Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Different?


The faces have changed, but the game remains the same

Despite what the defenders of the Obama administration want to tell you, dear readers, the chilling post 9.11 security climate is still in effect. It is more than that Homeland Security is checking nutsacks at airport terminals this holiday season. Our quarrel is not only with the balance between safety and privacy, but with the attitude and atmosphere of the state. The mentality of the state's security apparatus has not noticeably changed under the ostensibly liberal Obama.

What the Clarion Content's small "c" conservative editorial board believes this reflects is that President Obama and his policy team do not come at the world from a less regulation where ever possible framework. Obviously. From their point of view, more is more. This means that, although the current administration does not believe in the invading one's privacy for the same draconian reasons as Dick Cheney, Alberto Gonzales and John Yoo, their p.c. based paternalism yields essentially the same result. Guantanamo is still open. Black prison sites are still likely maintained. Alliances with strong men across Central Asia, irrespective of national and individual citizen's sovereignty, continue. The state makes unwarranted, and frequently undisclosed, compromises of individual American citizen's civil liberties.

Ultimately there is a government mindset, led by the security apparatus, that believes proper enforcement and public safety trump individual rights and the protect and serve mantra of policing. We ran across another story today that underlined this message recently.

A fifty year-old airline pilot has come under fire from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), an arm of the Department of Homeland Security, after posting a behind the scenes tour of security flaws at San Francisco International Airport on YouTube. The pilot, who taped the clips with his cell phone, has been flying for the airlines for more than a decade. He alerted Sacramento's KXTV when he posted the videos saying he wanted the information to be made public.

According ABC7 in San Francisco, the video posting resulted in federal air marshals and sheriff's deputies showing up, menacingly unannounced at the pilot's house. This appearance that the pilot, a deputized federal air marshal, also recorded, was made to personally and aggressively confiscate his federally issued handgun. Rather than handle this paperwork detail administratively in an office environment, security descended on the pilot in his own home, to make a show of force and displeasure.

His attorney, Don Werno, says he believes the TSA was sending a message that "you've angered us by telling the truth and by showing America that there are major security problems despite the fact that we've spent billions of dollars allegedly to improve airline safety."

Once again, enforcement attacks the whistleblower. Obviously, this sort of individual incident is far below the Presidential radar, unless it involves Henry Louis Gates Jr. or another member of the elite with access.

Change? Only who is sitting at the table has changed, the game remains the same.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Theories of secrecy



There is a fascinating article in this month's Playboy Magazine by John Richardson about the alleged Russian spy Anna Chapman.

In said article, Richardson, who's father was a CIA agent, makes a complicated and insightful point about the nature of spying and the self-defeating conceit that it can create, paraphrasing, 'an obsession with secrecy can turn the glaringly obvious into a secret...'

The knowns hold none of the fascination of the mysteries of espionage and secrecy. When a really fetching theory is afoot from the intelligence community, the obvious can feel irrelevant, unimportant. This parallels the type of reasoning that surfaces in conspiracy theories. The totally mundane and simple explanation is discarded in part for its blandness, whereas the extremely intricate and complicated explanation is venerated for its sophisticated and Byzantine twists.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Obama's National Security advisor


This guy, Thomas E. Donilon is replacing this guy, General James L. Jones, Jr.

One of the most influential people briefing President Obama is his incoming National Security Advisor, Thomas E. Donilon. Donilon is an old political hand, for fifty-five. He has been in politics since the Carter administration. As a twenty-something he led Carter's 1980 Democratic convention efforts to fend off a nomination challenge from the recently deceased Teddy Kennedy. (Incidentally, for all the fits and the false starts, that was the only time that Ted Kennedy ever ran for President.)

Donilon, a native Rhode Islander and former adviser to Vice-President Joe Biden, switched his brief sometime shortly after the Carter's defeat in the 1980 general election from political campaigning to foreign policy, parting directions with his former roomie, Terry McAuliffe. Warren Christopher, later Secretary of State under Bill Clinton, suggested Donilon read Dean Acheson's memoir Present at the Creation and consider another course.

