Thursday, April 30, 2009

Learning from the Dutch military

Doubts about the imminent disappearance of U.S. hegemony? How's about this headline for a harbinger? The Wall Street Journal says, "U.S. Takes Dutch Military as Role Model..." Hey, aren't they and the English the example case given for how hegemonic decline happens?

All right, admittedly the Clarion Content is being a little bit facetious, but Afghanistan is called the Graveyard of Empire. The article in the Journal is about the aid workers embedded with the Dutch military and their natural inclination toward development that accompanies their military presence. The Journal quotes Colonel Gert-Jan Kooij, chief of operations for the Royal Netherlands Army's 13th Mechanized Brigade, "We need to provide defense, but the priority is on development and diplomacy." According to the State Department, there are ten U.S. military personnel to every one U.S. civilian working for the U.S. government in Afghanistan.

Yet for too long, the focus has remained on adding more troops. The Clarion Content does not believe the further arming of the Pakistani military as a proxy is an answer either.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


As the Clarion Content has warned time and again, there is nothing holding the state of Iraq together but force and the spoils of aid dependency. Throw that much money at a state and many actors are going to try to grab the reigns of power and hold the center together, merely to get their hands in the cookie jar. The problem with this state, as with so many others; Congo, Pakistan, Afghanistan to name a few, is that there is no one unified nation beneath its strictures.

Iraq is divided in multifarious ways. Among the most significant is the divide between Sunni, Shia and Kurd, but even within these groups there are divisions and there are other important groups besides. None of these groups have strong loyalty to the central Iraqi state. Saddam Hussein held them in check only through violent suppression, fear and patronage. As the last week has shown the tempests of division are still roiling beneath a veneer of calm. Nothing America or that outside world can do is going to change this condition. The passage of time and political stability are the only help. Even then groups may decide it is preferable to go their own independent ways.

It is obviously farcical to blame President Obama for the inevitable spike in violence when United States troops depart. The calm was never real anyway, it was merely a lull while all sides rearmed, consolidated and evaluated their relative tactical position. Of course, this reality will not stop the hawks from attacking Obama. Much like the hawks who believed (and continue to believe) America could have preserved an independent South Vietnam with a greater commitment and more force, these folks have an ideological position that will not be morphed by mere facts on the ground. Their ultimate doubt in the reality of their words can be seen (in most cases) by their unwillingness to enlist their own children in the war.

The sad bottom-line is that there is no methodology, no way for winning in Iraq any more than there was a method or a way to win in Vietnam. When no one in the country is on America's side save for the people who are dependent on America for aid, America will be viewed as, inevitably, an externally imposed occupying force. Perhaps the most disturbing thing to come out of the past week was to read Secretary of State Hillary Clinton making promises about United States troops that our government should not keep. She was out of line and writing checks that cannot be cashed, the gradual increase in violence that will continue as the date for United States withdrawal draws near, cannot and should not be justification for extending American troops stay in Iraq.

Interesting analysis

"A land where Opposition at least means good seats"

At the end of last week the Clarion Content ran some links to lefty firebrands, Frank Rich and Bill Maher advocating that Obama and the Dems tell the Republicans to "shove it." Not exactly the words of the fair and balanced, this isn't either. Rather it is an interesting link to the ways in which the Republicans are coping with and flailing about in Opposition, from CNN political blogger Mark Preston.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

No compromise politcal links

Remember the Clarion Content does not imply endorsement of links just because we put the out there. This applies to any and all of our pieces herein. We believe in furthering the debate and that one has to read widely to take the discussion onward.

Here are two pieces where Lefty leading lights offer the argument that the Republicans are out of it and Obama and the Democratic Party should not compromise. The first by Frank Rich in the New York Times says, "This G.O.P., a largely white Southern male party with talking points instead of ideas and talking heads instead of leaders, is not unlike those “zombie banks” that we’re being asked to bail out. It is in too much denial to acknowledge its own insolvency and toxic assets. Given the mess the country is in, it would be helpful to have an adult opposition that could pull its weight, but that’s not the hand America has been dealt." Read the whole thing here.

Whoa, now that's invective.

The second is piece from the LA Times was written by comedian and political commentator Bill Maher. It is titled, "The GOP: divorced from reality" and subtitled,
"The Republican base is behaving like a guy who just got dumped by his wife." Maher throws daggers at the Republicans. Listen to this.
"Look, I get it, "real America." After an eight-year run of controlling the White House, Congress and the Supreme Court, this latest election has you feeling like a rejected husband. You've come home to find your things out on the front lawn -- or at least more things than you usually keep out on the front lawn. You're not ready to let go, but the country you love is moving on. And now you want to call it a whore and key its car.

That's what you are, the bitter divorced guy whose country has left him -- obsessing over it, haranguing it, blubbering one minute about how much you love it and vowing the next that if you cannot have it, nobody will.

But it's been almost 100 days, and your country is not coming back to you. She's found somebody new. And it's a black guy.

The healthy thing to do is to just get past it and learn to cherish the memories. You'll always have New Orleans and Abu Ghraib."

Kind words they're not. Read the whole thing here.

Finally one follow-up to an interesting links post on our front page where we questioned the Independent and the MEP report for buying into the idea that Somali pirates began in part as a response to EU toxic waste dumping. The Clarion Content wants to make sure that we are clear that we do not dismiss these rumors out of hand, only that we felt to publish them if they were certainties without adding any new info to the debate was a bit naive. The evidence for illegal overfishing is much stronger.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Follow-up to the dead cat bounce

This is a quick follow-up to our piece querying whether or not this was, as we fear here at the Clarion Content, the dead cat bounce.

