Saturday, December 26, 2009

No surprise

Lewis Sachs is advising Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner

It should come as no surprise to historians of the American system that the banks that designed the investment vehicles that brought the mortgage market to its knees were betting against them all the while to their great profit. There is nothing in American history to augur that banks will be altruistic. There is much greater evidence that says altruism may be disadvantageous to profits in a hybrid-capitalist system. Gaming the system has proven profitable time and time again in the long run, not for all mind you, but for the best players. This is an important fundamental to consider when studying bankers out-sized compensation packages, the best get rich, the less fortunate go broke.

The New York Times reports that the SEC is studying the details of just how Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank among others designed these synthetic collateralized debt obligations, or C.D.O.’s and then bet against them. Unfortunately, they will be hard pressed to prove laws were broken (and ex-post facto justice is specious at best).

The Times says, "One focus of the inquiry is whether the firms creating the securities purposely helped to select especially risky mortgage-linked assets that would be most likely to crater...some securities packaged by Goldman...soured within months of being created...Goldman and other...firms maintain there is nothing improper about synthetic C.D.O.’s, saying that they typically employ many trading techniques to hedge investments and protect against losses. They add that many prudent investors often do the same."

The Times argues that the creation and sale of synthetic C.D.O.’s helped make the financial crisis worse than it might otherwise have been, creating a multiplier effect by providing more securities to bet against. They note that , "$8 billion [of] these securities remain on the books at American International Group."

The two most interesting revelations of the article are that, one, Morgan Stanley lost $1.5 billion to Goldman Sachs on a single deal, and two that Lewis Sachs a man who became a senior adviser to Obama's Treasury secretary earlier this year,was intimately involved in building these kind of deals. Sachs worked for Tricadia, a management company that was a unit of Mariner Investment Group. He led the team that sold products to investors that plunged more than 75% in value in a year while betting against them to the tune of a 50% profit for the firms own hedge fund.

Ugly, yes. Immoral, yes. Despicable, yes. Illegal, probably not.

The train

Taking the train? Unless one is heading to Kabul or Baghdad, President Obama is hardly more concerned about how one gets there than King George the II was. High speed trains were one of the Clarion Content's great hopes for things we might see come from the Obama administration. The country was and is mired in a deep recession. Train infrastructure is a works project that could be used in the fight against massive unemployment. Train infrastructure is a virtuous circle insofar as investing in more efficient transportation has knock-on benefits for all manner of American industries.

But alas. The candidate of change has spent $66 billion in Iraq and Afghanistan in the first half of 2009 alone. This does not account for the troop surge in Afghanistan. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates the expenditures in Iraq and Afghanistan for next eight years (again pre-surge) at $416 billion at the low end and $817 billion on the high end.

Over the next five years the Obama administration hopes to spend $8-13 billion on rail infrastructure, including high speed trains.

20 to 40 times as much spending per year
on Afghanistan and Iraq than for rail infrastructure?

This is the change we could believe in?

Ralph Nader was right along. Pete Townsend was wrong.

Worse yet, America's rail infrastructure is in abysmal condition and is plagued by delays. The highways are no better, as you can ask anyone who traveled the I-95 corridor this Thanksgiving or Xmas.

The Associated Press reported many of the massive holiday week train delays were caused by problems at power stations and substations built in the 1920s near Philadelphia. 1920's!?! And Obama is pissing America's revenues into the soil of Afghanistan!?!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Health Care Bill

Our northern most New Jersey reader was recently in Durham. Shortly after splitting town said reader sent the office an article that is a must read analysis of both the health care bill and the Obama administration's course to-date.

As loyal regulars know, the Clarion Content has been mightily disappointed with the Obama presidency. We fear that it may be careening toward a Jimmy Carter like scuppering that will lead to a very dark, eight or twelve years of hard rudder to the right. Picture two terms of Sarah Palin with Dick Cheney as her veep née viceroy.

Miles Mogulescu at the Huffington Post has the situation nailed. Much as the Clarion Content was crushed by the sellout the escalation in Afghanistan represents and the nuanced way in which we know it to be a disaster, Mogulescu is totally disappointed with the emasculated health care bill and his razor sharp analysis shows what it will change most is to cast the embrace of the corporate-capitalist ethic in bronze.

Read it here. It is positively eye opening!

Compare Mogulescu's molotov cocktails with the damp squib that is the analysis produced by the ostensibly liberal, but undeniably profit driven New York Times.

Now strangely enough the Clarion Content and old Miles Mogulescu probably come out a parsec or two apart about what we'd do about health care. But if there is one set of entities that we at the Clarion Content trust less than the Feds, it is the massive multinational corporations. And that sort of makes us Mogulescu's pal here, in an 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend' kind of way.

The devil is in the details. May bad legislation not be passed!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Long time hacker busted

During high school, when Albert Gonzalez hacked into the computers of India’s government, as well as those of NASA, he wasn’t punished, the FBI came to his high school and basically said, “Don’t do it anymore,” according to a story about the notorious TJX hacker. Ten years out of high school, after five years as a Secret Service informant ratting out other hackers, Gonzalez spiraled out of control.

He and his attorney are appealing his 15 year sentence for hacking into TJX, the Dave & Busters chain of restaurants and numerous other businesses. He obtained 36 million card numbers from TJX, the largest international apparel and home fashion off-price department store chain in the United States, whose brands include TJ Maxx and Marshall's.

According to's reporting, "When the Secret Service learned of his role as an administrator on Shadowcrew (one of the underground carding community’s leading forums for selling stolen card data), they turned him into an informant. He worked undercover to help snag more than a dozen cyberthieves in an investigation dubbed Operation Firewall. Gonzalez also gave lectures to law enforcement groups and the American Banking Association about the methods and technologies used by cyberthieves."

According to information that surfaced at his trial, Gonzalez maintained his criminal contacts on the side and devised methods to hack into huge companies. He had first been arrested in 2003 in Manhattan for stealing money from ATMs using numerous cloned bank cards. He had previously worked for the industrial giant Siemens, and was only twenty-one at the time of his first arrest.

Now after being chewed up and spit out by the government, he is twenty-eight and facing fifteen years. Is prison likely to rehabilitate him? Will we hear from the TJX hacker again?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Unhelpful France

So much for the French being all sorts of excited about Obama's election as President of the United States. The French were mouthing rhetoric at the time that his election marked the dawn of a new era of U.S.-French relations.

The actuality has not exactly matched up to the lofty words proffered. If the French were really considering a new tack in foreign policy they would be trying to find ways to help Obama defuse tension, especially in Eastern Europe, where it has a direct impact on them, because of the areas proximity, and in some cases countries' membership in the European Union. Not so much, instead, the French are stirring the pot, by attempting to once again cozy up to Russia.

The BBC reports the the French are negotiating a deal to sell an autocratic Russia a Mistral-class assault warship which is capable of transporting and deploying up to 16 helicopters, 13 tanks and 450 troops. France would be the first NATO member to go ahead with weapons sales to Russia. Obviously, this particular piece of hardware is for offensive not defensive purposes.

The BBC notes, "Russian generals have said that, had they had such a warship during the August 2008 conflict with Georgia, they would have been able to reach its shores within 40 minutes - rather than the 26 hours the country's navy took after setting off from their base in the Ukrainian Crimean port of Sevastopol."

This is just the kind of support Obama was hoping for from the EU for the fledgling country of Georgia.

The BBC also quotes a French military expert at the Sorbonne, "It's obvious that such weaponry would allow Russia to mount aggression against its neighbors. It looks like France is giving Russia a green light for new imperialistic wars."

Helpful, France, very helpful.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Cop Caught

One could publish a ridiculous story about the cops just about every day in America if one searched for them. Here is today's, courtesy of the Boston Herald.

