resulted in legislation to curtail Palestine advocacy, criminal investigations, and filing of charges against activists.”

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Quote of the day – no paradox, no irony

Carne Ross:
“The Kurds are alive to the paradox that this experiment in “government by the people” has become possible only amid the violent rupture of war. But there is a darker irony, too.

Democracy was supposed to be the point of Western intervention in the Middle East. But in Rojava, where it is cherished and has prospered despite the most vicious of opponents, this brave experiment is being quietly starved while the supposed champions of democracy stand by.”
There’s no paradox, no irony. Understanding the cultural, religious, and geopolitical reality of “Western intervention” allows us to dispense with these obfuscating terms.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Fadi Alloun

As the video above begins, voices can be heard in Hebrew shouting – apparently at police – “Shoot him! He’s a terrorist! Shoot him!” and “Don’t wait! Shoot him!”

Alloun can be seen backing away from the mob, along the tracks of the Jerusalem Light Rail.

The lights of a police car can then be seen and the sound of seven gunshots heard. Alloun falls to the ground. At no time in the video was he any threat to anyone.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Quote of the day – Oh, FFS

“‘Kissinger’s official biographer’, writes the man Kissinger first asked to be his official biographer, ‘certainly gives the reader enough evidence to conclude that Henry Kissinger is one of the greatest Americans in the history of the republic,…’”

From an unofficial biography.

(They’re all men, by the way: neoliberal men, neoconservative men, imperialist men, biographical men, Islamist men, secular-nationalist men, ambitious men, historiographical men, critical men, theoretical men, anti-imperialist men,... It’s a regular club.)

Wednesday, September 30, 2015


Kurdish forces hope by the end of the year to take Jarabulus, cutting off ISIS’ only remaining border crossing with Turkey and uniting Rojava. They seem appropriately wary of the US government.

Quote of the day – being aware of the social position from which you speak

« Il est important d’être conscient-e-s du ‘point de vue situé’ c’est-à-dire avoir conscience d’où on parle. Je suis une femme blanche, française, sans problème de papiers, sociologue, de classe plutôt aisée donc. J’ai vécu au Mexique, au Salvador juste après la guerre, en Colombie, au Brésil, en République dominicaine. Les féministes lesbiennes noires, indiennes et les femmes ayant vécu des situations de guerre m’ont appris énormément de choses. ».
- Jules Falquet, speaking at the “Feminist Economic Alternatives to the Dominant System” workshop, September 13, 2015

If you read French, I urge you to read the whole report. Carla Sandoval’s discussion of anti-capitalist, anti-racist, anti-colonial feminism in Latin America is especially important.

Medicines and medical equipment needed in Rojava

This site has links to the Kurdish Red Crescent’s updated lists of medical supplies urgently needed in Rojava. (The site is in Spanish, but the linked documents are in English.)

They provide an address for those who can contribute in some way:


Sunday, September 27, 2015

“America’s Most Admired Lawbreaker”

Steven Brill’s exposé in serial form of Johnson & Johnson’s illegal marketing of Risperdal for vulnerable children and old people.


Friday, September 25, 2015

“The Bangladesh Blogger Murders” on BBC

BBC Our World is showing a report on the murders of atheist and secularist bloggers in Bangladesh. It describes the strong Bangladeshi secular traditions the courageous bloggers and others are determined to preserve and defend.
Our World: The Bangladesh Blogger Murders will be broadcast this weekend on BBC World News, at 11.30, 16.30 & 22.30 GMT on Saturday, 26th September and at 17.30 GMT on Sunday, 27th September.
I’ll post the video if/when it becomes available.

“Imperfect Chronology” – modern and contemporary Arab art at the Whitechapel Gallery, London

Through early December, the gallery is hosting what looks like a fascinating show of pieces from the Barjeel Art Foundation collection, founded by Sultan Saood al-Qassemi.