Perceptive commentators noted after Friday, April 17th when stocks rose again, the Dow Jones Industrial index had scored its biggest six-week gain since July 1938. With very little rhyme or reason underpinning this gain, the wise will be profit taking (selling their shares) early next week. You have been forewarned.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Best recent vintage political one-liner

The best political one-liner that the editors of the Clarion Content have heard or read lately comes to us from the May 2009 issue of Esquire courtesy of Stephen Marche, "Napoleon said one should never ascribe to malice what can be adequately explained by incompetence, and the one positive legacy of the Bush years is that no one can sensibly believe in the 'vast right-wing conspiracy anymore.'"

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Obama takes a good stance on nukes

Ten days ago on his first trip to Europe as America's leader, President Obama gave a speech in Prague to a cheering crowd of more than 20,000 in the city's historic Hradcany Square. In this speech he took a line on nuclear weapons that the Clarion Content largely agrees with. He desperately needed to make this speech to lay out America's stance and mindset after the era of a Bush Doctrine that endorsed preemptive strikes. It was (is) essential that the United States communicate to its allies and enemies alike that if that policy is not fully repudiated, it is at least far from the way America thinks about nukes. Some of the most dangerous potential blowback scenarios created by the disastrous attack on Saddam's regime involve Iran and North Korea lashing out in fear of being preemptively struck first.

To children and policymakers of the 1980 preemptive strikes were the stuff of nightmares. We went to bed praying the Russians loved their children too, at least enough not to unilaterally first strike. President Obama leads America in a different era but as he noted in his speech, "the existence of thousands of nuclear weapons is the most dangerous legacy of the Cold War. Today, the Cold War has disappeared, but thousands of those weapons have not." He continued making a point the Clarion Content heartily agrees with and has long espoused, "as the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the United States has a moral responsibility to act."

After nearly a decade of ignorance and failure to focus on the real threats, President Obama is leading those actions. In his speech, Obama promised to negotiate a strategic arms reduction treaty with Russia by the end of the year that will significantly reduce the number of nuclear warheads. Earlier in his European trip in London, Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev agreed to produce a new arms control treaty to replace the current Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, (START II) that expires in December.

Read more here in the LA Times

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Attack on the grid

Tens of thousands of Northern Californians were without Internet access, landline or wireless phone services after sabotage apparently severed fiber optic cables. Word is someone(s) opened manhole covers in San Jose and San Carlos, south of San Francisco, in the pre-dawn hours Friday morning and cut several fiber optic cables belonging to AT&T and Sprint. The New York Times reports approximately 52,000 Verizon landline and wireless customers were also affected. Because AT&T provides the fiber connections that link cell phone towers to their respective networks, wireless subscribers from almost every carrier were also affected by the attack. Some Verizon Communications DSL customers also lost service, because their system uses AT&T fiber-optic cables to send its data traffic to its own nationwide network.

Friday, April 10, 2009

One more step away from fascism

The Obama administration announced it had moved one more step away from fascism this week. Having already stated its intention to close the Soviet style, indefinite-detention-beyond-the-reach-of-law facility that King George the II and Viceroy Dick operated in totalitarian Cuba, Obama CIA director Leon Panetta announced that the United States would no longer use "black sites." Black sites were secret overseas prisons where King George the II routinely had people tortured and interrogated.

CIA Director Panetta said the agency has a plan "to decommission the remaining sites." He added that "Agency personnel" will take charge of that process and that any outside contracts still involved in site security will be "promptly terminated." The evil duo of King George the II and Viceroy Dick frequently employed private contractors in an effort to shield the government from liability and to make an end run around human rights protections enshrined in the Constitution.

Thus ends another of the darkest chapters of the legacy of King George the II. Read more here in the Washington Post.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Unemployed in Virginia?

Future fate of Virginia House of Delegates members?

Unemployed in Virginia, too darn bad, so says the Republican controlled Virginia House of Delegates, who yesterday made their state the first to officially reject federal stimulus money. The petty, but employed, members of the Virginia House spit in the face of the less fortunate, turning down $125 million in federal money targeted for the unemployed.

Virgina's unemployment rate is lower than the national average but has doubled in the past year. In a vote largely along party lines, Virginia's Republicans voiced a loud and clear, "Who cares?" These folks who are members of the House of Delegates rake in over $17,000 per annum for a part-time job that last 45 days a year. (on a full-time, two week vacation basis that pro-rates to over $98k a year.)

But you, you leeches on unemployment, they'll be no extra $25 bucks a week for you. In Virginia the Republicans have it all figured out, "Let them eat cake."

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Anchorage and Mt. Redoubt

Picture sourced here.

Air travel has been disrupted to and from Anchorage, Alaska off and on for the last several weeks Alaskan insiders tell the Clarion Content. The reason is Mt. Redoubt which is spewing a steady stream of smoke and ash into the air from its volcanic core.

The Los Angeles Times reports that, "...scientists with the Alaska Volcano Observatory say a lava dome is forming. That hardened lava atop the crater might ultimately become unstable and lead to more explosive eruptions. In fact, this tempestuousness might last months, as it did in 1989-90."

Snap goes the Wilkins Ice Shelf

Not quite yet, but it is being reported that a key ice bridge linking two pieces of an ice shelf the size of Jamaica snapped this week. This area is on the western side of the Antarctic Peninsula. It is an area that has been frequently pointed to as indicator of rapid change in Antarctica. The Wilkins Ice Shelf has been stable since first being documented in the 1930s, but has begun a rapid retreat in the last two decades.

The BBC reports, "Newly created icebergs were seen to be floating in the sea on the western side of the peninsula, which juts up from the continent towards South America's southern tip."