Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for November 23rd, 2009

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Written by Leisureguy

23 November 2009 at 7:22 pm

Posted in Daily life

Gift idea for men who use an aftershave

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The idea is obvious, but let me mention it anyway: 1-oz samples of all the Booster aftershaves. A wonderful gift. But now the problem is finding such a set. Anyone know where to buy? (Shaving Essentials seems to have dropped the item.)

Written by Leisureguy

23 November 2009 at 5:51 pm

Posted in Daily life, Shaving

Trusting business: Vioxx

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Daniel J. DeNoon at WebMD:

Merck should have known Vioxx was deadly years before they pulled the drug from the market, a study of Merck’s own data suggests.

The study, published in the current issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, is by Joseph S. Ross, MD, of Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and colleagues. The study authors were paid consultants to plaintiffs’ lawyers in Vioxx lawsuits — in which much of the Merck data first was revealed.

"By our analyses, the association is clear that by June 2001 — more than three years before the drug was eventually taken off the market — the risk could have been known," Ross tells WebMD.

Merck took Vioxx off the market in November 2004, after the "APPROVe" study conclusively demonstrated that Vioxx users had more heart attacks and strokes than patients receiving a placebo.

In their study of data from Merck-sponsored clinical trials, Ross and colleagues found that:

  • By December 2000, data from 21 trials showed that the risk of a heart– or stroke-related adverse event (a cardiovascular thromboembolic event or CBT) or death (from all causes) was twice as high in Vioxx patients — but the finding was just shy of statistical significance, meaning it could have been a chance finding.
  • By June 2001, pooled data showed Vioxx increased the risk of a CBT adverse event or death by 35% — a statistically significant finding, meaning it is unlikely to be a chance finding.
  • By April 2002, adding new studies to the pooled data showed Vioxx increased the risk of CBT or death by 39%, a statistically significant finding.
  • By September 2004, adding new studies to the pooled data showed Vioxx increased the risk of CBT or death by 43%, a statistically significant finding.

In a written statement and in an interview with WebMD, Merck says the study is flawed…

Continue reading. Of course Merck says the study is flawed.

Written by Leisureguy

23 November 2009 at 4:57 pm

Blackwater’s secret war in Pakistan

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So the US is turning to mercenary troops—another sign of decline. Jeremy Scahill in The Nation:

At a covert forward operating base run by the US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) in the Pakistani port city of Karachi, members of an elite division of Blackwater are at the center of a secret program in which they plan targeted assassinations of suspected Taliban and Al Qaeda operatives, "snatch and grabs" of high-value targets and other sensitive action inside and outside Pakistan, an investigation by The Nation has found. The Blackwater operatives also assist in gathering intelligence and help run a secret US military drone bombing campaign that runs parallel to the well-documented CIA predator strikes, according to a well-placed source within the US military intelligence apparatus.

The source, who has worked on covert US military programs for years, including in Afghanistan and Pakistan, has direct knowledge of Blackwater’s involvement. He spoke to The Nation on condition of anonymity because the program is classified. The source said that the program is so "compartmentalized" that senior figures within the Obama administration and the US military chain of command may not be aware of its existence.

The White House did not return calls or email messages seeking comment for this story. Capt. John Kirby, the spokesperson for Adm. Michael Mullen, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told The Nation, "We do not discuss current operations one way or the other, regardless of their nature." A defense official, on background, specifically denied that Blackwater performs work on drone strikes or intelligence for JSOC in Pakistan. "We don’t have any contracts to do that work for us. We don’t contract that kind of work out, period," the official said. "There has not been, and is not now, contracts between JSOC and that organization for these types of services." The previously unreported program, the military intelligence source said, is distinct from the CIA assassination program that the agency’s director, Leon Panetta, announced he had canceled in June 2009. "This is a parallel operation to the CIA," said the source. "They are two separate beasts." The program puts Blackwater at the epicenter of a US military operation within the borders of a nation against which the United States has not declared war–knowledge that could further strain the already tense relations between the United States and Pakistan. In 2006, the United States and Pakistan struck a deal that authorized JSOC to enter Pakistan to hunt Osama bin Laden with the understanding that Pakistan would deny it had given permission. Officially, the United States is not supposed to have any active military operations in the country. Blackwater, which recently changed its name to Xe Services and US Training Center, denies the company is operating in Pakistan. "Xe Services has only one employee in Pakistan performing construction oversight for the U.S. Government," Blackwater spokesperson Mark Corallo said in a statement to The Nation, adding that the company has "no other operations of any kind in Pakistan."