"A Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office corrections deputy, Dorethea Collier, 48, was arrested Monday for assaulting a man at gunpoint who was having sex with her daughter in the deputy’s home."

Sweet. And that seemed legal to you how, Sheriff Collier?

Of course, after the nineteen-year old she found in her daughter's bedroom closet complained, Collier was arrested and charged with false imprisonment, aggravated assault and battery.

The story: Mom the sheriff, arrived home, heard something suspicious in from her daughter's bedroom. Daughter tries to hold door shut against Mom's entry. Mom busts in anyway, finds a partially clothed daughter, and a naked man in closet. Still in uniform she grabs the dude out of the closet punches him three or four times, points her gun at him, handcuffs him and orders him to his knees. He is held until the sheriff's husband shows up. He also hits the dude a few times, before he is eventually allowed to leave.

And Sheriff Collier tops off the whole incident, in her arrogance, by filing a trespassing complaint against the dude who was doing the deed with her daughter.

Dude, well he called the sheriff’s office’s internal affairs department to complain. Sheriff Collier was arrested after a review by the state attorney’s office.


Saturday, December 12, 2009

98 year old charged with murder

From the files of truth trumps fiction, comes a wild story out of Dartmouth, Massachusetts. Prosecutors believe that Laura Lundquist is the oldest person ever charged with murder in Massachusetts. Lundquist, who suffers from dementia, claimed the 100 year old victim had been trying to takeover the nursing home bedroom they shared. Lundquist had moved a bed side table in their quarters to block her roommates path to the bathroom. She attacked a nurses aide who moved the table back to its original position.

According to the Boston Globe, "The defendant made statements prior to the victim's death that she would get the victim's bed by the window because she was going to outlive her." The 100 year old victim, Elizabeth Barrow, was reportedly healthy, friendly, and vigorous, a proud 5-foot-2 grandmother of three, who was still strong enough to walk on her own and aware enough to read two books a week.

Brandon Woods Nursing Home staff found her body at 6:20 a.m. under a bed sheet with a plastic bag tied loosely around her head. Initially it was thought that she committed suicide, but the results of an autopsy by the medical examiner found that Barrow had been the victim of "asphyxia due to strangulation and suffocation."


Thursday, December 10, 2009


"We don't need no stinkin' allies. Or rather we have them..."

Apparently, the Obama rhetoric isn't as from that of King George II as one might have thought.

"Because this is an international effort, I have asked that our commitment be joined by contributions from our allies. Some have already provided additional troops, and we are confident that there will be further contributions in the days and weeks ahead..."

Is this what President Obama meant? According to the Yonhap News Agency, "South Korea finalized its plan Tuesday to deploy up to 350 troops to Afghanistan for two and a half years to assist U.S.-led efforts to fight insurgency and rebuild the Central Asian country."

Wow that is awesome! Talk about Bush-like! America sends 35,000 troops, and its stalwart ally South Korea sends 350 troops. Its not like America has spent the last 50 plus years with its troops deployed to protect a (less than?) grateful South Korea.

Is it simply that South Korea much more clearly recognizes the futility of the mission?

Yonhap reports, "The plan, finalized after a Cabinet meeting presided over by President Lee Myung-bak, came after U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates visited Seoul in October for annual security talks between the allies...The initial contingent will be made of 320 troops, ministry policy director Jang Gwang-il told reporters, adding 30 more could be sent if needed."


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Facebook contact a violation

The Clarion Content is fascinated by the lines drawn in and around the new world of social networking. We recently discovered that, as it turns out, one can be arrested for violating an order of protection by making Facebook contact. In a Tennessee case, which originally came to our attention via ABC news, a woman, Shannon Jackson of Hendersonville, Tenn., was arrested for violating a legal order of protection that had been previously filed against her when she sent a Facebook "poke" to another woman. Amazingly the judge ordered her arrest when the only basis for documenting the contact was a printed screen grab.

Violating an order of protection in Tennessee is a Class A misdemeanor that can be punished with up to 11 months, 29 days of incarceration. Even if the woman wins her case, she will be saddled with the expense of retaining a lawyer. ABC quotes an expert from the Stanford Law School's Center for Internet & Society, "Although 'poking' is a somewhat passive and new form of technology-enabled correspondence, it is still a form of communication restricted by a protective order."

The times, they are in flux.

Who's got next?

The Clarion Content has been hearing some fascinating speculation about who might be the next Republican Presidential candidate. Of course, President Barack Obama has yet to even complete his first year in office, so it is awfully early to ponder. It is only Obama's wafer thin stack of accomplishments that has discussion brewing this soon.

The two most interesting names reflect a trend, one that started long before Obama and Sarah Palin, but a trend that they most definitely epitomize. In the quest for the presidency today, it is far more important to be telegenic than to be substantial. In that same vein, two names that are being thrown around as potential Republican nominees are (former) television commentators, Lou Dobbs, of CNN fame, and Glenn Beck, of the ostensibly fair and balanced Fox News.

Dobbs appeared on former senator and previous candidate for the Republican Presidential nomination, Fred Thompson's radio show. Dobbs was asked, "Have you given any thought for running for President?"

"Yes, is the answer," was his response.

The National Post of Canada reported, "Mr. Dobbs' spokesman, Robert Dillenschneider, said there was no timeline for announcing a decision." However, Dillenschneider did say, "People have always said Lou Dobbs had a bigger, brighter future. But he was very committed to CNN while he was there. He never really thought about running until the day after he left when people started coming to him."

Dobbs carries with him the baggage of all the rhetoric he spewed on the air. His rants against immigration carried with them a particularly dark vitriol and malevolence.

Dobbs has also yet to rule out challenging first term incumbent Democratic Senator Bob Menendez for his New Jersey seat in 2012.

Mr. Beck, who shares Mr. Dobbs hatred of dark skinned foreigners, has yet to make any kind of definitive statement. The New Times reports, "[Beck] says he will promote voter registration drives and sponsor a series of conventions across the country featuring conservative speakers, all leading up to a rally in Washington, D.C. in August."

It also quoted Grover Norquist, who is the president of Americans for Tax Reform, “They [TV personalities like Beck] are spokesmen for a movement that you can see emerging."

The Clarion Content agrees. While it is far from clear that either Glenn Beck or Lou Dobbs have what it takes to seize the Republican Presidential nomination, the rumblings from their camps are symbolic. An ineffective (thus far) President Obama has a small window in which to improve his performance before the speculation about his imminent replacement intensifies significantly.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Double Standard Continues

The CBS Early Show this week continued to reinforce American culture's sexually exploitative, anti-feminist treatment of homosexuality. It aired footage of former American Idol finalist Adam Lambert kissing his male keyboardist at the American Music Awards with the big moment blurred out. "Oh the horrors," men kissing! Surely, the American public isn't ready to be exposed to that kind of open homosexuality. Unless... Wait for it...

Right. If it is ladies, it is A-okay, as the Early Show blatantly demonstrated when moments after airing the blurred male on male kiss, by Lambert and keyboardist, it showed Madonna and Brittney swapping tongue with nary a bit of discretion. No blurring necessary. The difference is ugly gender stereotyping that treats women as the objects of visual male sexual gratification.

Disney owned Good Morning America took an even more openly anti-gay stance when it canceled Lambert's schedule appearance the day after the American Music Awards.

Friday, November 20, 2009

New Study

The Clarion Content was surprised to be engaged by someone who came into one of our offices for an entirely separate reason about a newly released study on mammograms. This male fellow, perhaps a crank or an alarmist, but nonetheless engaging, said that he had worked for the pharmaceutical industry for years. He said, with the conviction of a passionate conspiracy theorist, that the big drug companies had been preparing for the government takeover of health care for years and would respond with a series of studies suggesting that American's need less early screening and less preventative care.

