Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Go, Air New Zealand, go!

Air New Zealand made a successful two hour test flight yesterday with a Boeing 747 powered by a jatropha, a very hardy plant native to warm dry climes. This groundbreaking test was important for several reasons. Previous tests of airplane powering biofuel had been dismissed as publicity stunts because engines were fueled by products that could not be mass produced for the commercial aviation market. Other biofuels also carried the disadvantage of not being significantly more environmentally clean than conventional kerosene based jet fuels. The jatropha blend, on the other hand, produces 25% less of a carbon footprint than standard jet fuel according to Air New Zealand. Even better unlike many alternative fuels, jatropha is not a dietary staple, and therefore would not have the negative knock-on effects of fuels like ethanol, which has contributed to rising food prices across the globe.

Go, Air New Zealand, go, a bio fuel that is environmentally sound, not a food and can be mass produced, we love it. Air New Zealand hopes that by 2013, 10 percent of its flights will be powered, at least in part, by biofuels. The experimental flight was a joint venture by Air New Zealand, Boeing, engine maker Rolls Royce (yes, that Rolls Royce, formerly,) and biofuel specialist, UOP, a unit of Honeywell International. Read more here.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A different perspective

Perhaps you read the Clarion Content's reporting a few days back on the rioting in Athens, Greece. We noted that Greece has a long tradition of street violence. High unemployment among youth, a stagnating economy, and rising expectations after hosting the Olympics seemed to us the tinder, the spark was the shooting of an affluent youth who was participating in actions against authority. The Clarion Content viewed (and views) these riots as very unlikely to spread beyond Greece's borders to more general international unrest, ala 1848 or 1968.

However, a certain Illinoisan blogger we read has other thoughts. He provocatively asks what we happen if, "the citizens of Illinois challenged their state government the way young people are challenging the national government in Greece?" He cites personal disgust for Governor Blagojevich's corruption case and Illinois' "politics as usual" mindset. He is inspired and calls out young Illini, "politically engaged citizens in the streets confronting their government - young people who reject complacency and refuse to accept conditions that others have imposed upon them. Yes, a better world is always possible if you're willing to partake in the struggle to bring it about."

Sadly, the youth of Illinois, like those of East Lansing, Michigan or Columbus, Ohio seem far more prepared to riot over the outcome of a sporting event, than against the ineptitude and corruption of their state's governor. The current Illinois governor's corrupt predecessor, George Ryan, is now serving time in prison and begging George Bush II for a pardon.

Bigger than Dallas

A troubled former Utah highway patrolman killed two apparently unconnected people in a freeway crime spree yesterday in Dallas before turning the gun on himself. He is in critical condition and not expected to survive.

Shortly before beginning his horrific Monday morning rush hour rampage, the former trooper leaped the counter at a local Garland grocery store pharmacy and stole Oxycontin at gunpoint. The perp fled by car. Minutes later 20-year-old Jorge Lopez of Rowlett, was killed while sitting in his car at a red light in Garland. The criminal then pulled on to Interstate 635 firing at 18 wheeler trucks. The first driver survived unhurt, the second 42-year-old William Miller, the driver of a United Van Lines rig was killed by gunshot wounds. Dallas police matched the bullet to bullets recovered from a standoff which ended with the former highway patrolman shooting himself. The criminal had been dismissed from the Utah Highway Patrol after an incident during which he drove his police vehicle drunk and threatened to kill himself. How and why was this former cop able to obtain a gun? Why did he decide to perpetrate his evil deeds in Dallas? Just because that was where he had moved? New neighbors claimed to have seen no warning signs.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


A young Iraqi journalist at a press conference threw his shoes one after the other at George Bush the II. The Clarion Content thought it quite the fitting gesture since in the Arabic and Islamic worlds shoe throwing is a very serious insult. It compares the person being insulted to the lowest thing on earth. George Bush the II is lucky he only got that after the havoc that has been wreaked on Iraq, a country that had never attacked the United States, never supported Al-Qaeda and did not have the purported stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction that were King George's raison d'être for offensive war. As we stated in these pages recently, whatever happens to the Iraqi state after the withdrawal of United States military forces, we think its successors have a strong cause for reparations.

The incident has drawn great interest throughout Iraq and the Muslim world. Ironically the brother of the shoe throwing journalist was quoted in the A.P. saying the journalist was no more of a fan of some of the protesters than he was of America and Bush. "He hates the American physical occupation as much as he hates the Iranian moral occupation," said his brother - himself a Shia according to the BBC.

See the video of the incident along with an interesting column by former U.S. Marine Tim King in the Salem-News here. Mr. King makes several salient points including, "it is important to note that in spite of the number of Western media reports lauding the success of the military conflict, most Iraqi people do not see it that way. Most believe that their nation was functional and while seriously flawed, they were able to live for the most part, an average day-to-day life before U.S. intervention.

Since the arrival of U.S. forces, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi people have died and a large percentage of those who fight against U.S. and Coalition forces are not people who would have been considered terrorists prior to the current war there.

Most people in Iraq feel the United States has done them no favor in invading and occupying their country. Some, particularly those who work for the U.S. government, have a different view and strongly support the U.S. occupation. These citizens however will likely be in danger at some time in the future as a result of that support."

Elsewhere the leader of the Liberal Democrat party in England Nick Clegg said, "There must be a fully independent public inquiry...The death and injury of hundreds of British troops and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians in this futile war cannot simply be swept under the carpet."

Incidentally, two of the countries King George the II and the evil Dick proclaimed as knock on benefits for the United States in the "War on Terror" were in the news this week. Libya refused to vote, abstaining in the United Nations Security Council, when a resolution urging Israel and Palestine to make peace and calling the peace process "irreversible" came up for a vote. Lebanon took delivery of 10 free upgraded
MiG-29 fighter jets from Russia. Useful. Real useful, big victories, King George, Dick, you two and your erstwhile allies are really aiding the cause of peace.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Grist for the mill

Some links to things we have been following, reading on, or just happened across recently...

Custom Made Cop Cars
Read here about the E7 from Carbon Motors. The first custom made for the cops, cop car. No modified, retrofitted Crown Victorias, Tauruses or Impalas here, no Mustangs either, this baby has more in common with the recently revived Knight Rider car or the Batmobile. As the company's CEO says, "You would never send a pickup truck to go put out a fire. Why would you send a family sedan to go take care of a homeland-security issue?"

Bill Richardson facing objections
High profile Chinese-American activists are opposing President-elect Barack Obama's nomination of Bill Richardson as Commerce Secretary. Richardson was famously involved during his tenure as Bill Clinton's Energy Secretary with the high profile spying case against Taiwanese-American Wen Ho Lee. Lee worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory and was investigated for passing nuclear secrets to China. He always denied the charges, and although the man wouldn't let him off completely, obliging him to plead guilty to one felony count of downloading sensitive material, the presiding judge at his trial said 99 percent of what he was accused of passing was in the public domain. Richardson led what felt like a witch hunt at the time. He fired Lee and was the first to publicly name Lee as being under suspicion of espionage. Richardson has, "acknowledged the government made "some mistakes" in the Lee case," read more here in the San Jose Mercury News, incidentally a brilliant newspaper.

