Daily Archive: 08/13/2014

Aug 13 2014

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is 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.

Wednesday is Ladies’ Day.

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

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Jane Hamsher: Robin Williams is Gone, but Millions Will Still Suffer Until Things Change

Comedian Robin Williams was found early this morning of an apparent suicide. He was 63 years old. He struggled with addiction and depression for most of his life and recently checked into rehab as part of his constant battle.

But if the statistics are correct, he was one of 9.2 million people in the United States who suffer from what’s known as “dual diagnosis” of substance abuse and mental health problems.

Perhaps comedians are more at risk for suicide, I can’t say. If you haven’t seen it, the very heartfelt message from late night host Craig Ferguson to Britney Spears on the subject of addiction above is very moving. Ferguson was 15 years sober when he gave this monologue.

No one can know how Robin Williams felt at the time he made his decision to take his own life. But I can tell you what I’ve heard from literally thousands of other alcoholics and drug addicts I’ve met in 14 years of sobriety who have been in a similar place, struggling with a disease they just can’t seem to beat. [..]

Robin Williams may have been rich and had access to all the treatment in the world, but nobody can escape feelings of shame, weakness and guilt that depressed and addicted people feel in a society that just wants them to “buck up” – and “treats them” by putting them in jail if they don’t.

Stopping our horrific policy of trying to torture people into mental health and sobriety is only part of the problem, however. Beyond that there is a dramatic need to change the way we think about people with mental illness and substance abuse issues, how we identify them and get them help. The cost to our GDP is already far in excess of anything it would cost to do so, and the cost in human misery – not only to those who suffer but to those who love them and try to get them help – is incalculable.

Marcy Wheeler Time To Raze The CIA And Start Over

Let’s raze the damn thing and – if a thorough assessment says a democracy really needs such an agency, which it may not – start over.

I well remember when Robert Grenier testified at Scooter Libby’s trial. His performance – and it, like most of the witness testimony – was a performance. But I was more intrigued by the response. Even the cynical old DC journalists were impressed by the smoothness of the performance. “You can tell he was a great briefer,” one journalist who had written a book on the CIA said.Today, he takes up the role of bogus pushback to the Senate torture report, complete with all the false claims about the report, including:


  • SSCI should not have relied exclusively on documents – which, if true, is an admission that millions of CIA’s cables are fraudulent and false

  • The claim that members of the Gang of Four were briefed earlier and more accurately than even CIA’s own documents show them to have been

  • SSCI – and not CIA – made the decision that CIA officers should not testify to the committee

  • That a report supported by John McCain and Susan Collins is a Democratic report (Grenier also claims all involved with it know history from history books, not – as McCain did – from torture chambers)

  • That the CIA cables exactly matched the torture depicted on the torture tapes (see bullet 1!), and that CIA’s IG reported that, both of which are false
  • But perhaps Grenier’s most cynical assertion is his claim – in a piece that falsely suggests (though does not claim outright) that Congress was adequately briefed that Congress’ job, their sole job, is to legislate, not oversee.

    Brittney Cooper: In defense of black rage: Michael Brown, police and the American dream

    I don’t support the looting in Ferguson, Missouri. But I’m also tired of “turning the other cheek” and forgiving

    On Saturday a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager on his way to college this week. Brown was shot multiple times, though his hands were in the air. His uncovered body was left in the street for hours, as a crowd from his neighborhood gathered to stand vigil. Then they marched down to the police station. On Sunday evening, some folks in the crowd looted a couple of stores and threw bottles at the police. Monday morning was marked by peaceful protests. [..]

    It seems far easier to focus on the few looters who have reacted unproductively to this tragedy than to focus on the killing of Michael Brown. Perhaps looting seems like a thing we can control. I refuse. I refuse to condemn the folks engaged in these acts, because I respect black rage. I respect black people’s right to cry out, shout and be mad as hell that another one of our kids is dead at the hands of the police. Moreover I refuse the lie that the opportunism of a few in any way justifies or excuses the murderous opportunism undertaken by this as yet anonymous officer.

