Monday, February 23, 2009

A post on the Post

The Clarion Content has observed the controversy surrounding the cartoon published last week in the New York Post from afar. We will not be linking to it directly. Here in Durham we have been unable to formulate a coherent perspective on the situation. Luckily we have a guest columnist from Morris County, New Jersey with a short take. Take it away AnthemSled...

It seems to me the real story here is that the Post, full of sour grapes and slouching towards irrelevance, decided to print this [cartoon] knowing that they could bait their favorite punching bag Al Sharpton into criticizing them for something they could defend with a shrug, "We're not racist, just obtuse and unfunny!" meanwhile helping white males to feel like they are the ones being persecuted. I can't really boycott the Post, cause I never buy it anyway.

The tragedy here is that all the lefty vehemence against the Post right now is giving them exactly what they were looking for - publicity.

Links do not imply endorsement. Food for thought only...

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Republican Governors

Sometimes some folks have their head so far up their ass, one doesn't know whether to laugh, cry or shoot them. This conundrum applies to at least three Republican governors today who are indicating their states may reject some or all of the federal stimulus package.

Wow! Really? Bet your constituents are going to be happy with that decision. We imagine it sounds pretty easy living in the governor's mansion, riding around with a private driver, gas paid for at tax payers expense, earning six figures a year. Heck no, why would my state need federal stimulus money? That is the way South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, Texas Governor, Rick Perry, and Alaska's idiot savant Sarah Palin are rolling.

Screw the federal money. Screw the suffering people of our state, now is the time to make a stand on principle. After all, if this money may run out some day, why would we want to take it now? Eventually, there won't be any more, so why use it now at the nadir of the crisis? No, no, no that will raise hopes and create expectations. Let's just go Robert Mugabe, deny, deny, deny there is a problem, because for our peeps at the very top, the party hacks and biggest donors, the federal money does not matter. Who cares about the little people?

Part of the funding the governors are considering rejecting is their states share of the $70.6 billion allocated for education.

Sorry, but if you live in one of these three states, we would understand why you might want to go Robespierre on these idiots. Even in America, at a certain point citizens have a right to overthrow tyrannous, harmful government.
Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
The Republicans may think their party was beaten as badly as could be in the last go round of elections. Frank Rich details in the New York Times how their foolish, shortsighted, hard headed opposition to the stimulus package could cost them further losses. He references their similar opposition to the New Deal which cost them five consecutive presidential election defeats. He also reminds Republicans that during their steadfast opposition to FDR's programs their numbers dwindled even further in the House and the Senate from what they presumed was the bottom, the 1932 congressional elections, "Republicans will also be judged by the voters. If they want to obstruct and filibuster while the economy is in free fall, the president should call their bluff and let them go at it. In the first four years after F.D.R. took over from Hoover, the already decimated ranks of Republicans in Congress fell from 36 to 16 in the Senate and from 117 to 88 in the House."

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

C-Span rates the Presidents

1. 2.
3. 4.
5. ??

C-Span released a survey of 65 presidential historians. They ask these folks to rank the forty-two former presidents of the White House on ten attributes of leadership. Here is the link to the full list of rankings.

In contravention of what the Clarion Content wrote last month, George Bush the II was only rated seventh worst president ever, rating below Herbert Hoover, but above Warren G. Harding and several mid-nineteenth century presidents. No surprise that Lincoln and Washington ranked one, two, and pretty standard thinking that FDR, Teddy Roosevelt and Truman round out the top five, but we were quite shocked to see Kennedy nudge out Thomas Jefferson for sixth. We'd love to hear the reasoning on that one.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Arrrgh, matey! Busted.

USS Vella Gulf

The United States Navy seized sixteen pirates in two separate incidents in the Gulf of Aden off of the coast of what used to be Somalia. Thursday an American helicopter patrolling from the USS Vella Gulf fired warning shots at gunmen in two small boats that had opened fire and tried to board the Indian-flagged vessel Premdivya. Bad idea messing with US Navy, the pirates surrendered posthaste.