Get your surgery done in India
This one we saw in the New York Time's Health section a while back, talk about globalization. The health insurance company Wellpoint is trying out a pilot project at Serigraph, a huge printing company in Wisconsin. The program offers insured members the option of flying to India for elective surgery, with no out-of-pocket medical costs and free travel for both the patient and a plus one. Serigraph also has offices in India and the Times says, many of its employees are familiar with India. It quotes Dr. Razia Hashmi, chief medical officer for national accounts for Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, which is affiliated with Wellpoint, "Knee surgery that costs $70,000 to $80,000 in the United States can be performed in India for $8,000 to $10,000, including follow-up care and rehabilitation. The quality is comparable to care provided in the United States, Dr. Hashmi said. All the physicians speak English, and patients can share their medical records and consult with a surgeon in India before making the trip." Read the original article here.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Athens riots

Picture from NY Times

Here at the Clarion Content we have been ignoring the riots in Athens, and other parts of Greece for days. By choice. A cop shoots a rich kid and they riot? How un-American! Why not just sue? In America when a poor kid gets shot there might be riots, but a rich kid? How would his friends find out, by checking their Facebooks? What a way to start a riot...

But, folks keep emailing us about the riots. Maybe it is the concurrence with the financial crisis that has people so geeked up about it? We didn't hear anything last year when the youths of Paris burned many parked cars, and shot at the police, among other things, after two teens were killed fleeing the cops. Is it 1848 all over again?(better) Or 1968?(worse)

We did read today that sympathy protests were planned in Moscow and Madrid. Anything come of it? Anyone think anything is likely to come of it? Greece has a long tradition of mayhem in the street, in Europe, it is maybe second only to France. According to the Times of London, "there were 902 demonstrations in Athens last year that closed the central square at a cost to the economy of some £1.3 billion."

Disorderly whodunit

As loyal readers of the Clarion Content's politics and policy diatribes know, we are quick to point out the flaws and faults of the police and the American criminal justice system. We concede, however, that we fear that America and the world are not yet ready for an Eden-like state, sans police. We have to work beyond the dog eat dog capitalist paradigm first.

There was another reminder of that this week on the LA freeways. A 25-year-old Los Angeles man was critically wounded while driving a new silver Bentley Continental on southbound U.S. Highway 101 at around 3.30am. Police describe the vehicle valued at approximately $100,000 as riddled with bullet holes. It had crashed into a median. The driver was found unresponsive and slumped over the wheel. There were no witnesses. Police closed the freeway for more than ten hours to investigate causing a classic, massive LA traffic jam. They did find shell casings on the highway during their investigation.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


As we have warned and warned, and warned again, violence continues in Iraq. American troops can do little to prevent the on-going civil conflict, they can only get caught in the crossfire. It is urgent that President-elect Obama withdraw as soon as possible. Today saw another terrorist incident. Fifty people, so far, were killed by a suicide bomber in a Kirkuk restaurant, thirty more are in critical condition. A Patriotic Union of Kurdistan delegation was meeting tribal leaders from the al-Hawija area council. The area around Kirkuk remains disputed and so violent that no date for elections has been set. Many children and innocent by-standers were among the casualties.

Whatever becomes of the Iraqi state, its successors will have an excellent case for demanding reparations from the United States of America and its allies.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

New York cops busted

It is all too soon for the Clarion Content to want to write a follow-up to our piece entitled "Trust the Police." (Link to it here.) Yet today we read of the ugly story surrounding the arrests of three New York City cops by Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes. One officer was charged with aggravated sexual abuse and faces up to 25 years prison if convicted. The other two officers were charged with trying to cover it up.

The allegations against the cops sound awful. They chased a young man whom they thought they saw smoking a joint into a subway station, handcuffed him and sodomized him with a police baton. Then they tried to cover it up, telling him if he "reported the circumstances to anyone that he would be arrested and charged with a felony."

Bad stuff. Fortunately, after weeks of stone walling one cop broke what is sometimes called the Blue Wall of silence. Courageous NYPD transit Officer Kevin Maloney testified before a grand jury against his fellow officers. The victim's screams were heard by several bystanders.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Caroline Kennedy in the Senate

- Kennedy today

New York Governor James Patterson, renown for keeping his own counsel, is soon to make an appointment to succeed Hillary Clinton as the junior Senator from New York. Whomever assumes the seat will have to run in a special election in 2010 and again for a full six year term in 2012. That is not putting off the interested politicians, read here a piece from a Washington Post blog handicapping the contenders... comprehensively right down to former governor Eliot Spitzer at a 1,000,000 to 1.

The speculation hadn't caught the Clarion Content's interest until we heard there was serious talk about Caroline Kennedy. The possibilities became more serious when Robert F. Kennedy Jr., announced he was not interested in the position, sidestepping any family competition. There is much historical brouhaha surrounding former President John F. Kennedy's only surviving child. The seat in question was once held by her Uncle Robert F. Kennedy. She has never held elective office. She is considered tightly connected to President-elect Obama having worked behind the scenes on his Vice-Presidential selection committee. She is known as an author and an attorney.

The Clarion Content confidently predicts that women will outnumber men in the United States Senate by 2036. The millennium of women is ending its 9th year. This election season, Hillary Clinton was another harbinger on the one side, as was Sarah Palin on the other. The Clarion Content believes they were duly rewarded for their comparative merits.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Cluster Bombs

One of the very first posts on this Politics & Policy page after the Clarion Content was split into subsections was entitled "On the wrong side again." It detailed how the Bush II administration had America refusing to sign a treaty banning the use of cluster bombs. Cluster bombs are canisters packed with small bombs, called bomblets that spread over a large area when a canister is dropped from a plane or fired from the ground. A percentage off the bomblets often go unexploded only later to cause awful injuries to innocent civilians. The Clarion Content noted that China, Russia, Israel, India and Pakistan also opposed the treaty. It was little noticed and not mentioned that America's imperial governor in Afghanistan had their apparatus of state opposed the the cluster bomb treaty, as well.

It is all but inconceivable that Afghanistan could oppose a cluster bomb treaty. The Russians made extensive use of them in their failed conquest of the territory of the Afghan state, circa 1978-1989. They wounded and maimed thousands of Afghans, many of whom were civilians and children. Last week, hours before the treaty signing ceremony, the Afghan government of Hamad Karzai reversed course. The New York Times speculated that the shift in position reflected the waning influence of the Bush II administration in Afghanistan, in the failed president's final weeks as a lame duck. The Times said the announcement was unexpected in Oslo and, "A group of Afghan survivors of cluster bombs, most of them in wheelchairs or on crutches, burst into tears when they heard [it.]"

Hopefully, President-elect Obama will recognize that cluster bombs, like land mines are nefarious weapons designed to punish an enemy's non-combatant civilians. They are not a weapon America needs in its arsenal.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

It's A New Day

Follow this link to a neat new Obama related ditty, "It's A New Day" by will.i.am. The song is well constructed, the video is even better.

