Later On

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Archive for March 12th, 2013

The GOP today: Doesn’t see, hear, or say reality

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Andrew Rosenthal in the NY Times:

The Republicans have hit a sour spot in politics — they are 180 degrees opposed to what most Americans want on just about any issue you care to name.

Remember, for instance, how the American people rejected the Romney/Ryan ticket, and in particular Paul Ryan’s budget? Today Mr. Ryan released a remarkably similar budget. It even has the same Orwellian title: “The Path to Prosperity.”

The Ryan budget, which will become the official G.O.P. budget just as soon as the Republican majority in the House gets a chance to vote on it, gives nice big tax breaks to the wealthy. At the same time, it would turn Medicare into a voucher system, gut Medicaid by turning it into a block grant to the states, give states the ability to kick people off food stamps and repeal most of health care reform. (Except the Medicare savings, which Mr. Ryan has added to his deficit-reduction proposal.)

It would kill funding for high-speed rail, guaranteeing that the United States will never catch up to the rest of the world in public transportation. And it would cap Pell grants, guaranteeing that they will fall behind tuition inflation.

The budget is not merely terrible policy, but also bears no resemblance to what Americans want — at least judging from their rejection of the G.O.P. presidential ticket last year as well as more recent public opinion surveys.

Yesterday, House Speaker John Boehner crowed on Twitter about a new Marist/McClatchy poll. He claimed the survey shows that Americans prefer spending cuts to tax increases. But he read it wrong.

It’s true that when asked in the broadest sense if they would prefer to reduce the deficit mostly by cutting government programs instead of mostly by raising taxes, Americans chose cutting 53-37 percent.

But when asked about specific kinds of government programs, respondents chose raising taxes over cutting Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, education and transportation. They said they would rather cut spending only when it comes to energy, the military and unemployment benefits.

Do you hear that, Mr. Ryan? . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

12 March 2013 at 7:30 pm

Posted in Daily life, GOP

Baby-Lima-Bean GOPM

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Exceptionally tasty. Turn oven to 450ºF to preheat. Wipe out 2.25-qt Staub round cocotte with olive oil, then layer from the bottom.

1/2 c White Basmati Rice from Lundberg
2 Tbsp red vinegar
small handful of green garlic, like scallions, chopped including the green
1 small heart of celery chopped
1 huge mutant carrot cut into largish cubes
good sprinkling Penzeys Old World Seasoning
1 spicy Italian pork sausage, cut into coins (by no means a solid layer)
4 boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into chunks
1/2 lb frozen baby lima beans, unthawed
5 Roma tomatoes diced

Pour over:

2 Tbsp Country French Vinaigrette
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp Ponzu sauce
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp Amontillado sherry
2 Tbsp smoked paprika

Shake well, pour over top, cover, and bake in oven for 45 minutes.

Written by Leisureguy

12 March 2013 at 7:06 pm

Living with a lot less

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Very interesting column by Graham Hill in the NY Times:

I LIVE in a 420-square-foot studio. I sleep in a bed that folds down from the wall. I have six dress shirts. I have 10 shallow bowls that I use for salads and main dishes. When people come over for dinner, I pull out my extendable dining room table. I don’t have a single CD or DVD and I have 10 percent of the books I once did.

I have come a long way from the life I had in the late ’90s, when, flush with cash from an Internet start-up sale, I had a giant house crammed with stuff — electronics and cars and appliances and gadgets.

Somehow this stuff ended up running my life, or a lot of it; the things I consumed ended up consuming me. My circumstances are unusual (not everyone gets an Internet windfall before turning 30), but my relationship with material things isn’t.

We live in a world of surfeit stuff, of big-box stores and 24-hour online shopping opportunities. Members of every socioeconomic bracket can and do deluge themselves with products.

There isn’t any indication that any of these things makes anyone any happier; in fact it seems the reverse may be true.

For me, it took 15 years, a great love and a lot of travel to get rid of all the inessential things I had collected and live a bigger, better, richer life with less.

It started in 1998 in Seattle, when my partner and I sold our Internet consultancy company, Sitewerks, for more money than I thought I’d earn in a lifetime.

To celebrate, I bought a four-story, 3,600-square-foot, turn-of-the-century house in Seattle’s happening Capitol Hill neighborhood and, in a frenzy of consumption, bought a brand-new sectional couch (my first ever), a pair of $300 sunglasses, a ton of gadgets, like an Audible.com MobilePlayer (one of the first portable digital music players) and an audiophile-worthy five-disc CD player. And, of course, a black turbocharged Volvo. With a remote starter!

