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.