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'ĂȘtre 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.