In a separate incident the Associated Press reports seven other pirates armed with AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades, tried to board the Marshall Islands-flagged vessel Polaris using a ladder from their skiff, but were captured by the USS Vella Gulf. All of the pirates were subsequently transferred to the USNS Lewis and Clark.
"Associated Press Television News footage from aboard the Lewis and Clark showed some of the men, handcuffed and wearing leg shackles and white jumpsuits... They were given a meal, a blanket, a towel and a bar of soap, but they were not allowed to talk to each other. U.S. forces assisted by a translator were trying to get information from the men, such as their ages and nationalities. The men were then taken to a holding area surrounded by razor wire and guarded."

The limits on Empire and anti-pirate action are tricky as we have referenced for you previously. The United States recognizes no sovereign government in the country once called Somalia. The nationalities by which these pirates refer to themselves have more to do with tribes and clans than countries recognized by the United Nations. (Don't get the Clarion Content started on the distinctions that must be made between a nation and a state or a country.) The United States, facing this jurisdictional difficulty, has previously stated it would hand over suspected pirates to Kenya. We are not really sure what the logic there might be.

The A.P. also reported that the Russian navy said that its nuclear-powered heavy missile cruiser Peter The Great interdicted and seized ten pirates closing in on an Iranian-flagged fishing trawler. The Russian say that the pirates were caught with automatic rifles, grenade-launchers, illegal narcotics and a large sum of money.

The London-based International Maritime Bureau said since the beginning of January, twenty-two vessels had been attacked, and three hijacked. It said calm, good weather made it easier for the smaller pirate skiffs to ambush ships. It also said seven ships have been released recently, possibly pushing pirates to try to "replenish their stocks."

*all links were added by the Clarion Content. (Links do not imply endorsement.)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A first

A first you will likely hear more of occurred Tuesday in low-earth orbit. Reuters reported that a privately owned U.S. communications satellite collided with an out of service Russian Cosmos-2251 military satellite over Siberia in the first satellite to satellite crash in outer space. Reuters quotes Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Les Kodlick of the U.S. Strategic Command, "The collision...involved a spacecraft of privately owned Iridium Satellite LLC and a 'non-operational' Russian communications satellite." Reuters reported that the U.S. Strategic Command was tracking 500 to 600 new bits of debris, some as small as 10 centimeters (3.9 inches) across. That is a lot of space junk, especially when there are already 18,000 man-made objects in Earth's orbit that the U.S. Strategic Command monitors.

*all links were added by the Clarion Content. (Links do not imply endorsement.)

Bush Immigration officials deluded Congress

Those of you who have watched the chaos that followed the creation of the Department of Homeland Security will probably not be surprised to read this. The successor agency to the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) lied to Congress to increase its budget. It said it was going to deport as many as 500,000 potential terrorists and "declared" American enemies, then instead focused on deporting illegal immigrants from Latin American countries, thereby shooting the American economy in the foot. George Carlin would be proud that at least the name change they underwent signaled their ruthless intentions, no longer would they be an Immigration Service. No, no, no, now they were Immigration Enforcement. Quite forthright of them. If only they could have been equally honest with Congress and the American people.

Operation Return to Sender. That's one of the flashy, catchy names given to series after series of raids on homes around the country that were billed as carefully planned hunts for dangerous immigrant criminal fugitives, but instead targeted ordinary laborers.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement operations such as these raked bigger increases in money and staff from Congress than any other program in the department.

However, starting in 2006 the operations weren't just focused on the criminal element, rather the program increasingly went after softer targets. The vast majority of those arrested had no criminal record, and in fact most of them had no deportation orders.

ICE directives put in place in 2006, absent Congressional review, eliminated the original 75% quota of criminal fugitives required. In the next year, the percentage of immigrants with criminal records dropped to 9 percent of those arrested, and non-fugitives picked up by chance — without a deportation order — rose to 40 percent. Many were sent to detention centers far from their homes, and subsequently deported.