Inji Efflatoun, “The Dinshaway Massacre,” c. 1950s

One of the artists featured is Syrian painter Marwan Kassab Bachi, who now lives and works in Germany. Here are a few of his earlier works:

“Munif Al-Razzaz,” 1965

“The Husband,” 1966

“Three Palestinian Boys (Fidayeen),” 1970

Quote of the day – from wise sage to caring ruler

“Repositioning American Ps[y]chiatric Association from wise sage to caring ruler, we changed everything from messaging to their logo to support the new brand persona.”
- Porter Novelli, “American Psychiatric Association: Rebranding to move the field forward.” (Yes, the period is in their title. I have no idea why. These are people who use phrases like “their own branding that did not ladder up to a central visual or verbal tone.”)

Philip Hickey has the story. (Reading his quote from Paul Summergrad’s address at the most recent APA meeting almost makes me feel sorry for them. They so desperately want to believe that discoveries validating their bogus diagnoses and magically justifying their decades of false claims and scientific fakery are right around the corner - “That we have not yet achieved interventions based on these insights or diagnostic tests is not because we will not achieve them, but because of the complexity of what we are studying.” Indeed, in his latest piece doubling down on the bizarre and patently untrue contention that psychiatry never propounded the chemical-imbalance idea, Ronald Pies actually drags out another of these perpetually “intriguing,” “promising” notions. After chemical imbalances, brain-circuit disturbances, stress hormones, telomeres,…we now have the “immune inflammatory metabolic model.” Whitaker and Cosgrove are right: their faith is too strong and too closely bound to their personal, professional, and material interests for challenges to take root within the field. Meanwhile, they cause a lot of harm.)

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Quote of the day – the mediatization of the death of a child

“This drawing did not mock migrants but our liberal and hypocritical society… this rich, hyper-consumerist Europe that had to wait for the mediatisation of the death of a child to reflect on the fate of migrants.”
- Charlie Hebdo cartoonist Luz, who will leave the magazine next week, discussing the most recent issue

Palestinian Lives Matter

Tragically familiar:
“This video posted by the news agency PalMedia shows a young Palestinian woman left to bleed on a sidewalk in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron after she was shot by Israeli soldiers on Tuesday morning.

By evening, Palestinian media reported that the woman, 18-year-old Hadil Salah Hashlamoun, had died of her injuries.

Instead of being given immediate medical treatment, the video shows her being pulled roughly out of the frame of the camera, her scarf coming off as her head drags on the ground.

Israeli settlers and soldiers can be seen standing around, and in some cases smiling and laughing in the background.

Wattan TV reported that the young woman was left to bleed for more than 30 minutes.

The Israeli army claimed that she was shot after she tried to stab a soldier, the Tel Aviv newspaper Haaretz reported. But photos and eyewitnesses contradict this account.”

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Chomsky Q&A at the New School

The transcript is here. Some highlights:
…The major center of radical Islam, extremist radical Islam, is Saudi Arabia, unquestionably. They are the source of the Wahhabization of the region, which Patrick Cockburn points out is one of the major developments of the modern era. Who’s the main supporter of Saudi Arabia? You are. You know, that’s where your tax dollars go. It’s been for a long time. Right now tens of billions of dollars of arms being sent under Obama, but it goes way back.

…The most extreme and interesting example [of the US government supporting a secular state in the Middle East] is Saddam Hussein, who was greatly loved by the Reagan administration and by the Bush I administration. I could give you the details, but they were so supportive of Saddam Hussein that he was even given a gift that otherwise only Israel has been granted, no other country. He was permitted to attack a U.S. naval vessel, killing a couple of dozen American sailors, and to get away with it with just a tap on the wrist. Israel had done the same thing in 1967. Saddam Hussein did it in 1987. And the friendship for Saddam Hussein was so enormous that he was granted that right. And that was a secular state. In fact, George Bush number one even invited Iraqi nuclear engineers to the United States for advanced training in nuclear weapons production. That’s a pretty supportive relationship. So there are cases where the United States has supported secular Islam, but typically it’s radical Islam that has been the beneficiary of U.S. support, like Britain before it.