    The police mantra is “to serve and to protect.” But with black folks, we know that’s not the mantra. The mantra for many, many officers when dealing with black people is apparently “kill or be killed.”

    Amanda Marcotte: Telling women to just to give up and let men have it all is not advice

    Just give up hope is not real advice.

    Sexual harassment is a real obstacle for women who are trying to build up their careers. If you work in an industry where sexual harassment is common and there’s few, if any, consequences for men who harass, women are put in an impossible situation of having to choose between their personal safety and their opportunities for advancement. For instance, if going to networking events means getting groped and leered at, you are in a no-win situation. You can go, but you risk being humiliated or even traumatized. But if you don’t go, you are basically abandoning any hope of advancing your career. In many cases, this is why some men sexually harass. They aren’t horny idiots who don’t know any better, but are sexists who want to make sure that women are always second class citizens in their industry, by either wedging women out altogether or making sure the price of entrance for women always remains significantly higher than for men.

    An anonymous writer for Forbes explained how this barrier to entry is really high when it comes to trying to raise money for start-ups. If you’re male, to earn venture capital, you need to talk investors into believing in your start-up. For many women, however, you have to do that and also you have to put up with sexual harassment, as well. She started to pretend to be married in an attempt to fend off the sexual demands of men who wish to exploit a start-up manager’s need for money. In response, one message board started to ask for names of venture capitalists who try to use your money needs to get sex. I don’t personally approve of that kind of response, both because of the problem of anonymous accusations and because it perpetuates the problem of putting the responsibility on women to avoid harassment rather than on men not to harass, but that is no excuse for what happened next.

    Jeanne Rizzo: Chemical Industry Manipulations Fail to Change Scientific Fact

    The verdict is in… again! Formaldehyde is a known human carcinogen. This is not earthshaking news or even news, but apparently Congress felt it was worth a million of your tax dollars to confirm what has been a scientific fact for nearly a decade: formaldehyde causes cancer; so said the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in 2006.

    Federal government scientists at the interagency National Toxicology Program produce the biannual Report on Carcinogens, the government’s official list of chemicals that are “reasonably anticipated” or “known” to cause cancer in humans. They make those determinations through a painstaking process that includes reviews by independent science advisory boards and multiple opportunities for public comment by a full range of stakeholders. In 2011, the 12th Report on Carcinogens (RoC) listed formaldehyde as a “known human carcinogen” and styrene as a “reasonably anticipated human carcinogen,” another chemical listed by IARC, this one in 2002.

    Despite the overwhelming scientific evidence, the chemical companies that produce these two dangerous chemicals objected to the report’s conclusion. Instead of taking responsible measures to protect the public and their workers from exposures to these chemicals, they went to Congress to try one more time to find scientists who would give them the answer they wanted. And Members of Congress, who receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in election contributions per year from the chemical industry, including the Koch Brothers, capitulated and ordered a whole new report re-investigating the safety of formaldehyde in the 2012 federal spending bill.

    Daphne Eviatar: Exhibit A of the Guantanamo Failure Resumes This Week

    As the United States considers engaging in yet another war, with the start of air strikes Friday in Iraq, let’s not forget we’re still stuck with the remnants of an old one. The U.S. still has some 32,000 troops fighting in Afghanistan, though we don’t hear much about them these days. And we still have a military detention center in Cuba where we hold 154 prisoners from that war, which has now dragged on more than 12 years.

    A recent Newsweek headline called Guantanamo a “Stunningly Expensive Failure.” Kurt Eichenwald documents how the detention center has become part of conservatives’ “macho preening” despite its waste of hundreds of millions of dollars in the hopes of duping the American public into thinking it would bring us more security.

    The military commissions may be the worse example of that. Responding to irrational cries that these terrorists are too dangerous to bring to the United States for trial, there are now just a handful of Guantanamo prisoners — seven, to be exact — receiving hearings aimed at an eventual war crimes trial, which may possibly happen at some point in the coming years. Over the last 12 years the military commissions have completed eight cases, with two convictions overturned on appeal. By contrast, there have been some 500 terrorism-related convictions in federal courts since 9/11.