I was working hard for Sitewerks’ new parent company, Bowne, and didn’t have the time to finish getting everything I needed for my house. So I hired a guy named Seven, who said he had been Courtney Love’s assistant, to be my personal shopper. He went to furniture, appliance and electronics stores and took Polaroids of things he thought I might like to fill the house; I’d shuffle through the pictures and proceed on a virtual shopping spree.

My success and the things it bought quickly changed from novel to normal. Soon I was numb to it all. The new Nokia phone didn’t excite me or satisfy me. It didn’t take long before I started to wonder why my theoretically upgraded life didn’t feel any better and why I felt more anxious than before.

My life was unnecessarily complicated. There were lawns to mow, gutters to clear, floors to vacuum, roommates to manage (it seemed nuts to have such a big, empty house), a car to insure, wash, refuel, repair and register and tech to set up and keep working. To top it all off, I had to keep Seven busy. And really, a personal shopper? Who had I become? My house and my things were my new employers for a job I had never applied for.

It got worse. . .

Continue reading.

This is the guy:

Written by Leisureguy

12 March 2013 at 12:23 pm

Posted in Daily life

Animals and humans

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From TomDispatch:

If you walk through the painting collection of a great museum like the Metropolitan in New York City, heading from the twentieth century into the past, one thing may strike you sooner or later: animals and birds, domestic and wild, appear ever more frequently on canvas.  This, no doubt, reflects how much closer to nature and a wilder world we all once were.  In this sense, my 1950s childhood in a great modern city was typical of how unnatural we had become.  I was an only child and the closest I got to the animal kingdom was my dog.  Jeff was the name I gave him, perhaps out of a desire for a younger brother, and I treated him accordingly.  (Yes, I do now regret repeatedly tying his ears atop his head.)

Otherwise, I visited zoos, and that was about the only way I saw wild animals (regularly dozing in their cages), unless you count pigeons and rats.  It’s not that you can’t find the wild in an urban setting, but who was looking then?  Not me.  Not until I was 12 and visited a friend who had a house in “the country” — a somewhat suburbanized part of nearby Connecticut.  There, while walking along a road, I saw a flash of red that stunned me.  As it happened — and how rare must this have been then — my friend’s parents had a bird book and flipping through the pages I was amazed to discover that I had seen a male cardinal.  I mean, who knew?

Cardinals are a common enough bird, quite visible in New York City’s parks if you wanted to look for them, but until then I hadn’t.  I went back to school the next week and for Mrs. Casey’s class I wrote a little paper about that bird.  Somewhere in the distant reaches of my closet, I still have it.  Yes, I know now that a scarlet tanager makes acardinal look almost colorless, but somehow that one flash of unexpected brilliance changed my relationship to the natural world.  Jump a few years ahead and my best friend and I were sneaking out to Central Park on weekend days, especially in spring migration season.  (The flyway goes over the city and if you’re there at just the right moment, exhausted, hungry birds drop like so many jewels into that park.)  Members of the Audubon Society (who were indeed little old people in tennis sneakers back then, as I am now) would show us wonders: orchard orioles, black-throated blue warblers, red-eyed vireos, egrets, and night herons.  Again, who knew?

This was, mind you, the single most secretive part of my childhood.  Admit, in 1960, that you spent time looking at birds and you had just ensured yourself of being summarily drummed out of the corps of boys.  So I kept it to myself, but I’ve never stopped looking.  That one cardinal, that one glance, opened an urban wildness to me.  New York City has undergone some rewilding in recent decades, but one day in this world of ours, those massive migrations, which still populate Central Park in the spring, may grow ever sparser.  North American bird populations are significantly in declinethanks to loss of habitat and also, it seems, climate change.

In his usual fabulous way, Lewis Lapham takes up his own — and our — already semi-extinct relations with the animal world and the threat of far larger kinds of extinction to come in his introduction to “Animals,” the spring issue of Lapham’s Quarterly, which, four times a year, brilliantly unites some of the most provocative and original voices in history around a single topic. (You can subscribe to it by clicking here.) TomDispatch thanks the editors of that journal for allowing us to offer an exclusive look at his piece, slightly adapted for this site. Tom

The Conquest of Nature
And What We’ve Lost
By Lewis H. Lapham

[This essay will appear in “Animals,” the Spring 2013 issue of Lapham’s Quarterly. This slightly adapted version is posted at TomDispatch.com with the kind permission of that magazine.]