The long and winding road has him succeeding General James L. Jones, Jr. of the Marines as President Obama's second National Security Advisor and the 24th in the positions long and unsavory history at the heart of anti-democratic politics in America.

The Washington Post has a fascinating in-depth profile of Tom Donilon, a must read for foreign policy wonks. The Post's Jason Horowitz reports, amongst many other delectable nuggets, that Donilon is the most Asian(India/China) focused of all of Obama's top-level advisors.

Read the whole article here.

Many thanks to long time Clarion Content fave, Information Dissemination for pointing the way.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Barry Obama, just another politician

Once again, President Obama continues and extends the polices of King George II. This is not the change we were hoping for here at the Clarion Content when we endorsed Obama. What say those of you who mocked voting for Ralph Nader in 2000 now?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Wikileaks

The best take we have heard on the Wikileaks disclosures so far came from the Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu who said, "You should hear what we say about you."

Monday, December 13, 2010

Sound familiar

"Society was cut in two: those who had nothing united in common envy, and those who had anything united in common terror..."---Alexis de Tocqueville

Sound familiar and/or prescient?

European banking worries

The Clarion Content has to admit we are woefully ill-informed about the banking crisis that is sweeping Europe. Oh sure, we get the fundamentals, European welfare states have borrowed unsustainably because folks retire too early and work too little to support the modern capitalist pyramid and all its goodies (eg. cradle to grave health care and cheap university education). What we do not understand is the particulars. Why is this all coming to a head now? And what does it mean for America and the global economy in this era of depression not yet averted.



We saw Greece implode. We are hearing more of the same about Ireland. From our perception it would seem Italy and Spain are in even more unsustainable models than the Irish, at least as ill-conceived as the Greeks. What is most troubling is the thought of contagion. Although the domino theory has not been shown to work with nationalist insurrections, they do not become pandemic, just the opposite might prove true with nationalist banking crises. The financiers are more interconnected transnationally than the revolutionaries. It goes to figure that elite institutions would be more likely to have international webs weaved than the proletariat.

That being said then, it is all the more urgent that this banking crisis be contained. Barry Eichengreen, Professor of Economics and Political Science at the UC, Berkeley argues just the opposite is happening,
"The Irish “rescue package” finalized over the weekend is a disaster...The Irish “program” solves exactly nothing – it simply kicks the can down the road. A public debt that will now top out at around 130 per cent of GDP has not been reduced by a single cent...Ireland will be transferring nearly 10 per cent of its national income as reparations to the bondholders, year after painful year. This is not politically sustainable, as anyone who remembers Germany’s own experience with World War I reparations should know. A populist backlash is inevitable...Nor is the situation economically sustainable. Ireland is told to reduce wages and costs...[this is] the phenomenon of “debt deflation” about which the Yale economist Irving Fisher wrote in a famous article at the nadir of the Great Depression.

One can interpret the intransigence of the [EU] in two ways. First, they understand neither economics nor politics. As Talleyrand said of the Bourbons, “They have learned nothing, and they have forgotten nothing.”

Alternatively, policy makers in Germany – and in France and Britain – are scared to death over what Ireland restructuring its bank debt would do to their own banking systems. If so, the appropriate response is not to lend to Ireland – to pile yet more debt on the country’s existing debt – but to properly capitalize their own banking systems so that the latter can withstand the inevitable Irish restructuring.

But European officials are scared to death not just by their banks but by their publics, who don’t want to hear that public money is required for bank recapitalization. It’s safer, in their view, to kick the can down the road in the hope that something good will turn up – to rely on “the luck of the Irish.”

As John Maynard Keynes – who knew about matters like reparations – once said, leadership involves “ruthless truth telling..."
Well dang, if that doesn't just sound a little scary. Read the whole piece here.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Jackie Robinson



How's about this one for a story we had never heard previously...