A former senior executive at Blackwater confirmed the military intelligence source’s claim that the company is working in Pakistan for the CIA and JSOC, the premier counterterrorism and covert operations force within the military. He said that Blackwater is also working for the Pakistani government on a subcontract with an Islamabad-based security firm that puts US Blackwater operatives on the ground with Pakistani forces in counter-terrorism operations, including house raids and border interdictions, in the North-West Frontier Province and elsewhere in Pakistan. This arrangement, the former executive said, allows the Pakistani government to utilize former US Special Operations forces who now work for Blackwater while denying an official US military presence in the country. He also confirmed that Blackwater has a facility in Karachi and has personnel deployed elsewhere in Pakistan. The former executive spoke on condition of anonymity.

His account and that of the military intelligence source were borne out by a US military source who has knowledge of Special Forces actions in Pakistan and Afghanistan. When asked about Blackwater’s covert work for JSOC in Pakistan, this source, who also asked for anonymity, told The Nation, "From my information that I have, that is absolutely correct," adding, "There’s no question that’s occurring." …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

23 November 2009 at 4:52 pm

Healthcare reform opponents show their true colors

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Alex Seitz-Wald at ThinkProgress:

At a town hall event on health care reform hosted by Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL) earlier this month, Midge Hough told the tragic story of how her daughter-in-law, Jenny, and her unborn grandchild died recently because they didn’t have health insurance. Jenny came down with “severe double pneumonia, septic shock and respiratory failure,” Hough said, “and laid in an ICU unit for the next two months at a cost of $22,000 a day.” Her baby died in the womb and Jenny died a few weeks later. But as Hough was telling her story, tea partiers at the meeting “ridiculed” her, the South Town Star reports. “They moaned and rolled their eyes and interrupted,” laughing loudly and shouting her down at points. Watch it (beginning at 1:30):

Chicago Tea Party Patriots sent out a flyer to encourage attendance at the event, saying Lipinski had “sold us out!” by voting “to pass socialized medicine.” In defense of the heckling, an organizer for the group falsely claimed that the Houghs fabricated their story and called them operatives of President Barack Obama who “go from event to event and (cry) the same story.” At another recent event, Hough told Gov. Pat Quinn (D-IL) that she has been “personally attacked” by tea party activists at her home address. (HT: Crooks and Liars)

Written by Leisureguy

23 November 2009 at 4:44 pm

Posted in Daily life, GOP, Healthcare

Global warming sea-level rise starting to hurt

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Chris Kraul at the LA Times:

Reporting from Cartagena, Colombia – The effect of climate change is anything but hypothetical to retired Colombian naval officer German Alfonso. Just ask him about the time his neighborhood in this historic coastal city became an island.

For five years, Alfonso, 74, has watched tides rise higher and higher in the Boca Grande section of Cartagena. This month, tides briefly inundated the only mainland connection to his neighborhood, a converted sandbar where about 60 high-rise condo and hotel towers have been built in the last decade or so.

"Before, people thought it a normal phenomenon. But we’re becoming more conscious that something is going on," Alfonso said. "If the sea keeps rising, traffic could just collapse."

According to a recently updated World Bank study on climate change in Latin America, Alfonso and his neighbors have reason to be concerned. Not only are the effects of global warming more evident in Latin American coastal cities, the report says, but the phenomenon could worsen in coming decades because sea levels will rise highest near the equator.

Colombian naval Capt. Julian Reyna, a member of a government task force monitoring climate change, said the sea level around Cartagena, renowned for its Spanish colonial fortifications and beaches, has risen as much as one-eighth of an inch each year over the last decade, an increase that scientists expect to accelerate in coming years.

According to some scenarios that the authors of the World Bank study say are not that far-fetched, Cartagena and the rest of the Caribbean coastal zone could see sea levels rising as much as 2 feet, possible more, by the end of the century. Even at the lower end of projections, parts of this city would be knee-deep in sea water…

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

23 November 2009 at 2:53 pm

Steve Benen on the GOP lies

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From his post:

… Over the weekend, Josh Marshall noted in passing that the congressional GOP lied quite a bit during the 1994 reform debate, but Republicans are now "upping their game … lying even more shamelessly than in round 1."

I’m reminded of Ruth Marcus’ reaction to the House debate a few weeks ago, when she marveled at the "appalling amount of misinformation being peddled" by Republicans.

I don’t mean the usual hyperbole about "a children-bankrupting, health-care-rationing, freedom-crushing, $1 trillion government takeover of our health-care system," as Texas Republican Jeb Hensarling put it. Or the tired canards about taxpayer-funded abortion or insurance subsidies for illegal immigrants. Or the extraneous claims about alleged Democratic excesses….

I mean the flood of sheer factual misstatements about the health-care bill…. You have to wonder: Are the Republican arguments against the bill so weak that they have to resort to these misrepresentations and distortions?

