Later On

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

Archive for November 26th, 2010

US breaks Soviet record! (In Afghanistan)

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Even for the humble among us who try to avoid jingoistic outbursts,some national achievements are so grand that they merit a moment of pride and celebration:

US presence in Afghanistan as long as Soviet slog

The Soviet Union couldn’t win in Afghanistan, and now the United States is about to have something in common with that futile campaign: nine years, 50 days.

On Friday, the U.S.-led coalition will have been fighting in this South Asian country for as long as the Soviets did in their humbling attempt to build up a socialist state.

It seems clear that a similar — or even grander — prize awaits us as the one with which the Soviets were rewarded.  I hope nobody thinks that just because we can’t identify who the Taliban leaders are after almost a decade over there that this somehow calls into doubt our ability to magically re-make that nation.  Even if it did, it’s vital that we stop the threat of Terrorism, and nothing helps to do that like spending a full decade — and counting — invading, occupying, and bombing Muslim countries.

The good news — beyond our shattering this record and thus showing that we can still kick those Soviets around even after they no longer exist — is that this decade of utter futility hasn’t at all diminished the Government’s appetite for endless war in the Muslim world.  By all accounts, the administration its actively debating whether to accelerate its already escalated intervention in Yemen. We’ve dramatically increased our covert actions in countless countries across the Muslim world.  And today, former Bush State Department legal adviser John Bellinger III (one of the "moderates" from that era) argues in The Washington Post for a re-writing of the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) — not in order to rescind it after nine years of endless war-fighting, but rather to expand it, on the ground that it . . .

Continue reading. And note this update at the end:

In a New York Times article today on the possibility that many newly elected Tea Party candidates will dare to include military spending in demanded budget cuts and will be similarly hostile to foreign aid — including, most alarmingly for some, to Israel — the following passage appears (h/t Matt Duss):

One of the first things Congressman Cantor can do is to make sure that his colleagues vote for aid to Israel,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, who also met with Mr. Netanyahu.

In the face of all these economic difficulties, austerity measures, and calls for Endless War, it’s comforting that at least some of America’s representatives in Congress — such as the Good Democrat Chuck Schumer — have their priorities straight.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 November 2010 at 12:14 pm

Wikileaks continues to inform people of what their governments are doing

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The governments are VERY eager to shut Wikileaks down for the very obvious reason that governments do NOT want their citizens to know what the government is up to. Why? Because what the governments are doing is very very bad. Reuters reports:

The United States has briefed Britain, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Norway and Israel ahead of the expected new release of classified U.S. documents, WikiLeaks said on Thursday, citing local press reports.

The whistle-blowing website said by Twitter that American diplomats briefed government officials of its six allies in advance of the release expected in the next few days.

The next release is expected to include thousands of diplomatic cables reporting corruption allegations against politicians in Russia, Afghanistan and other Central Asian nations, sources familiar with the State Department cables held by WikiLeaks told Reuters on Wednesday.

The allegations are major enough to cause serious embarrassment for foreign governments, the sources said.

Some governments appear to be bracing for the impact of the revelations.

According to the London-based daily al-Hayat, the WikiLeaks release includes documents that show Turkey has helped al-Qaeda in Iraq — and that the United States has supported the PKK, a Kurdish rebel organization that has been waging a separatist war against Turkey since 1984, the Washington Post reported.

The U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv warned the Israeli foreign ministry that some of the cables could concern U.S.-Israel relations, the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz reported, citing a senior Israeli official:

WikiLeaks said on its Twitter feed earlier this week that its new release would be seven times larger than the nearly 400,000 Pentagon documents related to the Iraq war which it made public in October…

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 November 2010 at 12:07 pm

Posted in Daily life, Government, Law

Pfizer and the Big Pharma felons

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Trusting Big Business—what a laugh! Take a look:

Source: United States Department of Justice, November 22, 2010

The U. S. Department of Justice recovered $3 billion for American taxpayers as a result of civil lawsuits brought after whistleblowers came forward to report on pharmaceutical companies’ illegal activities.

The payout is the largest health fraud settlement in U.S. history.

Drug maker Pfizer pled guilty to felony violations of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act and was fined $2.3 billion (that’s "billion" with a "b") for aggressively marketing its painkiller Bextra far beyond uses approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Bextra was pulled from the market in 2005 due to safety risks.

AstraZeneca paid $302 million for cajoling doctors into writing prescriptions for unapproved uses of its anti-psychotic drug Seroquel, including urging doctors to use it for treatment of insomnia, anger management and post-traumatic stress disorder.

