Notes and Comment Blog

Not designer luxury treats

Feb 7th, 2016 11:58 am | By

Oh how nice – the Guardian seizes the opportunity of International Zero Tolerance for FGM day to tell women that their trivial little issues like equal pay don’t matter as much as FGM. How very dawkins of them.

The title misrepresents what the article says, so that’s a start.

FGM a more urgent women’s rights issue than equal pay, research finds

What Hajra Rahim actually says in the lede:

A majority of the British public believe female genital mutilation is a more pressing women’s rights concern than equal pay, research by ActionAid UK has found.

See, those two are not the same thing. The headline says FGM is more urgent as a fact. The lede says that the public thinks FGM is more urgent. The fact that a newspaper editor can’t see the difference, or chose to occlude it on purpose, is disturbing.

The article itself is good. The way the Guardian chose to misrepresent it in the headline stinks.

Kate Smurthwaite had a gentle word with the Guardian on Facebook:

Dear The Guardian, Why exactly the fuck should there be a discussion about which basic human rights women should get in what order. The whole point about rights is that they’re rights, not designer luxury treats so the correct amount to have is FUCKING ALL OF THEM and the correct order is RIGHT FUCKING NOW YOU WANKERS. With love and best wishes Kate Smurthwaite

So beautifully put.

Only the beginning

Feb 6th, 2016 6:04 pm | By

Peter Walker reports there was a memorial service for LaVoy Finicum today, in the place where he tried to grab his gun while being arrested, and was shot and killed by an Oregon cop. He overheard comments that “This is the shot that will be heard around the country,” and “This isn’t the end it’s only the beginning.”

Peter Walker

Freedom from or to what, one wonders. Freedom to grab a publicly owned wildlife refuge in order to graze cattle on it for free? Freedom to steal public land at gunpoint for personal profit? Freedom to resist arrest by shooting cops and FBI agents? Freedom to make the US into a failed state like Somalia?

Updating to add another photo:

Peter Walker

Peter Walker says there were many guns, openly displayed.

It’s a satellite, just a satellite

Feb 6th, 2016 5:51 pm | By

North Korea is playing its funny games again.

North Korea launched a long-range rocket on Sunday carrying what it has said is a satellite, South Korea’s defense ministry said, in defiance of United Nations sanctions barring it from using ballistic missile technology.

The rocket was launched at 9:30 a.m. Sunday local time (7:30 p.m. ET), and South Korea was tacking it in flight, a South Korean military official said. “We have no information about any missile parts yet,” the official said.

A U.S. Defense official said the rocket was launched on a southern path over the Yellow Sea, and the trajectory indicated the rocket posed no threat to the U.S. or its allies. The launch vehicle appears to have reached space, the official said.

I know someone who’s underneath that path.

North Korea had notified U.N. agencies that it planned to launch a rocket carrying an Earth observation satellite, triggering opposition from governments that see it as a long-range missile test.

Intercontinental ballistic missiles designed to deliver nuclear warheads are launched into sub-orbital space to reach distant targets.

North Korea likes to throw things up in the air too you know. It’s totally unfair to tell it not to.

Updating to add the NHK report:

The Japanese government says North Korea launched what’s widely believed to be a long-range ballistic missile on Sunday morning.

Officials said they’ve confirmed that one projectile was fired from the North Korean western coast heading south at around 9:31 AM Japan time.

They said the object split into 5 parts. One part fell into the Yellow Sea, about 150 kilometers west of the Korean Peninsula. Two others landed in the East China Sea, about 250 kilometers southwest of the peninsula.

They estimate another part flew through Japanese airspace over Okinawa and dropped in the Pacific Ocean, about 2,000 kilometers south of Japan.

So that’s just great.


Know your place

Feb 6th, 2016 3:49 pm | By

Here’s Shaista Gohir talking about the way Muslim women are shoved aside by men in the Labour party.

An open secret

Feb 6th, 2016 3:24 pm | By

The Press Association via the Guardian:

A women’s rights organisation has written to Jeremy Corbyn calling for an inquiry into allegations female Muslims were discriminated against and blocked from seeking office by male Labour councillors.

Muslim Women’s Network UK (MWNUK) urged the Labour leader to investigate “systematic misogyny displayed by significant numbers of Muslim male local councillors”.