Social reformer and legendary baseball great, Jackie Robinson, who famously broke the color-line in what were, until then, the all-white Major Leagues, was once court-martialed for refusing to move to the back of an Army bus at Fort Hood, Texas. What!?! He was acquitted on all charges, but that was surely a story the Clarion Content had never heard about Robinson.

He had also been turned away when he tried to play for the Army base baseball team at Ft. Riley, Kansas. He was told to report instead to "the colored team," which, of course, did not exist, a Jim Crow joke.

Ugly, but a story that bears repeating, as it only happened sixty years or so ago.

Found on Foreign Policy.com.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Halliburton bribery

In Nigeria, earlier this week, authorities detained ten Nigerian and expatriate Halliburton staff for questioning after raiding its Lagos office. The Houston based engineering firm KBR, a former Halliburton subsidiary, pleaded guilty last year to charges in U.S. court that it paid $180 million in bribes between 1994 and 2004 to Nigerian officials to secure $6 billion in contracts for the Bonny Island liquefied natural gas project in the Niger Delta.

No way!

The rich were illegally getting richer under the reign of King George the II?!?

Say it isn't so...

KBR and Halliburton reached a $579 million settlement with the United States, but Nigeria, France and Switzerland are conducting their own investigations. Albert "Jack" Stanley, the former KBR chief executive officer who worked under the Dick Cheney when he headed Halliburton, pleaded guilty in 2008 to charges stemming from a scheme to bribe Nigerian officials for work on the Bonny Island plant.

Elizabeth Edwards

"...there are certainly times when we aren't able to muster as much strength and patience as we would like. It's called being human. I have found that in the simple act of living with hope, and in the daily effort to have a positive impact in the world, the days I do have are made all the more meaningful and precious. And for that I am grateful."---Elizabeth Edwards

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Buffett advice



Warren Buffett last Sunday on "This Week" with Christiane Amanpour, "The rich are always going to say that, you know, just give us more money and we’ll all go out and spend more, and then it will trickle down to the rest of you. But that has not worked the last 10 years, and I hope the American public is catching on."

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Bomb a nuclear weapons program?



There is more than one way to bomb a nuclear weapons program, as the CIA and Mossad showed today, allegedly. Twin blasts in Iran killed a top nuclear scientist and maimed another today; unidentified motorcycle riders sped past their vehicles in different parts of the capital Tehran attaching bombs to the windows which detonated seconds later.

Right out of a movie.

Thanks to our friends at Rantburg for the heads up.

Monday, November 29, 2010

What small town rule might look like


Old McAlester High School

Last week the town of McAlester, Oklahoma showed Americans what small town justice might look like, for good and for bad, if left entirely to its own devices. Protesters from Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas were in town demonstrating at the funeral of Army Sergeant Jason James McCluskey. Westboro church members are infamous for picketing military funerals across the country, spreading their message that "God hates America" because it tolerates homosexuality.

In McAlester, Oklahoma they were jeered and outshouted by a crowd of more than 1,000 people. More than two dozen cops formed a security cordon around the Westboro protesters. In the end they returned to their mini van to discover two of their tires had been slashed. To quote the Tulsa World, "To make matters worse, as their minivan slowly hobbled away on two flat tires, with a McAlester police car following behind, the protesters were unable to find anyone in town who would repair their vehicle, according to police."

Small town justice.

But it today's America, no such option exists. It has been globalized. The tentacles of Empire reach even to McAlester, Oklahoma. The Tulsa World continues..."The minivan finally pulled over several blocks away in a shopping center parking lot, where AAA was called. A flatbed service truck arrived and loaded up the minivan. Assistant Police Chief Darrell Miller said the minivan was taken to Walmart for repairs."

Bell Labs, an untold story



Tim Wu, the developer of Net Neutrality theory, has written a fascinatingly little article for io9.com. He documents the interplay between Bell Labs, the government and the profit motive of a corporation. Bell Labs, for some fifty plus years, was one of the preeminent research institutions and facilities in the world. Its scientists garnered seven Noble Prizes. They invented the transistor and Unix. But it was not a public facility, nor a wholly state-owned entity, it was a private actor with its own particular motives.