This is a sophisticated angle on the traditional argument that reads, government managed health care equals rationing of the care and medical services available. This says the way in which care will be rationed is that medical service providers will be reluctant to treat the maybes, people not yet diagnosed as sick. The not yet sick, would represent a less securely billable revenue stream than the actually already sick, which the government would surely reimburse the medical service providers for treating. The same would apply to the pharmaceutical companies, they would find it far easier to get the government to reimburse for drugs for the already ill, rather than preventative medication for the not yet ill (something hardly exists in the status quo either).

Interesting, if nothing else this argument augurs how deeply the government will have to get involved in the management of care if it nationalizes the health system outright. It will have to function as the arbiter at thousands of levels of health care policy, everything from the right to treatment for addiction to the number of days post-birth mothers stay in the hospital. It is only because the insurance companies have done such an awful, callous, profit driven job of this management that the American people are even remotely willing to turn this task over to the government.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Careful with that

There is probably still not enough concern out there about the massive and deteriorating stocks of weapons in the former Eastern Bloc; the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact countries. For years, Senator Sam Nunn has been raising consciousness about loose nukes in those places. For the Clarion Content, those nuclear weapons are probably the single biggest risk to global political stability. Securing them must be a priority. However, Russians, Eastern Europeans and Americans alike also have to recognize the threat posed by stockpiles of conventional weapons in these states, too.

Theft and black market sales of such weapons were the main manner of supply of anti-imperial Chechen rebels. A massive series explosions at weapons depot, deep inside the former Soviet Union brought this threat back to the forefront of the conscious again this weekend. The Associated Press reported, huge explosions and fire ripped through a Russian military arsenal at a naval munitions facility in the Ulyanovsk province, killing two firefighters and prompting the evacuation of thousands of civilians nearby. The AP quoted locals saying the secondary explosions went on interminably, "There was a loud bang, then there was silence and then there were explosions, explosions, explosions, like fireworks on New Year's."

It is essential to world peace and security that the Russians keep tight control of their arms supplies. Read the whole story here.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


A Santa Clara school district has just finally moved to fire a twenty year employee, a janitor who used the high school he worked in as a place to recruit female models. The janitor claims he is being made a scapegoat because the school district recently faced the arrest of a teacher, who is charged with having sex with a student. The principal of the Wilcox High School knew about the use of student models by custodian Joe Miller more than two years ago. Not to sound like one of the patron saints of P.C. but, c'mon! Really?!?

More than once, janitor Miller pulled students out of class to discuss modeling. His website features photos of current and former students in bikinis and topless poses. The mother of a sixteen year-old female student filed a harassment claim against Miller, saying he made the girl uncomfortable while recruiting her to become a model. The school administrators either oblivious or culpable were warned in the Spring of 2008 about the appropriateness of Miller displaying his photos on campus. Their defense, he was a good guy who did a lot for the school.

As one anonymous horrified teacher noted in the San Jose Mercury News, "You don't teach beauty in high school. You teach academics." We could not have said it better. As much constant cultural over-emphasis as young ladies face about the importance of looks, the last thing the school apparatus needs to be doing is reinforcing that demeaning message.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Balloon Boy hoax plays out

In what seemed a Calvinesque story last month the "Balloon Boy" transfixed the Clarion Content, along with the much of America. His parents frantically told authorities that he had floated away in his father's helium experiment. Planes and rescue crews were dispatched, air traffic was diverted, CNN was apoplectic. It was all a hoax. Various news media outlets are reporting that the father will plead guilty to the more serious felony charge of attempting to influence a public servant, and the mother, Mayumi, will plead guilty to false reporting to authorities, a misdemeanor.

The most serious charges these folks could have faced would have meant a maximum of six years in prison. They are going to get off with probation. The Clarion Content surely hopes it comes with a fine commensurate with the cost of their escapades. They were hoping to get a reality television after appearing in a few episodes of "Wife Swap."

Lost and Found

More likely to find one that looks like this than the pristine one in our story...

Thirty-five years ago Michelle Squires had her 1965 blue-and-white Volkswagon Van, with the accordion sunroof, stolen in Spokane, Washington. Last week she happen to catch a news brief about customs officials discovering a 44-year-old bus running perfectly and in pristine condition with 70,000 miles on the odometer in routine search of a container bound for Europe by customs officials at the port of Los Angeles. It looked very familiar. With a call to the insurance company, she was able to verify it was indeed the van she had lost so long ago.

She is now fifty-eight. The van was stolen during the 1974 World's Fair in Spokane. She filed a claim with All-State back in the day, which paid her $2500. In 2009, she drives a Chrysler mini-van. Customs officials say the VW van has changed hands several times since 1974 and that the Arizona businessman who tried to export the car isn't a suspect in the case. He loses out though because All-State is now the rightful owner of the old beautiful restored vehicle worth and estimated $30,000.

Read the whole delightful story here in the Wall Street Journal.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Bay Bridge nightmare

We were warning you, dear readers, just a few days ago about the massive backlog of infrastructure work America must do. Everything from bridges, to highways, to water mains are falling apart in this country and need a massive capital re-investment. Tragically, the repair work that could and should be done is trading off with America's wars and efforts at nation-building in Afghanistan and Iraq. America is pouring the Cold War dividend into the sands of the Near and Middle East where it will disappear without a trace. The central example of failing and old infrastructure we used in this most recent article was the Bay Bridge from Oakland to San Francisco.

Unfortunately, the on-going infrastructure story of the Bay Bridge, the construction and repair issues, caught our attention again this morning in a most horrifying manner. The driver of a Safeway Grocery eighteen-wheeler perished driving the Bay Bridge late last night. He and his eighteen wheel truck plunged to their demise at one of the new S-curves caused by the on-going construction and repair work. According the California Highway Patrol, there have been more than 42 crashes in the curved area since it opened barely two months ago. This was the first fatality. About 3.30am last night, the driver attempted to negotiate the S-curve at too high a speed. He lost control of the truck, plunged through the safety railing, and crashed 200 feet below into Yerba Buena Island, spilling gasoline and produce over a wide area. The driver was pronounced dead at the scene.

Read the whole chilling story here in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

There's a map for that

The clever new Verizon campaign, "There's a map for that," has drawn a lawsuit from the mocked competitor, AT&T. Verizon's slogan is a cutsie play on AT&T and Apple's tag line, "There's an app for that," which refers to the iPhone and its endless array of independently designed applications. And while the applications are phenomenal, Verizon has correctly chosen AT&T's area of vulnerabillity with its ads, coverage.

Verizon's map shows that AT&T's coverage while great if you are in SoCal, Silicon Valley or the New York metropolitan area, fades badly once you get outside of those urban centers. Don't count on AT&T's service to keep your laptop connected to the internet as you travel across the country, to the beach or to a SEC football game. The AT&T coverage map has huge holes.

Now AT&T's lawsuit is premised on the idea that coverage map Verizon shows is based on 3g covergae, not standard cellular coverage, but as PC World points out, that is where the cellphone paradigm is heading, mobile computing devices. And AT&T's signature product, the one with the app for that, the iPhone, is already there, so 3g coverage, or lack thereof, is absolutely a relevant critique. AT&T only draws attention to their lack of coverage through this lawsuit. AT&T marketing claims that it has the 'fastest 3g network', but how relevant is that to those who live where AT&T has no 3g service.

