09/08/2013 archive

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: Syria — Can we talk? by UnaSpenser

I mean it. Can we simply talk about this? There are so many things to consider and ponder. We have a responsibility as US citizens and fellow human beings to those whom we might hurt, to be uncomfortable while we determine whether military action on our part is the right thing to do. It is also incumbent upon us to consider whether there are other things we might do. So, can we dig in and look at all that we know and enumerate all that we don’t know and speculate on all the possibilities which might explain both the current realities and the impacts of possible courses of action? Can we do this without being upset with each other for seeing things differently? Can we allow ourselves to remain open and to let more in than what we think we know or feel?

I challenge us all to hear out those who have a very different perspective, whether you think it’s a neoconservative tyranny or a manipulated scenario. We’re talking about bombing people. Certainly, we can afford the innocuous process of allowing ourselves to mentally wend our way down the myriad possibilities before we kill people, right? We have nothing to lose and they have everything to lose. If some country was threatening to bomb us and we learned that they weren’t willing to have a discussion about all the alternative assessments about what’s going on here and all the alternative action possibilities, we’d feel pretty worthless. Syria isn’t another target. It’s a country full of people. Give them the courtesy of considering every reason why we might not want to bomb them.

I’m going to outline some talking points for conversation starters below. I don’t claim to be an expert, in any way shape or form. I’m another Citizen Jane of a super-power wielding nation and I have tons of questions. I also have principles from which I approach things and, for the sake of disclosure, I’ll make those known as I pose the questions.  

America’s Cup 2013 Race 3 & 4

Perhaps I shall be able later to touch on the storied history of the oldest continually contested championship in sports, but today I’d like to briefly catch you up to speed on the current contest.

The rules play a huge part in the eventual outcome and the first rule is that the team that holds the Cup gets to make the rules.  Now it’s not true that the challengers get no input at all, besides the veneer of ‘sportsmanship’ they can always decide not to contend and indeed the cup has languished for decades.

In this particular contest Larry Ellison and Team Oracle have decided to make the race ‘state of the art’ and try and build the same kind of audience that Formula One enjoys.

So far there have been mixed results.

The boats themselves are quite high tech, with 33 foot semi-rigid airfoils instead of sails.  The most noticeable feature is that they are hydrofoil catamarans and under most racing conditions look as if they are balancing on two tiny struts at the tail end of the boat.  Visually it’s spectacular and they’re very fast, 50 miles an hour or more.

Also the course is in shore with only downwind and upwind legs and a short reach just before the finish.

Wow, exciting you say, well hold on a second.  As it is the series is generally considered a bust.  The inherent problem is that as with most forms of unlimited racing one or another team establishes a technological edge which manifests itself early and consistently and each lap only makes things less competitive.

The boats are so expensive that only half the teams predicted could afford to show up and most of them were clear ‘also rans’ from the git.

Then there has been bad luck including a fatality as Artemis dropped the bow (did I mention the two tiny foils at the back?) and capsized breaking the prime boat and putting them out of contention.

Oh but wait you you jingoistic Team USA fans, it gets worse.  As it turns out the All Blacks (Team New Zealand) have the fastest boat so it will only be good starts and luck that brings victories.  Also Oracle has been penalized 2 races for illegal modifications during the run up series and they lost the two initial races yesterday and so they find themselves in the unenviable position of needing 11 victories in the remaining 15 races to New Zealand’s 7.

Tough sledding indeed.

Rant of the Week: Stephen Colbert, Kitten Subway Crisis & NYC Mayoral Race

Kitten Subway Crisis & NYC Mayoral Race

NYC mayoral candidate Joe Lhota goes after the key anti-kitten demographic after two lost kittens shut down America’s largest transportation system.

Kittens Stop NYC Subway Service

It only took two kittens to stop the city’s subway in its tracks.

Power was cut to the B and Q lines in Brooklyn for more than an hour after a woman reported Thursday morning that her kittens were loose in the nation’s largest subway system, transit officials said.

