Wednesday, July 30, 2008


The Associated Press today foolishly declared major combat operations over in Iraq. Ludicrous. In months, or maybe even weeks, they will look as wrong as George Bush II's famous announcement on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln.

Wearing rose colored glasses the AP claims that, "Iraq has reached the point where the insurgents, who once controlled whole cities, no longer have the clout to threaten the viability of the central government." They offer no evidence to substantiate this claim other than the lull in violence in recent months. They ignore that the Sunni militias who control large swaths of the country have not been disarmed. Nor have then been brought into the central government's power structure. They are running independent fiefdoms that are not popular with the majority Shi'ites. These state-lets are not viable in even the medium term, even the AP concedes most of their loyalty has been bought with US dollars.

As the Clarion has repeatedly warned the Sunni militias are not the only fault line running through Iraq. The Mahdi Army of Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has not been disbanded nor disarmed. Their leadership has passed the order to stand down and cooperate, but only because they envisioned elections taking place in October and their man gaining a share of power from the current American assembled government. Now those elections appear unlikely. It is merely a matter of time with legitimate routes to power frustrated before the Mahdi Army returns to street fighting.

Beyond this there are a panoply Kurd v. central government of Iraq disputes that have yet to be resolved. Kurdish concerns run the gamut from power sharing to oil revenue distribution and even the disposition of major cities and territorial disputes. Unless the central government is willing to grant complete Kurdish autonomy, a civil war is brewing in northern Iraq, too. Like the Sunni militias and Mahdi Army the Kurds have not disarmed.

The AP and the New York Times today, are as wrong as Bush II was on the deck of that aircraft carrier years ago. How much more blood and treasure must America spill? Iraq is not a viable state. Is splitting it into thirds an option? The Clarion is unsure, but the Iraq of today's calm is the eye of the hurricane not the end of the storm.

The appropriate analogy would be Lebanon 1977. A hot civil war temporarily calms without any of the underlying disputes being resolved only to reignite months later into a conflict that is still unresolved today. The calm in Iraq is less then six months old, the fighting (LIC) has been on-going for centuries. The urge of the America news media to jump to overreaching conclusions has more to do with the proclivities born of the 24 hour news cycle than the facts on the ground.

Friday, July 25, 2008

On theory

While researching something else the Clarion ran into this fascinating introduction to an essay about Social Development Theory. The amazing introduction that pulled us in is about the importance of theory, itself (see below.) The article was written by Harlan Cleveland and Garry Jacobs. Follow this link to the full article. Here is the introduction verbatim from Human Choice: The Genetic Code for Social Development,

"Importance of Theory"

The formulation of valid theory possesses enormous power to elevate and accelerate the expansion and development of human capabilities in any field, leading to fresh discoveries, improvement of existing activities and capacity for greater results. Science is replete with examples of theoretical formulations that have led to important breakthroughs, such as the discoveries of Neptune and Pluto, electromagnetic waves, subatomic particles, and new elements on the periodic table. Today scientists are discovering new substances on computer by applying the laws of quantum mechanics to predict the properties of materials before they synthesize them. In fact, a broad range of technological achievements in this century has been made possible by the emergence of sound theoretical knowledge in fields such as physics, chemistry and biology.

As management expert Peter Drucker put it, “There is nothing more practical than a good theory.” Valid theory can tell us not only what should be done, but also what can be done and the process by which it can be achieved.

Social development can be summarily described as the process of organizing human energies and activities at higher levels to achieve greater results. Development increases the utilization of human potential.

In the absence of valid theory, social development remains largely a process of trial and error experimentation, with a high failure rate and very uneven progress. The dismal consequences of transition strategies in most Eastern Europe countries, the very halting progress of many African and Asian countries, the increasing income gap between the most and least developed societies, and the distressing linkage between rising incomes, environmental depletion, crime and violence reflect the fact that humanity is vigorously pursuing a process without the full knowledge needed to guide and govern it effectively.

Advances in development theory can enhance our social success rate by the same order of magnitude that advances in theoretical physics have multiplied technological achievements in this century. The emergence of a sound theoretical framework for social development would provide the knowledge needed to address these inadequacies. It would also eventually lead us to the most profound and practical discovery of all – the infinite creative potentials of the human being.

Rising Expectations in Peru

from Peru

President Alan García's approval rating is estimated as low as 26%. Protests and strikes are becoming rampant especially in the countryside. Peru has seen impromptu roadblocks, burning of government offices and even one incident where police were taken hostage by protesting miners.

According to the Christian Science Monitor Peru's economy has grown for 84 consecutive weeks and is expected to grow by 9% this year in the face of a global slowdown. The percentage of persons living below the official poverty line is down by 5%.

Where is the disconnect?

The Monitor gets to the crux of the problem when it says that so far, "the windfall has fueled wealth much faster than it has reduced poverty."