Their Senate colleagues were just as offensive, shamelessly pretending as if reality had no meaning whatsoever.

John McCain, for example, said in a written statement that the reform bill would add "more than a trillion dollars to our country’s deficit," would put medical decisions "in the hands of government bureaucrats," and amount to a "government takeover of our health care system." He’s obviously lying. None of this is even remotely true.

But McCain and his cohorts have a strong incentive to be as blatantly dishonest as they can be. For one thing, it keeps the rabid GOP base worked up. For another, it might confuse the American mainstream, who won’t know who’s telling the truth and who isn’t.

Ordinarily, the media would help sort this out. So much for that idea: "The media is basically letting all opponents of health care say whatever the hell they want about health care reform with little pushback. I don’t know why I continue to be surprised when this happens, but I do…"

Without political consequences for dishonesty, this is only going to get worse.

Read his entire post.

Written by Leisureguy

23 November 2009 at 2:39 pm

Posted in Congress, GOP, Healthcare

Fact-checking the lies from GOP Senators

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And there were a lot of them:

Another debate over health insurance reform, another weekend of Republicans inventing reasons to just say "no." Locked into their defense of the status quo, most Senate Republicans spent the debate over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act spouting nonsensical, often already debunked, claims.

With so many distortions to correct from so many Republican Senators, we’ve gathered the facts (and the charges they refute) in one place. It’s a long read, no question — and that goes to show how obstructionist Republicans have become.

Read the fact checks (39 of them in all) on Senate Republicans below:

FACT CHECK McCain: Check The Bill, Senator

FACT CHECK MCCONNELL: Cost Of Legislation Distortions

FACT CHECK GRASSLEY: Grassley Confuses Up With Down

FACT CHECK KYL: Scare Tactics On Increasing Premiums

FACT CHECK HATCH: Health Care Will Not Be Rationed


FACT CHECK HATCH: Distorting the Debate

FACT CHECK CORNYN: State Budgets and Medicaid

FACT CHECK BURR: Small Businesses

FACT CHECK CORKER: Misleading on Medicare

FACT CHECK AEI: Cost of Reform

FACT CHECK: Palin Damages Credibility Again


Fact Check Thune: Small Business

Fact Check Bond: Debunked Health Insurance Industry Study

Fact Check Bond: Bond’s Arguments Against Health Care Amount To A Pig In A Poke

Fact Check Gregg: Gregg’s Hypocrisy On The Debt

Fact Check Enzi: Premiums, Medicare And Medicaid

Fact Check Coburn: Rationing

Fact Check: Senator Pat Roberts Uses Falsehoods And Fear-Mongering to Claim Health Insurance Reform Will Lead To Rationing

Fact Check: Sen. Gregg Lies About Price Of Health Insurance Reform…Again

Fact Check Sen. Ensign: Rationing And GOP Plan

Fact Check Barrasso: Repeats Already Debunked Lie About Medicare

Fact Check: Sen. Jon Kyl Defends Status Quo Of Rising Premiums

Fact Check Kyl: Kyl Praises Republican Plan That Worsens Healthcare Crisis

Fact Check Lemieux: Siding With Insurance Companies

Fact Check Kyl: Medicare

Fact Check Burr: Burr Repeats Multiple Debunked Lies On Insurance Reform

Fact Check Hutchison: "Government Takeover"

Fact Check Chambliss/Brownback: Revisionist History

Fact Check Barrasso: Medicare

Fact Check Gregg: Gregg Ignores CBO

That Was Fast…

Fact Check Enzi: Cost Of Reform

Gregg Complains About Debt He Helped Create

Hatch Hatches More Distortions on Health Care

Boehner’s Abortion Distortion

Well Senator, That’s Just Not True

Hatch Tries Health Care Hatchet Job And Hatchets Own Reputation

Written by Leisureguy

23 November 2009 at 2:37 pm

Posted in Congress, GOP, Healthcare

Least bad veggie burger

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This actually looks pretty good. The ingredients:

4 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 1/2 lb mushrooms, sliced
1/2 finely chopped onion
4 cloves minced garlic
2/3 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
3/4 cup breadcrumbs (maybe use rolled oats for this as well?)
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Least bad veggie burger“, posted with vodpod

UPDATE: I just tried these (11/25/09), and they are very tasty. My changes:

I added a dash of soy sauce to up the umami, though the mushrooms and Parmesan probably have that covered. And I used 8 cloves of garlic, of course.

I did let them rest 20 minutes, and they did cohere pretty well. Still, next time I think I’ll use one more egg. Maybe a splash of milk?