Wu shows what that wrought, in this brilliant nugget- here.

No more hiding behind a wall



The United States Army is deploying a revolutionary new weapon in the endless war in Central Asia. The Army's project manager for the program says it is a game changer. Naturally. It does sound to the Clarion Content like a particularly gruesome tool, as it designed to eliminate the target's ability to hide behind cover.

The weapon is called the XM-25 rifle. It is a programmable rifle that can be set so that its 25 millimeter ammunition rounds detonate either in front of or behind a target. It something like a meld between a rifle and a grenade launcher. Sounds interesting, right? In theory it works like this:
-- A patrol encounters an enemy combatant in a walled village who fires an AK-47 intermittently from behind cover, exposing himself only for a brief second to fire.

-- The patrol's leader calls for the XM25 gunman, who uses the weapon's laser range finder to calculate the distance to the target.

-- He then uses an incremental button located near the trigger to add 1 meter to the round's distance, since the enemy is hiding behind a wall.

-- The round is fired, and it explodes with a blast comparable to a hand grenade past the wall and above the enemy.
It has a range of 2,300 feet.

And somebody is making some green off of these bad boys. They reportedly cost $35,000 per rifle! According to Lt. Colonel Christopher Lehner, the Army is ordering 12,000 of them in the next year, ostensibly enough to have one per Infantry and Special Forces squad deployed in the theater of war.

The era of ducking behind a wall is ending.

Thanks to our friends at Rantburg for the heads up on this one.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Bush book prank



There is a movement afoot and a Facebook page dedicated to causing a little fun-loving mischief now that King George the II's new book has come out. The plan is this: Move Bush's memoir to the Crime section of your local bookstore (the Fiction, Science Fiction, and Humor sections are also applicable), take a picture of your handiwork, and post it to the wall of the event page on Facebook.

We highly recommend joining in!

Sponsored by Waging Nonviolence.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Good Samaritan: How about that engineer!



At the Clarion Content we sometimes take heat for being too negative. We are not naive enough to ever believe we could be fair and balanced, but we do think about and follow the positive, too. We take great joy in reading good stories. It is sometimes difficult because of the nature of the angle of the media, of which we might be forced to concede, we are a part. In our view, the role of the fourth estate is inherently critical, though not exclusively so. Being outside the gates of power, it is the press's obligation to shine a light on what is going behind the walls and the proverbial curtains, in the smoked filled rooms.

However, this time, today, it is "Ahoy, good news ahead!"

Check out this story we just ran across in the Seattle Times.

Duane Innes of Kent, Washington, who is a Boeing manager and engineer by training, had a brilliant and ingenious good samaritan moment. While driving to a Seattle Mariners baseball game this July, Innes saw a pickup truck ahead of him drift across several lanes of traffic, sideswipe a concrete barrier and continue forward on the inside shoulder at about 40 mph.

Innes, in a minivan, knew a busy intersection was just ahead. Balls and brains, all systems go, Innes told the Seattle Times, "Basic physics: If I could get in front of him and let him hit me, the delta difference in speed would just be a few miles an hour, and we could slow down together."

Without consulting the passengers in his minivan, "there was no time to take a vote," he pulled his minivan onto the shoulder at speed, got in front of Bill Pace's pickup, and allowed it to rear-end his vehicle, then brought both safely to a stop before the intersection. The eighty year-old driver, Pace, had a minor heart attack two days earlier. He had passed out at the wheel of his truck, due to what doctors later deemed to be poor circulation, with his foot on the gas.

Read the whole harrowing, but ultimately redeeming story here.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The long con


Faces you can trust?

Although it does not get much publicity, there are still people out there running the long con. The long con is a confidence trick played out over time. The hustler gains the complete or nearly complete confidence of the mark, they use this power to defraud the mark of substantial amounts of dough over an extended period of time.