    Aug 13 2014

    The Breakfast Club 8-13-2014

    Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Everyone’s welcome here, no special handshake required. Just check your meta at the door.

    Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

    breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpg

    This Day in History

    Aug 13 2014

    On This Day In History August 13

    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.

    Click on image to enlarge

    August 13 is the 225th day of the year (226th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 140 days remaining until the end of the year.

    On this day in 1521, the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan falls to Cortes:

    After a three-month siege, Spanish forces under Hernan Cortes capture Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec empire. Cortes’ men leveled the city and captured Cuauhtemoc, the Aztec emperor.

    Tenochtitlan was founded in 1325 A.D. by a wandering tribe of hunters and gatherers on islands in Lake Texcoco, near the present site of Mexico City. In only one century, this civilization grew into the Aztec empire, largely because of its advanced system of agriculture. The empire came to dominate central Mexico and by the ascendance of Montezuma II in 1502 had reached its greatest extent, extending as far south as perhaps modern-day Nicaragua. At the time, the empire was held together primarily by Aztec military strength, and Montezuma II set about establishing a bureaucracy, creating provinces that would pay tribute to the imperial capital of Tenochtitlan. The conquered peoples resented the Aztec demands for tribute and victims for the religious sacrifices, but the Aztec military kept rebellion at bay.

    After the conquest

    Cortes subsequently directed the systematic destruction and leveling of the city and its rebuilding, despite opposition, with a central area designated for Spanish use (the traza). The outer Indian section, now dubbed San Juan Tenochtitlan, continued to be governed by the previous indigenous elite and was divided into the same subdivisions as before.


    Some of the remaining ruins of Tenochtitlan’s main temple, the Templo Mayor, were uncovered during the construction of a metro line in the 1970s. A small portion has been excavated and is now open to visitors. Mexico City’s Zócalo, the Plaza de la Constitución, is located at the location of Tenochtitlan’s original central plaza and market, and many of the original calzadas still correspond to modern streets in the city. The Aztec sun stone was located in the ruins. This stone is 4 meters in diameter and weighs over 20 tonnes. It was once located half way up the great pyramid. This sculpture was made around 1470 CE under the rule of King Axayacatl, the predecessor of Tizoc, and is said to tell the Aztec history and prophecy for the future.

    Aug 13 2014

    In Memoriam: Robin Williams 1951 – 2014

    Robin McLaurin Williams (July 21, 1951 – August 11, 2014) was an American actor, comedian, film producer, and screenwriter.

    Weapons of Self Destruction

    Warning; this video contains strong language and topics that may not be appropriate for the wofk place or young children.

    Nanu, Nanu, Mork.

    Aug 13 2014

    Ebola: The Ethics And Politics

    The Politics of the Ebola Serum

    Medical ethicist Harriet Washington explains why most pharmaceuticals companies decline to produce drugs for the developing world yet use it for clinical testing

    Transcript can be read here

    Transcript can be read here

    The awful ethical questions at the center of the Ebola emergency

    By Julia Bellus, Vox

    The Ebola outbreak in Africa has confronted ethicists and health officials with a terrible dilemma: when a limited amount of an experimental treatment exists, who should get access first?

    There are currently no Ebola treatments on the market. But in this deadliest Ebola outbreak in history, two Americans missionaries received an experimental Ebola drug called ZMapp after getting the disease in Liberia.

    Now, infectious disease experts around the world are proclaiming that African Ebola victims should have the same right. In response, both the Obama administration and the World Health Organization set-up expert groups to weigh the moral debates around the more widespread use of untested drugs in what has now been deemed an international health crisis.

    To make sense of the thorny problems at the heart of this outbreak’s morality crisis, we called medical ethicists and doctors. Here are the four questions they say they are grappling with.

    1) Is it okay to skip the drug testing pathway in a crisis? [..]

    2) Why did Americans get an experimental drug while hundreds of Africans die of Ebola? [..]

    3) What if the Ebola drug doesn’t work? [..]

    4) Who should fund access to Ebola medicines?

    These are the questions that try the oath that every doctor takes, Do No Harm.