A classic "Rising Expectations" Revolution is fomenting in Peru. As the Clarion understands the argument, which we first encountered in late 80's researching the Latin American development debate: relatively rapid economic growth occurs before individual inequality is addressed. Folks expectations are raised by the growth they see around them, then dashed when they don't feel as though they are partaking. Backlash is especially likely without a sizable middle-class as a buffer. If the growth is fueled by commodities and accompanied by inflation the backlash may be bigger and a full blown overthrow of the existing state system is possible. If there is widespread underemployment, even the middle class might not be enough to keep a lid on society. Some analysts see the 1979 Iranian Revolution through the lens of a "Rising Expectations" Revolution.

In the classic scenario the rich-poor gap is expanded because the rich suffer less from inflation. They are more shielded. They spend a much lower percentage of their income on staples. They may be able to offshore their wealth. They may own land or other assets, (including companies participating in the boom) that are rising in value in-line with inflation. The poor, conversely see money and investment flowing into their country, which raises their expectations of their relative possibilities, only to be jarred by the reality of inflation. The money they are making is worth less, they are somehow even poorer with growth going on all around them. The collective feeling of cognitive dissonance can be even worse if the rich present ostentatious displays of wealth, new cars, new homes, etc. Venezuela's Hugo Chavez has been stopped (thus far) from completing the trajectory of total revolution only by the bulwark of a strong established middle class of Venezuelans. Peru doesn't have that...

It does have demagogic admirers of Chavez and Bolivia's Evo Morales, amongst the most powerful are the brothers Humala and the head of the regional government Puno, Hernán Fuentes.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Precarious Iraq

Despite the relative recent calm in Iraq the fissures and fractures that run through the country remain very close to rupture, trembling and threaten to re-explode at any time. Yesterday the lack of political cohesion was underlined when Iraq's parliament passed legislation setting new rules for provincial elections. The Kurdish legislators boycotted the vote. The law was quickly vetoed by Kurdish President Jalal Talabani. This will likely delay parliamentary elections which had been scheduled for October 1st into next year, assuming the Shi'ite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki doesn't attempt to impose the outcome by force.

It underlines the fundamental fact of the Iraq debate, force has imposed calm, but peace and harmony can not be externally imposed. The splits between (and internally amongst) Kurds, Sunnis, Shi'ites, Turkomen and others have deep roots in Iraq. Despite the United States military's recent surge, all sides are well armed. Worse oil revenue, territorial boundaries, control of local policing, and the levers of state, all remain disputed.

Barack Obama got the tenor of the situation when making remarks upon departing the country, "So far, I think we have not seen the kind of political reconciliation that's going to bring about long-term stability in Iraq."

It is essential to recognize that the map on the ground of the state of Iraq was externally imposed by an outsider. The ramifications have yet to be resolved.

Monday, July 21, 2008


Yes, at the Clarion Content we hate the dated West-East distinction for referring to the countries of the world. It makes us cringe with its implied down the nose sneer at the seen-as backward or less-developed, and its relevance as Asia changes, gets lets and less. It messes up what the Clarion Content frequently criticizes young people for blurring, the distinction between stupidity and ignorance. Unintelligent and unlearned are in no way the same. Unlearned does not imply unintelligent, necessarily either. Using 1st world vs. 3rd world is no better and maybe worse, because of the inherent hierarchy in the naming, the implied this way is better than that way. Using North-South is not a a panacea either, and it reflects a dated, colonialist way of looking at the world. No one, outside of Russia, is exactly longing for the good days of aligned and non-aligned either. But what is one supposed to say? Phoenix is the kidnapping capital of the civilized world? Sounds ugly right? And there are places where the rule of law doesn’t apply that kidnapping is far more pervasive than Phoenix, like Ciudad Juarez and Cartagena.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Fair warning

Purple mountains, your majesty?

America had fair warning from the beginning. From its beloved first leader, who wisely abdicated his position after two terms, "Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master." ---George Washington

As relevant today as ever.

GB II says, "Don't worry."

George Bush the II says (we're paraphrasing here) "Rich people are doing fine so why should you worry." This would be the briefest summary the Clarion could offer of the President's weekly radio address to the country today.

More highlights include...(again paraphrasing,) "If you and Congress will just agree to let the oil companies do what they will to America's beaches and coastal preserves, I can guarantee you we will have at least an extra two years' worth of oil on hand, and the price of gas won't go down at all."

He continued...(again paraphrasing,) "Meanwhile former Goldman Sachs investment banker and extraordinarily rich guy, Hank Paulson, I like to call him Hankie; Hankie and I have figured out a way to bail out the rich guys who have made so much money off of the government's implicit guarantee of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Now this probably won't make wit of difference to the hard working, middle class Americans who pay the bulk of this country's taxes, but at least our fat cat, insider friends will be insured they won't lose their custom made shirts, yachts, or villas in the Caymans."