Read more here.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Torture is wrong

Long time Clarion Content fave, Andrew Sullivan wrote a fascinating piece in last month's Atlantic. It is structured as a personal letter from Sullivan to George Bush II. Sullivan, a little "c" conservative, makes a brilliant argument that frames the stain on the American nation wrought by torture. He eviscerates the counterarguments for torture. He lays out how the act of torture (bruises or not) is the antithesis of the social contract presumed by the nominal American embrace of the Golden Rule and Judeo-Christian ethics. Torture by government fundamentally undermines what American stands for, Sullivan explicates how so. He is not just a complainer without a solution, however. He explains in great detail why an apology for torture and an admission of personal culpability by the man that this journal likes to refer to as King George the II would help begin to dissolve the stain on the America's character.

Read his piece here.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Failing bridges

The Bay Bridge that carries upwards of 260,000 vehicles a day failed again last week. Metal parts in a brace that was installed Labor Day weekend to relieve stress on a cracked structural beam called an eyebar cracked and the bridge had to be closed. It sent 5,000 pounds of metal into rush-hour traffic. (Miraculously no one was killed, one person suffered minor injuries and three cars were damaged.) The first repair cost an estimated $1.5 million. The second repair had the bridge closed for six days, the longest closure for the bridge since part of the span collapsed during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Caltrans doesn't yet have figures available on cost of the second round of bridge repairs. The Bay Bridge was built in the 1930's and is in need of constant repair. According to the Associated Press, "The parts that failed had been installed over the Labor Day weekend...[and] were expected to last until a new bridge opened in 2013."

Why would the American taxpayer possibly be in favor of spending billions to build infrastructure in Iraq and Afghanistan when America's own infrastructure is falling apart? Deteriorating bridges have been in the news of late, but in the next few years expect to see a deluge of stories about disintegrating and failing urban water systems. Most water mains in major United States cities, especially east of the Mississippi River, are approaching their useful age limits. Far too little has been spent on their maintenance in recent decades. Yet America is pouring billions into providing potable water to Iraqi and Afghani citizens.

Longest serving prisoner

The longest serving prisoner in America has been behind bars for 63 years. He was known in the day as the "Lipstick Killer." A seventeen year-old University of Chicago student when he was arrested, William Heirens, turns eighty-one next week. There is still quite some debate about whether or not he committed the horrific crimes he was convicted of.

CNN quotes his lawyer, "Heirens was subjected to days of brutal interrogation. He also was beaten and given sodium pentothal to make him tell the truth, Drizin (the lawyer) said. He underwent a spinal tap, another extreme measure to compel him to talk."


The crimes: one Josephine Ross was the first victim, a forty-three year-old, she was found stabbed to death in her own apartment. Five months later a Frances Brown was discovered in her bathroom. She was stabbed through the neck and shot in the head. CNN reports, "The killer left a message on the wall. It said, "for heavens sake catch me before I kill more I cannot control myself." It was scrawled in red lipstick." A sensationalist press in Chicago dubbed it the work of the "Lipstick Killer." The final gruesome murder followed the abduction of a six year-old girl. Her dismembered body parts turned up individually.

William Heirens was busted by Chicago cops five months later for burglary near the home where the sleeping six year-old had been kidnapped from a second story bedroom.

Sixty-three years later some believe a brutal murderer is behind bars, others an innocent or at least redeemed man.

Read CNN's whole story here.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Mega Meth bust

The Clarion Content stumbled across this story earlier in the week in the San Jose Mercury News. It details a huge drug sting by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The reasons we wanted to highlight it were two-fold. One it demonstrates that despite relaxing restrictions on marijuana the Obama administration is actively pursuing the enforcement of drug policy when it comes to other nefarious narcotics. Duly noted.

Secondly, we feel that it sadly points out the likelihood of the inherent failure of said enforcement policies. The DEA can bust meth lab after meth lab, dealer after dealer, but if there is still massive profit in selling these (illegal) narcotics production merely shifts elsewhere. In this case, aggressive battling against domestic Mom-n-Pop meth labs has pushed production south of the United States border with Mexico. (Much as aggressive coca spraying pushed coke labs from Columbia to Bolivia, note a similar thing is on-going in the valleys of Central Asia involving the production of opium.)

This was a huge meth bust, the Mercury News reports that, "Nationwide, more than 300 people were arrested in an operation that demonstrates (the "La Familia") Mexican cartel's vast reach north of the border. Arrests of alleged members...took place in 38 cities, from Boston to Seattle and Tampa to St. Paul and in (total) 19 states...authorities seized 156 pounds of methamphetamine, 22 weapons and about $111,000 (in California alone)."

Sadly, this will constitute no more than a tiny blip on the radar of global drug production. The former head of the DEA says that Mexican meth super labs can produce 100 lbs of product in as little as eight hours. The only way to fight that is by curbing demand, and concomitantly reducing the profitability of pursuing the life of an illegal narcotics dealer. People do it for the money.

Read the whole San Jose Mercury News story here.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Huge explosions rock Iraq

This time they were big enough to catch the attention of the Western media. Two huge car bombs exploded near the central Baghdad compound known as the Green Zone. The BBC is reporting that as many as 90 people may be dead, as many as 265 may be wounded. The force of the explosions was so great that it was felt miles away by their correspondent.

Stability in Iraq exists in name and statistics compiled by Western invaders only. In a dangerous sign of things to come, the Shi-ite spokespeople of the Iraqi government immediately blamed either al-Queda or former Baathists, two groups neither united nor allied, other than in their virulent opposition to the Shia minority running the State.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

A bathrobe or jail!

Wear a bathrobe or face jail, apparently that is the policy in the community of Springfield, Virginia. One man found out the hard way. Eric Williamson, 29, stands accused of making coffee naked in his kitchen. It was 5.30am and Williamson who grew up in Hawaii had not anticipated the peeping tom, stalker culture perpetrated by the over crowded mcmansions and condo-villes of NoVa.

Could there be a more ludicrous affair for the State to thrust its nose into? One of his neighbors, a woman, who for reasons unclear, was outside Williamson's window at 5.30am with her seven year old son pushed the cops to press the charge of indecent exposure.

What makes this case even more ridiculous Williamson was home alone!?! If making coffee naked when you are home alone is a crime, what next? Wtf? What is the compelling interest for the State to get involved? He faces a maximum sentence of one year in jail and $2,000 fine.

Read more here at, where else, Fox News naturally.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

What isn't fixed in Illinois?

In a state who's last two governors are serving prison terms, what is left uncorrupted? Illinois is the place, namely Chicago, where machine politics reached its penultimate height and maintained its last bastion. There are people who still believe Mayor Dayley's (senior) Chicago vote fixing swung the 1960 Presidential election in Kennedy's favor. So why not admissions to the state's premier public university?

The University of Illinois chancellor resigned this week in a scandal over admissions at the state’s once highly regarded publicly funded university. The core of the scandal was that the University of Illinois gave admissions preference to unqualified applicants with connections. According to an outside commission the chancellor, Richard H. Herman, was the "ultimate decision-maker" to help favored students.

The New York Times reported, "(the chancellor) is the latest of several officials to leave as details of the scandal have come to light. The university’s president, B. Joseph White, resigned last month...Most of the members of the university’s board have also resigned."

Way to go Illinois, the Land of Lincoln, indeed.


The violence in Iraq continues unabated. Since America sliced off the tentacles of authority maintained by the ghastly dictator Saddam Hussein no one, and no one group, has been able to regain control of the state.

Violence smolders on, and tragically those allied with the forces of peace and reconciliation are among those most often targeted.

We at the Clarion Content feel a duty to continually remind our readership about this story because of the lack of play it receives in the Amerikkan media now that American soldiers are no longer frequent victims.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Northeast Passage Open for business?