The furry felines, one black and the other white with gray stripes, were finally found on the tracks and rescued about seven hours later.

How they got there was a mystery. But they were seen running dangerously close to the high-voltage third rail.

Their owner rushed to a subway station with cat food for transit workers dispatched onto the tracks to use to try to corral them.

Joe Lhota, NYC Mayoral Hopeful, Wouldn’t Stop Trains For Kittens

A former chairman of the Metropolitan Transit Authority and New York City mayoral hopeful says he wouldn’t have stopped the subway because two lost kittens were scrambling along the tracks. [..]

Other mayoral hopefuls tell the paper they would’ve stopped the trains.

Fortunately, there are more cat lovers in NYC than Republican voters.

Measles and the Truth about Vaccines

Vaccinations are perhaps the greatest discovery in modern medicine. Over the one hundred plus years they have prevented the spread of deadly deadly diseases caused by bacteria and virus, and, as in the case of smallpox completely eradicating the disease. Polio, too, is on the verge of being eliminated, except for pockets of resistance in some areas that are plagued by the ignorance of fanatic religiosity and politics.

Measles is a dangerous disease that is completely preventable with a vaccination. It is not a disease to be “screwed around with” as Phil Plait of Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog asserts:

Out of 1,000 people who contract it, one or two will die, and many more will require hospitalization. In general, those at risk are seniors and infants too young to be vaccinated. Approximately 100,000 children a year worldwide die of measles. That’s more than the entire population of my hometown of Boulder, Colo. Imagine an entire city of children dying from a preventable disease, and perhaps you can understand why I’m so vocal about this.

The vaccine for measles is safe. Phil debunks the misinformation and myths about the Measles/Mumps/Rubella vaccine (MMR) and other vaccines at his other blog AntiAntiVax: The Truth About The Evils Of Vaccination

  • Some in the anti-vax movement claim that the MMR has/had mercury in it. However, the MMR vaccine does not and never has had any mercury in it.
  • The basis of the “MMR vaccine causes autism” argument is a flawed study (retracted by The Lancet on February 2, 2010) by Andrew Wakefield, who had several ethics breaches, including failure to disclose financial compensation from a lawyer representing families claiming MMR cause their children’s autism, failure to disclose financial interests in patents for MMR alternatives, failure to include data which contradicted his conclusions, use of contaminated samples to support his conclusions.
  • A 2009 study, titled “Lack of association between measles-mumps-rubella vaccination and autism in children: a case control study” examined whether there was a relationship between MMR and autism and concluded that there was no association.
  • Independent studies trying to replicate Wakefield’s results have come up negative. To date, no properly controlled study has shown a causal link between vaccines and autism.
  • Many opponents of the MMR will claim that the diseases prevented are mild and not dangerous.  This is not the case, as can be seen in numerous outbreaks around the world.  Measles can lead to encephalitis (swelling of the brain) in about 1 of every 1,000 individuals, possibly leading to death.  Mumps can lead to sterility in adult men, swollen ovaries or breasts in adult women and miscarriage in pregnant women, as well as encephalitis.  Rubella (German measles) can cause encephalitis, as well as birth defects if contracted by a pregnant woman.  There is also some evidence to suggest that infection with rubella while pregnant is the cause of some cases of autism.


Yet there is still resistance to vaccinations, even here in the US, where there is an anti-vaccination movement led mostly by religious fundamentalists and faith healers.

Measles Outbreak Hits Texas Church That Preached Against Vaccines

A Texas megachurch known for preaching against the use of vaccines has been hit by an outbreak of measles, a highly contagious virus for which there is no known cure. Measles can be prevented by vaccination.

So far, at least 16 people have contracted measles, all of whom are connected to Eagle Mountain International Church in Newark, Texas. Per USA Today, the church’s senior pastor, Terri Pearsons, has been critical of measles vaccinations in the past.