Obviously, the recipe is not vegan, and in the comment thread at Lifehacker the righteousness one-upmanship was something to behold. Lots of sneering at people who would eat eggs (even sterile eggs) and cheese. :sigh: Lord deliver them from insecurity and low self-esteem (though the latter may be well deserved—who knows?).

UPDATE 2: The contrast between the juicy, thick, meaty, umami rich burger (impressions upon eating) and the light load on my stomach (impressions upon digesting) was highly noticeable. Somehow, the mouthfeel and taste of the burger made me unconsciously brace for a digestive workout, but it didn’t come, and that I noticed. (Much like the first time a regular wine drinker drinks a nonalcoholic wine: after a couple of drinks, s/he feels that something is “wrong,” as if their perceptions were out of kilter—and then they realize that they are NOT feeling a bit tipsy as they would after 2-3 glasses of wine, and that is the odd feeling.)

So this is the light digestive load that vegetarians talk about—quite different than I would feel had I just eaten 3 juicy, thick, meaty beef burgers.

The Wife questions making vegetarian dishes to mimic meat. My view is that food has a strong cultural role and the burger fills a particular cultural niche in the US at this time: it’s a part of a cook-out, of a get-together around the grill, and so on. That’s why there are so many variants: burgers made of beef, turkey, chicken, lamb, and (of course) mushrooms and stuff.

Even if you don’t eat meat, you may well want a particular dish to fill a cultural niche, and this veggie burger does it.

Written by Leisureguy

23 November 2009 at 2:24 pm

Posted in Daily life

Origins of life coming into view

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First there was this article in New Scientist. Now this:

A key question in the origin of biological molecules like RNA and DNA is how they first came together billions of years ago from simple precursors. Now, in a study appearing in this week’s JBC, researchers in Italy have reconstructed one of the earliest evolutionary steps yet: generating long chains of RNA from individual subunits using nothing but warm water. Many researchers believe that RNA was one of the first biological molecules present, before DNA and proteins; however, there has been little success in recreating the formation on RNA from simple "prebiotic" molecules that likely were present on primordial earth billions of years ago.

Now, Ernesto Di Mauro and colleagues found that ancient molecules called cyclic nucleotides can merge together in water and form polymers over 100 nucleotides long in water ranging from 40-90 °C –similar to water temperatures on ancient Earth.

Cyclic nucleotides like cyclic-AMP are very similar to the nucleotides that make up individual pieces of DNA or RNA (A, T, G and C), except that they form an extra chemical bond and assume a ring-shaped structure. That extra bond makes cyclic nucleotides more reactive, though, and thus they were able to join together into long chains at a decent rate (about 200 hours to reach 100 nucleotides long).

This finding is exciting as cyclic nucleotides themselves can be easily formed from simple chemicals like formamide, thus making them plausible prebiotic compounds present during primordial times. Thus, this study may be revealing how the first bits of genetic information were created.

Source: American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Written by Leisureguy

23 November 2009 at 1:31 pm

Posted in Evolution, Science


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Written by Leisureguy

23 November 2009 at 1:20 pm

Posted in Daily life, Video

Inhofe still childish

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From Climate Progress:

I had previously blogged on the anti-mature (ante-mature?) antics of the Senator from Oklahoma (see Sen. Inhofe explains he’s going to Copenhagen so that when Sen. Kerry says “Yes. We’re going to pass a global warming bill” then “I will be able to stand up and say, ‘No, it’s over. Get a life. You lost. I won!’ ”).  Now this video has been posted:

Seemed like a fitting tribute to Friday’s big story, from the man who, just coincidentally, said on Wednesday in a lengthy speech on the Senate Floor, “I proudly declare 2009 as the ‘Year of the Skeptic,’ the year in which scientists who question the so-called global warming consensus are being heard.”

While I hardly ever agree with Inhofe, there’s no denying that many scientists who question the consensus are finally being heard … thank goodness!

You can find some of those scientists in my category “Uncharacteristically Blunt Scientists.”  See also my 2008 post, “Disputing the ‘consensus’ on global warming.”  Certainly the majority of the scientific observations and studies since the 2007 IPCC report — which is typically labeled the “consensus” since every single member government must approve the summaries word for word, a process that inevitably waters down the language — makes clear global warming is coming faster and harder than the consensus had suggested.  You can find a variety of those studies here and below.

And, for clarity’s sake, yes, I draw a distinction between what I’d call the “basic scientific consensus” that the climate is changing and humans are the main cause and so on  — which is acknowledged by every major scientific body (click here for links) — and the “future impacts consensus” on what the world faces if we stay on our current emissions path, which recent analysis suggests has been underestimated and underanalyzed by the IPCC.   See, for instance, the presentations delivered at the recent “Four degrees and beyond” conference, one of which I blogged on here — UK Met Office: Catastrophic climate change, 13-18°F over most of U.S. and 27°F in the Arctic, could happen in 50 years, but “we do have time to stop it if we cut greenhouse gas emissions soon.”