AstraZeneca also paid kickbacks to doctors as part of the illegal scheme to market the Seroquel for unapproved uses.

The government also recouped $192 million from Novartis and $108 million from the Health Alliance of Greater Cincinnati and its former member-hospital, The Christ Hospital, for misconduct under the health care Anti-Kickback Statute.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 November 2010 at 12:02 pm

Gerson tries (ineptly) to defend GOP against charge of sabotage

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Here’s the original post, written by Steve Benen.

Here’s Gerson’s response in the Washington Post.

Here’s Steve Benen’s evisceration of Gerson’s response.

Gerson is supposed to be a smart guy,  but there’s certainly no sign of that in his column. Benen is not brutal, but he does point out the facts, and those are brutal to Gerson (and to the GOP).

Written by LeisureGuy

26 November 2010 at 11:56 am

George Packer reviews the memoirs of George W. Bush

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He did as good a job writing as he did as president, apparently. Packer’s review in the New Yorker begins:

President George W. Bush prepared for writing his memoirs by reading “Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant.” “The book captures his distinctive voice,” the ex-President writes, in his less distinctive voice. “He uses anecdotes to re-create his experience during the Civil War. I could see why his work had endured.” Grant’s work has endured because, as Matthew Arnold observed, it has “the high merit of saying clearly in the fewest possible words what had to be said, and saying it, frequently, with shrewd and unexpected turns of expression.” Grant marches across the terrain of his life (stopping short of his corrupt failure of a Presidency) with the same relentless and unflinching realism with which he pursued Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. On several occasions, he even accuses himself of “moral cowardice.” Grant never intended to write his memoirs, but in 1884, swindled by his financial partner, broke, and with a death sentence of throat cancer hanging over him, he set out to earn enough money to provide for his future widow. He completed the work a year later, just days before his death, and Julia Dent Grant lived out her life in comfort.

Modern ex-Presidents tend to write memoirs for reasons less heroic than Grant’s. Richard Nixon couldn’t stop producing his, in one form or another, in a quest to revise history’s devastating verdict. Bill Clinton needed the world’s undying attention. Why did George W. Bush write “Decision Points” (Crown; $35)? He tells us on the first page. He wanted to make a contribution to the study of American history, but he also wanted to join the section of advice books featuring leadership tips from successful executives: “I write to give readers a perspective on decision making in a complex environment. Many of the decisions that reach the president’s desk are tough calls, with strong arguments on both sides. Throughout the book, I describe the options I weighed and the principles I followed. I hope this will give you a better sense of why I made the decisions I did. Perhaps it will even prove useful as you make choices in your own life.”

Here is a prediction: “Decision Points” will not endure. Its prose aims for tough-minded simplicity but keeps landing on simpleminded sententiousness. Though Bush credits no collaborator, his memoirs read as if they were written by an admiring sidekick who is familiar with every story Bush ever told but never got to know the President well enough to convey his inner life. Very few of its four hundred and ninety-three pages are not self-serving. Bush, honing his executive skills as part owner of the Texas Rangers, decides to fire his underperforming manager, Bobby Valentine: “I tried to deliver the news in a thoughtful way, and Bobby handled it like a professional. I was grateful when, years later, I heard him say, ‘I voted for George W. Bush, even though he fired me.’ ” At the dramatic height of the book, on the morning of September 11th, “I called Condi from the secure phone in the limo. She told me there had been a third plane crash, this one into the Pentagon. I sat back in my seat and absorbed her words. My thoughts clarified: The first plane could have been an accident. The second was definitely an attack. The third was a declaration of war. My blood was boiling. We were going to find out who did this, and kick their ass.”

The rare moments of candor come at other people’s expense. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 November 2010 at 11:50 am

Eclipse Red Ring

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That’s an example of the famous Eclipse Red Ring razor; lots more info at the link, including better photos. It’s a loaner, so I’ll shave frequently with it for a while.

I did a good prep, enjoying once more the fragrance of Sweet Gale, worked into a fine lather with the Omega Lucretia Borgia artificial badger.

Three passes, very smooth, of the Eclipse with a new Swedish Gillette blade: a fine, close shave with no nicks. And the tiny magnet in the base of the handle does indeed pick up razor blades a treat, very handy.

A splash Klar Seifen Klassik and I’m (finally) good to go.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 November 2010 at 11:47 am

Posted in Shaving

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