London housewife Barbara Carter won a “grant a wish” charity contest, and said she wanted to kiss and cuddle a lion. Wednesday night she was in a hospital in shock and with throat wounds. Mrs. Carter, forty-six, was taken to the lions’ compound of the Safari Park at Bewdley Wednesday. As she bent forward to stroke the lioness, Suki, it pounced and dragged her to the ground. Wardens later said, “We seem to have made a bad error of judgment.”

— British news bulletin, 1976

Having once made a similar error of judgment with an Australian koala, I know it to be the one the textbooks define as the failure to grasp the distinction between an animal as an agent of nature and an animal as a symbol of culture. The koala was supposed to be affectionate, comforting, and cute. Of this I was certain because it was the creature of my own invention that for two weeks in the spring of 1959 I’d been presenting to readers of the San Francisco Examiner prior to its release by the Australian government into the custody of the Fleishacker Zoo.

The Examiner was a Hearst newspaper, the features editor not a man to ignore a chance for sure-fire sentiment, my task that of the reporter assigned to provide the advance billing. Knowing little or nothing about animals other than what I’d read in children’s books or seen in Walt Disney cartoons, I cribbed from the Encyclopedia Britannica(Phascolarctos cinereus, ash-colored fur, nocturnal, fond of eucalyptus leaves), but for the most part I relied on A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh, the tales of Brer Rabbit, and archival images of President Teddy Roosevelt, the namesake for whom the teddy bear had been created and stuffed, in 1903 by a toy manufacturer in Brooklyn.

Stouthearted, benevolent, and wise, the koala incoming from the Antipodes was the little friend of all the world, and on the day of its arrival at the airport, I was carrying roses wrapped in a cone of newsprint. The features editor had learned his trade in Hollywood in the 1940s, and he had in mind a camera shot of my enfolding a teddy bear in a warm and welcoming embrace. “Lost child found in the wilderness,” he had said. “Lassie comes home.” The koala didn’t follow script. Annoyed by the flashbulbs, clawing furiously at my head and shoulders, it bloodied my shirt and tie, shredded the roses, urinated on my suit and shoes.

The unpleasantness didn’t make the paper. The photograph was taken before the trouble began, and so the next morning in print, there we were, the koala and I, man and beast glad to see one another, the San Francisco Examiner’s very own Christopher Robin framed in the glow of an A-list fairy tale with Brer Rabbit, Teddy Roosevelt, and Winnie-the-Pooh, all for one and one for all as once had been our common lot in Eden.

The Pantomime of Brutes

Rumors and reports of human relations with animals are the world’s oldest news stories, headlined in the stars of the zodiac, posted on the walls of prehistoric caves, inscribed in the languages of Egyptian myth, Greek philosophy, Hindu religion, Christian art, our own DNA. Belonging within the circle of humankind’s intimate acquaintance until somewhere toward the end of the nineteenth century, animals appeared as both agents of nature and symbols of culture. Constant albeit speechless companions, they supplied energies fit to be harnessed or roasted, but they also were believed to possess qualities inherent in human beings, subject to the close observation of the ways in which man and beast both resembled and differed from one another.

Unable to deliver lectures, the lion and the elephant taught by example; so did the turtle, the wolf, and the ant. Aesop’s Fables, composed in the sixth century BC, accorded with the further researches of Aristotle, who, about 200 years later, in his History of Animals, set up the epistemological framework that for the next two millennia incorporated the presence of animals in the center ring of what became known as Western civilization: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

12 March 2013 at 12:04 pm

Posted in Environment, Science

Democrats possibly ready to fight for Elizabeth Warren’s Commission

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Not the one she heads—Obama caved quickly on that, probably because the finance industry hates it and Obama is very deferential to them—but the one she created. Brian Beutler has the story at TPMDC:

On Tuesday, Democrats will use what would normally be a straightforward exercise of the Senate’s advise and consent powers to begin a political campaign aimed at preserving one of the party’s signature Obama-era accomplishments.

At 10:00 a.m., in the Dirksen Senate office building, the Senate Banking Committee will convene a hearing to advance the nomination of Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

If you recognize Cordray as the current director of the CFPB, you’ll wonder why the Senate has anything left to say about his role as one of the top cops on Wall Street. But its involvement is a direct consequence of a GOP effort to combine the Senate’s filibuster rules with its advise-and-consent powers to gut the agency. And unless the Democrats can force an end to that effort, the CFPB will lose its director — and many of its existing powers at the end of the year.