Written by Leisureguy

23 November 2009 at 1:13 pm

More on the manufactured "failure" of Obama’s trip

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Yet another installment from James Fallows, quite interesting:

I won’t go on in this vein forever (previously #1, #2, #3, #4), but the topic is important enough to bear a little more elaboration, IMHO. Part of the importance: there is no country with whom America’s interactions are more consequential, or perpetually more complicated, than China. Another part of the importance: how the American public understands these interactions makes a big difference, in recognizing the points of disagreement and the areas of possible cooperation. Tomorrow, one more installment from the US government official who participated in important meetings and whom I have quoted twice before. For now:

This morning on the Chris Matthews show I mentioned earlier, a White House reporter for the Washington Post said that the Shanghai town meeting was another item on the disappointment/failure docket for America. Her argument was essentially: the Chinese outsmarted the Obama team and kept their countrymen from seeing it. I don’t remember whether she said it was not broadcast at all or only on one "local" network; as mentioned yesterday, that one network reaches 100 million households.

So to a member of the traveling press pool, viewing the session mainly as a campaign stop whose advance work went either well or poorly, this looked like a bust. Here is how it looked to a foreigner who has just written me — a person who has lived in China for two decades, still does business there, and speaks Mandarin:

"In your series, you touched on the Shanghai town hall, quoting from President Obama’s opening and his response to the Twitter/Great Firewall question, and gave voice to a White House insider as to the power of his words and their likely reach inside China. There’s been some buzz among western journalists about how the town hall "reached no one".

"I’ve been monitoring the China internet in the wake of the town hall and, based on my observations of these things over the years I’m very much leaning toward the White House insider’s view — that the reach was vast and deep, in the many millions or tens of millions, though not necessarily entirely positive. But the comment from President Obama that I think will have the most impact inside the firewall was not the one about US principles that you quoted in your follow-ups. It was this one:

‘Now, I should tell you, I should be honest, as President of the United States, there are times where I wish information didn’t flow so freely because then I wouldn’t have to listen to people criticizing me all the time.  I think people naturally are — when they’re in positions of power sometimes thinks, oh, how could that person say that about me, or that’s irresponsible, or — but the truth is that because in the United States information is free, and I have a lot of critics in the United States who can say all kinds of things about me, I actually think that that makes our democracy stronger and it makes me a better leader because it forces me to hear opinions that I don’t want to hear. It forces me to examine what I’m doing on a day-to-day basis to see, am I really doing the very best that I could be doing for the people of the United States.’

"Wow! As a resident of China for two decades and a Mandarin-speaking China-watcher for three decades, I can say without any doubt that those words will resonate far more deeply — and potentially more "subversively" or "destabilizingly" — than any overt thumb-in-the-eye hectoring that any foreigner or foreign leader might muster, in public or private. Those words are ***precisely*** the kind that Zhongnanhai [Chinese term equivalent to "the Kremlin"] fears the most, and rightly so."

Two other reader responses, one with an additional Chinese perspective and one with a historical comparison: …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

23 November 2009 at 1:10 pm

The extreme secrecy of the Federal courts

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Glenn Greenwald:

Once conservatives became embarrassed by their cowardly warnings that we would all be killed if we held a 9/11 trial in New York [?? Have they become embarrassed? I thought they were still running scared. – LG], they switched to a new argument:  trials in a real court would lead to the disclosure of classified information that would help the Terrorists.  In advancing this claim, they relied on the always-unhinged rantings of National Review‘s Andy McCarthy — who has also suggested that Bill Ayers was the real author of Barack Obama’s "Dreams from my Father"; attacked his own editors for pointing out the falsehoods of Sarah Palin’s "death panel" claims, which McCarthy insisted were true; defended the Birther movement and dissented from NR‘s editorial rejection of it; and was excoriated by Rich Lowry for claiming that Obama "rather likes tyrants and dislikes America."  This person — someone who is often too fringe, hysterical and delusional even for National Review — is the "legal expert" on which the Right is relying to claim that real trials will jeopardize classified information.

To see how false this claim is, all anyone ever had to was look at the Classified Information Procedures Act, a short and crystal clear 1980 law that not only permits, but requires, federal courts to undertake extreme measures to ensure the concealment of classified information, even including concealment from the defendant himself.  Section 3 provides:  "Upon motion of the United States, the court shall issue an order to protect against the disclosure of any classified information disclosed by the United States to any defendant in any criminal case in a district court of the United States."  Section 9 required the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court to consult with the Attorney General and Defense Secretary to develop rules to carry out the Act’s requirements, and the resulting guidelines provide for draconian measures so extreme that it’s hard to believe they can exist in a judicial system that it supposed to be open and transparent.