…The only conceivable hope for some resolution of this horrendous crisis [in Syria], which is totally destroying the country, is the kind of negotiated settlement that was worked on by serious negotiators, like Lakhdar Brahimi, an international negotiator, very respectable, sensible. And the main idea, which—shared by any analyst with a grey cell functioning, is some kind of negotiated settlement which will involve the Assad government, like it or not, and involve the opposition elements, like it or not. There can’t be negotiations that don’t involve the parties that are fighting. That’s pretty obvious, just as South African negotiations had to involve the leadership of the apartheid state. There’s no other way. They can’t have other negotiations. It’s perfectly obvious that the Assad government is not going to enter into negotiations that are based on the condition that it commits suicide. If that’s the condition, they’re just going to keep destroying the country. That unfortunately is the—has been the U.S. position of the negotiations. U.S. and its allies have demanded that negotiations be based on the precondition that the Assad government will not survive. It’s a horrible government, and I’d like it not to survive, but that’s a prescription for destroying Syria, because it’s not going to enter into negotiations on those terms.

…I think what’s actually happened is that during the whole so-called neoliberal period, last generation, both political parties have drifted to the right. Today’s Democrats are what used to be called moderate Republicans. The Republicans have just drifted off the spectrum. They’re so committed to extreme wealth and power that they cannot get votes, can’t get votes by presenting those positions. So what has happened is that they’ve mobilized sectors of the population that have been around for a long time. It is a pretty exceptional country in many ways. One is it’s extremely religious. It’s one of the most extreme fundamentalist countries in the world. And by now, I suspect the majority of the base of the Republican Party is evangelical Christians, extremists, not—they’re a mixture, but these are the extremist ones, nativists who are afraid that, you know, ‘they are taking our white Anglo-Saxon country away from us’, people who have to have guns when they go into Starbucks because, who knows, they might get killed by an Islamic terrorist and so on. I mean, all of that is part of the country, and it goes back to colonial days. There are real roots to it. But these have not been an organized political force in the past. They are now. That’s the base of the Republican Party. And you see it in the primaries. So, yeah, Trump is maybe comic relief, but it’s just a—it’s not that different from the mainstream, which I think is more important.

…The United States did not—it was a—it may have been—it was probably the richest country in the world back in the early 19th century, but not the most powerful country. Britain was the most powerful. France was a powerful country. And that changed over the years, especially with the First World War and finally with the Second World War. So, exceptionalism has greatly expanded as power expanded. And I say again that this exceptionalism was also true of other great powers during their day of imperial power and domination.

…Israel is now - does play a major role - small country, but good high-tech industry, and it plays a major role in repression and aggression. It’s developed - the Israeli arms fairs, where they sell their arms, they advertise, correctly, that they have developed advanced means of repression and control, and that the arms that they’re displaying are battlefield-tested, namely against the Palestinians. So they’ve refined the techniques of control. And they contribute to that all over the place—in Central America, even in the United States. They’re providing advice on how to bar Honduran immigrants, say, from coming to the United States. They help train police and so on, many examples.

…One of the major doctrines of international affairs, which doesn’t appear in the literature, is the Mafia doctrine. International affairs are run like the—very much like the Mafia. The godfather does not tolerate disobedience. It’s much too dangerous. So, if some small storekeeper somewhere, say, doesn’t pay protection money, the don doesn’t accept it. You send their goons to beat him to a pulp, even if you don’t need the money, because others might get the idea, then things might start to erode. That is a dominant principle of international affairs. In fact, that was the reason for the 1953 coup [in Iran, orchestrated by the CIA], when you look back. And it’s also the reason why—for U.S. hostility to Iran, which is extreme. I mentioned the support for Saddam Hussein. That was an attack on Iran, and a serious one. But they defied orders. They overthrew a U.S.-imposed tyrant. They thumbed their nose at the United States. And you don’t get away with that.

