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.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Governor Palin on SNL again

Is there any doubt that Tina Fey is more qualified to be President than Sarah Palin?

Unfortunately, SNL has decided to be very proprietary with this hilarious sketch, purportedly a follow-up interview between Katie Couric and Governor Palin. Despite numerous efforts the Clarion has been unable to embed it here. So you will have to follow the link to their site.

Watch and decide for yourselves...

Friday, September 26, 2008

Senatorial Brilliance

Hilarious, TPMtv! Keep up the good work.

And a special thanks to the faithful reader who sent us the link.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A word of caution

...from our friends at Duck and Cover.

Read Duck and Cover
at the Blue Pyramid.

Update Iraq

The Iraqi parliament finally passed a law scheduling elections for January 31, 2009. The Clarion warned previously that elections would not be held this year, and that shortly after elections were eventually scheduled sectarian violence in Iraq would again spike. We are afraid of both of our predictions being accurate, but sadly elections are the prize the factions will fight most fiercely over, would that those fights only take place at the polls with the levers of the voting booths. Unfortunately, actual fighting appears far more likely, especially because the Iraqi lawmakers did not even address the issue of elections in four disputed provinces, three in the Kurdish autonomous region, and Tamim province, of which Kirkuk is the capital.

Can the American military enforce calm on a deeply divided, heavily armed, tense population? Will there be a fight for the levers and spoils of power?

One more on War

"May it be thy will to remove war and bloodshed from the world and perpetuate the wonders and greatness of peace. All the inhabitants of the world shall recognize and know the truth: that we have not been placed on this earth to wage war and not for hatred or bloodshed."---Rabbi Nachman of Breslav

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Food for thought on War

"Everything is very simple in war, but the simplest thing is difficult. These difficulties accumulate and produce a friction, which no man can imagine exactly who has not seen war." ---Carl Von Clausewitz, On War

"But CENTCOM had not developed a plan for conventional ground operations in Afghanistan. Nor had diplomatic arrangements for basing, staging, overflight and access been made with Afghanistan's neighbors. There simply had been no stomach in Washington for sustained face-to-face combat in this remote primitive, landlocked country halfway around the world-no stomach since at least 1993.

From Hugh Shelton's tone, it was clear that this was about to change. America's military was going to war in a country where twenty-some years earlier the Soviet Union had invested 620,000 men over the course of eleven years, at a cost of more than 15,000 killed and almost 55,000 wounded." ---General Tommy Franks, American Soldier

"Bobby soon learns the trick that his father and his uncles and his grandfather all knew, which is that you never talk about the specifics of what happened over there. No one wants to hear about how you dug half of your buddy's molars out of your leg with the point of a bayonet." ---Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon

"...they have been getting bombed a lot. Even if the shrapnel misses you, the bomb's shock wave is like a stone wall moving at seven hundred miles an hour. Unlike a stone wall, it passes through your body, like a burst of light through a glass figurine. On its way through your flesh, it rearranges every part of you down to the mitochondrial level, disrupting every process in every cell, including whatever enables your brain to keep track of time and experience the world. A few of these detonations are enough to break the thread of consciousness into a snarl of tangled and chopped filaments. These men are not as human as they were when they left home; they cannot be expected to think clearly or do things for good reasons." ---Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon

"The trail was perhaps a hundred meters from the woodline, and in a matter of minutes we found the bodies. The first dink's brains were sticking out from the side of his head; now I knew why the brain is referred to as gray matter. I wondered what would happen if the skull was hit with a blunt object and the brain wasn't there to absorb the impact. With the butt of my M-16 I smacked the dink's head. The skull cracked like the head of a plastic doll. That was so neat that I gave him one more. As I looked down on the now grotesque face, I thought it would be neat to reach down and grab the brain to show the guys back at the compound, but on second thought I decided not to.

What would ever possess me to do something like that to a corpse? God only knows. I felt no remorse for the gook. He was dead and I was alive, that's the way it was." ---John L. Rotundo, Charlie Rangers

Friday, September 19, 2008

What don't we get?