The organisation claimed that the problem had been an “open secret” within Labour and accused the party of being “complicit at the highest levels”.

The Tories are not great either, but there are more Muslim councillors in Labour.

In her letter to Corbyn, she wrote: “As this is an open secret and has been going on for decades, we can only assume that the Labour party has been complicit at the highest levels.

“How do men who do not want Muslim women to be empowered or have a voice remain in power unless the Labour party allows it?

“It appears that over decades senior Labour politicians have deliberately turned a blind eye to the treatment of Muslim women because votes have been more important to them than women’s rights.”

She claimed that “able, knowledgeable and independent-minded Muslim women have been undermined, sabotaged and blocked from becoming councillors”, with many selection “deals” stitched up behind closed doors.

Women are always expected to defer.

Muslim women told BBC2’s Newsnight of the obstacles they had faced trying to stand for office.

Optician Fozia Parveen claims her efforts to become a Labour councillor in Birmingham in 2007-8 were scuppered by men within the party: “At the time, I was aware of a smear campaign against me, they said that I was having an affair with one of the existing councillors. I was quite taken aback. People were turning up at my family home trying to intimidate my mum.”

She claimed Muslim men who were members of the local Labour party were behind the efforts to prevent her from standing.

No girls allowed.

At the GPO today

Feb 6th, 2016 11:55 am | By

In Dublin today:

Anti-Islam group Pegida launched its Irish branch at a rally outside the GPO today.

Pegida (Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West) is a broad European network of loosely linked groups opposed to what they call the “Islamisation of Europe”.

Meanwhile, the ‘anti-racist coalition’ also held a counter demonstration outside the GPO in protest of Pegida.

And the gardaí broke up the demonstrations.

Some action pics from a NoPegida participant:

Cllr Michael O’Brien ‏@cllrmobrien4 hours ago
A great crowd turned up for the Anti-racism day of action at the GPO today! #NoPegida

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Members of Pegida stopped from marching & then hiding inside a shop on North Earl Street #NoPegida

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Crowds gathered around @RuthCoppingerTD @AAA_IRE at Anti-racism day of action at the GPO in Dublin #NoPegida

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A strong presumption that the public should see what you see

Feb 5th, 2016 6:16 pm | By

Why there is such a low reporting rate for rape and other sexual abuse, reason #947,859.

Media outlets do not have the right to publish the bikini-clad photo of one of the complainants in Jian Ghomeshi’s sexual assault trial, even with the woman’s face blurred, the judge in the case has ruled.

A lawyer representing seven major news organizations — including the CBC — sought access to a photo that the woman sent to Ghomeshi more than a year after he allegedly assaulted her.

The photo was presented as evidence, but was not shown to spectators in the courtroom. It was described as a shot of the woman in a red bikini on a beach.

Well we want to loooooooooook at it. Let us seeeeeeeeeee it. How can we have our half-assed opinion about the slutty slut in the bikini if we don’t get to see her slutting in it?

The woman, whose identity is protected by a publication ban, testified under cross-examination that she sent the photo as “bait” to get Ghomeshi to contact her so she could ask him to explain why he had been violent with her.

Representing the media organizations, lawyer Iris Fischer argued the photo should be released, but with the woman’s face and any identifying marks blurred to keep her identity secret.

“There is a strong presumption that the public should see what you see,” Fischer told the judge. “It relates to the witness’s credibility.”

There is? Why? The public isn’t on the jury. How would the public’s leering at the photo of her in a bikini do anything to her credibility in court?

She said it would help the public assess the complainant’s testimony that she was trying to bait Ghomeshi.

But the public doesn’t need to do that. The jury does. The public doesn’t.

Crown attorney Michael Callaghan argued the damaging effect of releasing the photo would vastly outweigh the public benefit.

Knowing that a photo like this could be published during a trial would have a “chilling effect” on sexual assault victims, said Callaghan. “In fact, I’d suggest it would be a deep freeze” on the likelihood of complainants in other cases going to the police.

Ya think?

Fortunately the judge agreed.

Real apostates believe in human rights

Feb 5th, 2016 3:54 pm | By

What’s John Kerry doing bashing IS for being “apostates”?