In a segment on his MSNBC show All In, host Chris Hayes discusses the outbreak, the larger culture of information, and misinformation around vaccinations, as well as, the anti-vaccination crowd’s impact on vaccination culture, with Arthur Caplan, Professor of Bioethics and Director of the Division of Medical Ethics at New York University and  Seth Mnookin, author of the book “The Panic Virus: A True Story of Medicine, Science, and Fear.”

See your doctor or health clinic. Vaccinations are free under the 2010 Affordable Care act. Get you and your family vaccinated.

On This Day In History September 8

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.

September 8 is the 251st day of the year (252nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 114 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1966, The TV series, Star Trek, debuted on NBC-TV, on its mission to “boldly go where no man has gone before” and despite ratings and only a three year run that gave us 79 episodes, the series did exactly that.

When Star Trek premiered on NBC-TV in 1966, it was not an immediate hit. Initially, its Nielsen ratings were rather low, and its advertising revenue was modest. Before the end of the first season of Star Trek, some executives at NBC wanted to cancel the series because of its rather low ratings. The chief of the Desilu Productions company, Lucille Ball, reportedly “single-handedly kept Star Trek from being dumped from the NBC-TV lineup.”

Toward the end of the second season, Star Trek was also in danger of cancellation. The lobbying by its fans gained it a third season, but NBC also moved its broadcast time to the Friday night “death slot”, at 10 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (9:00 p.m. Central Time). Star Trek was cancelled at the end of the third season, after 79 episodes were produced. However, this was enough for the show to be “stripped” in TV syndication, allowing it to become extremely popular and gather a large cult following during the 1970s. The success of the program was followed by five additional television series and eleven theatrical films. The Guinness World Records lists the original Star Trek as having the largest number of spin-offs among all TV series in history.

The series begat five televisions series and 11 movies with more to come. I knew I loved Lucille Ball for a reason.

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:

Making the Sunday rounds this week making the case for military action in Syria will be White House mouth piece White House chief of staff Denis McDonough.

Up with Steve Kornacki: The Steve’s guest list for this segment was not available.

This Week with George Stephanopolis: In the Sunday’s show the guest are: White House chief of staff Denis McDonough Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX); and former Deputy Chief of Mission in Libya Gregory Hicks.

The roundtable will debate miltary action in Syria with panel guests  Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL); Democratic strategist Donna Brazile; co-founder of the Foreign Policy Initiative Dan Senor; editor and publisher of The Nation and Washington Post columnist Katrina vanden Heuvel; Fox News anchor Greta Van Susteren; former FBI special agent Ali Soufan; ABC News Chief Investigative Correspondent Brian Ross; and ABC News Senior Justice Correspondent Pierre Thomas.

Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer: Mr. Schieffer’s guests are White House chief of staff Denis McDonough; House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-MI); Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI); and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD).

Joining him for a panel discussion are: The Washington Post‘s Bob Woodward, The Weekly Standard‘s Bill Kristol, The New York  TimesDavid Sanger, The Washington Post‘s David Ignatius, and AEI’s Danielle Pletka.

Meet the Press with David Gregory: On this week’s MTP, the guests are White House chief of staff Denis McDonough; Democratic NYC mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner; and Senator Tom Udall (D-NM.

Weighing in on Syria are three members of the House Homeland Security Committee: Chairman Rep. Mike McCaul (R-TX); Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA); and Rep. Pete King (R-NY).

On the political roundtable the guests are former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich; former senior adviser to President Obama, David Axelrod; Director of the Wilson Center and fmr Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA); and NBC News Political Director and Chief White House Correspondent, Chuck Todd.

State of the Union with Candy Crowley: Ms Crowley’s guests are White House chief of staff Denis McDonough; Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA) and Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA).

Dr. Sanjay Gupta reports from the region on the two million refugees who have fled Syria.

Her panel includes Crossfire Co-Hosts Stephanie Cutter and Van Jones, and CNN Political Commentators Ana Navarro and David Frum.