…Arthur Schlesinger, Kennedy’s Latin American adviser, reported to him the report of his Latin American mission, said the problem is the Castro idea of taking matters into your own hands, which appeals to others in the hemisphere where people suffer similar repression, and you can’t let that idea spread.
His assertion that in Syria the US government “has taken a somewhat hands-off position, except that it’s supporting its allies” is an understatement. I hope to write more about this soon, but see, for example, this revealing document, here, and here.

Quotes of the day - women who lead the struggles

“In today’s Greece of human and social disasters, all those who rush to the defence of the torturers and their inhuman policies (media, political parties, the establishment, corrupt politicians, occult circles of power, employers’ unions and even Mafiosi) play the most diabolical sexist cards to the limit, as never before, to smash the action of women who lead the struggles against austerity policies and the debt system, who defend migrants, refugees, the environment and the many victims of the currently applied barbarous policies.”*
- Sonia Mitralias, “Sexism and Austerity in Greece: the Rampage Against Zoe Konstantopoulou”
“Il est très important de montrer ce qui s’est vraiment passé en Grèce et de révéler le vrai rôle qu’ont joué les banques, les politiques menées et les politiciens corrompus, les représentants des institutions, dans cette affaire de la dette grecque. C’est celle de la victimisation de toute une population, de la marginalisation de générations innocentes par ceux qui veulent toujours que leurs crimes soient payés par les peuples et les sociétés. …À mon avis, la Grèce devrait non seulement revendiquer l’abolition de la dette, mais aussi des réparations pour les dommages provoqués par cette politique criminelle contre la population.”
- Zoe Konstantopoulou
“The people will thwart the plans of those who want to push them into a corner and impose bailouts against their will. The new generations know who betrayed them and will take initiatives to restore democracy in our land.”
- Zoe Konstantopoulou

* I disagree with the use of the adjectives inhuman and barbarous.

Congratulations to Olivia Hallisey

The high school junior won the grand prize at this year’s Google Science Fair for her quick Ebola test. If only every student could have the resources available to kids in Greenwich, Connecticut

(I also like this robot gardener.)

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Friday, September 18, 2015

Learning patriarchy at Bible camp

I sang and danced to this ridiculous bullshit:

Update: Hilarious that assorted limbs are black but no individuals.

Two good James O’Brien interviews about Saudi Arabia, Yemen, the US, and the UK

(The second interview begins around the 7-minute mark.)

As Glenn Greenwald argues:
It’s so fun - and so easy - to highlight and protest the bad acts done by the countries declared to be the Bad Ones by your own government. It’s not quite as fun or easy to highlight and protest the bad acts done by your own government itself or its closest allies. Yet as O’Brien pointed out, journalism is far more valuable, and the public interest served far more, by doing the latter rather than the former.

Saudi Arabian government plans to crucify kid


Quote of the day – when analogies prove more thought-provoking than intended

“Farmers Weekly journalist Johann Tasker said it was like ‘appointing a pacifist as shadow defence secretary’.”
- offered in response to Jeremy Corbyn’s appointment of vegan Kerry McCarthy as shadow secretary for environment, food, and rural affairs, quoted here

Public Citizen calls for rejection of FDA Commissioner nominee

“[Robert] Califf’s appointment as FDA commissioner would accelerate a decades-long trend in which agency leadership too often makes decisions that are aligned more with the interests of industry, rather than those of public health and patients.”
- from Michael Carome, “Senate Should Reject President’s Nominee to Be the Next FDA Commissioner”

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Dear Rachel Maddow,

Hugo Chávez was not a dictator. He was a popular, democratically elected president of Venezuela. You imperil Venezuelan democracy and empower the Right in Venezuela and the US when you repeat such bogus characterizations. There are very real forces working diligently to overthrow South American democracies and to (re)establish US-dominated corporatocracies, real dictatorships, and your carelessness has helped their cause. Millions of lives are at stake. I hope you’ll be more responsible in the future, and correct this error from tonight’s broadcast.