This link is to eleven interesting reactions to Obama's election, published in Seattle's The Stranger, including why it is now weird to wear a shirt with Obama's mug on it.

Special thanks to the Durhamanians who sent this stuff our way.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Iraq, where there is smoke

There is fire. Last week the Clarion Content editorial staff took a hiatus for the Thanksgiving holiday. Many of us took the opportunity to spend time with our families. Some of us were subjected to rants and raves from ardent Bush II supporters about the election. One such rant was the continuing fiction that things in Iraq are all but peaceable. As the horrors of Mumbai sadly blew Iraq off the front pages, the Bush II automons took that as reason to claim all was well in Iraq. After all when was the last time, more than a 100 people had been killed on a single day in Iraq. Orwellian double speak, underreporting in the mainstream media and a mentality of hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil have seeped into the public consciousness. We fear it could be infecting President-elect Obama who is rapidly backpedaling away from his promise to withdraw the troops from Iraq in less than sixteen months, who has kept on King George the II's Secretary of Defense, who has offered the Secretary of State to the notoriously pro-war Senator Clinton.

Of course, no sooner had we returned to work, a mere one day after the Mumbai attacks, there was an outbreak of violence in Iraq big enough to be noticed by the mainstream Western media. Detailed research will alert the studious to the fact that Iraq is in a steady state of civil war, on-going violence, Low-Intensity conflict. Pick your verbiage du jour. December started off with a bang, thirty-four people were killed in bombings in Baghdad and Mosul today according to the LA Times. It also reported that 339 people were killed in the on-going violence in the month of November, after 278 had been killed in October. This supposedly improved situation in recent months is still on pace to see near 7,500 deaths per annum. Non-lethal casualties run at ten times this amount.

See peace in 7,500 deaths and 75,000 wounded per year? Aren't you glad America invaded and removed that brutal dictator and his weapons of mass destruction? We bet the average Iraqi is real thankful for America this holiday season and what we have wrought on their state.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Waxman takes over

The Clarion Content has long considered Representative Henry Waxman the kind of self-aggrandizing, self-promoting, a-hole Congressperson that makes us loathe the institution. The guy never met a hearing or a publicity opportunity that he didn't like, and didn't attempt to exploit to the fullest. (steroids, tobacco, the NFL Network...) He has long been in bed with the trial lawyers and promoters of the exploitation of tort law and the lawsuit. Waxman first came to our notice when he sided with the wealthy homeowners in his district helping squash the expansion of the Los Angeles city subway system. His efforts were ground in ugly racial politics rooted in his constituents' fear that expanding the subway might allow minorities easier access to their neighborhoods.

But while Congressman Waxman has been an awful grandstander, he has been on the right side of several big issues in the last few decades. (He has served in Congress for 33 years.) He was on the right side of defending and expanding the Clean Air Act more than once. He was one of the first to press evil Vice-President Dick Cheney to name the names of those advising him privately on energy policy. Waxman was also behind the official condemnation of the Bush II administration for the prejudicing and politicization of governmental science it sponsored. Congressman Waxman also help lead the push for the expansion of the availability of cheap generic drugs in America.

He is in the news, and the Clarion Content is forced to celebrate his triumph as the lesser of two evils. In a rare break from the seniority rules method of selecting Congressional Committee Chairpersons, Congressman Waxman wrested the chairmanship of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee from Michigan Representative John D. Dingell this week. Congressman Dingell, an a-hole of the first order, is literally married to a General Motors senior executive and former lobbyist, who is descended from the founding family of G.M. No surprise then, Dingell has been a total shill for the automakers for his whole career. He has on more than one occasion helped them fight off environmental regulation. He supported them strongly in their fight to stop gas mileage standards from being raised and to keep SUVs considered as trucks instead of cars. (Again, in an effort to ward off being forced to accept higher fuel efficiency standards.) He has also fought against demands that Detroit raise vehicle safety standards.

The Clarion Content is happy to see Dingell's head roll. He should retire. He has been in Congress far too long, like so many of these octogenarian power mongers. Dingell is as bad as any, having inherited his seat when his father died in office in 1955.

The Clarion's hope as that as the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Chairperson, Congressman Waxman, presses United States automakers to join the 21st century environmentally.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Trust the police?

The Clarion Content has long been wary of the police. It is our great worry that rather than 'protect and serve', the attitudes of the American police forces, local and national, are now shaped by a mentality of 'enforce.' This get the bad guys before they get you, while seemingly a logical response to what is seen as the adversarial nature of police work, catches far too many innocents in the line of fire. It is rooted in the dog eat dog capitalist mentality of zero sum thinking, 'Your loss is my gain.' Police work does not have to be adversarial or a zero sum game. That mantra runs in contravention to the communitarian nature of 'Broken Windows,' style of policing. Broken Windows theory argues that the police are far more successful in preventing crime when the community perceives that they and the cops are working together.

Capitalism has other insidious effects on the cops, like teachers, most law enforcement officials are poorly paid relative to the society around them. Dentists, veterinarians, athletes and actors routinely make more than the police, to cite but a few examples. Worse, dealers of illegal narcotics also tend to make more money than them, leaving the cops very vulnerable to temptation.

Here are links to just a few of the negative policing stories the Clarion Content has come across in the last few weeks.

Here is a link to a story about a highly decorated Homeland Security officer, who was recently arrested in connection with possession and intent to distribute crystal methamphetamine.

Here is a link to a story in the LA Times describing years of corruption and incompetence in the LAPD's fingerprint lab. This diabolical and slipshod work has resulted in numerous convictions of the wrongly accused, as well as the inability to prosecute cases where the evidence has disappeared or been mishandled.

This is a link to a very sad story, where an Anaheim police officer in hot pursuit of four burglars shot and killed an innocent bystander at his own front door. The man killed was a twenty year-old newlywed who was roused by the possible intrusion into his home. The cops have admitted their tragic mistake.

This is a link to NPR story, passed to us by one of our local Durham readers, detailing the potential corruption that flows from seizing the property and possessions of dealers of illegal narcotics.

This is a link to a snippet which describes two seeming unconnected northern California police officers arrested in Tijuana, Mexico. Reading between the lines surely makes one think something larger might have been afoot.

This is a link to another story from Tijuana, Mexico, which is on the front lines of the drug war. More than 300 people have been killed in the city since September as part of the on-going violent struggle. The Mexican authorities have dismissed 500 cops as part of an investigation into police corruption. However, before you going looking down your nose at Mexico, dear reader, please note that a veteran police official and U.S. favorite was arrested as well, Javier Cardenas, the Mexican liaison to U.S. federal and local law enforcement agencies. Also arrested was the leading international cop in the area, Interpol's Ricardo Gutierrez Vargas.