Last month two German freighters sailed into Rotterdam Harbor after completing an historic month plus journey from Vladivostok, Russia, in the Pacific Far East, through the once frozen and impassable northeast Arctic route. The German company that operates the two specially reinforced cargo ships, said that taking the Arctic passage saved 10 days and $300,000 per ship over the standard 11,000 nautical-mile voyage through the Indian Ocean, the Suez Canal, and the Mediterranean in order to reach the North Atlantic.

However, the Christian Science Monitor reported that, the ships were accompanied "by a nuclear-powered Russian icebreaker for part of their journey, though they apparently did not require any assistance." It is unclear if the passage will be permanently open. The retreating polar ice cap has stimulated talk of opening a Northwest Passage above Canada, too.

The geopolitical consequences of either of these routes coming into frequent use would be significant. Can you say Siberian pirates anyone? Seriously though, the Monitor quotes the Russian Ministry of Transport's chief of Sea and River Transport, Alexander Davydenko, "Scientists tell us that we face warming, and that the boundaries of the Arctic ice are receding. Therefore we are taking a variety of measures ... to safeguard the interests of the Russian Federation in the Arctic region." They report that, "a new department to administer the northern sea route is being created to build infrastructure and oversee tariffs... the ministry is also building at least one massive new nuclear icebreaker to supplement its current fleet of six."

We will keep you posted as the situation develops. Read the whole article here.

War, what is it good for?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Iraq violence spirals on

Despite the American media's loss of interest, despite the Nobel committee's premature award to President Obama, violence continues to mar the day-to-day lives of Iraq citizens, over 100,000 of whom have perished in King George the II's, Dick's and Don's foolish war.

The quieting of the media din has created a false perception in America that things are getting better in Iraq. Unfortunately not true, the reality is America has created the conditions for a vicious civil war that it can do nothing about. There are no safe places in Iraq to hide. Last week during Vice-President Joe Biden's visit there were mortar attacks launched into the ostensibly safest place in Iraq, the heavily fortified Green zone, home of the palatial, Kremlin-esque, United States embassy. Ironically, the bumbling Biden was one of the first to recognize and admit the inevitability of a split in an Iraqi state drawn on a map with little or no consideration of tribal, ethnic and religious divisions.

The chaos is spreading its net wider daily as the United States prepares to drawn down its forces. Fallujah where so many United States servicemen valiantly gave of their lives has seen a recent spike in violence, as competition for control with the central government flares.

Note: It took less than 30 minutes to find the links for this post to ten different incidents of tragic violence in Iraq in the last two weeks. None were in American media sources.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


There are many differences between the Obama presidency and the reign of George Bush the II. One of them is that if someone had done this during the Bush II presidency, they would have been water-boarded in the search for co-conspirators, then locked up in a foreign prison beyond the reach of the United States' Constitution.

According to the Los Angeles Times and numerous other sources, "The Secret Service launched an investigation into a Facebook poll asking if President Obama should be assassinated." The paper reported that "The question, "Should Obama be killed?" had received 730 responses since its posting on Saturday. The four possible answers: Yes. Maybe. If he cuts my healthcare. No."

Wow! Bush engendered a heckuva lot of hostility, be wethinks nobody was getting away with that without facing the wrath of Dick Cheney.

Read the whole story here.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Italian Stallion

Regular readers know that the Clarion Content loves to tweak American politicians for their sexual shenanigans. But we know even California has nothing on Italy when it comes to the scandalous sex stories. This one goes all the way to the top, implicating sleazy, media-dominating, criminally despotic, Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi.

According to the UK's Daily Telegraph five women were paid more than $1000 each per night to attend dinner parties at the Italian prime minister's lavish residence spend the night and offer the prime minister sexual services. The news surfaced at the trial of Gianpaolo Tarantini, who is being investigated in the southern port city of Bari, Italy on charges of providing women for prostitution. According to the Telegraph, Tarantini testified, "that between September 2008 and January 2009, he recruited Italian and foreign girls, including some from Eastern Europe, to attend the gatherings. They were flown to Rome, put up in hotels and taken to Mr Berlusconi's imposing mansion, Palazzo Grazioli." There were more than eighteen dinner parties total. Tarantini told Italian investigators that he had arranged for the women to attend with the hope that the aging prime minister would help him secure a business contract with Italy's Civil Protection agency, a national emergency services organization.

Read more here. Its dirty. To think Italy is in NATO, the G-20, the EU, etc. Continuing to sanction this kind of corruption indicts Italy and all the organizations it participates in, making it significantly more difficult for these bodies to attack state-sanctioned corruption elsewhere.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Thanks again, America

We are quite sure that is not what Iraqis are thinking. "Thanks again America for stopping by. Appreciate ya," not exactly likely after more than 100,00 civilian deaths America disgustingly and callously labeled "collateral damage." Now there is another reason for Iraqis to be far less than grateful for the tsunami of destruction that America unleashed on their country, "shock and awe," indeed.

The Associated Press is reporting that a massive wave of violent and deadly crime is sweeping across Iraq. Kidnappings, murders and armed robberies have increased dramatically. The AP notes that it is largely being precipitated by well armed former insurgents, whom as we recall, America birthed via Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz's ingenious decision to disband the Iraqi army and send them home armed and jobless. The Iraqi government, divided against itself, and still fighting car bombings and the like in Baghdad, Mosul and elsewhere hardly has the time or verve to do anything about the crime wave.

The Associated Press notes that next to the lack of electricity and clean water, crime has become one of Iraqis' biggest complaints. America has shown it has the power to take a 2nd world state and drop it deeply into the 3rd world. However, as American policymakers already should have known from Vietnam and Somalia, America and outsiders are incapable of building such states back to stability.

Read more here.

Monday, September 21, 2009

SEC considering banning flash trading

What you mean those with the most information about the stock market shouldn't be able to sell an exclusive ability to privileged clients to place their trades before the general public? You don't say?

But that is what the SEC is considering! Last week SEC commissioners unanimously voted to consider banning the practice known as flash trading, a notoriously rigged insider game that governments and most financial services honchos have blithely ignored for years. Nasdaq banned the practice last month. The London Stock Exchange recently eliminated a policy that encouraged it.

Flash trading may account for as much as 50% of market volume. Troublingly enough no one really knows for certain. It is a computing and algorithmic arms race that is going on beneath the conscious eye of the public that introduces real systemic risk, (and apocalyptic visions of machines gone haywire.)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Mafia Dumping

The BBC reports that a shipwreck (not pictured) potentially containing toxic waste is being investigated by Italian authorities amidst claims that it was deliberately sunk by the Mafia. The story caught the Clarion Content's eye because we have heard rumblings about the Mafia dumping chemical and nuclear waste in connection with East African piracy. This is a slightly different tale because according to the BBC the sunken ship was found 18 miles off of the southwestern coast of Italy.

Apparently, this is but the tip of the iceberg of what may have happened. The BBC says, "An informant from the Calabrian Mafia said the ship was one of a number he blew up as part of an illegal operation to bypass laws on toxic waste disposal." Italian officials said there may be as many as thirty other scuttled vessels.

Read the whole story here.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Poorest workers hit hardest

The long fight for fairness for the American worker is nowhere near over.

There was bad news from the New York Times last week. It reported that a comprehensive examination low wage workers, found that 68% of the workers interviewed had experienced at least one pay-related violation in the previous work week. The survey had nearly 4,400 participants. The survey determined that the average worker had lost $51 the previous week through wage violations, out of weekly earnings of $339, almost 15% of their earnings. One quarter of the workers had been paid less than the minimum wage, one in seven had worked off the clock. Three quarters of those who had worked overtime the week before were not paid their properly for it.

The survey also found that only 8% of those who suffered serious injuries on the job filed for workers compensation to pay for medical care and missed days at work due to those injuries.

