10/21/2012 archive

Do you inhale? Capitalism and your Health by Northsylvania

True to form as usual

A purely free market system has one glaringly obvious flaw: if a company’s first responsibility is to its shareholders. In a system based on quarterly earnings, business decisions are only based on the effects of a product on the customer, or even society as a whole, if they impact the bottom line in the short term. This is why, to one extent or another, the excesses of free market capitalism are restrained through regulation. The only brake on corporate malfeasance in a case where the interests of business and society are diametrically opposed is the regulatory arm of the government.

Unfortunately, the interests of the government can be swayed by massive amounts of money, either through tax revenue or through campaign contributions to individual representatives. Sometimes the welfare of society and its constituent members are ignored, even in a supposedly representative democracy. A number of examples can be made here, from the lack of attention to global warming due to the interference of Big Oil, to the current state of the banking system.  This diary examines something both universal and intimate: the government’s ambiguous role in preventing long-term diseases such as cancer, and regulating triggers that might cause it. It is not a critique of the current US health care system, or even Obama’s modification of it, but an overview of how good health over the life of an individual is certainly not of primary importance to industry and in some cases, not of interest to the government either.

Many speculative discussions have arisen in this forum over the past several years concerning carcinogens in the environment and the food supply. Some of these are  controversial enough that they will not be covered here except tangentially. Instead I will use as a case study a substance whose toxicity is so well understood by the general public that there is no argument that its use and cancer are correlated. Nonetheless, because of the vast amounts of money produced through its sale, its carcinogenic nature was first ignored and then debated well past the point when it had become obvious to those in the medical profession, government regulators, and consumers. That subject is, of course tobacco, or more precisely the vast quantity of it consumed by cigarette smokers.

Rant of the Week: Bill Maher

New Rules with Bill Maher October , 19, 2012

What the hell is “zumba”? and no matter what it is, how popular can it be if you have to throw in a blowjob.

When you want to say what’s the cheapest thing I can feed you that’s still technically food, nothing says it like pizza.

My  question is, what is it about being able to figure out how to get a 2000 calorie wheel of grease to your front door in 30 minutes that turns a man’s politics so far to the right?

See the guys eating dollar bills? That’s because the other choice is Domino’s Pizza

Then of course there’s Godfather’s Pizza’s Herman Cain, who when he said try my ‘dippin’ sticks”, he wasn’t talking about the menu

When I order a pizza, it’s late. I’m stoned. I’m out of peanutbutter. he could charge $15 extra dollars, I’d be helpless to object. Pizza is the drunken hook-up of food. you get it a moment of weakness and the next morning you roll over and see the box and think, “Oh God, did I just eat Papa John last night? I’m gonna be sick.”

On This Day In History October 21

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

October 21 is the 294th day of the year (295th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 71 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1959, On this day in 1959, on New York City’s Fifth Avenue, thousands of people line up outside a bizarrely shaped white concrete building that resembled a giant upside-down cupcake. It was opening day at the new Guggenheim Museum, home to one of the world’s top collections of contemporary art.

Guided by his art adviser, the German painter Hilla Rebay, Solomon Guggenheim began to collect works by nonobjective artists in 1929. (For Rebay, the word “nonobjective” signified the spiritual dimensions of pure abstraction.) Guggenheim first began to show his work from his apartment, and as the collection grew, he established The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation in 1937. Guggenheim and Rebay opened the foundation for the “promotion and encouragement and education in art and the enlightenment of the public.” Chartered by the Board of Regents of New York State, the Foundation was endowed to operate one or more museums; Solomon Guggenheim was elected its first President and Rebay its Director.

In 1939, the Guggenheim Foundation’s first museum, “The Museum of Non-Objective Painting”, opened in rented quarters at 24 East Fifty-Fourth Street in New York and showcased art by early modernists such as Rudolf Bauer, Hilla Rebay, Wassily Kandinsky, and Piet Mondrian. During the life of Guggenheim’s first museum, Guggenheim continued to add to his collection, acquiring paintings by Marc Chagall, Robert Delaunay, Fernand Leger, Amedeo Modigliani and Pablo Picasso. The collection quickly outgrew its original space, so in 1943, Rebay and Guggenheim wrote a letter to Frank Lloyd Wright pleading him to design a permanent structure for the collection. It took Wright 15 years, 700 sketches, and six sets of working drawings to create the museum. While Wright was designing the museum Rebay was searching for sites where the museum would reside. Where the museum now stands was its original chosen site by Rebay which is at the corners of 89th Street and Fifth Avenue (overlooking Central Park). On October 21, 1959, ten years after the death of Solomon Guggenheim and six months after the death of Frank Lloyd Wright the Museum opened its doors for the first time to the general public.