The CFPB is a new regulatory agency Democrats created to protect consumers from fraudulent financial products when they passed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act in 2010. It is housed within the Federal Reserve, and derives its funding directly from the central bank, to keep it, like all other major financial regulators, at least partially insulated from political retribution during the appropriations process on Capitol Hill.

But from the moment the agency was conceived, Republicans have despised it, and once it was born, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) organized his members around a promise to block the confirmation of any CFPB director, unless and until Democrat agreed to weaken the agency, including by placing Congress in charge of its budget every year.

And in December 2011 that’s exactly what they did. The vote was 53-45 — enough to confirm him if he’d been given an up-or-down vote, but seven votes shy of the 60 required to break the filibuster.

During a subsequent recess, President Obama used his recess appointment power to place Cordray at the helm of the agency for two years. But that appointment expires at the end of December, and could end sooner if a federal appeals cour ruling limiting Obama’s use of the recess appointment power is upheld.

Enter the Democrats, who will attempt to marshal public and industry opinion to pry a handful of Republicans away from their filibuster commitment. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

12 March 2013 at 12:00 pm

Elizabeth Warren Confronts the Atrocity of Drug Money Laundering by Big Banks

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Lynn Stuart Parramore at Alternet:

Heavens to Betsy. Sen. Elizabeth Warren leapt from the gate of her first term pummeling Ben Bernanke on too-big-to-fail financial institutions. Then she demanded to know why American banks were never brought to trial. Finally, last Thursday, looking for all the world like a school principal called to sort out teenage hooligans, she queried regulators [3] as to why HSBC bankers who launder money for drug lords and terrorists should go free. Quoth the senator:

“If you’re caught with an ounce of cocaine, the chances are good you’re going to jail. If it happens repeatedly, you may go to jail for the rest of your life. But evidently, if you launder nearly a billion dollars for drug cartels and violate our international sanctions, your company pays a fine and you go home and sleep in your own bed at night.”

Game on! Naturally, the left is swooning. Elizabeth Warren says what we all wish we could say to the besuited jerks who defend a crooked industry. Except, instead of snatching them by the lapels and screaming obscenities as we might do, Warren sits calmly and repeats her inimitably direct questions like a blond Terminator. The big banks and their lackeys can’t stand her, and it looks as if the feeling is mutual.

Americans love her because we have serious unfinished business with the banking industry. We remember how the White House chose to protect the bankers from the pitchforks in the wake of the financial crisis. We’ve gritted our teeth as bankers have charted a course to record-breaking profits as the rest of us slogged through a shitty economy.

Now it feels like the day we hoped for. The one the banking industry feared as it tried to thwart Warren’s victory in 2013. There’s a new sheriff in town, a real champion for the 99 percent who will not accept a two-tiered justice system and who dares look the criminal and the complicit in the eye. That Warren’s showdown in the Senate Banking Committee corral came just a day after Attorney General Eric Holder fessed up to the fact that some banks are so big and powerful they are really above the law felt like balm on a freshly salted wound.

Economist Robert Johnson, executive director of the Institute for New Economic Thinking, who served as chief economist to the Senate Banking Committee under the leadership of William Proxmire, praised Warren’s resolve in an email to me: “Elizabeth Warren has chosen to do something novel as a US senator: represent the people. In our money-drenched political system that is akin to defying gravity. God bless Elizabeth Warren.”

Warren is certainly making welcome noises in these early days of her tenure. She is breaking a taboo in speaking up so forcefully this early in the game, as newbie senators are generally expected to keep their heads down. Cynics cannot deny the fact that it actually matters tremendously that someone knowledgeable is at the table. If regulators know they’ll be cross-examined by a person who knows what they’re up to, they may think twice about what they’re (not) doing. They can’t completely ignore congressional pressure, particularly as Warren is a majority member of the Senate. On HSBC, unfortunately, the case is probably closed. But banks certainly hate the negative light Warren shined on them with her latest confrontation. And that’s welcome news. This is not small potatoes.