At the Clarion, we miss the departed Jerry Garcia. Below see a brilliant mash-up, of perhaps our favorite Grateful Dead song and an old cartoon.

To paraphrase Edwin Starr, "War? What the hell is good for? Absolutely nothing!"

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

McCain out in front

Senator John McCain, who is no faux reformer, was way out in front in objecting to the manner in which business was conducted at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, (the quasi-private mortgage backers who the federal government bailed out to the tune of $200 billion last week.)

Here is McCain in the Congressional Record in May of 2006 warning that the federal government must scrutinize the practices of Fannie and Freddie more closely. Of course the beholden Beltway boys did nothing, killing the bill in question in committee. Special thanks to Rantburg for picking up this story.

Sen. John McCain [R-AZ]: "Mr. President, this week Fannie Mae's regulator reported that the company's quarterly reports of profit growth over the past few years were "illusions deliberately and systematically created" by the company's senior management, which resulted in a $10.6 billion accounting scandal.

The Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight's report goes on to say that Fannie Mae employees deliberately and intentionally manipulated financial reports to hit earnings targets in order to trigger bonuses for senior executives. In the case of Franklin Raines, Fannie Mae's former chief executive officer, OFHEO's report shows that over half of Mr. Raines' compensation for the 6 years through 2003 was directly tied to meeting earnings targets. The report of financial misconduct at Fannie Mae echoes the deeply troubling $5 billion profit restatement at Freddie Mac.

The OFHEO report also states that Fannie Mae used its political power to lobby Congress in an effort to interfere with the regulator's examination of the company's accounting problems. This report comes some weeks after Freddie Mac paid a record $3.8 million fine in a settlement with the Federal Election Commission and restated lobbying disclosure reports from 2004 to 2005. These are entities that have demonstrated over and over again that they are deeply in need of reform.

For years I have been concerned about the regulatory structure that governs Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac--known as Government-sponsored entities or GSEs--and the sheer magnitude of these companies and the role they play in the housing market. OFHEO's report this week does nothing to ease these concerns. In fact, the report does quite the contrary. OFHEO's report solidifies my view that the GSEs need to be reformed without delay.

I join as a cosponsor of the Federal Housing Enterprise Regulatory Reform Act of 2005, S. 190, to underscore my support for quick passage of GSE regulatory reform legislation. If Congress does not act, American taxpayers will continue to be exposed to the enormous risk that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac pose to the housing market, the overall financial system, and the economy as a whole.

I urge my colleagues to support swift action on this GSE reform legislation."

Unfortunately the bill died in committee.

S. 190 [109th]: Federal Housing Enterprise Regulatory Reform Act of 2005---Status: Dead

Last Action: Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. Ordered to be amendmened.

48 days to the election

The elections are coming.

With that in mind, a thought from Edward Bernays...“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important (though little known or realized) element in a democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government, which is the true ruling power of our country. ...We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men (that) we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society. ...In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons... who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires (strings or levers) which control the public mind.”

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Apparently some liberal bloggers are pissed about the comparisons between the two tickets, their resumes and relevant experience. Read one rant below...

I'm a little confused. Let me see if I have this straight.....

* If you grow up in Hawaii, raised by your grandparents, you're "exotic, different."

* Grow up in Alaska eating mooseburgers, a quintessential American story.

* If your name is Barack you're a radical, unpatriotic Muslim.

* Name your kids Willow, Trig and Track, you're a maverick.

* Graduate from Harvard law School and you are unstable.

* Attend 5 different small colleges before graduating, you're well grounded.

* If you spend 3 years as a brilliant community organizer, become the first black President of the Harvard Law Review, create a voter registration drive that registers 150,000 new voters, spend 12 years as a Constitutional Law professor, spend 8 years as a State Senator representing a district with over 750,000 people, become chairman of the state Senate's Health and Human Services committee, spend 4 years in the United States Senate representing a state of 13 million people while sponsoring 131 bills and serving on the Foreign Affairs, Environment and Public Works and Veteran's Affairs committees, you don't have any real leadership experience.