Yet for all the populist criticism and questioning the police face, the Clarion Content is by no means certain that the world is ready for a police-less state. The very nature of capitalism makes it untenable. This is a link to a story about eleven different likely gang related homicides that have occurred in LA County in the last four days. Things may be screwed up for the cops, but do they mirror what is fucked up in modern society? Maybe the blame lies with us and the self-contradictory system we try jam them into?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Couldn't be happier for Ted Stevens

Here at the Clarion Content we couldn't be happier than to see the door of the Senate hit Ted Stevens on his octogenarian butt. Former Senator Stevens was recently convicted of seven felonies. The Clarion Content has no idea whether Senator Stevens was actually guilty of the bribery he was accused of committing. The trial turned on a he said vs. he said thing. However, the Clarion Content has no doubt Senator Stevens stank to high heaven. He was the man behind the Bridge to Nowhere. The biggest accomplishment that news organs can find to tout about him in defeat is, "he is esteemed for his ability to secure billions of dollars in federal aid for transportation and military projects... more than $9 billion in 2006 alone," according to the Associated Press.

The Clarion Content would love to say, "So long you pork barrel loving, opponent of democracy!"

Unfortunately, we know almost nada about Sen. Stevens opponent, former Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich. We can only hope that he is not a pork barrel loving weasel.

Auto industry bailout follow up

If you read the Clarion Content's screed earlier this week about the auto industry bailout then you will know where we stand. If you didn't, in brief, we are opposed to any further money heading to Detroit's big three automakers, absent it being expressly tied to conversion of their existing product line to hybrid, flex fuel or natural gas vehicles. At the suggestion of one of our local Durhamanian readers, we proposed that the federal government could offer Detroit a subsidy project of converting all the vehicles owned by the federal government to run as hybrids, or on flex fuel and/or natural gas.

This would have the knock-on benefits of vastly reduced oil consumption by the American government, as well as setting up Detroit to head this same direction with consumer vehicles posthaste.

In a New York Times Op-Ed piece contributor Robert Goodman hearkens back to the brilliant Stuart Udall, Kennedy's Interior Secretary and a visionary ecological thinker. Udall, ahead of his time, pressed for the federal government to invest in high speed trains and other forms of public transit. The Clarion Content certainly considers this a far more worthy way to go with the federal bailout money than to hand it over to a backward thinking Detroit that has spent the last twenty years pushing SUVs and pick-up trucks on the American consumer, while fighting tooth and nail against raising gas mileage standards.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Don't mess with Her Majesty's Navy

Royal Navy Type 22 frigate

Don't mess with Her Majesty's Navy. You'd think pirates worldwide might have learned this lesson a couple hundred years ago. Perhaps they have forgotten since? Yesterday the Brits on the Royal Navy Type 22 frigate, HMS Cumberland issued a reminder to a group of Somali based pirates attempting to hijack a cargo ship in the Gulf of Aden 60 miles south of the Yemeni coast. The pirates seeing the Brits approaching in two Royal Navy assault craft made the mistake of opening fire instead of turning tail and running. Whoops! Bad idea. In the ensuing firefight three pirates were killed, no British Marines were even wounded, and the remainder of the pirates lost the will to fight quickly and surrendered quietly. The Royal Navy described the boarding of the Yemeni flagged fishing dhow as "compliant".

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Fun Politics links

The Clarion Content has a couple of quick, fun politics links for you.

The first one is to a quiz about the Secret Services codenames for various presidents, presidential spouses and children. It starts with President-elect Obama's newly assigned codename and gets trickier from there. Anybody who scores over 11 out of 16 questions, feel free to let us know with a comment. It is a toughie!

The second link is to a fascinating photo essay in the New York Daily News. These photos are from President-elect Obama's youth, many of them the Clarion Content had not seen before now. Intriguing, beguiling stuff.

One last chance to screw the Earth

Mountain top coal mining (note the huge swath of
gray, dead area in the middle of otherwise green forest lands

One last chance to do something bad to the Earth or its inhabitants, and well you know the George the II is going to dive in head first. The lame duck and widely loathed Bush the II administration moved this week to destroy the environment any way it can before it leaves office.

Bush II officials are going to relax environmental-protection rules on power plants near national parks and on uranium mining near the Grand Canyon. Once again Bush-Cheney will put the interest of big energy companies ahead of our (collective) ecology. Once again, sustainability is pushed to the rear in a greedy rush for profits. This is only further underlined by the limited time the President has remaining in office and the near certainty that an Obama administration will reverse these rules. The evil Bush the II cares not that the rules will be reversed as soon as he leaves office. "Mine now!" "Degrade the environment as fast as you can," is his administration's mantra.

How long before he and Dick "Friend of Satan" Cheney are collecting fat fees for serving on the boards of multi-national energy companies? Weeks after leaving office? Days?

Bush the II also plans to make it easier to wreak environmental havoc in the Appalachians by removing limits on mountaintop-removal coal mining.

He is also moving to relax limits placed on development by the Endangered Species Act.

There is warm cell in hell waiting for this demon! The sooner he is inhabiting it, the better.

Uranium mining near the Grand Canyon, in addition to scarring one of America's most beautiful national landmarks, raises the risk of uranium leaching into the Colorado River, a source of drinking water and crop irrigation supply for several western states.

Mountain top removal coal mining devastates whole ecosystems. It has been called mountain top strip mining. The Bush the II administration wants to relax rules that prohibit mining companies from dumping mining waste over the top of streams, because ruining the top of the mountain isn't enough when you can kill that what lives in the valleys, too.

Special thanks to one of our Los Angeles area readers for being the first to bring this issue to the Clarion Content's attention.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Obama perspective

Local NC free sheet the Independent Weekly featured a couple of Obama election reaction quotes that reiterated why the Clarion Content endorsed Obama.

The first is from a North Carolina delegate to the Democratic National Convention. His name is John Verdejo. He is a twenty-nine year-old, Raleigh native, from a single parent family. He was raised in the South Bronx until he was fourteen. Reacting to Obama's election Verdejo said, "[it] is going to force us to look at ourselves. We can no longer use the excuse of "because of my skin color, I can't be anything I want to be.""

The second is from a local mother of two girls, one only eight months old. The mom's name is Stacy Scott. She was quoted at a Durham, NC Obama victory rally that she attended with both kids as saying, "If he [Obama] wins tonight, if he can do this, then I can tell my kids tomorrow that anything is possible."

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Secret order overblown?

The New York Times has gotten a passel of current and former military and intelligence officials, as well as senior Bush administration policymakers, to admit to the existence of a classified 2004 order that gave the military new authority to attack what it viewed as Al-Qaeda resources anywhere in the world. The Times called this a, "sweeping mandate to conduct operations in countries not at war with the United States."

True, but newsworthy? The Clarion Content does not quite get the NY Times hysteria. Didn't we already know this was King George the II's policy and procedure? The hyperbole seems even more overblown when one reads later in the article that the authorization did not include Iran. These types of operations have been the CIA's bailiwick for years, they certainly felt no need to notify Congress or the local United States ambassador in advance. This is the logical extension of what happens when Congress extra-constitutionally cedes the power to declare war. The President then feels whole comfortable to use the military when and where he pleases. The Times notes this was especially true of the vile, dictatorial, Bush the II administration, "Bush administration officials have shown a determination to operate under an expansive definition of self-defense that provides a legal rationale for strikes on militant targets in sovereign nations without those countries’ consent."