However, Warren . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

12 March 2013 at 11:56 am

Trying to justify drone killings

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The NY Times gave a lot of column inches the other day to a story on the process of picking targets for drone strikes (e.g., a 16-year-old American boy trying to visit his father). Amy Goodman at Democracy Now! interviews the story’s author Scott Shane, national security reporter at The New York Times, and Jesselyn Radack, National Security & Human Rights director at the Government Accountability Project and former legal ethics adviser at the Justice Department. A video of the interview is at the link, along with this transcript:

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re looking at the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, and his son two weeks later. This was in September of 2011, Anwar Awlaki’s targeted killing by a U.S. drone in Yemen, and his son, Abdulrahman. Both were born in the United States. His son, 16 years old, was born in Denver. Anwar al-Awlaki’s father, Nasser al-Aulaqi, spoke recently about the U.S. killing of his 16-year-old grandson by this drone strike in Yemen, October 14th, 2011. The attack came as the Denver-born teenager, Abdulrahman, was eating dinner at an outdoor restaurant with his teenage cousin. He was killed just weeks after his father was assassinated.

NASSER AL-AULAQI: I want Americans to know about my grandson, that he was very nice boy. He was very caring boy for his family, for his mother, for his brothers. He was born in August 1995 in the state of Colorado, city of Denver. He was raised in America, when he was a child until he was seven years old. And I never thought that one day this boy, this nice boy, will be killed by his own government.

AMY GOODMAN: That was a video prepared by the ACLU of the grandfather of Anwar—of Abdulrahman and the father of Anwar al-Awlaki. His name is Nasser al-Aulaqi. Scott Shane, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights issued a statement in response to your article. The statement read in part, quote, “In anonymous assertions to The New York Times, current and former Obama administration officials seek to justify the killings of three U.S. citizens even as the administration fights hard to prevent any transparency or accountability for those killings in court. This is the latest in a series of one-sided, selective disclosures that prevent meaningful public debate and legal or even political accountability for the government’s killing program, including its use against citizens. Government officials have made serious allegations against Anwar al-Aulaqi, but allegations are not evidence, and the whole point of the Constitution’s due process clause is that a court must distinguish between the two. If the government has evidence that Al-Aulaqi posed an imminent threat at the time it killed him, it should present that evidence to a court,” unquote. Scott Shane, you’re the co-author of this front-page Sunday Times piece, “A U.S. Citizen … in America’s Cross Hairs.” Can you respond?

SCOTT SHANE: Sure. Well, I mean, I should say that we at The New York Times, we’re reporters: We’re all for transparency. And one thing that that statement from the ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights failed to mention was that The New York Times also has sued the government to try to get the legal opinions justifying Anwar al-Awlaki’s death, but also all the targeting, all the legal opinions on targeted killings. We’ve lost at the district court level, and that case is now on appeal, but we would like obviously much greater transparency. And part of the reason we do a lot of reporting and put a long story in the paper like that is to shed as much light as we can on the circumstances of his death.

I think—you know, I mean, people can certainly read the ACLU press release and draw their own conclusion, but, you know, in essence, our article was saying that while there was a lengthy process of sort of legal study and debate inside the administration before they decided or justified the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, they had in fact decided they couldn’t kill, could not target—that is, Samir Khan, because he was a propagandist and not an actual plotter. But he was killed anyway. And some people in the administration, I think, you know, found that that sort of cast a shadow on the long legal discussion about who you could kill and who you couldn’t kill, because they had killed both of them. And I think, you know, I can say that I—that, in general, across the government, the death of the 16-year-old, who, again, was not, as far as anyone knows, associated with terrorism, is seen as a disastrous mistake. And certainly the article pointed that out.

So, you know, I think that press release is a little, perhaps, imaginative in suggesting that the story was defending the administration. In actual fact, the White House wouldn’t talk to us either on or off the record, and we got the information that we could, you know, where we could get it. You know, as the story says, it raises questions about the claims of the administration that this targeted killing program has been precise and very careful in who it targets and who it kills.

AMY GOODMAN: Jesselyn Radack, I want to bring you into the conversation, National Security & Human Rights director at the Government Accountability Project, former ethics adviser to the U.S. Department of Justice under President Bush. Your response to the article and the justifications by the Obama administration for the targeted killings?

JESSELYN RADACK: My response to the article was that it was very much like the June articleThe New York Times did about the kill list. And The New York Times, here again, gives a platform to the government to justify why it killed three U.S. citizens without charge, counsel or judicial review.