The US secretary of state, John Kerry, sparked controversy on Tuesday after referring to Daesh as “apostates” while speaking in Rome. His unusual word choice did not go unnoticed, and it was not long before both Muslims and non-Muslim scholars, journalists and political commentators were voicing their opinions on why it was problematic.

“Daesh is in fact nothing more than a mixture of killers, of kidnappers, of criminals, of thugs, of adventurers, of smugglers and thieves,”  Kerry said. “And they are also above all apostates, people who have hijacked a great religion and lie about its real meaning and lie about its purpose and deceive people in order to fight for their purposes.”

Oh really? What are the rulers and clerics of Saudi Arabia then? They must be apostates too.

Charges of apostasy are often used by Daesh—the very group Kerry was referring to in his comments—to justify the killing of those who disagree with them.

Some have argued that Kerry ought to stay away from the word as it is used often by extremists, while others have suggested that he may have called them “apostates” in order to justify US military action against them—so as not to be accused of killing Muslims.

He shouldn’t use the word that way for any reason, because the government he represents is supposed to believe in and support freedom of religion, which of course can’t exist without freedom to leave. The US shouldn’t talk as if apostasy is a meaningful concept.

Former Muslims often face extreme persecution for leaving the Islamic faith, with some suffering ostracization by their family, and even death threats. So perhaps it is understandable that they are not best pleased at being compared to an extremist group such as Daesh.

We reached out to some of those former Muslims to see what they had to say about John Kerry’s controversial word choice.

Maryam Namazie is an Iranian-born former Muslim. She is an author, campaigner for human rights and secularism, and spokesperson for the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain.

“The use of the term […] legitimises the concept of apostasy that leads to the murder and imprisonment of so many freethinkers (ex-Muslim, Muslim and non-Muslim) not just in Syria and Iraq but also Saudi Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan and elsewhere,” she told Al Bawaba, via email.

Imad Iddine Habib is the founder of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Morocco.

“Al-Azhar, the well-known Sunni religious authority, refused to consider them Kuffars/Apostates and for once I agree with them,” he said.

“Calling DEASH (sic) apostates is absurd. We, real apostates, believe in Universal Human Rights, secular democracy and stand up for enlightenment values against the religious-right. Many of us have been jailed and even killed for merely advocating and expressing our views.”

IS are fanatics, not apostates.

Reversal of the reversal

Feb 5th, 2016 3:23 pm | By

Have a 5 minute video in which Elizabeth Warren tells Bill Moyers about an encounter she had with Hillary Clinton back during the Clinton administration.

The credit card companies wanted a bill tightening up bankruptcy laws, to their benefit at the expense of the people they bombard with credit card offers. Warren wrote an op ed about it and Hillary Clinton asked to meet with her. They met, Warren explained about the bill, Clinton got it instantly, and H Clinton got B Clinton to reverse his position on the bill, and veto it. Good stuff.

But then H Clinton became a senator.

You know who spends the most money (pays the biggest bribes) in DC? Not the oil lobby, not the soft toy manufacturers. The consumer credit industry.

Public office=$$$$$$$$

Feb 5th, 2016 12:05 pm | By

ABC did a little rundown of people who get enormous speaking fees in July 2014.

Donald Trump led with $1.5 million.

“The Donald earned a staggering $1.5 million per speech at The Learning Annex’s ‘real estate wealth expos’ in 2006 and 2007,” according to Forbes. “Trump appeared at 17 seminars and collected this fee for each one.”

Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, Timothy Geithner all came in at 200k.

W gets 150k.

Since leaving office, the former president has made more than $15 million in speaking fees, apparently charging between $100,000 and $150,000 per speech, according to Yahoo News.

Being president turns out to be a nice little earner.

Condoleezza Rice gets 150k. Larry Summers, 135. Al Gore and Sarah Palin, 100.

Chelsea Clinton gets 75k, which is just weird.

Colin Powell and Madeline Albright get 50k – which sounds modest after the huge fees gobbled up by the big names, but in reality is a hell of a good hourly wage.


Feb 5th, 2016 10:44 am | By

Greg Grandin in The Nation takes a look at Hillary Clinton’s admiration for, of all people, Henry Kissinger.