This noxious policy must go. The Clarion Content was dismayed to hear President-elect Obama say back in the debates that he supported unilateral strikes into Pakistan. The Bush the II doctrine of justifiable preemptive strikes into countries America is not at war with must go. It is in contravention of the very notions that America was founded on, the inalienable rights to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. Every time America chalks another innocent civilian death up to collateral damage we spit up on those principles.


It looks like our guy, Tom Perriello squeaked out a win in the 5th Congressional District of Virginia by a nose over the distasteful incumbent Virgil Goode. When we say squeaked, we are not exaggerating, the race took several days to be called and still likely faces a recount as Congressman Perriello won by a slim 745 vote margin out of the over 360,000 votes cast. (Another reminder every vote counts!)

Congressman Perriello will attend freshman orientation for new members of Congress next week in Washington. The Clarion Content is confident we will hear of this man again, we expect great things.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Ever offensive

Ever offensive, Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, patronizingly referred to President-elect Obama as "young, handsome and even tanned." He probably thought he could get away with it because he was in Russia after meeting with Vladimir Putin. Berlusconi has a long checkered history of inappropriate remarks, usually more likely to be sexist than racist, but prejudice is as prejudice does. Sadly, Obama will probably have to face down this kind of discrimination more than once in an anti-African American Europe. Italy and its Prime Minister may be an extreme example, but surely they are not alone. In addition to his morally questionable mindset, Berlusconi has a long history of shady financial deals (and possible organized crime links) in his past.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Once in a generation

Here is a link to a very interesting article in the Charlotte Observer by Steven Thomma of McClatchy Newspapers. It does the best job we have seen yet of summarizing an argument that is being made in lots of different quarters, which is that this is a once in a generation election. Thomma quotes long time pollster and not entirely unbiased political analyst John Zogby to great effect, "This is an or-else election. We're headed toward a rare period of real reform. We've only had a total of seven years of major reform in the last 100 years: 1913-1914 under Woodrow Wilson, 1933-1936 under Franklin Roosevelt and 1964-1965 under Lyndon Johnson."

We also enjoyed this piece in the San Francisco Chronicle by former San Francisco Mayor and Speaker of the California State Assembly Willie Brown, comparing the way of Jackie Robinson and that of Barack Obama.

On-going violence

Although it gets limited play in the United States media Iraqi on Iraqi violence is still a daily occurrence. Who is to say when a low intensity conflict becomes a revolution or an out and out civil war?

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Hockey Mama for Obama

Campaigning bites

Campaigning bites! So says Dallas Democratic judicial candidate Ken Molberg who was attacked and bitten multiple times by a pit bull yesterday while campaigning door to door in southeastern Dallas. Mr. Molberg was out walking the campaign trail on a Saturday morning with Steve Tillery, executive director of the Dallas County Democratic Party, when the dog charged at him out of an open door. Reportedly Mr. Molberg tried to ward off the animal and then leaped on top of a car before the dog's owner got the pit bull under control. The Dallas Morning News reports, "Mr. Molberg was taken to Baylor Medical Center to receive stitches for bite wounds to his upper leg and groin area." Brutal stuff.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Vote PSA

The Clarion Content recommends you vote and be grateful you don't live somewhere you can't. There are still lots of countries where dissent can get you killed.

Early Obama

Here is a link to some interesting interview footage of Obama before he was a United States Senator.

Thanks to the New York Times.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Wider War

Despite the very limited play it is getting in the mainstream United States media, Iraq continues the downward spiral into wider regional war. Turkish troops and warplanes regularly engage Kurdish troops inside the borders of Iraq. Of course, Iraq central government is both powerless to stop it and ill-incentivized to defend Kurdish citizens of the state. As the Clarion Content has repeatedly warned the "state" of Iraq is an illusion created in the mind of a Western mapmaker. A dictator like Saddam Hussein might have been able to hold it together by brute force, secret police, torture and intimidation, but those days are over. The "state" is disintegrating.

A little campaign that could...

Tom Perriello

Tom Perriello is turning heads in the 5th Congressional District of Virginia. He is running against incumbent Virgil Goode in what was a Democratic seat from 1889 until Goode changed parties in office in 2000. Word is internal campaign polling indicates Perriello has pulled within single digits of Representative Goode. This is significant because Goode has won re-election five times with times with no less than 59% of the vote.

The Clarion Content is drawn to this race because although Goode claims to have Libertarian philosophies, we are strongly opposed to several of his positions. Goode is against equal rights for homosexuals, strongly against abortion rights and anti-immigrant. Of course, the Clarion is predisposed at least slightly against all Congressional incumbent candidates. But Representative Goode has had a whiff of scandal around him too, he was connected to the same company California congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham was convicted of being bribed by. No charges were ever brought against Goode. The Clarion Content further opposes Goode because he voted for the Iraq War, and has made comments that are at minimum less than sensitive to Islamic sensibilities, (if not downright prejudiced.)

Tom Perriello on the other hand has a fascinating and atypical background. He received a law degree from Yale and then moved to Africa to actively live out his ethic of service. He worked in Sudan (including Dafur,) Liberia, Sierra Leone and also separately in Afghanistan. Perriello supports the same kind of mindset that the Clarion has been touting as central to our support of Barack Obama; from Perriello's website, "[he] believes that America must reverse the erosion of our commitment to the common good and restore our understanding that our nation rises or falls together."

It is one thing to say such things, it is a far different cry to attempt to live them out through service. One reason the Clarion Content was drawn to Senator Obama was his days as a community organizer in a tough place. One reason the Clarion was drawn to Tom Perriello was his commitment to serving the common good. The Clarion is also cognizant, and frankly appreciative, that neither man feels that he has to deny his faith to participate in politics. America needs more leaders who unhesitatingly point out our obligation to do some good in this world.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Al Qaeda endorses McCain

The Clarion Content has been following presidential endorsements for the past several weeks, from our own, to American newspapers, to pop culture You Tube endorsements. Unfortunately, it is our duty to report Senator John McCain's campaign received an endorsement that they certainly didn't want, Al-Qaeda.

It only figures, Senator Obama's plan to withdraw from Iraq, his willingness to negotiate with America's enemies and his long term vision are all bad for Al-Qaeda recruiting. Al-Qaeda would much prefer to have the man who envisions American troops in Iraq for 100 years win power. Al-Qaeda prefers the man who like George Bush the II views the world through the prism of an endless conflict between good and evil. Al-Qaeda prefers the man who sees "Islamo-fascism" behind every separatist and nationalist struggle.

Senator McCain, we believe that this was one endorsement that you did not want. However, it should serve as a reminder to all American's that seeing the world through a lens of "Us vs. Them" in a zero-sum death struggle is the vision of its greatest enemy. America should not adopt said vision as their own crusade. It is inherently self-annihilating. Any Americans old enough to have lived through the Cold War should be able to recite a litany of America mistakes; ranging from tragic to disastrous, that came about because of the narrow focus that saw every separatist and nationalist struggle as a battle between communism and democracy.

