Saturday, January 31, 2009

Google's going to watch the pipes

The Clarion Content recently read that Google and several non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that Google helps fund are going to lead research into Internet speeds, latency, jitter, and blocking. Google is going to lead an initiative called Measurement Lab or M-Lab. It will fund three measurement servers (exclusive to M-Lab) to start. By the end of 2009, 36 servers will exist at twelve locations in the United States and Europe measuring data on the diverse networks that make up the pipes, valves, and faucets of the Internet.

According to Ars Technica, "current research projects simply have a massive shortcoming in data collection and analysis...researchers and policy makers are operating from a position of ignorance...To turn M-Lab into a truly open and useful resource, the group is seeking help from anyone who can offer it—interface designers, network researchers, tool developers, and companies willing to host more servers...M-Lab is open to participation from any other group that wants to host a site. To do so, all that's required is three dedicated rack-mount servers with dual quad-core processors each and a fast Internet connection."

The Clarion Content on the one hand, can see that an entity monitoring the internet's traffic laws, policies and outcomes makes sense. Even better that it is an entity that supports net neutrality that is monitoring the pipes. One the other hand, it always makes us nervous when corporations assume huge new (potentially regulatorily influential) roles that might sway government policy and with it the formation and enforcement of the law of the land.

Read more here.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Good news in Compton

The CPT hasn't gotten much good news or much good publicity in years. But, the Clarion Content has some. Compton's murder rate has plunged to its lowest level in twenty five years. An era so long ago that it predates N.W.A.'s seminal, "Straight out of Compton." Compton still has its gangs, according to the LA Times as many as 65 gangs jammed into ten square miles shared amongst 100,000 people. But despite that, Compton has seen homicides drop by more than 50% since 2005. The LA Times senses a turn in the tide, "Indeed, there is a palpable sense that the streets are safer. In a neighborhood called Sunny Cove, residents take a group walk on Mondays now, unthinkable a few years back. Owens' church (Faith Inspirational Missionary Baptist Church) offers free movies in local parks; the program started slowly, but 900 people came out for the most recent screening, at Lueders Park off Rosecrans Avenue."

The LA Times says the key has been community style policing. In the 1980's the police actions resembled that of an occupying military force. Now the number of, "station volunteers (has risen) from 10 to 55, and reserve deputies from just one previously to eight. Neighborhood Watch and business watch programs are popping up all over town."

It was the will of the people to take their streets back, non-violently that made the difference. The comments attached to the LA Times article are quite inspiring. It is a heartwarming story made possible by people who cared (including cops and the local sheriff's department.)

Who's a cop?

In Chicago this weekend past a fourteen year-old kid walked into the Grand Crossing District police station wearing a police-issued shirt, vest, sweater, pants and skull cap. The savvy kid, who reportedly wants to be a cop when he is old enough, said he was an officer from another district, but was detailed for the day to Grand Crossing. The local cops bought it. He signed out a police radio and ticket book, and was sent on patrol with an actual Grand Crossing officer for five hours. According to the Chicago Tribune, "after his tour was over, a ranking officer became suspicious of the boy. Police said the officer discovered the teen was not a real police officer when he couldn't produce any credentials."

The boy was been charged as a juvenile for impersonating an officer. He had apparently been a "police explorer," part of a community program run through the Police Department's Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS) that allows youths to interact with Chicago police officers.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Government Basketball

The Washington Post reports that in his first meet and greet with his team as Interior Secretary Ken Salazar challenged President Obama. Salazar said that he and the Department of the Interior would like to take on President Obama and his White House team in a basketball game. As the Post noted, good luck. Not only does the White House team have Obama, but also former Duke basketball back-up Reggie Love is on the president's staff. The challenge arose indirectly in response to a National Park Service employee Wendy O’Sullivan telling Secretary Salazar, who is the former Colorado attorney general, that her brother, a Denver-area attorney, had once played in a basketball league that included Salazar and members of the office of attorney general.