Last night in the New Hampshire debate, Clinton thought to close her argument that she is the true progressive with this: “I was very flattered when Henry Kissinger said I ran the State Department better than anybody had run it in a long time.”

Henry Kissinger.

Let’s consider some of Kissinger’s achievements during his tenure as Richard Nixon’s top foreign policy maker. He (1) prolonged the Vietnam War for five pointless years, (2) illegally bombed Cambodia and Laos, (3) goaded Nixon to wiretap staffers and journalists, (4) bore responsibility for three genocides in Cambodia, East Timor, and Bangladesh, (5) urged Nixon to go after Daniel Ellsberg for having released the Pentagon Papers, which set off a chain of events that brought down the Nixon White House, (6) pumped up Pakistan’s ISI, and encouraged it to use political Islam to destabilize Afghanistan, (7) began the US’s arms-for-petrodollars dependency with Saudi Arabia and pre-revolutionary Iran, (8) accelerated needless civil wars in southern Africa that, in the name of supporting white supremacy, left millions dead, (9) supported coups and death squads throughout Latin America, and (10) ingratiated himself with the first-generation neocons, such as Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz, who would take American militarism to its next calamitous level. Read all about it in Kissinger’s Shadow!

A full tally hasn’t been done, but a back-of-the-envelope count would attribute three, maybe four million deaths to Kissinger’s actions, but that number probably undercounts his victims in southern Africa. Pull but one string from the current tangle of today’s multiple foreign policy crises, and odds are it will lead back to something Kissinger did between 1968 and 1977. Over-reliance on Saudi oil? That’s Kissinger. Blowback from the instrumental use of radical Islam to destabilize Soviet allies? Again, Kissinger. An unstable arms race in the Middle East? Check, Kissinger. Sunni-Shia rivalry? Yup, Kissinger. The impasse in Israel-Palestine? Kissinger. Radicalization of Iran?  “An act of folly” was how veteran diplomat George Ball described Kissinger’s relationship to the Shah. Militarization of the Persian Gulf? Kissinger, Kissinger, Kissinger.

Yet Hillary Clinton values his praise.

It goes back to the Clinton presidency, Grandin says, the free trade-banker-loving Clinton presidency.

As First Lady, Hillary Clinton spent the early months of her husband’s administration drafting healthcare reform legislation, only to see it put on the back burner by the North American Free Trade Agreement. Kissinger, in his role as a global consultant, had played a critical role in bringing the various parties who would write that trade treaty together during the previous George HW Bush administration. Kissinger continued his NAFTA advocacy with Bill Clinton. As Jeff Faux writes in his excellent The Global Class War, Kissinger was “the perfect tutor” for Clinton, who was “trying to convince Republicans and their business allies that they could count on him to champion Reagan’s vision.”

By September 1993, Hillary’s healthcare bill was ready to be presented to the public and to congress. But so was NAFTA. All of Kissinger’s allies in the White House, including Mack McLarty, who would soon join Kissinger Associates, pushed Clinton to prioritize NAFTA over health care. Clinton did. It was Kissinger who came up with the idea of having past presidents stand behind Clinton as he signed the treaty.

Health care didn’t get that kind of push. It died. We got free trade, and banker-friendly policies, and Bernie Madoff, and the crash.

Clintonism is largely an extension of Kissingerism, so Clinton’s cozy relationship to Kissinger shouldn’t come as a surprise. Both Clintons have excelled at exactly the kind of fudging of their public-private roles that Kissinger perfected. Kissinger, the private consultant, profited from the catastrophes he created as a public figure. Beyond his role in brokering NAFTA, in Latin America his consulting firm, Kissinger and Associates, was a key player in the orgy of privatization that took place during Clinton’s presidency, enriching itself on the massive sell-off of public utilities and industries, a sell-off that, in many countries, was initiated by Kissinger-supported dictators and military regimes. The Clintons, too, both as private philanthropists and private investors, are neck deep in corruption in Latin America (especially in Colombia and Haiti)–corruption made worse, à laKissinger, by the policies they put into place as public figures, including the free trade treaties and policies that Hillary helped push through, first as Senator and then Secretary of State.

It all worked out very well for them. Not for most of the population, but for them.

Return of the king

Feb 5th, 2016 8:26 am | By

A couple of Daily Mail reporters went to visit Roosh V and found him, scruffy and unappetizing, living in his mother’s basement. No not figuratively; literally.