Peter L. Markowitz, who teaches immigration law at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, said in the New York Times last week, "It looks like what happened here is that the law enforcement strategy was hijacked by the political agenda of the administration."

The New York Times reports that, "Congressional financing for the fugitive operations program rose to $218 million in the 2008 fiscal year, from $9 million in 2003... analyzing more than five years of arrest data supplied to the [Migration Policy] institute last year by Julie Myers, who was then chief of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the report found that over all, as the program spent a total of $625 million, nearly three-quarters of the 96,000 people it apprehended had no criminal convictions. "

Read more here in the NY Times.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Bad, bad, bad

Once again the United States military was involved somewhere it had absolutely no place being and the consequences were horrific blowback for civilians. The United States military was and is helping the Ugandan, Congolese and South Sudanese military attack the long struggling vicious rebels, the Lord Resistance Army or LRA. The LRA is legendary for slaughtering civilians and impressing children into service. They have been fighting and living off the land for more than twenty years, back and forth across the Ugandan border with the Congo (Zaire) and Sudan leaving mayhem and tragedy in their wake.

The United States military aligned under King George the II and the rubric of counter-terrorism with many a kleptocrat's army and/or security services. In Uganda, it is quite likely their intentions were beneficent insofar as the LRA has been a scourge for those living within its reach. The Pentagon also probably felt that Uganda/Congo needed to be pushed as far back from the edge of utterly failed states as possible, disorder implicitly hurts the Empire, see the fingers and toes being burned in Waziristan and Puntland.

The Christian Science Monitor reports that the combined militaries offensive against the LRA which began with airstrikes on December 14th has resulted in a tragic slaughter,
"hundreds of other fighters from the LRA have butchered, bludgeoned, and burned their way across an area the size of Belgium. More than 900 people are estimated to have been killed, most of them hacked to death with machetes or beaten by clubs. Hundreds of children have been abducted and 133,000 people have fled their homes, the UN says. The push against the rebels has been 'catastrophic' for civilians, UN humanitarian chief John Holmes said Tuesday after visiting one of the areas hit hardest by fighting."
Nonetheless, interestingly the Monitor reports Holmes and the UN support continuing the fight to destroy the LRA. Not everyone agrees, the New York Times says, "the operation has been widely criticized by human rights groups as essentially swatting a hornet’s nest...Faradje, [a town near a national park in Eastern Congo,] still has the whiff of char. Around 150 people were killed Christmas Day. Several other villages, some more than 100 miles away, were simultaneously attacked. In one town, after the rebels killed 80 churchgoers, they ate the villagers’ Christmas feast and then dozed among the corpses, according to Human Rights Watch, which documented the massacre."

The NY Times says what it calls the "failed" plan was personally authorized by Bush II. It says local Congolese villagers have started arming themselves in self-defense because there is no one else to protect them. It argues that in the past this has worsened the conflict the American military was hoping to end.

The Christian Science Monitor reports that the UN has been little help in ending the conflict either, "Doctors Without Borders, one of the few NGOs still working in the area, has officially attacked the UN mission for not doing enough to defend the population, an accusation that [it] denies. The feeling of betrayal among locals is undeniable, however. Many say that if the UN is not fighting against the LRA, they must be helping them." Locals even rioted against and tried to storm the UN base last year.

It is a mess that the American military now looks complicit in making worse. The more of the counter-terrorism policy of the Bush-Cheney regime that is revealed the more Soviet it looks.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Pam Anderson's Platform

Well-known personality and American icon, Pam Anderson, wrote an open letter to President Barack Obama about some of the things she thinks he should do...

Here are a few highlights from her proposed platform.

Castration for child molesters and potential child molesters
(as she says, "error on the safe side.")

Legalize Marijuana

Bring the troops home (She doesn't specify is she's talking Iraq, Afghanistan or both.)

Shut down Guantanamo Bay

Stop animal testing

Get rid of private health care and private health insurance

Promote Vegetarianism

Recognize the reality of Globalism & Promote Cooperation, Interdependence.

