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Archive for August 5th, 2017

Sen. Jeff Flake’s flame-throwing polemic takes aim at Trump

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An excellent book review by James Hohmann of Sen. Jeff Flake’s new book:

James Hohmann is a national political correspondent for The Washington Post and the author of the Daily 202 newsletter.

Jeff Flake took Donald Trump’s attacks on Mexican and Muslim immigrants personally during the 2016 campaign. They were among the many reasons that the Republican senator from Arizona could not bear to vote for his party’s presidential nominee and why he’s now written a stinging anti-Trump polemic, even though it will make winning reelection next year more difficult.

The most newsworthy parts of Flake’s new book, “Conscience of a Conservative,” are his frontal attacks on the president. He writes that the GOP’s “Faustian bargain” to embrace Trump as a way to advance its agenda has backfired by putting sacred institutions and the rule of law at risk. He refers to Trump as a carnival barker, expresses alarm about the president’s affection for authoritarian rulers and calls out his Republican colleagues in Congress as enablers.

But the book is at its most compelling when Flake shows how he developed the conservative worldview that would make Trump so anathema to him. It was his experience as a worker on his family’s ranch, as a Mormon missionary in Africa and as the executive director of the Goldwater Institute in Phoenix, where he worked closely with his political hero, Barry Goldwater, in the years before he died.

The 54-year-old Flake often asks himself, “What would Goldwater do?” And he feels certain that the 1964 Republican presidential nominee, to whom Trump has often been compared, “would not be pleased or amused” by the president or the state of the conservative movement.

Flake’s faith is an important part of his narrative. In 1838, the governor of Missouri signed an “extermination” order that made it legal to kill anyone who belonged to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His ancestors faced persecution as they moved west and settled in Arizona. The senator volunteers that his great-great-grandfather endured six months of hard labor in a Yuma prison for having a second wife. “When we say ‘No Muslims’ or ‘No Mexicans,’ we may as well say ‘No Mormons,’ ” Flake writes. “Because it is no different.”

To make the case against Trump’s travel ban, the senator recalls how two surgeons from predominantly Muslim countries saved his father-in-law’s life after a heart attack.

The weekend after Trump proposed his ban in December 2015 on Muslims entering the United States, Flake felt called to attend afternoon prayers at a mosque in Scottsdale so he could let the parishioners know that most Americans are not given to such intolerance. George W. Bush sent him a note the next day. “Thank you for your voice of reason in these unreasonable times,” the former president wrote.

But the unreasonable times continued. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 August 2017 at 8:04 pm

A comprehensive guide to the new science of treating lower back pain

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Written by LeisureGuy

5 August 2017 at 3:37 pm

Why Is Donald Trump Still So Horribly Witless About The World?

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Robin Wright writes in the New Yorker:

Max Boot, a lifelong conservative who advised three Republican Presidential candidates on foreign policy, keeps a folder labelled “Trump Stupidity File” on his computer. It’s next to his “Trump Lies” file. “Not sure which is larger at this point,” he told me this week. “It’s neck-and-neck.”

Six months into the Trump era, foreign-policy officials from eight past Administrations told me they are aghast that the President is still so witless about the world. “He seems as clueless today as he was on January 20th,” Boot, who is now a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said. Trump’s painful public gaffes, they warn, indicate that he’s not reading, retaining, or listening to his Presidential briefings. And the newbie excuse no longer flies.

“Trump has an appalling ignorance of the current world, of history, of previous American engagement, of what former Presidents thought and did,” Geoffrey Kemp, who worked at the Pentagon during the Ford Administration and at the National Security Council during the Reagan Administration, reflected. “He has an almost studious rejection of the type of in-depth knowledge that virtually all of his predecessors eventually gained or had views on.”

Criticism of Donald Trump among Democrats who served in senior national-security positions is predictable and rife. But Republicans—who are historically ambitious on foreign policy—are particularly pained by the President’s missteps and misstatements. So are former senior intelligence officials who have avoided publicly criticizing Presidents until now.

“The President has little understanding of the context”—of what’s happening in the world—“and even less interest in hearing the people who want to deliver it,” Michael Hayden, a retired four-star general and former director of both the C.I.A. and the National Security Agency, told me. “He’s impatient, decision-oriented, and prone to action. It’s all about the present tense. When he asks, ‘What the hell’s going on in Iraq?’ people around him have learned not to say, ‘Well, in 632 . . . ’ ” (That was the year when the Prophet Muhammad died, prompting the beginning of the Sunni-Shiite split.*)

“He just doesn’t have an interest in the world,” Hayden said.

I asked top Republican and intelligence officials from eight Administrations what they thought was the one thing the President needs to grasp to succeed on the world stage. Their various replies: embrace the fact that the Russians are not America’s friends. Don’t further alienate the Europeans, who are our friends. Encourage human rights—a founding principle of American identity—and don’t make priority visits to governments that curtail them, such as Poland and Saudi Arabia. Understand that North Korea’s nuclear program can’t be outsourced to China, which can’t or won’t singlehandedly fix the problem anyway, and realize that military options are limited. Pulling out of innovative trade deals, like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, will boost China’s economy and secure its global influence—to America’s disadvantage. Stop bullying his counterparts. And put the Russia case behind him by coöperating with the investigation rather than trying to discredit it.