Worse yet, the survey was conducted last year before the brunt of the current economic slump took hold. Anecdotal reports indicate the situation has only worsened.

Read the whole article here.

Friday, September 11, 2009

So that's how it is in California

Well, well, well, if California isn't the forefront of American culture again! In this case with a slimy scandal in its State Legislature, where although Caly is a trendsetter, it is not alone in corruption. State Legislatures nationwide have run amok. Their power of patronage, more in making laws than appointments, has the opportunity to sway billions of dollars on the balance sheets of various industries. It is no surprise these industries and interests hire lobbyists to push their positions, a great deal of money is at stake, they want to have a say. The Clarion Content's possible solution set: redistricting via algorithms, district-by-district citizen watchdogs, term limits, higher pay for State Legislators.

Here is what happened in California where the seamy, slithered to the surface of the cesspool. The Associated Press reports 54-year-old lawmaker, married California Assemblyman, Mike Duvall is caught in a recording of a legislative hearing, "bragging in graphic detail about having sex with a female lobbyist and another woman..."I'm getting into spanking her," Duvall is heard to say on the videotape.

The other man asks if she likes it, too. Duvall responds: "She goes, 'I know you like spanking me.' I said, 'Yeah, that's 'cause you're such a bad girl.' Duvall said he joked with the lobbyist that she was getting old after turning 36 and told her, "I am going to have to trade you in...the lawmaker then brags about an affair he is having with another woman.

"Oh, she is hot! I talked to her yesterday. She goes, 'So are we finished?' I go, 'No, we're not finished.' I go, 'You know about the other one, but she doesn't know about you!'" Duvall can be heard saying in an apparent reference to his affair with the lobbyist."

Ah, California, America's cultural beacon, home of her reality TV shows, her defense industry and Silicon Valley. Assemblyman Mike Duvall represents an Orange County district that includes Orange, Anaheim, Fullerton, and Yorba Linda. He is yet another in the long line of Larry Craig, John Ensign, Mark Sanford, "okay for me, not okay for you" Theoconservatives. The Associated Press reports, "Duvall received a 100 percent rating from Capitol Resource Institute, a conservative advocacy group, for his votes on legislation considered pro-family during the 2007-08 legislative session."

The AP says, "Several media outlets reported the lobbyist Duvall refers to in his comments works for Sempra Energy, a San Diego-based energy services company that operates San Diego Gas & Electric Co. and Southern California Gas Co. Sempra issued an e-mail statement saying it was investigating the claims."

Assemblyman Duvall was vice chairman of the utilities committee.

Read the whole story here.

Our Afghan Policy position

Give Peace a chance!

We wish to clarify a piece we wrote on the front page recently, "No Gain." (For those of you haven't been following our discussion with the M'Rock in the comments.)

We believe America and its allies should rapidly and massively draw down their forces in Afghanistan to a level of small counterinsurgency ops only, while supplying significant development aid, especially for literacy and modern irrigation.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Vegas baby?

The Clarion Content has run a series of articles on how widespread the impact of the massive economic downturn in the world economy has been. The last one was on how the normally countercyclical industries of vice, including porn, haven't been exempt from this huge slump. Logically enough, the countercyclical locales are struggling as much as their industries, even Las Vegas.

The Los Angeles Times says that the Vegas model, "which was to tap into an ever-expanding supply of free-spending visitors clamoring for first-class hotel rooms, four-star restaurant fare and high-priced shows, has been shattered by its worst recession in decades." They report that convention business is down about 27% from a year ago. Las Vegas tourist visits in general, after years of record setting new highs, have now declined for two years in a row, and this year look set to drop all the way back to 1999 levels.

The good news is there are deals for visitors all over the Las Vegas landscape. The LA Times reports that even the priciest of the luxury events and accommodations in Vegas are offering deep discounts. They cite the example of the normally $500/night Bellagio hotel offering rooms for as little as $90/night. Even the legendary Cirque du Soleil and some of the city's fanciest restaurants have been offering massively reduced prices.

Sounds like if you have got the duckets it is a great time to head to Vegas, baby!

Serial Killer: Milwaukee police solve a cold case

Working on what they called "shoe leather and science" Milwaukee police have connected a local man, Walter E. Ellis, 49, to the murders of as many as nine women. Eight of the victims were African-American prostitutes who were strangled, two were also stabbed. The ninth victim was a white 16-year-old runaway whose throat was slashed, and though Ellis's DNA was identified on her body, police are unsure if he was the actual killer. All of the women were killed in a small area of Milwaukee bounded by N. King Drive, N. 27th St., W. North Ave. and W. Capitol Drive.

The police knew that the victims were likely from the same serial killer when DNA matches started to pop up back in 2007. The DNA found did not match any samples in state or federal databases. Reportedly they received as many as 193 tips in its first three months of operation. As they worked through them Ellis's name was linked to several of the cases. Friday they executed a search warrant on his apartment while he was not home, taking his toothbrush and razors. Tests at the Wisconsin State Crime Laboratory showed DNA matches. Saturday his vehicle was spotted in the parking lot of a local motel and police descended. He was apprehended after a brief struggle.

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "In two of the homicides linked to Ellis, other men had been charged in the slayings. Curtis McCoy was charged in October 1994 with killing Carron Kilpatrick, 32, his live-in girlfriend and the mother of his daughter, but he was later acquitted by a jury. Chaunte Ott was convicted of killing Jessica Payne, the 16-year-old runaway. Ott served 13 years in prison before he was released in January, after DNA analysis showed semen found on the girl's body was not his."

Read the whole story here.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Six months

England convicted three men of plotting to blow up planes on flights between Britain and the United States and Canada. The plan was to blow up planes with liquid explosives in soft-drink bottles.

English justice is not American justice
. Punishment is far less punitive and severe. If the convicted Lockerbie bomber who has been freed and is home in Libya is any indication, these guys will be out in six months. After all the Lockerbie bomber was convicted of killing 270 people, these guys were only found guilty of conspiracy to murder.

On the other hand, English justice is not American justice. The rights of the defendant are far slimmer. These men were convicted on their second trial for the same crime. That's double jeopardy in America. These men are going away on a majority verdict of 11 to 1. That's a hung jury in America.

If the deconstructionists have convinced the Clarion Content of anything, it is that the law is always gray.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

A hearty F-U from the USPS

The United States Postal Service has taken to giving Durham the proverbial bird all summer long. Ostensibly a government service, the inefficient, inscrutable, opaque USPS has decided not to offer service in many of its Durham branches this summer. The bums are closing the main downtown post office at 2pm. The losers fail to offer an automatic teller machine that sells stamps or stickers packages in this, the main Durham branch. For fuck's sake, there are 217,000 people in this city, the Postal Service can't come up with one automated machine at the main downtown branch!!!

They need to fire a few of their lax, lazy-ass supervisors and they could afford quite a few more machines.

Maybe there are those of you who think, well, they are closing the main post office three hours early and not opening at all on Saturday, perhaps we could go to the 27705 branch off of La Salle Street. Ha! Nope! They are closed at 2pm also. However, at least La Salle Street does offer an automatic postal machine. Unfortunately, the USPS specializes in finding new ways to inconvenience their patrons; the machine does not accept cash!

Perhaps the 27704 post office is better. After all, the USPS just spent the money to relocate that branch across the street to a new location, from the horrible dump with atrocious nearly impassable parking lot, where they had it. Of course it is not better, it is perhaps even more infuriating than any of them. During peak hours (when most of the other post offices in town have knocked off early) this post office is manned by a mere one counter employee. There is no automatic postal machine.