To see how severe these secrecy measures are, consider what is currently being done in the criminal case of Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, the first accused Terrorists sent by the Obama administration to New York to stand trial after being interrogated and tortured for years in CIA black sites and at Guantanamo with no charges:

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

23 November 2009 at 1:03 pm

Joe Lieberman: A worm (apologies to worms)

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Amanda Terkel in ThinkProgress:

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow has repeatedly tried to get Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) to come on her show and debate health care. However, he and his office have refused to even respond to her requests for statements. Last week, Mike Stark caught up with Lieberman and asked him whether he’d go on Maddow’s show. The senator declined, saying the tv host has “a point of view”:

STARK: You’ve expressed an interest to have a serious policy debate instead of all the invective and that. And I think one of the best folks from the progressive side is Rachel Maddow —


STARK: — and she’s been trying to get you on her show for a really long time.

LIEBERMAN: She’s got a point of view. I think we’re going to have this debate on the floor of the Senate. And I look forward to it. In other words —

STARK: There’s no chance you’ll do her show?

LIEBERMAN: I don’t think so.

Watch Maddow’s segment on Friday.

Lieberman is clearly a coward. I wonder what the people of Connecticut think of him now.

Written by Leisureguy

23 November 2009 at 12:58 pm

Posted in Congress, Daily life

Eisenhower’s big loss of nerve

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A loss of nerve that cost tens of thousands of lives. David P. Colley, author of Decision at Strasbourg: Ike’s Strategic Mistake to Halt the Sixth Army Group at the Rhine in 1944, writes in the NY Times:

IXTY-FIVE years ago, in November 1944, the war in Europe was at a stalemate. A resurgent Wehrmacht had halted the Allied armies along Germany’s borders after its headlong retreat across northern France following D-Day. From Holland to France, the front was static — yet thousands of Allied soldiers continued to die in futile battles to reach the Rhine River.

One Allied army, however, was still on the move. The Sixth Army Group reached the Rhine at Strasbourg, France, on Nov. 24, and its commander, Lt. Gen. Jacob L. Devers, looked across its muddy waters into Germany. His force, made up of the United States Seventh and French First Armies, 350,000 men, had landed Aug. 15 near Marseille — an invasion largely overlooked by history but regarded at the time as “the second D-Day” — and advanced through southern France to Strasbourg. No other Allied army had yet reached the Rhine, not even hard-charging George Patton’s.

Devers dispatched scouts over the river. “There’s nobody in those pillboxes over there,” a soldier reported. Defenses on the German side of the upper Rhine were unmanned and the enemy was unprepared for a cross-river attack, which could unhinge the Germans’ southern front and possibly lead to the collapse of the entire line from Holland to Switzerland.

The Sixth Army Group had assembled bridging equipment, amphibious trucks and assault boats. Seven crossing sites along the upper Rhine were evaluated and intelligence gathered. The Seventh Army could cross north of Strasbourg at Rastatt, Germany, advance north along the Rhine Valley to Karlsruhe, and swing west to come in behind the German First Army, which was blocking Patton’s Third Army in Lorraine. The enemy would face annihilation, and the Third and Seventh Armies could break loose and drive into Germany. The war might end quickly.

Devers never crossed. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the supreme commander, visited Devers’s headquarters that day and ordered him instead to stay on the Rhine’s west bank and attack enemy positions in northern Alsace. Devers was stunned. “We had a clean breakthrough,” he wrote in his diary. “By driving hard, I feel that we could have accomplished our mission.” Instead the war of attrition continued, giving the Germans a chance to counterattack three weeks later in what became known as the Battle of the Bulge, which cost 80,000 American dead and wounded.

Garrison Davidson, then Devers’s engineering officer and later a superintendent of West Point, believed Devers’s attack would have succeeded and pre-empted the Bulge, writing, “I have often wondered what might have happened had Ike had the audacity to take a calculated risk, as General Patton would have.” Patton wrote in his diary that he also believed Eisenhower had missed a great opportunity; the Seventh Army’s commander, Lt. Gen. Alexander Patch, felt the same way.

Why did Eisenhower refuse to allow Devers to cross? …

Continue reading. The short answer: Eisenhower was appallingly petty.

Written by Leisureguy

23 November 2009 at 12:51 pm

Posted in Army, Daily life, Military

Deficit hysteria

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Paul Krugman from his blog:

Urg. Big piece on the front page saying that, on the one hand, some people say that we’re going to have a debt crisis any day now, while on the other hand … well, actually we never hear from the other side.