Bush II blowback

The George Bush II reign did significant damage to Republican popularity in America. The most obvious indication of this was the national election of 2008. However, the Clarion Content recently heard another one. This one was likely especially heartening for liberal politicians. The 43rd annual "American Freshman" survey, a national survey by UCLA researchers, found the share of students who described themselves as liberal was 31%, which was the highest percentage since 1973.

The Los Angeles Times also reports that the college freshmen surveyed, "showed increased support for what are often viewed as liberal causes: 66.2% are in favor of same-sex marriages; 41.3% favor legalization of marijuana; only 28% want more military spending, a large drop since the aftermath of the 2001 terrorist attacks." The Clarion Content would like to note that all of those causes could be viewed as libertarian, too.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Inauguration re-do

The White House Map Room

In what should comes as no surprise to folks who watched the inauguration Tuesday, the White House in an "abundance of caution" had Chief Justice Roberts re-administer the presidential oath of office to President Barack Obama yesterday behind closed doors in the White House Map Room. Chief Justice Roberts had a tongue-tied moment in front of the crowds at the Capitol Tuesday. Roberts stumbled and messed up the wording of oath the second time he spoke. Obama tried to indicate that to Roberts with a little head nod, like hey, repeat that, properly. Roberts didn't follow, then seemed to and leaped back in, the results were that the word faithfully was misplaced. So yesterday, behind closed doors at the White House, Roberts and Obama did it again, with all the words, no mumbles and no crosstalk.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Pirates, ahoy

Bottles of rum

Regular readers of the Clarion Content know that we have been following what is happening in piracy off of the coast of Somalia. Old friends of the editorial staff know we have been following the issue since the predominate area for pirates was the Strait of Malacca.

If you are interested in piracy too, we wanted to sling you a fun batch of fresh links. We try to scatter links throughout posts, so old piracy posts will have further links.

This batch is a five part special series we ran into on the BBC's website.

This first one was written by an embedded correspondent who is on a Turkish NATO warship on patrol for food aid ships making the run from Mombasa, Kenya to Mogadishu. It includes a conversation with a captain of a freighter previously taken by pirates.

The second is about how modern day pirates collect their ransoms. It is tricky business. They aren't taking down Spanish galleons filled with the gold of the New World. They have Saudi oil tankers with two million barrels of oil. There is no practical way for them to sell or dispose of such booty. The method then, is that they grab and hold the ship for ransom. Again, fascinating anecdotes!

The third article is written about the change in life in the pirate town of Eyl on the eastern coast of what used to be Somalia, and now is nominally considered by some the country of Puntland. There is a lot of got rich quick money in the town and whole networks are springing up around the pirates.

This one breaks down a bit about how the pirates do it. According to the BBC there are, "Ex-fishermen, who are considered the brains of the operation because they know the sea...Ex-militiamen, who are considered the muscle - having fought for various Somali clan warlords...and the technical experts, who are the computer geeks and know how to operate the hi-tech equipment needed to operate as a pirate - satellite phones, GPS and military hardware."

There is also one about the technological responses Empire is developing to respond to piracy, including deadly sounds beams and ringing ships with electrical fences. (You don't just, "stand-to to repel boarders" anymore.)

Finally, there is a last piece that is about some of the conundrums of international law that make it more difficult to address piracy. For instance, did you realize that according to the BBC, a warship cannot simply open fire (on a suspected pirate vessel,) an inspection has to be carried out "with all possible consideration," first.

Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum indeed!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Whoops, busted!

We don't want our loyal readers to think we pick on the Los Angeles Police Department when it comes to cases of corruption and malfeasance. We try to cast as wide a net as possible and appreciate your submissions and suggestions when we get them.

On that note, it came to our attention that the director of Ohio Governor Ted Strickland's Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, one Robert Eric McFadden, was arrested this week for compelling prostitution involving a minor, promoting prostitution and pandering. Apparently Mr. McFadden had established a website that he used to trade information about street hookers and online escorts. According to the Columbus Dispatch, "he would recommend some prostitutes, issue warnings about others and give advice on ways to avoid law enforcement." The site included photographs McFadden took of a seventeen year old prostitute in his wife's car.