These jerks found time and money to sponsor a bike team for eight years!?! If the Clarion Content had its way, the Post Office would be forbidden from advertising, and forced to redirect those expenditures into improving service and efficiency with a particular emphasis on automated service machines. (Including one's that accept cash, seriously, the grocery store has them.)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Even the so-called countercyclical

The Clarion Content has heard repeatedly in the midst of this nasty economic storm that certain vice industries are countercyclical. Alcohol is the most often cited example. We also hear that the lottery and gambling, in general, do well. While we haven't had time to do an extensive survey, we did run across an article in the LA Times about one big vice industry that is not doing so well, porn.

That's right, its tough times in the porn business amidst this nasty recession. Talking to the ladies at Hustler's 35th anniversary party the Times reports that fees performers are receiving per scene are down 30%. The actors and actresses are getting less because there is less competition for their services, naturally. The Times says, "Industry insiders estimate that since 2007, revenue for most adult production and distribution companies has declined 30% to 50%." They also report a sharp decline in the number of new productions.

The porn biz is getting nailed in more ways than one, its not just the economy, but the technology. There is so much free porn on the internet that who needs to pay for it? The Times says, "Sites like Pornhub, YouPorn and RedTube attract more users than TMZ and the Huffington Post." And they go on to quote the president Vivid Entertainment, he says, "The death of the DVD business has been more accelerated in the adult business than mainstream." Unfortunately for the industry, porn on the internet generates lots of traffic, but very little revenue.

The porn industry at its peak has been estimated to be as big as $13 billion annually. While on one level it will be interesting to evaluate the way it comes through these turbulent times, on another level, it is a reminder of just how wide ranging the implications of a bad economy can be. Because, no doubt, as the Times notes, performers are being pressured to more for less (as always in the porn biz, particularly women).

Monday, August 24, 2009

Could be our Mayor

Don't know if you heard about this one dear reader, but after reading the Associated Press story, we have decided that we would take the Mayor of Milwaukee as our Mayor any time.

As it unfolded, the Mayor, Tom Barrett, was at the Wisconsin State Fair with his family. He had his wife, his kids and his niece with him. They were leaving the fair grounds, walking across one of the huge parking lots that surround it when they heard a woman confronting an assailant yelling for someone to call the police. Mayor Barrett stepped between the woman and her attacker who was brandishing a lead pipe. The mayor tried to restore calm to the situation, and though unarmed he was attacked when he attempted to call 911.

He sustained a fractured hand, and stitches to the head and mouth. The woman was not hurt and the perp fled on foot from the scene. The mayor's one regret according to his spokesman was that was his family had to witness the incident that left him hospitalized.

Not so welcome in Virgina

from South Hill to Richmond

The sign on the interstate reads, "Welcome to Virginia" as one heads across the state line, the reality is tangibly different. Virgina, like many states post the despotic reign of King George the II, is grappling with massive and debilitating state budget shortfalls. Various states are dealing with these budgetary crises in a manifest number of ways, one may recall reading in these pages that the state of California was issuing IOUs. Delaware is trying to legalize sports betting. Virginia has a plan of its own, in short, super expensive speeding tickets.

Any speeding ticket in Virginia for where the driver is clocked at over 80 miles per hour is a minimum $412 including fine and court costs. Holy mackerel! One ticket equals $412 is a punishment that stokes the fires of the Clarion Content's libertarian furnace. The fact that the punishment is pecuniary rather than custodial, that is, monetary rather than jail time, makes it uniquely anti-poor. A second speeding ticket over 80 miles per hour in Virginia within three years is a $1000 fine. The same penalties apply at lower speeds if the driver is more than 20 miles an hour over the speed limit. Not only is a lower income person likely to be more effected by a speeding ticket with a huge fine, they are less likely to be able to afford a lawyer to fight it.

Interesting side note, one of the legislative sponsors for the bill state Delegate David B. Albo (R-Springfield), is reportedly a partner in a traffic law firm.

The less than bemusing flip side of the budgetary coin in Virginia has frustrating ramifications for driver's too. Not content with soaking motorists wallets, Virginia has been cutting back on highway amenities, as well. Virginia has closed numerous state operated rest stops. Interstate 85 between the North Carolina border and the capital Richmond features a series of rest stops with sand barrels connected by chains blocking their entrances from the highway. Not such a pretty sight if one is hoping empty the bladder!

Drivers beware, the sign says, "Welcome to Virginia," the evidence says otherwise.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

If you don't report it

If you don't report it then we can deny it happened. So goes the thinking of the Afghan Foreign Ministry in the days before elections in the strife torn country. Huh. Can one sense this was a government installed by King George Bush the II, or what? Same attitude toward the media and the institution of the free press, "Hey can you muzzle yourself for the greater good? We got some things we need to take care of here and we don't want them too closely examined..."

According to the Associated Press
, fearing that violence could dampen turnout, the Afghan Foreign Ministry issued a statement Tuesday saying that news organizations should avoid "broadcasting any incidence of violence" between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. on election day "to ensure the wide participation of the Afghan people."

"If we deny it, and the media doesn't report it, who's to say it ever happened?" Is there a more Dick Cheney-esque philospohy? And remember, these are ostensibly the good guys of Afghani politics. The Clarion Content (and Derrida) would tell you that any government that has to be imposed violently against the will of the people has already lost its legitimacy.

Of course, a unified Afghan nation only exists in the mind's eye of Western, external policymakers. Outside of the capital of Kabul, clan, tribe, and religion come first, there is no self-consciously recognized Afghani identity. One is a Pashtun, a Tajik, an Uzbek, or a Turkmen living in a state drawn on a map by Brit more than a 100 years ago. The map has not changed identities or loyalties on the ground.

Fortunately, what Afghani media there is, has stated that it is going to resist demands of the Kabul government for a news blackout, much as it would have resisted the same demands made by a Taliban government.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

War is no game

"The only way to win is not to play the game." These famous words were uttered by a computer in the 1983 movie War Games. In this movie the humans had to teach the computer that war, specifically global thermonuclear war, was futile via the children's game tic-tac-toe. The line above is the realization, when the computer, after running endless simulations, finally gets it, "the only way to win is not to play the game."

While the Clarion Content is not made up of dyed-in-the-wool pacifists, we are most disappointed with the pace at which the Obama administration is ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. There is no narrative, no becoming, that is a United States win. And in the interim the real human cost is irretrievably high.

Take the painful story of Captain Kafele H. Sims, a thirty-two year from Los Angeles, California. Captain Sims, the fourth child of Jimmie and Michelle Sims, attended public schools in L.A. and graduated with honors from Birmingham High School in 1995. Two weeks short of wrapping up his second tour in Iraq Captain Sims, a physician's assistant, died June 16th in Mosul. Army officials have told his wife is that his death did not occur during combat and that the cause remains under investigation. They have ruled out suicide and homicide according to the Los Angeles Times.

The mystery is probably what brought this story to notice, most sadly the tragedy of the life that was lost is all too common place. Captain Sims left his wife, Masako and three young children who range from 21 months to 4 years old.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

No health care for Texas

In another act of Republican genius, Texas Governor Rick Perry said Thursday that he would consider invoking states’ rights protections under the 10th Amendment of the Constitution to resist a federal health care plan. Like the Republican Governors that the Clarion Content told you were resisting the stimulus plan, Governor Perry's stance is pretty vile, prima facie. Unless he is willing to give up the generous taxpayer funded health care he enjoys, denying others who have no insurance government health care is awfully cruel without a viable alternative.

Governor Perry was quoted on the conservative Dallas talk radio show hosted by Mark Davis. The governor predicted that Texas and a "number" of states might resist the federal health mandate. According to the Fort-Worth Star Telegram, Governor Perry refused $555 million in federal unemployment stimulus money earlier this year. He also, "heartily backed an unsuccessful resolution in this year’s legislative session that would have affirmed the belief that Texas has sovereignty under the 10th Amendment over all powers not otherwise granted to the federal government."