Daryush ‘Roosh’ Valizadeh, 36, the self-proclaimed ‘King of Masculinity’ called police after receiving death threats from around the world and canceled a series of ‘tribal meetings’ in 45 countries set for this weekend.

I love those self-declared kings of something who are actually just dorks who spend too much time on Twitter.

In a highly-criticized blog he said that if a woman was raped on private property, it should be legal.

Today he told police that it was meant to be a satirical article and that he had written it in early 2015 and had since put a disclaimer on the piece saying it was satire.

But asked when he had added the disclaimer he admitted it had been placed only ‘yesterday’.

Also, in what sense is it “satire”? He’s not satirizing himself, so what is he satirizing? Guys exactly like him who talk smack about women exactly the way he does? How is that satire? Or does he take himself to be satirizing women? But saying people should be raped isn’t satirizing them.

Today, dressed in a stained T-shirt and shorts and living in the basement of his mother’s home, he was concerned for his safety.

He said he had received death threats from around the world. He played officers voicemails left on his phone and showed them emails.

But apparently he never had any concern for the safety of women when he talked about how rape on private property should be legalized. His own safety, yes, that of other people, no.

The DM has lots of illustrations. This is one time it’s worth a look.

Once a micrbiologist, Daryush Valizadeh first spread his misogynistic propaganda via a blog called ‘DC Bachelor’. 

By 2007 Valizadeh felt he had established a considerable following and decided to pen his first book, called ‘Bang’.

Inside the book, he described the ‘ruthlessly optimized process’ that ‘enabled me to put my penis inside’ various women.

He later traveled abroad researching a slew of other titles that include Bang Colombia, Bang Iceland, Don’t Bang Denmark, Bang Poland and Bang Lithuania. 

The 36-year-old has 15 self-published books, many of which have been widely condemned as ‘rape guides’ by media, residents and politicians who live in the countries he is writing about.

He once said: ‘My default opinion of any girl I meet is worthless dirty whore until proven otherwise.’  

That’s interesting, isn’t it – his whole “career” is devoted to putting his penis inside as many women as possible, and he considers such women worthless dirty whores, presumably because they let a man put his penis inside them. I know that way of thinking isn’t at all unusual, but it seems like such a horrible way to live in the world.

In October 2012, Valizadeh decided to expand his online presence by creating the website ‘Return of Kings’. 

The website publishes a string of ‘neomasculine’ articles that claims women should not work, women should have their behaviour and decisions ‘controlled by men’ and has even encouraged males to record consensual sex with a hidden camera to ensure they are not ‘falsely accused of rape’.

Other articles claim that one in four women are ‘certifiably mentally ill’ and should not be unable to live autonomously in today’s society.

Satire, no doubt. Misogynist satire, exactly like misogynist non-satire.

One of the better candidates for financial firms

Feb 4th, 2016 5:51 pm | By

And then in October CNN reported that Clinton said she won’t reinstate Glass-Seagall – saying also that she would do something “more comprehensive,” but that sounds to me like jam tomorrow.

Davenport, Iowa (CNN) Hillary Clinton on Tuesday dismissed the idea of reinstating a Depression-era banking law that has found champions in two of her Democratic opponents, setting up what will likely be a flashpoint in next week’s Democratic primary debate.

Asked by a voter in Iowa about reinstating the Glass-Steagall Act, a law that separated commercial and investment banks until its repeal under President Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton said that her Wall Street plan — which will be unveiled next week — would be “more comprehensive” than reinstating the law.

A couple of days later CNN reported that the banks were much relieved – which tells us how shitty her plan must be.

Hillary Clinton unveiled her big plan to curb the worst of Wall Street’s excesses on Thursday. The reaction from the banking community was a shrug, if not relief.

While Clinton proposes some harsher regulations, she stops far short of what more populist Democrats like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren want to do to Wall Street.

How populist do you really have to be to think the bankers shouldn’t be in charge of the economy?

Sanders and Warren think the big banks should be broken up. Clinton does not. It’s a big divide in the Democratic party.

“We continue to believe Clinton would be one of the better candidates for financial firms,” wrote Jaret Seiberg of Guggenheim Partners in a note to clients analyzing her plan.