McFadden who was paid $36 an hour for his work at the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives was transferred to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, but has subsequently been let go.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Rules change?

This interesting comment was submitted by one of our California readers. Surely food for thought, though at the Clarion Content we have our concerns about false positives and the privacy of testing.


Like a lot of folks in this state, I have a job...I work, they pay me. I pay my taxes and the government distributes my taxes as it sees fit. In order to get that paycheck, I am required to pass a random urine test with which I have no problem. What I do have a problem with is the distribution of my taxes to people who don't have to pass a urine test.

Shouldn't one have to pass a urine test to get a welfare check because I have to pass one to earn it for them? Please understand, I have no problem with helping people get back on their feet. I do, on the other hand, have a problem with helping someone sitting on their A--, doing drugs, while I work. . . . Can you imagine how much money the state would save if people had to pass a urine test to get a public assistance check?

Something has to change in this country -- and soon!!!!!!!

I guess we could title that program, 'Urine or You're Out'.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Jailhouse corruption

Theo Lacy Jail in Orange County, California

This is an ugly story that the Clarion Content picked up out of the Los Angeles Times earlier this week. At the Theo Lacy Jail in Orange County, California, in October of 2006, inmate John Derek Chamberlain was beaten to death by his fellow prisoners. Chamberlain was in jail on suspicion of possessing child pornography when he was attacked by a group of inmates. According to the LA Times, the inmates mistakenly believed that Chamberlain was charged with child molestation.

Sheriff's Special Officer Phillip Le, granted immunity from prosecution, told a grand jury that, prison deputies would work with inmate "shot-callers" who would help keep other inmates in line with beatings -- called "taxations" -- and would receive special privileges such as sack lunches and new clothes in exchange. He said it was common for officers to watch movies, use their personal laptops and read newspapers and books while on duty.

According to the LA Times he further testified that, "He did not keep an accurate log on the day Chamberlain was killed and that he had made a "command decision" to record over the first seven to 10 minutes of videotape he used to document the scene after guards discovered Chamberlain had been beaten." Le was alerted to the beating when an prisoner climbed on to a table and waved for attention outside the glass-walled guard station.

Ugly. Le and three other officers have left the sheriff's department in the wake of the investigation.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Legalize now!

The United States of America has got to quit fighting the futile and misnamed War on Drugs. As Sting diagnosed more than twenty years ago, "There is no such thing as a winnable war. It's the lie we don't believe anymore." This is doubly true for a war wherein one's own side is the enemy. American consumers are who drive the demand for narcotics. The war on drugs has also pointed on the ludicrous failure of America's drug education programs. Lying to youth about the potential dangers of drugs, like all propaganda, devalues the points where the state or the man is actually telling the truth. America has to shoot straight with its youth about the real dangers of drugs, and there are significant dangers. It also has to move away from blatantly failed paternalism, learn from its mistakes and legalize.

Will President-elect Obama have the guts or the time to push this radical agenda? Freeing up the massive amount of resources America wastes fighting the drug war would allow these resources to be diverted to far more important places and dangers, like port security (and all homeland security) or screening unsafe toys and food that come into the country from China and elsewhere.

Read an article here from the Los Angeles Times about the havoc being wreaked by the war on drugs. Note to non-economists: fighting the war on drugs raises the price of drugs, HUGELY.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Pirates who can't swim

Unfortunately for five Somali pirates they hadn't practiced their backstrokes enough recently. The five died when their small boat overturned as they were leaving behind the ransomed Saudi Arabian oil tanker Sirius Star. Reports say that their share of the reported $3 million ransom was lost with them. Whoops.

A Saudi Oil Ministry official reported the ship was steaming for Damma, on Saudi Arabia's Gulf coast. The Saudis reportedly paid the ransom via parachute drop. The Liberian-flagged ship, owned by the Saudi state oil company, Aramco, was reportedly carrying $100 million in crude oil.