Texas has a higher percentage of uninsured people than any other state, with one in four Texans lacking health coverage.

Read the whole article here.

Friday, July 17, 2009

In America?

We found this story hard to believe, that this happened in America. Because we know very little about the history and facts of this case, it is difficult to analyze the whys. It was just our astonishment at the outcome that meant we had to post about it.

Our thanks to the Philadelphia Inquirer for their full story.

H. Beatty Chadwick, seventy-three years old, has been imprisoned for fourteen long years for contempt of court - a U.S. record for that charge. According to the Inquirer, "a Delaware County judge had issued the order to jail Chadwick for failing to deposit $2.5 million in a court-controlled account to be used to pay alimony to his ex-wife, Barbara "Bobbie" Applegate [in 1995]." Mr. Chadwick contended that he didn't have the dough. He said he lost it in overseas investments. The judge didn't believe him. A series of investigations have turned up no hidden money.

Ten days ago Judge Joseph P. Cronin said after fourteen years the contempt order had lost its coercive effect and become punitive. According the Inquirer, "when Chadwick's attorney, Michael J. Malloy, arrived to pick him up, about 50 people - prison staff as well as inmates - gathered inside and out to see him off... People were crying and hugging Chadwick and shaking his hand."

The moral of the story as we see it, don't go ostrich America. Things of this nature demonstrate that bizarre, unusual and even extraordinary detention can and does happen to people here.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


The Clarion Content approves of the walk softly path the President Barack Obama is treading with Iran. That Iran's most recent elections were dirty is hardly in doubt, the ability of the United States to do something effective about it is much more nebulous. We are glad that President recognized that massive overreach by the last United States' President destabilized democracies and pseudo-democracies the world over from Thailand to Pakistan.

The statistical analysis from one of the most fascinating political bloggers, the FiveThirtyEight, is why we are convinced Iran's elections were fraudulent. The will of the people is the most important lever to the control of a society, far more relevant than external actions.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Too rich

Some stories just write themselves. The tale of Nevada Republican Senator John Ensign is one such beauty. The Associated Press reported today that Senator Ensign's parents gave the Nevada Republican's mistress and her family nearly $100,000 "out of concern for the well being of longtime family friends during a difficult time," according to the Senator's attorney.

The married Senator Ensign had already paid the married with two kids, Cindy Hampton, $25,000 in hush money, errr, severance, when she quit as the treasurer of two of his campaign committees. Senator Ensign is a born-again Christian and a member of the Promise Keepers. What the Clarion Content finds really amazing is the lack of shame from the party that tried to impeach a President for Oval Office fellatio. Senator Ensign, like South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, continues to insist he has no plans to resign.

Hampton's husband was quoted in the Las Vegas Sun, "The actions of Senator Ensign have ruined our lives and careers and left my family in shambles."

Resign? Why?

Nice guy, Senator John Ensign. It hardly looks like America is in the Nero stages of the Roman Empire.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


It struck the Clarion Content as quite the juxtaposition when we popped open Google the News last month. Context, there is no morning paper delivered to the office. The old timey ritual of looking at the front page of the daily fishwrap has disappeared, probably forever. Frequently then the equivalent is the first time of the day we head to Google the News which encapsulates the stories of the day with links. It is a brilliant idea. It has sections: World, US, Business, Sci/Tech, Entertainment, Sports, Health and Most Popular (other). However, unlike the traditional newspaper, columns or leads in one section or one part of the page pay no mind to the other. There is no central orienting by a single editor or designer.

Thus it came to be last month that right next to a series of articles about the meeting of the heads of the G-8 economies were a series of articles about the impending bankruptcy of the amusement park chain Six Flags. In article after article, the wonkish economists of the state offered bland reassurance that the world economy was indeed doing better. Things had stabilized. Heck, the Germans even advocated that not as much stimulus as once thought would be needed. Starkly juxtaposed with those articles was the massive bankruptcy of the huge amusement park operator. It is billions of dollars in debt, despite 25 millions visits to its parks last year and record revenues.

In the staid conference rooms of Lecce, Italy it may look like the world is getting better. But back here on the front lines of the midway, not so much. Fiscal worry still hangs heavy.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Lost and Found

South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, a real family man

As it turns out our suppositions this morning were correct. South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford was on the Elliot Spitzer plan, although he had to travel a lot further to get the booty, Argentina as opposed to Washington, D.C. Will Sanford's fall from grace be as swift? Sanford has already resigned as Chairman of the National Republican's Governors Association. Spitzer was forced completely from office. Who knew we were going to be treated to this much South Carolina Republican blogging when we started last week?

Is South Carolina's Republican Lieutenant Governor up to the very capable standards of New York's James Patterson? The Clarion Content thinks we shall soon see.

Stranger in a strange land

The story of South Carolina Governor, Mark Sanford, gets curiouser and curiouser. We defended Governor Sanford when it appeared he had purely needed some time to get a way from the pressures of public life. His staff said he had gone on walkabout on the Appalachian Trail and would be back in a couple of days. Now suddenly the story has morphed into a totally new tale.

The Associated Press reports, "South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford is telling a newspaper that he was in Argentina during his unexplained 5-day absence." At the last minute, the Governor supposedly decided he wanted a more exotic break from work and his family. The more we read, the more we feel this appears likely to turn into an Elliot Spitzer or Marion Barry type of story. The truth lies some where between Appalachia and Argentina.

Still missing

The Clarion Content ran across an amazing story in the BBC News that we had never heard preciously. A fifty-one year old nuclear bomb dropped in shallow waters of the coast of Georgia remains missing. Somewhere near Savannah and Tybee Island there is a 7,500 lbs nuclear bomb buried. The United States government despite numerous attempts has never been able to find it. The Air Force now insists it is safest to leave it where it is, claiming according to the BBC, that it is incapable of a nuclear explosion because it lacks the vital plutonium trigger.

The Clarion Content once detailed for you the amazing story of the only nuclear bomb every dropped on the Continental United States, but we had never heard this one. Read the whole article, the details of the mid-air collision and the heroism of Colonel Howard Richardson, DFC, who insured the bomb did not crash to earth with his near crippled plane, here.

Monday, June 22, 2009

South Carolina's Governor

Hopefully, it wasn't our scathing critique that caused it, but South Carolina's head Republican has disappeared, gone it hiding as it were. His staff can't find him, the press says calls to his cellphone are going straight to voicemail, his wife hasn't talked to him in several days. Governor Mark Sanford has gone AWOL or as his spokesman put it "out of pocket." The most recent reports have him hiking the Appalachian Trail, unreachable by cellphone. Talk about atypical.

It is something of sad commentary on American society that a man can't talk a walk in the woods and be alone with his thoughts. The kind of histrionic commentary that Governor Sanford's hike has drawn is ridiculous, "The way things are in the world today and homeland security, we need the governor to be fingertips away. Somebody's got to be in charge." quoth, State Senator Jake Knotts, a Republican according to the Associated Press.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

South Carolina's Republicans

The smiling face of the South Carolina GOP

The ever moderate and broad minded Republicans of South Carolina are at it again. Republican activist Rusty DePass reprised one of the oldest racist lines in the book on his Facebook page, over the weekend. The story was after a gorilla escaped from a zoo in Columbia, South Carolina, DePass took the time out to change his Facebook status to, "I'm sure it's just one of Michelle's ancestors - probably harmless," referring to the First Lady. Must be a pleasure for Senator Lindsey Graham and his ilk to be associated with progressive thinkers like Mr. DePass. Though we must query, what's with the ape reference we thought these guys didn't believe in evolution?

Read more here at Politics Daily.