And while Scott just talked about how the article is committed to transparency and neutrality, the article actually picks up a storyline only recently floated by the government, that Awlaki was operational rather than a mere propagandist. That storyline, that narrative from the government, only came out after the white paper was released. Yet, The New York Times works hard to make the case that he had somehow evolved from being a propagandist to being operational. And that’s important because the operational factor is what makes him eligible for a drone strike.

Unfortunately, the other thing that makes him eligible is being an imminent threat, which The New York Times did not seem to go into detail about. So I feel like The New York Times has been carrying the government’s water in picking up its argument and, again, trying to make the case ex post facto that it was OK to kill Awlaki because he was somehow operational, even though Brennan, in Brennan’s own speech, said that to be eligible for droning you would have to be a senior operational leader of al-Qaeda, that you would have to bring a specific skill, and that it would have to be based on evidence, not mere allegations.

AMY GOODMAN: Scott Shane? . . .

Continue reading. These targeted drone killings are a blot on US honor.

Written by Leisureguy

12 March 2013 at 11:52 am

Iraq War vet who came out against the war

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Chris Hedges has a sad column:

I flew to Kansas City last week to see Tomas Young. Young was paralyzed in Iraq in 2004. He is now receiving hospice care at his home. I knew him by reputation and the movie documentary “Body of War.” He was one of the first veterans to publicly oppose the war in Iraq. He fought as long and as hard as he could against the war that crippled him, until his physical deterioration caught up with him.

“I had been toying with the idea of suicide for a long time because I had become helpless,” he told me in his small house on the Kansas City outskirts where he intends to die. “I couldn’t dress myself. People have to help me with the most rudimentary of things. I decided I did not want to go through life like that anymore. The pain, the frustration. …”

He stopped abruptly and called his wife. “Claudia, can I get some water?” She opened a bottle of water, took a swig so it would not spill when he sipped and handed it to him.

“I felt at the end of my rope,” the 33-year-old Army veteran went on. “I made the decision to go on hospice care, to stop feeding and fade away. This way, instead of committing the conventional suicide and I am out of the picture, people have a way to stop by or call and say their goodbyes. I felt this was a fairer way to treat people than to just go out with a note. After the anoxic brain injury in 2008 [a complication that Young suffered] I lost a lot of dexterity and strength in my upper body. So I wouldn’t be able to shoot myself or even open the pill bottle to give myself an overdose. The only way I could think of doing it was to have Claudia open the pill bottle for me, but I didn’t want her implicated.”

“After you made that decision how did you feel?” I asked.

“I felt relieved,” he answered. “I finally saw an end to this four-and-a-half-year fight. If I were in the same condition I was in during the filming of ‘Body of War,’ in a manual chair, able to feed and dress myself and transfer from my bed to the wheelchair, you and I would not be having this discussion. I can’t even watch the movie anymore because it makes me sad to see how I was, compared to how I am. … Viewing the deterioration, I decided it was best to go out now rather than regress more.”

Young will die for our sins. He will die for a war that should never have been fought. He will die for the lies of politicians. He will die for war profiteers. He will die for the careers of generals. He will die for a cheerleader press. He will die for a complacent public that made war possible. He bore all this upon his body. He was crucified. And there are hundreds of thousands of other crucified bodies like his in Baghdad and Kandahar and Peshawar and Walter Reed medical center. Mangled bodies and corpses, broken dreams, unending grief, betrayal, corporate profit, these are the true products of war. Tomas Young is the face of war they do not want you to see.

On April 4, 2004, Young was crammed into the back of a two-and-a-half-ton Army truck with 20 other soldiers in Sadr City, Iraq. Insurgents opened fire on the truck from above. “It was like shooting ducks in a barrel,” he said. A bullet from an AK-47 severed his spinal column. A second bullet shattered his knee. At first he did not know he had been shot. He felt woozy. He tried to pick up his M16. He couldn’t lift his rifle from the truck bed. That was when he knew something was terribly wrong.

“I tried to say ‘I’m going to be paralyzed, someone shoot me right now,’ but there was only a hoarse whisper that came out because my lungs had collapsed,” he said. “I knew the damage. I wanted to be taken out of my misery.”

His squad leader, Staff Sgt. Robert Miltenberger, bent over and told him he would be all right. A few years later Young would see a clip of Miltenberger weeping as he recounted the story of how he had lied to Young.

“I tried to contact him,” said Young, whose long red hair and flowing beard make him look like a biblical prophet. “I can’t find him. I want to tell him it is OK.”