As Dean says, the numbers don’t fit the scare story — a decade from now interest payments will reach a level not seen since … 1992. And the market seems unworried, since long-term rates remain low.

But aren’t people like me just like the people who said “don’t worry, be happy” about house prices? Well, I could of course be wrong. But the situations are very different. In 2005 the conventional wisdom was that house prices made sense despite the fact that the numbers screamed “bubble”. Today, the conventional wisdom is that bond prices don’t make sense despite numbers that actually look reasonable.

And isn’t there something weird about a conventional wisdom that’s at odds with market prices? Someone isn’t putting their money where their mouth is.

This suggests that James Kwak is right: a lot of this is about scaring the government into inaction on unemployment.

Written by Leisureguy

23 November 2009 at 12:40 pm

More political cowardice from Obama?

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Paul Krugman in the NY Times this morning:

A funny thing happened on the way to a new New Deal. A year ago, the only thing we had to fear was fear itself; today, the reigning doctrine in Washington appears to be “Be afraid. Be very afraid.”

What happened? To be sure, “centrists” in the Senate have hobbled efforts to rescue the economy. But the evidence suggests that in addition to facing political opposition, President Obama and his inner circle have been intimidated by scare stories from Wall Street.

Consider the contrast between what Mr. Obama’s advisers were saying on the eve of his inauguration, and what he himself is saying now.

In December 2008 Lawrence Summers, soon to become the administration’s highest-ranking economist, called for decisive action. “Many experts,” he warned, “believe that unemployment could reach 10 percent by the end of next year.” In the face of that prospect, he continued, “doing too little poses a greater threat than doing too much.”

Ten months later unemployment reached 10.2 percent, suggesting that despite his warning the administration hadn’t done enough to create jobs. You might have expected, then, a determination to do more.

But in a recent interview with Fox News, the president sounded diffident and nervous about his economic policy. He spoke vaguely about possible tax incentives for job creation. But “it is important though to recognize,” he went on, “that if we keep on adding to the debt, even in the midst of this recovery, that at some point, people could lose confidence in the U.S. economy in a way that could actually lead to a double-dip recession.”

What? Huh?

Most economists I talk to believe that the big risk to recovery comes from the inadequacy of government efforts: the stimulus was too small, and it will fade out next year, while high unemployment is undermining both consumer and business confidence.

Now, it’s politically difficult for the Obama administration to enact a full-scale second stimulus. Still, he should be trying to push through as much aid to the economy as possible. And remember, Mr. Obama has the bully pulpit; it’s his job to persuade America to do what needs to be done.

Instead, however, Mr. Obama is lending his voice to those who say that …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

23 November 2009 at 12:37 pm

"Why not throw the whole Constitution out while we’re at it?"

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Isaac Bailey in the Myrtle Beach Sun:

I didn’t know we had so many scared conservative leaders.

There are a fair number of scared liberal ones as well, given the rhetoric from Washington, Columbia and New York.

But I thought conservative leaders and pundits were the "Bring it on!" types who crave confrontations with terrorists.

The Obama administration plans to try a high-profile terrorist near where the Twin Towers fell. I’ve heard commentators say "it’s an unconscionable decision" that will provide terrorists with a "9-11 Act II," and watched a U.S. representative ask if New York’s mayor is prepared to watch his daughter be kidnapped by terrorists.

Even South Carolina gubernatorial candidates have chimed in and demanded that terrorists not be housed here. (Shh!!! Don’t tell them that Jose Padilla, who initially was charged with trying to build a dirty bomb, was held in a North Charleston brig for several years, and no terrorists duct-taped dignitaries to antique chairs in downtown Charleston.)

But Cal Thomas, one of the country’s most widely read columnists, took the cake with this assessment:

"The administration’s first mistake is to label these men ‘criminals,’ as if a terrorist attack and the announced objective of forcibly ‘Islamisizing’ America were the same as robbing a bank," he wrote. "The 9-11 attacks were an act of war, as much as if a nation-state had attacked us. Trials should not be held for war criminals until the war has been won."

First notice the inconsistency, which is abundant in this debate. Thomas chastises the administration for calling terrorists "criminals" then goes onto to label them "war criminals." Call them terrorists or murderers or kidnappers or hijackers or kamikaze, radical Islamists. I don’t care. Just bring them to justice and prevent other planned attacks.

Thomas also makes a sleight-of-hand argument about how there should be no trials "until the war has been won." Others like him say we are in a war and therefore must temporarily put aside our ideals. Never mind that standing on principles in the toughest moments is the ultimate show of strength. Those same critics even complain that more people aren’t calling our efforts "The War on Terror."