And so one of the worse for everyone else.

Reich on Clinton on Glass-Steagall

Feb 4th, 2016 5:31 pm | By

Hillary Clinton and Glass-Steagall.

Robert Reich discussed it last July:

Hillary Clinton won’t propose reinstating a bank break-up law known as the Glass-Steagall Act – at least according to Alan Blinder, an economist who has been advising Clinton’s campaign. “You’re not going to see Glass-Steagall,” Blinder saidafter her economic speech Monday in which she failed to mention it. Blinder said he had spoken to Clinton directly about Glass-Steagall.

This is a big mistake.

It’s a mistake politically because people who believe Hillary Clinton is still too close to Wall Street will not be reassured by her position on Glass-Steagall. Many will recall that her husband led the way to repealing Glass Steagall in 1999 at the request of the big Wall Street banks.

Well, and it’s “a mistake politically” because she shouldn’t be doing Wall Street’s bidding at the expense of the other 99.9% of the country. It’s a mistake politically because it’s a mistake morally. It’s a mistake politically because it’s the wrong thing to do.

It’s a big mistake economically because the repeal of Glass-Steagall led directly to the 2008 Wall Street crash, and without it we’re in danger of another one.

That too – plus that feeds into the mistake morally part. The bankers prospered even during the crash, while everyone else went to the wall. That’s not what a decent person should want for the country. Clinton shouldn’t want to be the president of the 1%.

“The idea is pretty simple behind this one,” Senator Elizabeth Warren said a few days ago, explaining her bill to resurrect Glass-Steagall. “If banks want to engage in high-risk trading — they can go for it, but they can’t get access to ensured deposits and put the taxpayers on the hook for that reason.”

For more than six decades after 1933, Glass-Steagall worked exactly as it was intended to. During that long interval few banks failed and no financial panic endangered the banking system.

But the big Wall Street banks weren’t content. They wanted bigger profits. They thought they could make far more money by gambling with commercial deposits. So they set out to whittle down Glass-Steagall.

Finally, in 1999, President Bill Clinton struck a deal with Republican Senator Phil Gramm to do exactly what Wall Street wanted, and repeal Glass-Steagall altogether.

And nine years later we got the unlovely result.

Clinton laughed and turned away

Feb 4th, 2016 1:55 pm | By

Amy Goodman talks to investigative reporter Lee Fang about Hillary Clinton’s extremely lucrative career of giving talks at big banks.

The Intercept’s Lee Fang recently questioned Hillary Clinton about her speeches for Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs, which paid her $675,000 for just three appearances. After a town hall in Manchester, New Hampshire, Fang asked Clinton if she would release the transcripts of her paid speeches to Goldman Sachs. Clinton laughed and turned away. Fang joins us to discuss Clinton’s Wall Street ties along with Ellen Chesler, a senior fellow at the Roosevelt Institute and longtime Clinton supporter.

Hang on a second. She laughed. Why? What’s funny about it? Is that supposed to make us think it’s some kind of silly or random or trivial question? If so – what the hell is wrong with her? (Stupid question, if the obvious answer is just that she’s thoroughly corrupt and doesn’t even realize it – but that’s what I’m asking: how can she not realize it?) It’s not a bit silly or random or trivial. Is she more attentive to the needs of banks than she is to the needs of for instance working people? Is she easily corrupted? Is she an ally of the big banks? Does she have a view on the repeal of Glass-Steagall? Those aren’t trivial or random questions.

AMY GOODMAN: Lee Fang, last month you attempted to speak with Hillary Clinton after she addressed a town hall in Manchester, New Hampshire. You asked her if she would release the transcripts of her paid speeches to Goldman Sachs. She laughed and turned away. I want to go to that clip.

LEE FANG: Hi, Secretary Clinton, will you release the transcripts of your paid speeches to Goldman Sachs?


LEE FANG: No? There’s a lot of controversy over the speeches. Secretary, is that a no? Secretary Clinton, will you release the transcripts of your Goldman Sachs speeches?

Not funny, Secretary Clinton. We’re not amused.

AMY GOODMAN: So, Lee Fang, explain what happened and why you’re raising this issue of what she was paid to make a speech or speeches at Goldman Sachs.