Young had been in Iraq five days. It was his first deployment. After being wounded he was sent to an Army hospital in Kuwait, and although his legs, now useless, lay straight in front of him he felt as if he was still sitting cross-legged on the floor of the truck. That sensation lasted for about three weeks. It was an odd and painful initiation into his life as a paraplegic. His body, from then on, would play tricks on him. . .

Continue reading. This is the war that the US instigated based on lies trumped up by our leaders, who for some reason wanted the US to fight the war.

And read this brief post by James Fallows: the US was betrayed by those elected to protect us.

Written by Leisureguy

12 March 2013 at 11:40 am

Gillette Guard: Single-blade cartridge

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SOTD 12 Mar 2013

I’m trying the Bic Metal (shave report here) and the Gillette Guard as possible travel razors (i.e., allowed by TSA in carry-on luggage). These certainly are good travel razors in terms of weight:

Bic Metal: 4g
Gillette Guard: 10g
Bakelite Slant: 18g
Edwin Jagger DE86bl (faux-ebony handle): 64g

Performance is perfectly satisfactory for a trip. The Bic Metal has an extremely narrow head (full width, but a minuscule depth), which reduces lather capacity of the razor too much for comfortable daily use.

The Guard is quite interesting from a marketing point of view. Gillette and Bic took different approaches, but they had different goals. Bic wanted to bring usable razors to market at the lowest possible cost, and the entire design is (so far as I can see) by cost reduction. The handle is barely more than a plastic soda straw: materials costs are totally minimized.

Gillette wanted to sell into a market that cannot afford high prices, so costs also drive this design. But Gillette also wants to plant the shaver’s foot firmly on the cartridge escalator so that later, for very little more, the shaver can buy two-blade cartridges which are, as the advertisements will doubtless proclaim, much better than the single-blade cartridges the Guard uses. You know the story. What we see in India now is only the first chapter.

So Gillette put a lot of design dollar into the handle: it has deeply incised chequering on strips on the front and back, giving a secure grip (more secure than required for a 10g razor) and, more important, a definite sense of precision and permanence: this is not some use-and-toss implement. The sides of the handle are ribbed, the brand-name is large and tastefully silvered, and it’s quite comfortable to hold: it fits the hand well. In addition, of course, it is dead simple to make once the molds are made, and the spring action of the arms is baked into the handle.

The cartridge is also very nicely designed: easy to load and has the advantage of the cartridge pivot, transferring angle control from shaver to razor. I got a very nice BBS shave in three passes, using the superb coconut lather the WSP Monarch HMW brought forth from Honeybee Soaps Caribbean Coconut, a wonderful soap. And I did recognize again that Honeybee Shaving Soaps need a bit more water than you might expect.

I think the “permanence” of the Guard handle and the quality of its design moves this razor inside the ego boundary: the Bic Metal is something you shave with and discard: no attachment. The Guard you shave with and because you keep the handle and it’s nicely designed and comfortable to use, the handle becomes mine, something I own, that is a part of the set of possessions that define the extended me. The cartridges are easily replaced and cheap (they are packaged in single-cartridge envelopes, so you can buy just one or two) and readily discarded, but the handle stays around: a seed for the shaving collection.

It was a pretty good shave, but I noticed that I actively control blade angle myself now that I use a DE regularly. The Guard maintained the same identical angle over all my face, but in some places (I now realize) the “correct” angle does not work so well as a slightly steeper angle. After years of shaving I find that I make minute angle adjustments without thinking about it—just under my jawline in front, for example, requires a slight steepness in the ATG/XTG passes. I realized that I was not getting an optimal shave with the Guard because I no longer could control blade angle, and in some places I could definitely feel that the default angle was not so good as a different angle would have been. OTOH, I am at this point a skilled shaver, and I have a bathroom with good plumbing and good lighting, so I am undoubtedly far removed from the target demographic for the Guard.

And, of course, with the Guard you cannot choose the brand of blade that works best for you: you go with the blade and the bevel the Guard offers, and that’s it. DE shavers who have had direct experience of the wide variation in cutting quality of DE blades will understand immediately that being tied to one single brand of blade is extremely restrictive.

On the whole, I imagine that the Guard will succeed, and Gillette/P&G marketing remains a strong force in the company: Gillette is run by marketers, I would say, and Bic by engineers. What will be interesting to observe is how India reacts to the price elevator.

Written by Leisureguy

12 March 2013 at 10:01 am

Posted in Shaving

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