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.