We are in the midst of a war that won’t ever end because no president will dare declare mission accomplished against radical Islamic terrorism. And yet we are told parts of the Constitution should not apply until the war is won.

Why not just throw the whole thing out. That’ll prove how tough we are.

Written by Leisureguy

23 November 2009 at 12:35 pm

GOP: Still terrified of imprisoned terrorists

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What a bunch of frightened little children! I’m embarrassed that prominent American lawmakers are declaring themselves frightened by terrorists who are imprisoned. I fear that the wholesale cowardice marks a decline—as well as an indication that the terrorists have certainly succeeded with the GOP, since it is continually now in a state of fright and fear.

Evan McMorris-Santoro at TPMDC:

It’s been a week since Attorney General Eric Holder announced that five terror suspects will be transferred from Guantanamo Bay to New York City to face trial. There are still a lot of questions to be answered about logistics, and it will likely be months before the first suspect sets foot in a federal courtroom.

Republicans have already told us what’s going to happen, though: If you let President Obama have his way, you will die.

The GOP has returned to a familiar line on Obama and national security in the days since Holder’s announcement. It’s time to be afraid again, they say, hearkening back to the days of duct tape and Orange alerts even some Republicans thought they left behind on Election Day 2008.

So grab an assault rifle and keep the phone number for Operation TIPS close — here are the four ways Republicans say Obama is putting your life at risk.

1. Surrendering In The War On Terror

According to the GOP, Obama has abandoned the war on terror to appease his left-wing friends. On a conference call yesterday, Rudy Giuliani said he welcomed the return of the word "war" into the administration lexicon. Giuliani said that before Holder used the word the other day, he was afraid that Obama had forgotten about all that 9/11 stuff Giuliani made sure was a part of the GOP primary for president last year.

"I was under the impression that the Obama administration thought this was just an unfortunate situation we’re dealing with," he said.

Rudy’s not the only one. Many Republicans have claimed recently that Obama has returned the government to a "pre-9/11 mentality" where things like legal rights take precedence over things like unchecked wiretapping ability. At a press conference the other day, Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) suggested that it was this mentality literally led to the deaths of 13 American soldiers in Texas. Hoekstra said there were "tools" that George W. Bush and the Republicans gave the intelligence community that Obama and Democrats have since taken away. He said that those tools may have prevented the killings in Texas, and he wants to hold hearings to investigate before the Democrats can take away more tools by letting provisions in the Patriot Act expire at the end of this year.

Watch Hoekstra explain how the U.S. government is "unable or unwilling" to track potential terrorists:

2. Daring The Terrorists To Attack Us Again

Sorry, New York City. Obama’s plan to try terror suspects on American soil means you’re probably going to get hit. That’s according to Rep. Peter King (R-NY) who told reporters this week that the move was "one of the most dangerous decisions any president has ever made."

That’s pretty dangerous. Giuliani backed up fellow New Yorker King. Though he praised the staff at the detention center where the suspects will likely be held and he said more than once that the city he used to run is "ready" to host the trials, he said that when it comes down to it, the trials will probably not end well for New York.

"Does it increase risk to New York City?" Giuliani said. "Yes."

3. Allowing Muslims To Walk Around Like "Regular" Americans

It’s more than just secret "tools" Obama has taken away from intelligence agencies that puts your life at risk, according to Republicans. Obama’s unwavering allegiance to Political Correctness means you’re probably going to die because law enforcement officials are too afraid of looking like racists to stop the terrorists from carrying out their nefarious plots.

In a media stop on her book tour this week, Sarah Palin said that this devotion to being P.C. literally cost 13 soldiers at Ft. Hood their lives.

"I think that there were massive warning flags that were missed all over the place," she told Fox News’ Sean Hannity. "And I think that it was quite unfortunate that, to me, it was a fear of being politically incorrect to not — I am going to use the word — profile this guy, profile in the sense of finding out what his radical beliefs were."

Palin’s take isn’t unique among Republicans. Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI), a former Special Agent with the FBI, said this week that his old buddies in the Bureau are telling him about a new "political philosophy" sent down from the White House that’s keeping agents from "raising the red flag" on a "person like" alleged Ft. Hood shooter Nidal Malik Hasan. Rogers said Hasan "fits the exactly the kind of profile [of a person] we know pretty bad people want to recruit to do pretty bad things," but said it’s possible the "threshold" of tolerating someone like Hasan has been raised so that he and others like him are falling through the cracks.

"It’s something we have to get to the bottom of," Rogers said.

4. Trading Safety for Good paying Government Jobs

Continue reading.

The GOP is beneath contempt.

Written by Leisureguy

23 November 2009 at 12:32 pm

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