* If your total resume is: local weather girl, 4 years on the city council and 6 years as the mayor of a town with less than 7,000 people, 20 months as the governor of a state with only 650,000 people, then you're qualified to become the country's second highest ranking executive.

* If you have been married to the same woman for 19 years while raising 2 daughters, all within Protestant churches, you're not a real Christian.

* If you cheated on your first wife with a rich heiress, and left your disfigured wife and married the heiress the next month, you're a Christian.

* If you teach teach children about sexual predators, you are irresponsible and eroding the fiber of society.

* If, while governor, you staunchly advocate abstinence only, with no other option in sex education in your state's school system while your unwed teen daughter ends up pregnant, you're very responsible.

* If your wife is a Harvard graduate laywer who gave up a position in a prestigious law firm to work for the betterment of her inner city community, then gave that up to raise a family, your family's values don't represent America 's.

* If you're husband is nicknamed "First Dude", with at least one DWI conviction and no college education, who didn't register to vote until age 25 and once was a member of a group that hates America and advocated the secession of Alaska from the USA, your family is extremely admirable.

OK, it's much clearer now."

Wow---Guess these people must of spent too much time reading. If they'd gotten out from behind the bookshelf and watched a few episodes of Married with Children, The Simpsons, or Family Guy this whole thing would make a lot more sense to'em.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Political Quip of the Week

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin got off a beauty of a line last night in her speech to the Republican National Convention in Minnesota.

"In politics, there are some candidates who use change to promote their careers. And then there are those, like John McCain, who use their careers to promote change."

Hey maybe it wasn't totally fair, but it sure was a well written turn of phrase. Palin was, of course, hailed by the staged audience of the convention, but her speech was indeed tightly constructed and rousingly delivered.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Palin Pick

Whatever else you might think of John McCain's choice for Vice-President, do not forget that picking Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska was a play for the southern Christian vote.

As the Clarion reads the tea leaves, the only way McCain loses the electoral math on election night is if somehow the solid south starts to slip from under him. Virginia, North Carolina and conceivably even, South Carolina are poised to flip into the blue column.

With that math in mind the veep choice war room might have gone something like this: McCain, an honest to goodness maverick, wanted to reclaim that mantle. Somebody on the inside of his campaign said, "Senator, you know, you could do the maverick thing, and the southern evangelical vote in one fell swoop. Sarah Palin."

There may have been one or two other factors. And it may have taken a little longer depending on how much, or how little, one believes they vetted her.

But as for the ticket power she brings, no less of a heavyweight than Richard Land was calling for her selection in a CBSNews.com interview. Who is Land you say? Well in addition to being a prolific author, a Princeton and an Oxford graduate, Land hosts two nationally syndicated radio programs "For Faith & Family" and "For Faith & Family's Insight."

Here's what the Washington Post's David Waters has Land saying about Palin in the CBSNews.com interview, "I think that the vice presidential choice that John McCain makes is probably the most important choice he's going to make in this entire campaign. Because he has no room for error, no margin for doubt. If he picks a pro-choice running mate, it will confirm the unease and the mistrust that some evangelicals--and don't forget this, social conservative Catholics--feel about McCain."

Land continues on the his preference for the veep choice, "Probably Governor (Sarah) Palin of Alaska, because she's a person of strong faith. She just had her fifth child, a Downs Syndrome child. And there's a wonderful quote that she gave about her baby, and the fact that she would never, ever consider having an abortion just because her child had Downs Syndrome. She's strongly pro-life."

"She's a virtual lifetime member of the National Rifle Association. She would ring so many bells. And I just think it would help with independents because she's a woman. She's a reform Governor."

The Clarion is not sure where we stand on Governor Palin yet, but we wanted to note for you you, dear readers, who wanted her selection. Whether it was a shrewd political move is also unclear at this juncture. It may help McCain with certain demographics and voter turnout issues.