Allow Immigration of workers
(end the criminalization of illegal immigration.)

All and all it sounds pretty palatable to the Clarion Content. But, then, we have loved Pam since her V.I.P. days.

Read the whole platform here.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

That's no ass

That's no ass, that's your Homeland Security dollars hard at work. Federal officials managed to seize 1,800 pounds of pot in 200 concrete burros in a shipping container at the Port of Long Beach this week. According to the Los Angeles Times, "The shipment came from Mexico and was being sent to a fictitious business in Fontana, California." Thanks goodness they were on top of it, that there mighty dangerous marijuana might have fallen into the hands of miscreants like Michael Phelps.

Fortunately, the Feds managed to nab 15 suspects too, whose future incarceration will probably only cost the American taxpayer, $10 million give or take. Good work. And criminals beware, your lawn ornaments are not beneath or above our suspicion.

Mitch McConnell is a hateful human being

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican from Kentucky is a particularly disgusting and hateful human being. His malice and willingness to lie are unlimited. He is anti-American. The basis for this invective, well, study the man's career it is filled with dastardly misdeeds.

He is the sort who was opposed to health care for indigent children, but in favor of the continued use of land mines and cluster bombs. The sort who wanted to keep terminally ill patients alive against their will and torture untried non-combatants. He is at the level of vile-ness of a Dick Cheney.

His latest cause; supporting the continued use of inefficient and wasteful federal vehicles, while deriding the purchase of newer more energy efficient vehicles as pork. His methodology is the usual double speak and lies.

If the Republicans keep pushing people like this into limelight and leadership they are headed the way of the Whigs. How stupid do they think the American people are?

The President fortunately, hopefully will continue to call out this deceit wherever he sees it. Obama replied to McConnell's distorted critique offered Sunday on CBS's Face the Nation, today, in a speech at the Department of Energy,
"Critics of this plan ridiculed our notion that we should use part of the money to modernize the entire fleet of federal vehicles to take advantage of state of the art fuel efficiency. This is what they call pork. You know the truth. It will not only save the government significant money over time, it will not only create manufacturing jobs for folks who are making these cars, it will set a standard for private industry to match. When you hear these attacks deriding something of such obvious importance as this, you have to ask yourself -- are these folks serious? Is it any wonder that we haven't had a real energy policy in this country?"

What do you think the rest of the world is doing?

Pirates win a round

The MV Faina

Pirates freed a Ukrainian vessel, the MV Faina, yesterday after being paid what was reportedly a $3 million ransom. The ship had been held captive since September. This ship had received considerably more attention than most pirate seized cargo ships because its cargo was discovered to be thirty-three tanks and numerous caches of different types of small arms purchased by the Kenyan government. (Various sources indicate that the Kenyan government had planned on selling the weapons to the breakaway government of southern Sudan.)

The pirates reportedly over the last several months removed as many of the small arms as they possibly could. They had no cranes nor other method for removing the tanks. The tanks, too, were likely to be far less useful to their craft, piracy, than shoulder fired rockets and grenade launchers, machine guns and their ilk.

Three million bucks and a fat load of small arms, good news for the pirates, bad news for the forces of order. Before you decide to quit your job and become a pirate, know that Andrew Mwangura of the East African Seafarers Assistance Program, a ­Kenyan-based piracy monitoring group, said that up to 100 pirates were on-board and splitting the ransom. The ransom demand had been negotiated down from $35 million, initially.

Read a partial list of ships still held captive here.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Is the South becoming marginalized?

One way of looking at it...

Once the moniker the "Solid South" meant a block of eleven American states in the South, that had seceded to join the Confederacy, and reliably voted for the Democrats in Presidential and other elections. The theory being that this Democratic party loyalty was rooted in the Republicans support for the policies of Reconstruction after the American Civil War. Then along came the Civil Rights movement, and the volatile 1960's, and the "Solid South" morphed. It became rock solid Republican Presidential territory. Now following the election of Barack Obama, there is debate about whether the ground has shifted again. Is the South losing its importance in American Presidential politics?