Update: This goes for you, too, Bernie Sanders.

Mr. Trump and the eliminationists

Word of the day


Peter Doshi’s epic BMJ feature article about Study 329

This report in the Guardian about the reanalysis of the infamous Study 329 links to both the reanalysis itself and an accompanying feature article by BMJ Associate Editor Peter Doshi describing the years of frustrated attempts to get the original article retracted, both of which are open access. Doshi’s piece - “No correction, no retraction, no apology, no comment: paroxetine trial reanalysis raises questions about institutional responsibility” – is a scathing indictment of the institutions involved, specifically the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP), whose journal (JAACAP) published the article by Keller et al. in 2001, and Brown University. The feature quotes several experts, including Ivan Oransky of Retraction Watch, which posted about the matter yesterday.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

This is significant: BMJ press release about the restoration of Study 329, Paxil, and how the system has failed the public

Last year, I posted about a debate at the British Medical Journal about whether the journal should stop publishing pharma-funded research. That they were having the discussion, and that the BMJ head of research commented on my post to clarify a misconception of mine, led me to be confident that they were taking a fair and serious approach to the issue. Today, the BMJ issued a press release about the reanalysis of Study 329 which they publish this week.

I’ve reproduced the press release in full. It’s quite straightforward, and potentially will mark a turning point. Please read and share widely.
16 September 2015


Press Release

Reanalysis of antidepressant trial finds popular drug ineffective and unsafe for adolescents

Results contradict original findings and have important implications for research and practice

The widely used antidepressant paroxetine is neither safe nor effective for adolescents with depression, concludes a reanalysis of an influential study originally published in 2001.

The new results, published by The BMJ today, contradict the original research findings that portrayed paroxetine as an effective and safe treatment for children and adolescents with major depression.

It is the first trial to be reanalysed and published by The BMJ under an initiative called RIAT (Restoring Invisible and Abandoned Trials), which encourages abandoned or misreported studies to be published or formally corrected to ensure doctors and patients have complete and accurate information to make treatment decisions.

In 2001 SmithKline Beecham, now GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), funded a study (known as Study 329) to compare the effectiveness and safety of the antidepressant drugs paroxetine and imipramine with placebo for adolescents diagnosed with major depression.

It reported that paroxetine was safe and effective for adolescents and was published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (JAACAP) in 2001.

The study was criticised by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2002. Yet, that year, over two million prescriptions were written for children and adolescents in the United States.

In 2012 GSK was fined a record $3bn in part for fraudulently promoting paroxetine.

The RIAT team, led by Professor Jon Jureidini at the University of Adelaide, identified this study as an example of a misreported trial in need of restoration.

Using previously confidential trial documents, they reanalysed the original data and found that neither paroxetine nor high dose imipramine was more effective than placebo in the treatment of major depression in adolescents. The authors considered the increase in harms with both drugs to be clinically significant.

They conclude that “paroxetine was ineffective and unsafe in this study.”

The reanalysis of Study 329 “illustrates the necessity of making primary trial data and protocols available to increase the rigour of the evidence base,” say the authors.

In an accompanying article, Peter Doshi, Associate Editor for The BMJ says the new paper “has reignited calls for retraction of the original study and put additional pressure on academic and professional institutions to publicly address the many allegations of wrongdoing.”

He points out that the original manuscript was not written by any of the 22 named authors but by an outside medical writer hired by GSK. And that the paper’s lead author - Brown University’s chief of psychiatry, Martin Keller - had been the focus of a front page investigation in the Boston Globe in 1999 that documented his under-reporting of financial ties to drug companies.

Doshi also details the refusal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry to intervene and retract the paper, and Brown University’s silence over its faculty’s involvement in Study 329.

“It is often said that science self corrects. But for those who have been calling for a retraction of the Keller paper for many years, the system has failed,” argues Doshi.