Read the full Associated Press article here.

Back to reality

In a move designed to move America away from the Orwellian politicization of science that occurred under the reign of King George the II, president-elect Barack Obama has named John P. Holdren, a Harvard physicist as the White House science adviser.

As a letter signed by many of the most prominent scientists in America said to Bush II in 2004, "When scientific knowledge has been found to be in conflict with its political goals, the administration has often manipulated the process through which science enters into its decisions." Their concerns were ignored by a man who thought the torture of non-combatants was consistent with the American way.

King George the II, aligned with many a denier of evolution, saw no problem in looking at the scientific evidence and blithely declaring it wrong without even mustering a counter-argument. Conclusions were foreordained and the facts must be shaped to meet them. (Note how this principle also played out in pre-war intelligence on Iraq.)

How bad was George Bush II

The only honorable thing left for George the II to do.

As regular readers probably know, the Clarion Content believes George Bush the II has saved Warren G. Harding, Herbert Hoover, Millard Fillmore and Calvin Coolidge from the ignominy of being the worst president ever. He has taken the title and run. Handed a booming economy, trillion dollar budget surpluses and record low unemployment, he has squandered them all on failed foreign wars. He and Dick have run roughshod over the Constitution operating the most autocratic presidency since FDR. Bush II has tarnished America's image across the world in ways previously thought inconceivable.

The Clarion Content figures you know all this and it is not a surprise. We were surprised this morning to read that some of what we figured might be King George the II strongest defenders saying the same thing in the Chicago Tribune. Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University, which will host King George the II presidential library says, "They (Bush father and son) are in fact going to be doing chin-ups on the bottom tier of presidents in modern history."

At another in-state, very Republican friendly university, the University of Texas, Bruce Buchanan, a professor of government who specializes in the presidency admitted, "The likelihood is that the father will be looked upon as a steadier hand and better prepared for the job." This despite George Bush I status as a minimally accomplished, one-term president.

Here from quarters one would much more likely expect is a scathing review of the Bush II disaster of a presidency from Frank Rich in the New York Times. It is stunning and stomach turning to read the whole litany laid out in one place.

What will future history text books say? Will they skip the reign of King George II on the old principle of, if you don't have anything nice to say...

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


Loyal readers of the Clarion Content know that we are all over the police beat when they are doing something nefarious. As we have expressed in the past, we are concerned about what appears to be a shift in the police ethic, from "protect and serve" to "enforce." It is this worry, combined with a sense of the media's increasing complicity, (see: the media's sycophantic performance in Iraq, cravenly following the will of the powers that be,) that has us increasingly conscious of blowing the whistle on the cops whenever possible.

The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) is rife with such opportunities. Whistleblowing has a crucial social function, curtailing bad and unethical behavior. Thinking one or one's organization will get caught has a deterrent effect. Publicizing other organizations that do get caught hopefully empowers folks that know that they are getting screwed by the man to keep fighting for their cause, keep striving to be heard/noticed.

The latest incident the Clarion Content ran across was a blatant case of attempted coercion. It is reported on in full in the LA Times here. The short story is Los Angeles Police Department SWAT teams accidentally killed an nineteen month old kid during a hostage situation where she was being held at gunpoint by her father. It was a tragic accident and we are not here to excoriate the LAPD or their SWAT officers for it. Rather our disgust is about the questionable activities of the LAPD hierarchy after the shooting.

Apparently, before this horrible incident in 2005, LAPD SWAT had never killed a hostage. In this case SWAT had mistakenly thought the gunmen had been wounded by their sniper. He was not, he opened fire on SWAT as they stormed the building where he had barricaded himself. In the exchange of gunfire, nineteen month old Suzie Peña was killed.