We will offer you a brief recap of the data and then some links for further reading. Between the Presidential election of 1912 and up to and including the Presidential election of 1956 the eleven states of the former Confederacy gave their electoral votes consistently to the Democratic candidate, over 88% of the time. They picked the winning candidate seven out of twelve times and no Democrat won without winning the South.

Then the switch, between the Presidential election of 1960 and up to and including the Presidential election of 1988 the eleven states of the former Confederacy gave their electoral votes to the Republican candidate over 70% of the time. And, they supported the winning candidate in seven out of eight elections. The only election in which the South did not support the winning candidate in this period, it supported third party segregationist candidate George Wallace of Alabama.

Now the question of recent marginalization, at first it appeared unlikely and illogical, as the period in question, between the Presidential election of 1992 and up to and including the most recent Presidential election, began with a Southern President and Vice-President in Bill Clinton and Al Gore. It also featured Southern leadership in Congress including Newt Gingrich and Trent Lott. However, even though the South appeared to remain relatively solid, giving 80% of its states' electoral votes to the Republican parties, it was no longer voting for the winners, choosing wrongly in three out of five elections.

The Clarion Content would argue that rather than seeing another realignment of Southern politics what the numbers reflect is that the South is no longer anywhere near as homogeneous as it once was. The South has long been one of the fast growing areas of America, with much of that population coming from inter-United States migration from outside the region. In turn, the parts of the South that are amongst the fastest growing and the wealthiest voted for President Obama; Virginia, North Carolina and Florida. The parts of the South that are least prosperous, that saw less migration, and that might be more easily grouped in a belt with Appalachia, are the states that voted against President Obama; save for Texas.

Read more here and here.

Anti-Piracy classes

It's not exactly like this anymore.

We are not talking software and intellectual property here. Rather, the Associated Press reports that United States maritime academies are putting renewed emphasis on anti-piracy classes. Both the California Maritime Academy in Vallejo, California and the Massachusetts Maritime Academy in Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts offer anti-piracy classes. Some courses even include training in the world's second toastiest pirate hot spot, the Malacca Straits.

Not surprisingly, the educators are against arming crews. The Associated Press quotes professor Donna Nincic from the California Maritime Academy, "It is illegal for crews to carry weapons in the territorial waters of many nations, and ship captains are wary of arming crew members for fear of mutinies. Also, some worry that arming crew members would only cause the violence to escalate."

According to the chairman of the school's marine transportation department, the Maine Maritime Academy in Castine, Maine, is putting together a new anti-piracy course on nonlethal defense for ship crews. You might recall the Clarion Content linked a few weeks ago to an article on the latest of those techniques and technologies from the BBC.

U.S. Navy doing it right

Pacific Beacon concept drawing

In the difficult battle to recruit and retain personnel in the modern United States military, the U.S. Navy had a brilliant idea. According to the Los Angeles Times, "To boost morale and reenlistment rates, the Navy and a private development firm have opened the first phase of Pacific Beacon, a $322-million high-rise housing project at Naval Base San Diego." It is four 18 story towers with 941 apartments, many with a view of San Diego Bay. The complex includes a rooftop swimming pool, fitness rooms, classrooms, a WiFi-equipped cafe, game rooms with big-screen TVs and a specially designed poker room. Tight.

Not only that, even better, the complex is reserved for enlisted personnel, from ranks of E-4 (petty officer 3rd class) through E-6 (petty officer 1st class). The rental rates, between $950 and $1,374 a month per bedroom, are set below what sailors receive in their housing allowances. The apartments are six month leases and month-to-month afterward. This is a great deal for America's servicemen and women.

The LA Times reports that, "The Navy has signed private-public agreements for similar housing projects in Norfolk, Va., and Jacksonville, Fla. The other services have sent top officers to study the arrangement."