Dr Fiona Godlee, The BMJ Editor-in-Chief says publication of the reanalysed data from Study 329 “sets the record straight” and “shows the extent to which drug regulation is failing us.” It also shows that the public and clinicians do not have the unbiased information they need to make informed decisions.

She calls for independent clinical trials rather than trials funded and managed by industry, as well as legislation “to ensure that the results of all clinical trials are made fully available and the individual patient data are available for legitimate independent third party scrutiny.”

Liberating the data from clinical trials has the potential to benefit patients, prevent harm, and correct misleading research, writes Professor David Henry at the University of Toronto, in an accompanying editorial.

Data sharing is not without its risks, he says, but the pay-off from a systematic effort to reactivate important clinical trials will be high and will further justify the original huge investments of time and money, he concludes.

Bring back colonialism

argues Michael Walzer:
“I have a utopian solution, which is also politically incorrect.* There are countries in the world today that ought to be, for a time, not-independent and not-sovereign. What the world needs, and what the UN might provide if it were the organization it was meant to be: a new trusteeship system for countries that are temporarily unable to govern themselves.”
[via The Angry Arab News Service]

* Note: link not in original

Quote of the day – who you are and what you value


You may own the best gadgets, the coolest fashions, and the swiftest cars, but the next generation’s hipper iterations have already been imagined. When all else is replaced, repaired, expired, or obsolete only your paintings will remain and will say the most about who you are and what you value.”
- advertisement for Questroyal Fine Art, LLC, purveyors of “Important American Paintings,” in October 2015 Architectural Digest

New York Times not half bad on Charlie Hebdo

It’s not brimming with political insight, but this piece by Robert Mackey about the reaction to some of the cartoons in the most recent issue of Charlie Hebdo is reasonably good. The headline is accurate. He discusses the images in the context both of the surrounding text in the magazine itself (imagine that!) and of the responses of the artists themselves to the uproar. (The article unfortunately doesn’t show the issue’s cover and in fact uses that photograph of the cover overlaid with one of the cartoons from the back pages, which is highly misleading and should be corrected.) He does do the twitter-shot thing, but the tweets from Nathaniel Tapley are helpful. He also includes a link to a BuzzFeed selection of “respectful” cartoons so schmaltzy and treacly they put in sharp relief the need for Charlie Hebdo’s raw satire.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

A bunch of damn Reds!

The best propaganda is free and unintended. That’s the case with this article from February about some USian and British guys who volunteered to fight ISIS with the Kurdish YPG only to discover…a revolution.
According to foreign fighters quoted by AFP, an exodus is currently underway of US and other Western volunteers from the YPG due their left-wing stance, with one US army veteran – referred to as ‘Scott’ – claiming he decided not to join after finding out they were a ‘bunch of damn Reds’.*
Evidently, several of these guys are now fighting their Christian holy war with the Ronald Reagan Brigade.**

As the article notes, others have chosen to work and fight with the YPG because of their politics. A moving statement from a British volunteer was posted just this week:
…In Kurdistan, particularly that part that is currently in Syria, there is a left side.

In ‘the most dangerous place in the world’, they are doing what the left should do — providing a safe haven for all ethnicities and religions while championing none, through radical direct democracy.

They are combating the worst misogyny in the world with some of the most advanced gender policies on the planet. For each formal leadership position in the Kurdish state there must be one man and one woman.

Images of the Women’s Defence Units, fighting not only with Kalashnikovs but their hair uncovered, have captivated the world.

They are proclaiming a revolution against capitalism and defending it against Isis, the West’s latest creation to ensure regional instability, thereby facilitating further foreign intervention at such time as it should become advantageous.

There is a left side, there is always a left side, and if someone else succeeds in breaking forward where you have not, and calls for you to join them, you must join them. So I will….
* Technically, they’re damn Red-and-Blacks.