The Los Angeles County coroner's office examined the death and found the cause to be a high-velocity bullet fired from one of the SWAT members' rifles. The LAPD did not want to accept that verdict. They intensely lobbied the forensic pathologists at the coroner's office to reverse their verdict. They let a non-medically trained criminologist pursue any means necessary to prove their desired theory that the father, not SWAT had killed the child. They tasked an assistant police chief to lead the lobbying of the coroner's office. They searched the country to find an outside doctor who would reexamine the case. Unfortunately when they did, Dr. William Oliver, a forensic pathologist at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation concluded that, "There is little or no good evidence that the wound is from . . . a handgun," (the father's weapon.)

As the LA Times quotes an American Civil Liberties Union spokesperson, "the public has to be able to have faith that when the department goes the extra mile like this that it is about accuracy instead of exonerating officers."

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Another Bush II criminal

The Clarion Content has caught wind of another criminal in King George the II's administration, Interior Secretary, Dirk Kempthorne.

Now you may be thinking of the nineteen former and current employees of the Department of Interior's Minerals Management Service that handled billions of dollars in oil royalties paid to the government. The Associated Press has reported (<---a shocking read) that these folks allegedly rigged contracts, accepted gifts and engaged in sexual relations with oil company employees in exchange for governmental favoritism. This criminality you may have already been aware of, but though it occurred on his watch, former Governor Kempthorne was not personally implicated.

The Clarion Content is referring to the recent stunning news that the Interior Secretary, Mr. Kempthorne, had a $235,000 bathroom built in his office, at taxpayers expense, after mid-2006 as the American economy was cratering and the federal deficit was exploding. The Secretary's sumptuous executive bathroom was furnished with a refrigerator and freezer hidden recessed behind lavish wood paneling, as well as a shower complete with monogrammed towels.

Guess it should come as no surprise that a guy who used to own a baseball team and hobnob with scumbag executive's like Enron's Chairman Kenneth Lay (who wiped out more than 5,000 jobs and $1 billion in employee retirement funds) has an Interior Secretary that is blowing $235 large on an executive bathroom while his employees are blowing big oil executives.

Saturday, January 3, 2009


Wow, we guess the Republican National Committee (RNC) isn't too worried about the forces of political correctness. We make this bold statement on the heels of a candidate for chairman of the RNC's release of a song and video titled, "Barack, the Magic Negro." It is a parody of the old Peter, Paul and Mary song, "Puff, the Magic Dragon." It features such sensitive lyrics as, "Oh, Barack the Magic Negro, lives in D.C. The L.A. Times, they called him that 'cause he's black, but not authentically."


It goes on, "The media sure loves this guy, a white interloper's dream!"

Guess the Republicans have written off the idea of getting any minority votes this century. Here is a link to the basis of their defense in the Drudge Report. It comes down to, well black commentators have made the accusation that Obama isn't black enough or he isn't from the hood, why can't we parody that? (Don Imus is spinning in his grave. Whaddya mean Imus isn't dead?)

Here is the link to the original LA Times piece that discussed president-elect Obama and the American archetype of the Magic Negro. It is a daring and provocative article written in 2007 during the Democratic presidential primary race by an African-American author. It speculates on the concept that support for Obama might have roots in collective white guilt. It uses much of the phraseology that the RNC parody song later picks up.

The Clarion Content thought Obama did a marvelous job of addressing these issues head on in his speech on race in Philadelphia during the campaign. It wasn't the safe or politically correct thing to do, making that speech. It was brave. It was honest. It took on issues rarely raised outside the privacy of American homes, like white anger with affirmative action, like black anger at institutionalized racism. It faced down the falsehood that the racial politics of both sides stoke, that progress is a zero sum game; my gain comes only via your loss. Bullshit, sayeth the president-elect and we believe.

The Clarion Content did wonder if Obama's demographic background helped him with the American electorate, but from a very different angle than the LA Times piece. We were more focused on whether Obama's mixed race and relative youth vibed with an American youth culture that pictures him looking a lot like the future of the country. Did his background make him seem extra cool, even hip? Especially faced off against an array of old white men and the permanently stodgy Hillary Clinton?

Here is a link to the "Barack, the Magic Negro" video.