LEE FANG: Well, Amy, since 2001, Bill and Hillary Clinton have earned over $115 million on the speaker circuit, going out to private corporations, foundations, special interest groups, and charging as much as $200,000, $300,000 per speech. I mean, this is really unprecedented in American history that you have a leading candidate of a major party enriching themselves personally from special interest groups that have been lobbying them and will be lobbying them if they do win the White House. So there’s been a lot of talk about, you know, what these speeches actually entailed.

Bill was always like that. Always. It’s one of the things that soured my opinion of him quite soon after he took office.

And Hillary Clinton has defended herself, saying that she’s basically giving a boilerplate speech, she wants to have more education and more conversations, and this is healthy for our democracy. On the other hand, there have been reports that when Hillary Clinton has gone to some special interest groups—for example, she gave three speeches to Goldman Sachs, making over $600,000 from that one investment bank—that she gave a very specially tailored message, saying that she’s against all of this anti-bank populism. According to Politico, she reassured the bankers that she wouldn’t be taking the line of Elizabeth Warren or Obama really criticizing the big banks. And so, this is a big issue, because, again, this—

AMY GOODMAN: I want to get Ellen Chesler, a Hillary Clinton supporter, to respond.

ELLEN CHESLER: In all due respect, I mean, I actually was at one of those Goldman Sachs speeches, and it was about foreign policy, completely about foreign policy.

Chesler goes on to say that they give the money to their foundation, plus ex-presidents have to live, and Obama will face the same problem. She doesn’t explain why they can’t just get actual jobs, like lawyering or teaching or adminstrating. She seems to assume they have to be rich once they move out of the White House. There is no such necessity.

The committee treated with such contempt

Feb 4th, 2016 1:35 pm | By

Congress is mad at Martin Shkreli, even the Republicans. I guess they don’t like it when capitalists make capitalism look bad?

Mr. Shkreli, who left Turing Pharmaceuticals, the drug company he started, after being indicted on federal securities fraud charges in December, repeatedly exercised his Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination, angering various members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen the committee treated with such contempt,” Representative John L. Mica, a Florida Republican, said after Mr. Shkreli was excused and left the room.

Dude, he’s a successful entrepreneur. You’re just a politician.

The theatrics surrounding Mr. Shkreli’s appearance, which included his smirking at some remarks by committee members and calling them “imbeciles” on Twitter after he left the hearing, overshadowed the discussion about huge overnight price increases in the prices of old drugs by Turing and another company, Valeant Pharmaceuticals International.

News of questionable practices involving higher drug prices has stirred public outrage, provided notable moments on the campaign trails of presidential candidates and helped send some pharmaceutical stocks into a downward spiral. Several congressional committees are examining the trends in drug pricing.

He’s bad for business. He’s a successful entrepreneur, but he’s bad for business. Kind of like Madoff. (Maybe it’s not fair to call a fraud a successful entrepreneur. Then again…)

Valeant has increased the price of numerous old drugs, but the House committee has focused on two heart drugs, Isuprel and Nitropress. Valeant acquired both a year ago and immediately raised the price of Isuprel by more than 500 percent and of Nitropress by more than 200 percent, provoking protest from the hospitals that buy these drugs.

There are people (and even companies) who don’t price gouge lifesaving drugs…but this is America, where gouging is a sacred duty.

Mr. Merritt of the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association said that one way to counter big price increases on older drugs was to approve generic versions of them rapidly.

Isuprel, Nitropress and Daraprim are all so old that they are no longer protected by patents. Before the large price increases, sales of those drugs were probably too small to interest generic manufacturers. But with the greater revenue from higher prices, that could change.

Mr. Schiller of Valeant said in his testimony that he expected Isuprel and Nitropress to face generic competition “within the next year or two.”

However, the Food and Drug Administration has been faced with a huge backlog of applications for approval of generic drugs. That means companies like Valeant and Turing that raise the prices of old drugs have some time to enjoy the profits from the increases. In one email he wrote just after increasing the price of Daraprim, Mr. Shkreli said of the expected profits: “I think we will get three years of that or more.”

Three happy years of gouging. God bless America.