Saturday, October 25, 2008


The Clarion Content posted our endorsement of Senator Barack Obama for President of the United States on the main page this week.

We thought perhaps you might like to read some other newspapers' presidential endorsements, follow this link to an AP story excepting several.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Still smoldering

Yesterday saw one of the type of clashes that are likely to be increasingly common in Iraq as the United States draws down its troop presence and the survivors of the U.S. invasion fight over the spoils. The clash in question occurred in the recently quiet, supposedly, "Mission Accomplished" Anbar province. Xinhua reports fifteen folks were killed and forty wounded in clashes that lasted throughout the night and on into the next day. Speculation about a motive centered around disputed property. In a discouraging, but again not surprising note, Xinhua said, "Local security forces did not step in the fight, but had been put on alert."

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


The Clarion Content doesn't believe the hype. The news media industry has been all aflutter the last day or two claiming that the polls show a tightening presidential race between Senators John McCain and Barack Obama. The Clarion reminds you that this industry has a huge financial stake in hyping the competitiveness of the presidential race as much as possible.

Only one poll counts, the one election officials have to tally on the evening of November 4th. (Hopefully using the actual votes cast.)

Here is some of the news media industry's latest poll hot air.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Military violence

United States Senator Ken Salazar of Colorado has asked Army Secretary Pete Geren to review a slew of violent incidents committed by soldiers stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado. Because the Clarion's home offices are located not so far down the road from Fort Bragg, North Carolina in Fayetteville, this is an issue that has been on our radar. Like what the Senator has noticed in Colorado, North Carolina has seen a spate of violent incidents associated with Fort Bragg soldiers, many of them tragically related to domestic abuse of spouses and kids.

The Senator's request came to our attention courtesy of the Denver Post, which noted too, that "16 Fort Carson soldiers have committed suicide since the beginning of the Iraq war." An awful statistic that has sadly been far too common near North Carolina's military installations as well.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Obama, the white male vote, and the mandate

You may recall that last week on the main Clarion Content page we were discussing the virulent anger of some McCain-Palin supporters, and how race would factor in the presidential race. In a nuanced piece in this week's New York Times Magazine, Matt Bai addresses the issue head-on in an article titled, "Will Gun-Toting, Churchgoing White Guys Pull the Lever for Barack Obama?" He pulls out important threads, reminding readers that a very white Senator John Kerry lost the white male vote nationally by 25% according to exit polling. He notes that, "In three states — Texas, Indiana and North Carolina — more people voted in Democratic primaries this year than voted for Kerry on Election Day in 2004."

He concedes that, of course, Obama's priority is winning the election. However he carefully follows and artfully interviews the candidate on the issue of an election mandate. No more of Bush II's arrogant, divisive stance that, "50% plus exactly one vote empowers me to do whatever I want." He says that, "Obama’s central argument about American politics [is] this notion that the cultural fault line in the electorate can somehow be bridged by a generational change in leadership." Bai follows that up quoting Obama to the effect that this cultural fault line is exploited by a relentlessly profit driven media, "...there is an entire industry now, an entire apparatus, designed to perpetuate this cultural schism, and it’s powerful." Bai reminds us that this was an issue Obama wanted to fight as far back as the 2004 convention speech that introduced him to many folks, "when he talked about worshiping 'an awesome God in the blue states' and having 'gay friends in the red states.'" Obama is quoted saying that the cultural divide, the surrounding anger, and partisanship has been the impassable blockade that has prevented action on so many big issues, "if voters are similarly polarized and if they’re seeing two different realities, a Sean Hannity reality and a Keith Olbermann reality, then we’re not going to be able to get done the work we need to get done.” The Clarion agrees.

No matter who wins there are issues that have to be addressed. Among them: immigration, (which neither candidate is talking about,) the coming retirement of the boomers and the strain on Social Security and Medicare, (which McCain at least mentioned in the last debate) and farm subsidies and their brutal effect on the world's poorest. Some issues will always be partisan, some people will always disagree with any course of policy. The Clarion's hope, whichever candidate wins on November 4th, is that America will get a leader who wants to unite people, to raise them up and bring out their best selves, not a leader who uses his election to divide people and bring out their worst, smallest selves.

Let us abandon the myopia of, "I win, therefore, you lose."

Una canción de Obama

One of the best little Obama ditties we've heard yet...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Political time allocation

NBC News analyst Chuck Todd made a fascinating point tonight just before his network signed off of their presidential debate coverage. He said something to the effect of what a whirlwind the campaign had felt like to him. It has only been sixty or so days since the end of the two major party's conventions. He then contrasted that with the eighteen months spent on the primary campaigns and sighed, "What a waste."

The Clarion couldn't agree more. How could the system be gamed so that we saw eighteen months of Hillary Clinton v. Barack Obama and nearly as much of Mitt Romney v. John McCain? Tonight Clinton and Romney were their party's seconds. They were offered and accepted invitations to speak on NBC News coverage after the debate. They were both solidly on message. But to Chuck Todd's point the country spent eighteen long months dissecting Senator Clinton v. Senator Obama and tonight, two weeks before the big decision, she merited a three minute interview, likewise for Governor Romney. There were months of coverage for a person who tonight was a non-entity, whereas the country has known who the full tickets would be for the major parties for barely two months. Obama and Clinton debated twenty plus times, McCain and Romney debated sixteen times, Obama and McCain three times.

This foolish primary system has to be fixed.

Hayden Panettiere does a McCain ad, sorta...

See more Hayden Panettiere videos at Funny or Die

Unfair, but not unfunny.

Obama and new approaches

Ah, would that this post were about a brilliant new approach to politics, unfortunately it is about a savvy new approach to political advertising. Senator Barack Obama's campaign has become the first presidential campaign to place ads in video games. ("No McCainiacs, he didn't put them in Grand Theft Auto IV.")

The ads are on virtual billboards and other background items within X-Box Live, internet enabled and connected versions of games. In Obama's case, ads will run in games by the popular EA Sports company, including Madden '09. The goal, according to the EA sports folks, is to reach the coveted 18-34 male demographic.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

McCain supporters

While this is not a scientific sampling of McCain supporters and the video's linked below are taken by a bias observer, these folks are why the Clarion is worried about the Bradley effect in the polls and Obama. The Bradley effect named after former Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley said that polls for minority candidates consistently overstated their support because what voters did and said varied based on privacy. Today the Clarion heard former (suspect) Virginia Governor, and current Richmond Mayor, Douglas Wilder reference the same in his experience with the polls and the results. He warned the Obama campaign not to be complacent.

See the McCain rallies that have us worried.

PA video

Ohio video I

Ohio video II

Friday, October 10, 2008

Paris Hilton's campaign rolls on

Paris Hilton's campaign for the fake presidency continues.

See more Paris Hilton videos at Funny or Die

See her first campaign video here.

Word is Paris's potential cabinet might include Michael Kors, Kanye West, Diane von Furstenberg, Naughty by Nature, Stephen Hawking, Madonna, Karl Lagerfeld, and, of course, Tinkerbell [her dog].

Go Sheriff Dart!