The distinctive building, Wright’s last major work, instantly polarized architecture critics upon completion, though today it is widely revered. From the street, the building looks approximately like a white ribbon curled into a cylindrical stack, slightly wider at the top than the bottom. Its appearance is in sharp contrast to the more typically boxy Manhattan buildings that surround it, a fact relished by Wright who claimed that his museum would make the nearby Metropolitan Museum of Art “look like a Protestant barn.”

Internally, the viewing gallery forms a gentle helical spiral from the main level up to the top of the building. Paintings are displayed along the walls of the spiral and also in exhibition space found at annex levels along the way.

Most of the criticism of the building has focused on the idea that it overshadows the artworks displayed within, and that it is particularly difficult to properly hang paintings in the shallow windowless exhibition niches that surround the central spiral. Although the rotunda is generously lit by a large skylight, the niches are heavily shadowed by the walkway itself, leaving the art to be lit largely by artificial light. The walls of the niches are neither vertical nor flat (most are gently concave), meaning that canvasses must be mounted proud of the wall’s surface. The limited space within the niches means that sculptures are generally relegated to plinths amid the main spiral walkway itself. Prior to its opening, twenty-one artists, including Willem de Kooning and Robert Motherwell, signed a letter protesting the display of their work in such a space.

In Memoriam: George McGovern. 1922 – 2012

Don’t blame me, I voted for McGovern” was the bumper sticker on my car on the day that President Richard M. Nixon resigned from office in disgrace. I proudly campaigned and voted for Senator George McGovern in 1972 who campaigned against the war in Viet Nam, as war the Richard Nixon had said he would end and hadn’t. It wasn’t the only reason, I voted for him but it was the main one.

Can you imagine a world without yellow ribbons?

Senator McGovern died early this morning after being admitted to a hospice in Sioux Falls, SD last week.

His family has requested that in lieu of flowers donations be made to Feeding South Dakota.

May the Goddess guide him on his journey to the Summerlands. May his family and friends and the world find Peace.

The Wheel Turns. Blessed Be.

Punting the Pundits: Sunday Preview Edition

Punting the Punditsis an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

The Sunday Talking Heads:

Up with Chris Hayes: The Up with Chris Hayes web site has been drastically changed making it less user friendly, with no information about up coming program topics or guests. I did manage to get some information about this morning’s program from @upwithchris Tweets.

Whether or not there is a preview, Up is always very informative and has some of the most interesting diverse guests. Following along on twitter is always great fun.

This Week with George Stephanopolis: Guests for This Week are Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio on the latest in the 2012 presidential contest.

The roundtable guests are Democratic National Committee Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz; Faith and Freedom Coalition founder and chair Ralph Reed; former Obama White House environmental adviser Van Jones, co-founder of Rebuild the Dream; Fox News anchor Greta Van Susteren; and political strategist and ABC News political analyst Matthew Dowd.

Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer: Mr. Schieffer’s guest are Sen. Marco Rubio (FL-R); Romney senior adviser Kevin Madden; and Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter.

His roundtable guests are The Wall Street Journal‘s Peggy Noonan, The New York TimesDavid Sanger, TIME Magazine‘s Joe Klein and CBS News Political Director John Dickerson.

The Chris Matthews Show: This week’s guests are Andrea Mitchell, NBC News Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent; John Harris, Politico Editor-in-Chief; Michael Duffy, TIME Magazine Assistant Managing Editor; and Kathleen Parker, The Washington Post Columnist.

Meet the Press with David Gregory: Today on MTP the guest is Sen. Marco Rubio (FL-R); Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH); and David Axelrod.

The roundtable guests are  Democratic Strategist and Former White House Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers; Republican strategist Mike Murphy; NY Times Columnist Tom Friedman; and NY Times White House Correspondent Helene Cooper.

State of the Union with Candy Crowley: Ms. Crowley’s guests are former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Bill Richardson; former Presidential Candidate Newt Gingrich; Senator Mark Warner (D-VA); and former Congressman Tom Davis (R-VA).

Her panel guests are Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD), CNN Sr. Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash and The Washington Post’s Dan Balz.