Behind DV rest sexism and views of women as objects

Feb 4th, 2016 12:31 pm | By

Naz Shah MP:

Today I participated the Westminster Hall debate – Domestic Violence (DV) against women. In this debate I drew attention to:

• DV against women is an issue for all of us and men especially
• A minority of men are perpetrators of DV but other men may know about situations and fail to challenge and or report
• Behind DV rest sexism and views of women as objects and in this day and age we need to support young people and adults what healthy relationships are and what it involves.
• DV has to become socially unacceptable and so I was proud to make mention of the White Ribbon Campaign.
• Some of the facts around DV are startling and these still shock me now e.g. 1 in 4 women will experience physical abuse in their lifetime, On average 2 women a week in the UK are killed because of domestic violence.
• Men and young people have to learn about DV and its impact on all. DV is not just a women’s problem.
• DV is physical, sexual, psychological, financial and also emotional and we must challenge all these aspects
• Prevention is the best cure so we need Male Ambassadors and Role Models to promote good relationship and challenge negative behaviours and sexism be active and speak out.
• Introduce Compulsory National Educational Programmes on Healthy Relationships this is a must if we have or one million children estimated to see DV every year
• Cultural Perspectives also need to be addressed and we need more men from BME communities to be role models in this area
• I also raised concern about the Cuts and Challenges Facing Charitable sector in General – Impact on Services for Women

I’m so glad Galloway lost.


What words did she speak for Goldman Sachs?

Feb 4th, 2016 10:13 am | By

It’s disgusting the way US politicians simply take corruption for granted.

MSNBC reports:

Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton struggled Wednesday night to answer a question about why she took more than $600,000 in speaking fees from Goldman Sachs in one year.

“Well, I don’t know. That’s what they offered,” she said when asked about the fees by CNN host Anderson Cooper in a forum televised by the network with less than a week away from the Granite State’s first-in-the-nation primary. Clinton had a lucrative turn on the paid speaking circuit after she stepped down as secretary of state, which rival Bernie Sanders has used as fodder against her.

That’s taken for granted, but it shouldn’t be. It’s as if being president is like winning gold in the Olympics – it’s a cash cow for life. Clinton gets to turn her stint as Secretary of State into huge wads of cash after she leaves the job. That shouldn’t be what it’s about.

“I wasn’t committed to running. I didn’t know whether I would or not,” she added when asked why she took the money knowing it would look bad if she ran. She said she did not regret taking the money, noting that other former secretaries of states have given paid speeches and saying that no one can influence her.

That’s what corrupt politicians always say. It’s bullshit. Why would Goldman Sachs want to give her $675,000 in one year for speaking in the first place?

Being a secretary of state should not be a money-making scheme.

The safety and privacy of the men

Feb 4th, 2016 9:57 am | By

So Roosh V canceled the whole thing, which seems to confirm what lots of people said, that the whole thing was just a scam to draw attention.

The founder of a group who has advocated legalising rape on private premises has cancelled plans for meetings following a widespread outcry.

Roosh V, whose real name is Daryush Valizadeh, 36, is the founder of Return Of Kings, a group for aspiring self-described “neo-masculinists”.

Mr Valizadeh made the announcement on his website: “I can no longer guarantee the safety or privacy of the men who want to attend on February 6, especially since most of the meet-ups can not be made private in time. While I can’t stop men who want to continue meeting in private groups, there will be no official Return Of Kings meet-ups. The listing page has been scrubbed of all locations. I apologize to all the supporters who are let down by my decision.”

That’s just fatuous, because what did he think would happen? He jumped up and down shouting about what he was going to do, and got the desired reaction. It’s silly to pretend he wasn’t expecting it. He can no longer guarantee the privacy of the thing he took pains to publicize. Right.

But hey, I should just shut up about the whole thing because things are worse in Mogadishu.


Feb 3rd, 2016 6:00 pm | By

I took a little travel break to stroll the gardens at Villandry on streetview.

Wikimedia commons:


Jean-Christophe BENOIST

I did the same thing at Chambord the other day; it’s striking how different the settings are. Chambord is plunked down in the middle of a flat plain near the Loire, with nothing else around it, just fields and trees. It looks downright odd, this massive chateau in the middle of nothing.

I love this setting, with the village right at the end of the garden. I went down a street in the village before going to the gardens, a street that ends at that church you see sticking up. It’s a substantial village.