Cook County Sheriff, Tom Dart of Illinois, has announced that his office will no longer evict people in his jurisdiction on the basis of foreclosure orders. Now that is sweet civil disobedience!!! Sheriff Dart has found that far too often his office is evicting renters from properties owned by investors. These renters all too often are up to date, fully paid on their rent, yet they are being booted into the street with no notice because their landlords (property owners) have failed to pay the banks and mortgage companies. (Note: Evictions for non-payment of rent will continue.)

One courageous American official has said, "No more. Not on my watch." Sheriff Dart has taken a stand against what for far too long has been the wrong attitude by American civil servants, especially cops; the mantra of 'Protect and Serve' has morphed beneath our noses to 'Enforce.' The people pay the salaries of all government officials, they serve at our pleasure. We at the Clarion applaud Sheriff Dart for his brave act of civil disobedience. Of course, the mortgage companies are suing him and his office. (Somehow after all this they still have the money for fancy lawyers to sue!?!)

Protest Song

A strong video questioning the Bush II administration.


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Stabbing the American economy in the back


"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door."

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement thugs (ICE--formerly the INS) continues to stab the American economy in the back by arresting hardworking aspiring United States citizens and extra-legally shipping them out of the country with no thought to their or America's well-being.

They continue to attack American enterprises and attempt to put them out of business by arresting their employees and deporting them for what amounts to failure to properly fill out paperwork. This kind of monumental stupidity would be more widely recognized as such, if the Federal Government hadn't already adopted some of the worst tactics of the Soviet Union by imprisoning people beyond the reach of the law, suspending the writ of Habeas Corpus and torturing them in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Compared to that, the ICE showing up at folks' workplaces demanding to see their papers, and locking them up when they can't produce them, as a prelude to shipping them home, hardly sounds extraordinary. Imagine where America might be if we had pursued these kind of anti-immigrant tactics in the late 19th, early 20th century.

Read here about another such raid in Greenville, South Carolina yesterday.

Monday, October 6, 2008

A tie

The Clarion had discussed previously that there is some possibility of tie in the Electoral College vote in the United States Presidential election. Here Reuters breaks it down in detail and discusses what might then happen.

The Clarion recalled that the Constitution called for the House of Representatives to vote on who becomes president, but forgot that the vote was one state delegation, one vote, not one representative, one vote (50 votes total, not 535.) Currently the Democrats have a majority of the representatives in 27 states, the Republicans in 21 states. Of course, the elections could change that and there would be all sorts of other factors in play. For instance, what if your state has a majority of one party's people as Congressional Representatives, but the state voted for the other party's presidential candidate on election night, what then? What if your state has an equal number of representatives on each side of the aisle? Our sources say that a hung House of Representatives vote would result in the Senate's choice for Vice-President becoming the President.


Joe Biden here we come?

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Political Discourse

American political discourse is so fucked up and distorted these days that even the Sports Guy, Bill Simmons writing in ESPN the magazine felt compelled to call us out.

"Of all the things currently wrong with this country—a trillion-dollar war, a flagging real estate market, a crippled stock market, high fuel prices, Lynne Spears, the Jonas Brothers—the fact that nearly everyone with a platform is terrified to say anything might be the most depressing subplot of all. Whatever happened to freedom of speech? Hell, whatever happened to speech?"

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Dateline: Northwest Frontier

Along the northwestern border of Pakistan in the Bajaur region, straddling Afghanistan and Pakistan, at the forefront of the American conflict with the Taliban and the center of the search for Osama bin Laden local tribes have formed a militia army of their own called a Lashkar. This non-aligned local army may prove the most effective force for routing the Taliban. However, these folks, who are fighting on their own land, often against their own cousins and tribes folk have made very clear the non-aligned nature of their force.

The Taliban, NATO and the US “are all equal for us”, said Malik Manasib Khan, the leader of a lashkar, called up to help Pakistan’s army expel the Taliban and anyone else. “We will fight against America until the last soul if they come to our country,” Khan told reporters in Raghagan, 12 kilometres northeast of Khar.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Serious Pirate issues

While the eyes of many newswatchers are on one pirate captured ship, the Russian frigate Neustrashimy, a vessel that has been seized off of the coast of Somalia, that contains scads of small arms, munitions and up to 33 Ukranian tanks, destined for the government of Kenya, the Clarion's veteran pirate watchers have spotted something that appears far more diabolical.

Certainly, it is bad news to hear about the Russian flagged vessel that has been seized, and it is worse news to hear local warlords were doing everything they could to offload the small arms from the ship before it was surround by United States and Russian naval vessels. The Clarion's sources report that another act of piracy may have resulted in the capture of something far more dangerous. Read more here. The speculation raised about the cargo of this other pirate-seized ship ranges from nuclear waste to nerve gas and beyond. All that has been reported so far is that several of the pirates got sick, lost their hair and died within days of seizing this Iranian ship and busting open sealed containers in the cargo hold in an attempt to determine what their booty was. The ship has not been recaptured by authorities, nor have the pirates demands for ransom been met.

Excerpts from Obama's Philadelphia 2008 speech on Race

[the times...]...reflect the complexities of race in this country that we've never really worked through - a part of our union that we have yet to perfect. And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American.

Understanding this reality requires a reminder of how we arrived at this point. As William Faulkner once wrote, "The past isn't dead and buried. In fact, it isn't even past." We do not need to recite here the history of racial injustice in this country. But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the African-American community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.

Segregated schools were, and are, inferior schools; we still haven't fixed them, fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education, and the inferior education they provided, then and now, helps explain the pervasive achievement gap between today's black and white students.

Legalized discrimination - where blacks were prevented, often through violence, from owning property, or loans were not granted to African-American business owners, or black homeowners could not access FHA mortgages, or blacks were excluded from unions, or the police force, or fire departments - meant that black families could not amass any meaningful wealth to bequeath to future generations. That history helps explain the wealth and income gap between black and white, and the concentrated pockets of poverty that persists in so many of today's urban and rural communities.

A lack of economic opportunity among black men, and the shame and frustration that came from not being able to provide for one's family, contributed to the erosion of black families - a problem that welfare policies for many years may have worsened. And the lack of basic services in so many urban black neighborhoods - parks for kids to play in, police walking the beat, regular garbage pick-up and building code enforcement - all helped create a cycle of violence, blight and neglect that continue to haunt us.

This is the reality in which Reverend Wright and other African-Americans of his generation grew up. They came of age in the late fifties and early sixties, a time when segregation was still the law of the land and opportunity was systematically constricted. What's remarkable is not how many failed in the face of discrimination, but rather how many men and women overcame the odds; how many were able to make a way out of no way for those like me who would come after them.

But for all those who scratched and clawed their way to get a piece of the American Dream, there were many who didn't make it - those who were ultimately defeated, in one way or another, by discrimination. That legacy of defeat was passed on to future generations - those young men and increasingly young women who we see standing on street corners or languishing in our prisons, without hope or prospects for the future. Even for those blacks who did make it, questions of race, and racism, continue to define their worldview in fundamental ways. For the men and women of Reverend Wright's generation, the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away; nor has the anger and the bitterness of those years. That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends. But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table. At times, that anger is exploited by politicians, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politician's own failings.