Six In The Morning

On Sunday

Source: Back-channel talks but no US-Iran deal on one-to-one nuclear meeting

By Andrea Mitchell, NBC News

A senior administration official told NBC on Saturday that there have been back-channel talks between the U.S. and Iran about meeting bilaterally on the Iranians’ nuclear program – but that no meeting has been agreed to.

Expanding on a statement issued by the White House after The New York Times reported that there was an agreement, the official says that the backchannel talks have been done in full consultation with the allies – the P5 + 1 and Israel.

The official pointed out that there have been bilateral talks in the past – but that Iran refused to even meet with the P5 +1 during the recent United Nations meetings. He said the Iranians know there will be no agreement unless they give up their nuclear program.

Asked about the impact on Monday’s foreign policy debate between President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney, the official said the administration is not happy that the story came out before the debate, but said the American people might be happy to know the administration is willing to explore all possibilities to get Iran to give up its nuclear program.

Sunday’s Headlines:

A year after Gaddafi’s death, rebel hero is abandoning hope for peace in Libya

Anti-immigrant Golden Dawn rises in Greece

Afghanistan’s agony bears fruit at last

No easy formula for Syrian ceasefire, say analysts

Caught in the current of reverse migration

What We Now Know

Up with Chris Hayes host Chris Hayes discusses what we have learned this week with his panel guests Patrick Gaspard, executive director of the DNC; Chrysta Freeland, contributing writer to Reuters.com; Father Bill Daily, Notre Dame Law School; and Victoria Defrancesco Soto, MSNBC contributor.

NBC News recently took over running the MSNBC web site and has done a revamp that is less user friendly and has less information about the programs. Bear with us as we try to navigate the new format there.

Why the Recent DOMA Decision Matters Even More Than You Think

by Anthony Michael Kreis

On Thursday, Oct. 18, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled (pdf) that the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional. The Second Circuit was not the first appeals court to strike down DOMA, however. The First Circuit Court of Appeals found DOMA unconstitutional (pdf) in May. But the difference between the two legal opinions may mark the beginning of an important legal shift that holds extraordinary promise for the LGBT community.

The first decision evaluated DOMA under what is known as “rational basis review.” This standard is very low. Typically, this level of judicial review is more or less a rubber stamp for legislation. When it comes to gay rights, courts have used this type of analysis to strike down some anti-gay laws. Using rational basis review, courts have said that disliking the LGBT community is not a rational justification for discriminating against sexual minorities. This is how the United States Supreme Court ruled in Lawrence v. Texas that anti-sodomy laws are unconstitutional, for example. [..]

Not all groups can get the type of heightened protections under the Constitution that are already afforded to groups like racial minorities and women. Courts consider a number of factors to determine what groups get heightened scrutiny. Four factors are typically considered: 1) whether the class has been historically subjected to discrimination; 2) whether the class has a characteristic that bears a relation to its ability to perform or contribute to society; 3) whether the class exhibits obvious, immutable or distinguishing characteristics that define them as a discrete group; and 4) whether the class is a minority or politically powerless.

In comes the Second Circuit’s recent DOMA decision. The Second Circuit held that all these factors apply to non-heterosexuals. As such, the court concluded that laws that are discriminatory on the basis of sexual orientation must meet the standards of “intermediate scrutiny.” The justifications for those laws must be not just rational but “exceedingly persuasive.” It was under this more intense level of judicial inquiry that they ruled that DOMA violated the Constitution.

Americans increasingly believe in global warming, Yale report says

by Monte Morin

For the first time since the United States entered a deep recession five years ago, 70% of Americans now say they believe global warming is a reality, according to researchers.

In a report released Thursday by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, authors wrote that America’s concern about global warming is now at its highest level since 2008, and that 58% of Americans expressed worries about it.

“Historically Americans have viewed climate change as a distant problem —  distant in time and distant in space — and perceived that it wasn’t something that involved them,” said environmental scientist and lead author Anthony Leiserowitz. “That gap is beginning to close, however … we’re seeing a jump in the number of people who believe it will affect them or their families.”

Support 350.org‘s Do the Math campaign

On November 7th, we’re hitting the road to jumpstart the next phase of the climate movement.

It’s simple math: we can burn 565 more gigatons of carbon and stay below 2°C of warming – anything more than that risks catastrophe for life on earth. The only problem? Fossil fuel corporations now have 2,795 gigatons in their reserves, five times the safe amount. And they’re planning to burn it all – unless we rise up to stop them.

This November, Bill McKibben and 350.org are hitting the road to build the movement that will change the terrifying math of the climate crisis.

Join us.