Trump’s latest blunder was made during an appearance in the Rose Garden with Lebanon’s Prime Minister, Saad Hariri, on July 25th. “Lebanon is on the front lines in the fight against isis, Al Qaeda, and Hezbollah,” Trump pronounced. He got the basics really wrong. Hezbollah is actually part of the Lebanese government—and has been for a quarter century—with seats in parliament and Cabinet posts. Lebanon’s Christian President, Michel Aoun, has been allied with Hezbollah for a decade. As Trump spoke, Hezbollah’s militia and the Lebanese Army were fighting isis and an Al Qaeda affiliate occupying a chunk of eastern Lebanon along its border with Syria. They won.

The list of other Trump blunders is long. In March, he charged that Germany owed “vast sums” to the United States for nato. It doesn’t. No nato member pays the United States—and never has—so none is in arrears. In an interviewwith the Wall Street Journal, in April, Trump claimed that  . . .

Continue reading.

Read the whole thing. Later in the article:

Trump’s policy mistakes, large and small, are taking a toll. “American leadership in the world—how do I phrase this, it’s so obvious, but apparently not to him—is critical to our success, and it depends eighty per cent on the credibility of the President’s word,” John McLaughlin, who worked at the C.I.A. under seven Presidents, from Richard Nixon to George W. Bush, and ended up as the intelligence agency’s acting director, told me. “Trump thinks having a piece of chocolate cake at Mar-a-Lago bought him a relationship with Xi Jinping. He came in as the least prepared President we’ve had on foreign policy,” McLaughlin added. “Our leadership in the world is slipping away. It’s slipping through our hands.”

And a world in dramatic flux compounds the stakes. Hayden cited the meltdown in the world order that has prevailed since the Second World War; the changing nature of the state and its power; China’s growing military and economic power; and rogue nations seeking nuclear weapons, among others. “Yet the most disruptive force in the world today is the United States of America,” the former C.I.A. director said.

Related: “As political turmoil mounts, Afghans fret over seeming lack of U.S. strategy.” They’ve been waiting for 6 months to hear the US strategy, and in the meantime Iran is strengthening the Taliban. Here’s a paragraph from that article:

 “Our biggest immediate worry is the lack of an American strategy,” said Omar Daudzai, a former senior Afghan official. “We are facing political turmoil and a security crisis. Neighboring governments are meddling. We need an American commitment to support the defense forces, elections and democratic institutions. America’s reputation is at stake in Afghanistan, and if this all goes bad, America will lose its credibility.”

Also: “Iran Gains Ground in Afghanistan as U.S. Presence Wanes” That article begins:

Iran has conducted an intensifying covert intervention, much of which is only now coming to light. It is providing local Taliban insurgents with weapons, money and training. It has offered Taliban commanders sanctuary and fuel for their trucks. It has padded Taliban ranks by recruiting among Afghan Sunni refugees in Iran, according to Afghan and Western officials.

“The regional politics have changed,” said Mohammed Arif Shah Jehan, a senior intelligence official who recently took over as the governor of Farah Province. “The strongest Taliban here are Iranian Taliban.”

Iran and the Taliban — longtime rivals, one Shiite and the other Sunni — would seem to be unlikely bedfellows.


But as the NATO mission in Afghanistan expanded, the Iranians quietly began supporting the Taliban to bleed the Americans and their allies by raising the cost of the intervention so that they would leave.

Iran has come to see the Taliban not only as the lesser of its enemies but also as a useful proxy force. The more recent introduction of the Islamic State, which carried out a terrorist attack on Iran’s parliament this year, into Afghanistan has only added to the Taliban’s appeal.

This is exactly how the US bled Russia, arming and supporting the Mujahideen against Russia, though that led to the creation of Al Qaeda against the US, Afghanistan having served as a training ground for insurgency, and those skills, once learned, can be applied to other powers (e.g., the US).

Written by LeisureGuy

5 August 2017 at 2:12 pm

Lenthéric and the Gillette 1940’s Aristocrat (with a Gillette 7 O’Clock SharpEdge blade)

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I really like my Lenthéric vintage shaving soap, and the WSP Prince easily produced a very creamy and fragrant lather. This soap, which I’m told was likely made by Valobra back in the day, seems to produce a particularly nice lather.

Yesterday I used an Astra Keramik Platinum blade in this razor, and though it was comfortable, it felt too comfortable: gliding over my stubble in the first pass as though it were not engaging. And in fact at the end my face was still somewhat rough with stubble, necessitating a fourth pass, ATG with the Rockwell R3, to finish the job.

With a Gillette 7 O’Clock SharpEdge, the story was different. Still extremely comfortable, but I could feel the blade engage the stubble in the first pass, and when I rinsed after the second pass my face was mostly extremely smooth, so the third pass, ATG, was just a cleanup pass, as it should be. A very satisfactory shave, and the Gillette SharpEdge blade will remain in the razor. I think I’ll try the Astra Keramik in the X3 to see how that goes.

A splash of Lenthéric Tweed, and the weekend begins.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 August 2017 at 10:04 am

Posted in Shaving

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