And occasionally it finds voice in the church on Sunday morning, in the pulpit and in the pews. The fact that so many people are surprised to hear that anger in some of Reverend Wright's sermons simply reminds us of the old truism that the most segregated hour in American life occurs on Sunday morning. That anger is not always productive; indeed, all too often it distracts attention from solving real problems; it keeps us from squarely facing our own complicity in our condition, and prevents the African-American community from forging the alliances it needs to bring about real change. But the anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races.

In fact, a similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don't feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience - as far as they're concerned, no one's handed them anything, they've built it from scratch. They've worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they're told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.

Like the anger within the black community, these resentments aren't always expressed in polite company. But they have helped shape the political landscape for at least a generation. Anger over welfare and affirmative action helped forge the Reagan Coalition. Politicians routinely exploited fears of crime for their own electoral ends. Talk show hosts and conservative commentators built entire careers unmasking bogus claims of racism while dismissing legitimate discussions of racial injustice and inequality as mere political correctness or reverse racism.

Just as black anger often proved counterproductive, so have these white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle class squeeze - a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices, and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many. And yet, to wish away the resentments of white Americans, to label them as misguided or even racist, without recognizing they are grounded in legitimate concerns - this too widens the racial divide, and blocks the path to understanding.

This is where we are right now. It's a racial stalemate we've been stuck in for years. Contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, I have never been so naïve as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy - particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own.

But I have asserted a firm conviction - a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people - that working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice is we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Excerpts from Obama's 2004 Speech to the Democratic Convention

On behalf of the great state of Illinois, crossroads of a nation, land of Lincoln, let me express my deep gratitude for the privilege of addressing this convention. Tonight is a particular honor for me because, let's face it, my presence on this stage is pretty unlikely. My father was a foreign student, born and raised in a small village in Kenya. He grew up herding goats, went to school in a tin-roof shack. His father, my grandfather, was a cook, a domestic servant.

But my grandfather had larger dreams for his son. Through hard work and perseverance my father got a scholarship to study in a magical place: America, which stood as a beacon of freedom and opportunity to so many who had come before. While studying here, my father met my mother. She was born in a town on the other side of the world, in Kansas. Her father worked on oil rigs and farms through most of the Depression. The day after Pearl Harbor he signed up for duty, joined Patton's army and marched across Europe. Back home, my grandmother raised their baby and went to work on a bomber assembly line. After the war, they studied on the GI Bill, bought a house through FHA, and moved west in search of opportunity.

And they, too, had big dreams for their daughter, a common dream, born of two continents. My parents shared not only an improbable love; they shared an abiding faith in the possibilities of this nation. They would give me an African name, Barack, or "blessed," believing that in a tolerant America your name is no barrier to success. They imagined me going to the best schools in the land, even though they weren't rich, because in a generous America you don't have to be rich to achieve your potential. They are both passed away now. Yet, I know that, on this night, they look down on me with pride.

I stand here today, grateful for the diversity of my heritage, aware that my parents' dreams live on in my precious daughters. I stand here knowing that my story is part of the larger American story, that I owe a debt to all of those who came before me, and that, in no other country on earth, is my story even possible. Tonight, we gather to affirm the greatness of our nation, not because of the height of our skyscrapers, or the power of our military, or the size of our economy. Our pride is based on a very simple premise, summed up in a declaration made over two hundred years ago, "We hold these truths to he self-evident, that all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights. That among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

That is the true genius of America, a faith in the simple dreams of its people, the insistence on small miracles. That we can tuck in our children at night and know they are fed and clothed and safe from harm. That we can say what we think, write what we think, without hearing a sudden knock on the door. That we can have an idea and start our own business without paying a bribe or hiring somebody's son. That we can participate in the political process without fear of retribution, and that our votes will he counted - or at least, most of the time.

This year, in this election, we are called to reaffirm our values and commitments, to hold them against a hard reality and see how we are measuring up, to the legacy of our forbearers, and the promise of future generations. And fellow Americans - Democrats, Republicans, Independents - I say to you tonight: we have more work to do. More to do for the workers I met in Galesburg, Illinois, who are losing their union jobs at the Maytag plant that's moving to Mexico, and now are having to compete with their own children for jobs that pay seven bucks an hour. More to do for the father I met who was losing his job and choking back tears, wondering how he would pay $4,500 a month for the drugs his son needs without the health benefits he counted on. More to do for the young woman in East St. Louis, and thousands more like her, who has the grades, has the drive, has the will, but doesn't have the money to go to college.

Don't get me wrong. The people I meet in small towns and big cities, in diners and office parks, they don't expect government to solve all their problems. They know they have to work hard to get ahead and they want to. Go into the collar counties around Chicago, and people will tell you they don't want their tax money wasted by a welfare agency or the Pentagon. Go into any inner city neighborhood, and folks will tell you that government alone can't teach kids to learn. They know that parents have to parent, that children can't achieve unless we raise their expectations and turn off the television sets and eradicate the slander that says a black youth with a book is acting white. No, people don't expect government to solve all their problems. But they sense, deep in their bones, that with just a change in priorities, we can make sure that every child in America has a decent shot at life, and that the doors of opportunity remain open to all. They know we can do better. And they want that choice.

...........alongside our famous individualism, there's another ingredient in the American saga.

A belief that we are connected as one people. If there's a child on the south side of Chicago who can't read, that matters to me, even if it's not my child. If there's a senior citizen somewhere who can't pay for her prescription and has to choose between medicine and the rent, that makes my life poorer, even if it's not my grandmother. If there's an Arab American family being rounded up without benefit of an attorney or due process, that threatens my civil liberties. It's that fundamental belief - I am my brother's keeper, I am my sister's keeper - that makes this country work. It's what allows us to pursue our individual dreams, yet still come together as a single American family. "E pluribus unum." Out of many, one.

Yet even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes. Well, I say to them tonight, there's not a liberal America and a conservative America - there's the United States of America. There's not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there's the United States of America. The pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats. But I've got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the Blue States, and we don't like federal agents poking around our libraries in the Red States. We coach Little League in the Blue States and have gay friends in the Red States. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and patriots who supported it. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.

Do we participate in a politics of cynicism or a politics of hope?....I'm not talking about blind optimism here - the almost willful ignorance that thinks unemployment will go away if we just don't talk about it, or the health care crisis will solve itself if we just ignore it. No, I'm talking about something more substantial. It's the hope of slaves sitting around a fire singing freedom songs; the hope of immigrants setting out for distant shores....the hope of a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him, too. The audacity of hope!

In the end, that is God's greatest gift to us, the bedrock of this nation; the belief in things not seen; the belief that there are better days ahead. I believe we can give our middle class relief and provide working families with a road to opportunity. I believe we can provide jobs to the jobless, homes to the homeless, and reclaim young people in cities across America from violence and despair. I believe that as we stand on the crossroads of history, we can make the right choices, and meet the challenges that face us.