At noon she will be joined by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) and Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE).  

Formula One 2013: Monza

Well the big surprise is that Hamilton didn’t get out of Q2 ending his run of poles.  Given how little he has converted Grid to Finish I’m not sure if fans should be worried or not.  Sutil was handed a 3 Grid penalty for impeding which is, I’m sure, little consolation.

All Red Bulls at the front which leads one to believe that this will be another of those boring races where Vettel gets out of the Drag Reduction zone before it even opens (active in 3rd lap, must be within 1 second of the car you’re looking to overtake).  Hulkenberg’s Sauber is somewhat unexpected as an interloper in third and Massa outqualified Alonso which may be pure charity.

You see in offtrack news Ricciardo has been confirmed as the Red Bull replacement for Webber.  He’s a reliable back bencher who will pile up constructor’s points while being easy on the machinery and unthreatening to Vettel.  Yawn.  Ferrari wants Raikkonen who’s a legitimate contender in a fast car which, unfortunately for Scuderia Marlboro, they don’t have.  They do have Alonso who is good for .5 seconds a lap regardless of what hunk of junk you strap him in and he’s not threatened by a talented second because in his mind there is no driver who is close to his talent.

And he’s absolutely right.

Raikkonen would be a step up for Ferrari, but loyalty is part of the Scuderia mystique.  Massa has never really recovered from his head injury (not that he was top tier before it) but it was one for the team and with a good performance in front of the Maranello home crowd he might get renewed out of sentiment.

Another contract that will probably get picked up is Pirelli.  They have a hate, hate relationship with Bernie but they’re really the only game in town as Michelin (which was being used to threaten them) has no interest at all in developing tires that degrade on schedule in addition to the fact they got unceremoniously dumped the last time they worked with Formula One.  It was never really a credible alternative, merely a negotiating position and I hope Pirelli jacked Bernie up good for a whole pot of money for screwing with them.  On offer this weekend are Hards and Mediums which are remarkably conservative picks but have shown the most predictability and are favored by the teams.  The main difference between them is not speed but durability and not much at that.  Hards will typically last from 5 to 10 laps longer than Mediums.

And all strategies could go in a cocked hat if the weather deteriorates as predicted (Thunderstorms).  Monza is the fastest track with the least downforce and it’s very straight except when it’s not.  Even so that would favor the Red Bulls who have the most mechanical (as opposed to aerodynamic) grip.

So we shall see how entertaining a race this is.

Pretty tables below.

Six In The Morning

On Sunday

US: More countries ready to back Syria action

US Secretary of State says number of countries ready to take military action against Assad regime runs in double digits.

 Last Modified: 08 Sep 2013 04:08

The US Secretary of State, John Kerry, has said that many countries were prepared to take part in US-led military strikes against the Syrian regime for an alleged chemical attack near a Damascus suburb last month.

“There are a number of countries, in the double digits, who are prepared to take military action,” Kerry said at a press conference on Saturday with his French counterpart Laurent Fabius.

“We have more countries prepared to take military action than we actually could use in the kind of military action being contemplated.”

Kerry also said he was encouraged by a European Union statement calling for a “strong” response to the alleged Syrian chemical attack.

Sunday’s Headlines:

Shi Tao: China frees journalist jailed over Yahoo emails

Shell close to deal over ‘ruinous’ oil spill in Niger Delta

Navalny challenges Putin-backed rival in Moscow poll

Israel becomes a ‘Promised Land’ for non-Jewish geeks

Tony Abbott: Australia’s pugnacious new prime minister

Three Things On The Internet

Chris Hayes shares the three most awesomest things on the Internet for September 5: 1) Norweigan duo Ylvis debuts a new single “The Fox” that is sure to give you an unwelcome earworm. 2) A new program called “Wedding Crunchers” allows you to search key words of wedding announcements from the New York Times and chart them. 3) Today, officials at DC’s National Zoo reveal the gender of the new baby panda, and who the panda’s father is.