** Note: not the actual name of the Christian unit.

Quote of the day – attacked for putting potent symbols through the grinder

(As much as I detest quoting from a capitalist rag…)
“If the people who now wax indignant about the Aylan Kurdi cartoons supported Charlie Hebdo last winter and joined demonstrations carrying ‘Je suis Charlie’ signs, they clearly did it for the wrong reasons. The magazine was attacked for putting potent symbols through the grinder. It’s done that again with the now-iconic photograph of the dead boy. As usual with Charlie, the message is transparent: Don’t dare use this photograph to advertise shallow, ineffectual charity; don’t be secretly dismissive because it was not your child and not a European child; don’t trivialize Aylan Kurdi’s death by turning it into a political cliche. ‘If you can look at the original photograph without averting your eyes but you can’t look at these cartoons, there’s something wrong with you’, the artists tell their audience.”
- Leonid Bershidsky

And we should be aware of the additional level of irony – that the dead at Charlie Hebdo have been used in the same way. Fortunately, their surviving colleagues are contesting their exploitation as a sacred political symbol by carrying on their iconoclastic work.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Zaytouna, kitty refugee

I needed this today.

Sevil Rojbin Çetin

“State prosecutors have charged her with ‘breaking the unity of the state’ and are pushing for life in prison.”

The cover

This, by the way, is the cover of the issue:

Un terroriste de 3 ans, neutralisé par la marée

Don’t ever change, Charlie Hebdo.

Another round

More of this nonsense. I would ask whether people really believe xenophobia or “mocking the death of Aylan Kurdi” is the point of the cartoons, but I’m all too aware that self-satisfied, self-righteous ignorance (and its cynical exploitation) is the norm.

Also disappointing is how many people think journalism consists of pitting a series of tweets attacking the magazine against a series of tweets defending it (or worse, simply reporting the allegedly justified outrage). It hasn’t occurred to these people to try to understand the satirical purpose of the images, by, say, reading the magazine or seeking comment from those who are more informed? Of course not. What was I thinking? Reporting on and goading a social-media mob while briefly alluding to a few people suggesting the images are being misread is all that’s required.

Well, at least there’s this.

Friday, September 11, 2015

garden rock

“[T]he goal of a karesansui garden is to suggest magnificent scenes from nature by forming the shapes of various landscape elements such as waterfalls, mountains, islands and ocean … thus the garden expresses the vastness of nature in miniature, within a strictly limited space.”
- Kinsaku Nakane, designer, Tenshin-en, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Mr. Robot

Good show.

Good soundtrack.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

In PR and censorship news…

The sleazy, repressive, illegitimate regime in Honduras has hired Ketchum (for more about which, see here, here, here, here, and here) to do its spin. It also helps to silence real journalists.

Quotes of the day - policies of violence, denial, and annihilation

“The hunger strike started by us as PKK and PAJK prisoners on August 15 has entered its 26th day. We salute the resistance of our people and all those resisting bravely for the building of self-rule in neighborhoods, towns and districts. We would like to state that we will enhance our resistance further as long as the AKP government’s policies of denial and annihilation against the Kurdish Freedom Movement and the Kurdish people continue.”
- from statement by Deniz Kaya on behalf of PKK (Kurdistan Worker’s Party) and PAJK (Kurdistan Women's Liberation Party, Partiya Azadiya Jin a Kurdistan) prisoners
“We now need the support of the international public more than ever in order to achieve the realization of a lasting peace in the Middle East, Turkey and Kurdistan.”
- from statement by the Foreign Affairs Commission of the HDP (Peoples’ Democratic Party) calling for “urgent international action against the policies of violence that have escalated after the general elections of June 7 led by the AKP provisional government”

Needless to say, they’re not serious.

“If the US was serious about fighting IS, it would not only have been providing full support – both in deed and in word – to the YPG and YPJ and its sister organization, the PKK, but it would also confront Turkey on the mountains of evidence that they have in fact been supporting IS. It would demand that the borders with the Kurdish regions in Syria would be opened, and that the bombing campaign against PKK positions as well as the terror campaign against Kurdish civilians be seized [sic] immediately. Most importantly, it would take the PKK of[f] the terror list.