He concluded, "Thank you for listening." And the sound of retching echoed across this great land.

Read the full transcript here.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Anti-establishment, you say?

United States Senators John McCain and Barack Obama are both running as anti-establishment, anti-Washington, agent of change candidates. But how's about this from USA Today, "Barack Obama: You voted your party line 97% of the time. John McCain: You voted with President Bush 95%.

What's the old saw, "The more things change, the more they stay the same?"

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


Piracy is alive and well as the Clarion has been warning for some while now, and not just in the Straits of Malacca.

Somali pirates (wonder if they self-identify as Somali, esp. since they are reportedly based out of Puntland) released a German cargo ship and their hostages after being paid a ransom Tuesday. The ship was originally seized in the Gulf of Aden on May 28.

Click here for an interactive map of reported pirate attacks in 2008.

Heading to Canada?

Canada has reversed a long standing policy, dating to the Vietnam War era and decided to deport United States military deserters. There are reported to be some 200 U.S. military deserters in Canada. The first is scheduled to be deported this week.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

A wishy-washy compromise

FDR addresses Congress December 7th, 1941

A commission reviewing the respective constitutional war powers of the United States President and Congress reached a wishy-washy compromise today. The commission led by two former Secretaries of State James Baker III and Warren Christopher proposed a ham-fisted arrangement.

It should be noted whenever the Clarion hears commission, our first instinctive thought, like so many others weaned on late-modern American politics of the 20th century, is, "Whitewash."

This commission was convened under the auspices of the University of Virgina. It suggested today that rather than have Congress retain its right to declare war, which has been increasingly ignored by imperial presidents since World War II, the President should have to consult Congress before deploying U.S. troops into "significant armed conflict." (Which was defined as combat operations lasting, or expected to last, more than a week.) Congress would than have thirty days to vote on a resolution of approval or disapproval. However, the President could ignore Congress's vote under the commission's proposed War Powers Consultation Act. The President would be able to veto Congress's decision to approve or disapprove, and could continue combat operations should he or she so chose.

Worse the commission proposes more bureaucracy be created according to Baker and Christopher in today's New York Times, "the act would establish a permanent, bipartisan staff with access to all relevant intelligence and national-security information."

This preposterous proposal formalizes the usurpation of Congress's constitutionally granted right to declare war. The President could unilaterally initiate combat operations. Congress could signal its disapproval and under this proposed law, the President could officially flip them the bird.

As sometime Clarion fave and former Oklahoma Congressman Mickey Edwards warns, "The commission risks undermining the Constitution's checks and balances by asking Congress to serve as the president's consultant, rather than the other way around."

Fortunately, this proposal is quite unlikely to become law. Unfortunately, an opportunity to reaffirm Congress's role in declaring war was missed.

Full text of the proposal.

Baker and Christopher's New York Times Op-Ed piece.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Down on America

Or more pointedly, down on life in America?

The Clarion has another statistic (via the Economist) to make you feel better, and grateful.

In Nigeria, fewer than 5% of those arrested are ever brought through the criminal justice system, most are simply extorted for bribes. Innocence or guilt is not relevant.

The founder of a Nigerian NGO, Prisoners' Rehabilitation and Welfare Action says in twenty years she has never seen a prisoner who has not suffered physical or psychological torture by the police.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Corey Booker's words

We offer for your perusal a special Corey Booker edition of Pithy F*rging Sayings.

First, here he is paraphrasing Dr. Martin Luther King,

"The problems of today are not the vitriolic words and the evil actions of the bad people, but the appalling silence and inaction of the good people."

Here in his own words,

"We need a prophetic leader--somebody who can raise us above our baser angels and show that we are all tied in a common garment of destiny."

"People say white people have difficulty speaking about race? America has difficulty speaking about race. People--black and white--who can't fit me into their comfortable paradigm for how I should be get uncomfortable. I'm going to continue being me. I am going to be as authentically and unapologetically me as possible."

"I am a raging idealist, and I think that's a good thing."

"True leadership is not exhibited by how many people one can get to follow but by how many people join together in leading."

"It's all about the energy, and the more you throw positive energy and unconditional love in the world, the more its going to hit and stick."

Booker, a native New Jerseyian, was an All-American tight end at Standford, who subsequently went on to Oxford, as a Rhodes Scholar and then graduated Yale Law.

Follow this link to old, pithy sayings posts.

These quotes primarily came from an Esquire article about Booker which reaffirmed the Clarion's conviction in this amazing person. (The Clarion and Esquire have both been on the Booker bandwagon for years.)

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Unheeded Advice

If only Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Feith, et al. had heeded the advice of the old master...

"To build may have to be the slow laborious task of years. To destroy can be the thoughtless act of a single day." ---Winston Churchill