Unfortunately, the US’ actions have shown that it is interested in no such thing.

Rather than defeating IS, its objective is the preservation and expansion of its influence in the region. For this, Turkey is a much more valuable partner than either the YPG and YPJ or the PKK. Action speaks louder than words, and in choosing its allies the US has shown clearly where its priorities really lie: power over democracy, influence over honesty and war over peace.”
- Joris Leverink, “US deal with Turkey shows its disregard of Kurds”

Like others, I’m struck by the similarities with the Spanish Civil War and Revolution in the 1930s.

(Another good piece from ROAR.)

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Historical quote of the day – those who don’t seek to be masters

“I must lose in a world where only the winner is a Man, a human being. I was not a real Man. I was a queer, a half-Man, a pseudo-Man, like a woman…. Men fought and won, they fought other men for the ownership of the rest of creation, lesser peoples, the losers, women, the Third World, as well as the natural environment. I could never be a real Man.

We must not give up our humanity to become like the Man. We must not seek to conquer, to become the master. Our gayness, our ability to love one another, is our humanity, and it must not be sold for the Man’s mastery over others. And if the straight Man’s revolution is based on mastery and conquest we will have no part in it. But we are going to make a gay revolution, a revolution that will be an assertion of humanity. And remembering what you taught us of our humanity, we gay men, together with women, and all the other victims, those who don’t seek to be masters, can create it.”
- Mike Silverstein, “An Open Letter to Tennessee Williams,” Gay Sunshine, October 1971, quoted in Mark Grief, The Age of the Crisis of Man: Thought and Fiction in America, 1933-1973 (2015)

Friday, September 4, 2015

Interlude – offloading beasts of sadness

The book Oxen Rage by Juan Gelman is forthcoming in English translation. I’m not sure how I’ll feel about it, but these lines from the poem “For now” are worth reproducing:
twilight was anchored in that port with a hazardous languor
arriving from africa the great devourer
offloading beasts of sadness guns traps bogus ebony

Needless to say, they’re not sincere.

“If Australia was sincere about fighting ISIS, it would end the criminalisation of the PKK and other laws that have frustrated attempts at practical solidarity with the democratic resistance to ISIS. The embargo preventing the YPG/J or PKK obtaining heavy weapons would be lifted and Turkish state support for ISIS would be exposed and opposed.”
- Tony Iltis, “The real reason Tony Abbott wants to bomb Syria”

Quote of the day – the hope that these humane values will triumph

“The Kurdish people of Kobane have shown tremendous courage and resilience in their resistance to the ISIS onslaught. The determination of the men and women to fight to defend the territory where they have established democratic self-rule has inspired people across the world.

The Kurds in Kobane are defending the values of democracy, inclusiveness, respect for difference and gender equality, against a ruthlessly intolerant force that offers only an orgy of bloodletting, carnage, public executions, vile abuse of women and even the repudiation of the right to education, learning and independent thought. The Kurdish resistance, and in particular the brave men and women fighters of the People’s Protection Units (YPG/YPJ), represent the hope that these humane values will triumph over a tyranny that would take humanity back to the dark ages. As such, the Kurds have received widespread respect.

In stark contrast, Turkey has been exposed for its duplicity and total unreliability as an ally in the coalition against the ISIS threat. Turkey’s leaders from President Erdogan downwards have preferred to bomb Kurdish camps, as they did on 14 October, rather than take swift and effective action against the murderous jihadists….”
- “The Resistance of Kobane Will Triumph Over Tyranny,” Peace in Kurdistan Campaign Statement, October 16, 2014, quoted in A Small Key Can Open a Large Door: The Rojava Revolution (2015)

(The ever-deceitful US State Department presents things differently.)

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.