Today, we ran across one of the worst/best examples we had heard about in quite some while. Roger Davidson was scammed out of somewhere between $6 million and $20 million according to court filings. Computer geek, Vickram Bedi, thirty-six, and his Icelandic girlfriend Helga Invarsdottir, thirty-nine, were first visited by Davidson in an attempt to rid his laptop of a virus.

Upon learning of his wealth, the pair, initiated what the police called "an elaborate social engineering scheme," eg. the long con. They convinced Davidson that his computer virus was part of a larger plot in which he was being menaced by government intelligence agencies, foreign nationals and the shrouded in secrecy, Catholic organization, Opus Dei. How they got Davidson to buy into this conspiracy is unclear. Police allege that Davidson paid the couple $160,000 per month for 24-hour protection against the purported threats. This continued for a period of six years.

Police continue to investigate other ways the couple might have been defrauding Davidson of his money.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Missle Launch

The media and the blogosphere are a flutter over a supposed submarine missile launch immediately off of the coast of California. Some spectacular footage was captured by a KCBS Los Angeles television crew, check it out here.

The United States Navy and Air Force both officially have no knowledge of the event. NORAD claims it did not pick up a missle launch. The Pentagon asserts it was not from a foreign source.

The comments on our old friend Rantburg's site range from the hilarious, like India test firing the nuclear missile submarine that Obama just sold them, "Kicking the tires and revving the engine? Would YOU take somebody's word that the missiles would fire?" to the skeptical, "a jet contrail viewed from a funny angle," to the conspiratorial, "a target missile for a new type anti-missile system. Probably something so classified it would make your toenails rot off...we don't know what NSA/CIA/super-secret-moose-n-squirrel-division is up to..."

Read them all here.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Duck and Cover, on point

Our friends over at Duck and Cover have seen our future...




Read Duck and Cover at the Blue Pyramid.

Sound familiar

As we think about the decline (and potential fall) of the American hegemon, we see some referential wisdom in the words of the Roman historian Sallust...
"Growing love of money, and the lust for power which followed it, engendered every kind of evil. Avarice destroyed honor, integrity and every other virtue, and instead taught men to be proud and cruel, to neglect religion, and to hold nothing too sacred to sell. Ambition tempted many to be false... At first these vices grew slowly and sometimes met with punishments; later on when the disease had spread like a plague, Rome changed: her government, once so just and admirable, became harsh and unendurable."

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Rasmussen Reports polls widely wrong

The Clarion Content, among many others, has questioned the accuracy and neutrality of polls from the Rasmussen Reports. They were founded by a former employee of the coronation, errr, campaign, of King George the II. They consistently phrase their polling questions with just a little twist to produce the desired result.

Their defense? They were right on the numbers in 2004 and 2006.

Last night, however, they were outed. According to our friend Nate Silver, over at the 538, "Rasmussen polls quite consistently turned out to overstate the standing of Republicans tonight. Of the roughly 100 polls released by Rasmussen or its subsidiary Pulse Opinion Research in the final 21 days of the campaign, roughly 70 to 75 percent overestimated the performance of Republican candidates, and on average they were biased against Democrats by 3 to 4 points."

Interestingly, it would be our argument that overstating your candidates odds at the polls actually hurts their chances. It would be analagous to the brass continuously telling American troops in Vietnam that the enemy was weak, under-armed, on the verge of starvation and primed for defeat. These lies and exaggerations actually harmed United States soldiers and Marines by leading them to regularly underestimate the enemy. We would argue that the Rasmussen Reports did something of the same for right-wing candidates last night.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Another Whistleblower punished



It has long been the Clarion Content's contention that America hates the whistleblower. It is one of the tragedies inherent in capitalism. The whistleblower is viewed as a downer, a party-pooper, somebody who refuses to get with the program.

We have another poignant, sad, story of a whistleblower who would not do what the program wanted her to do, specifically the State University of New York at Binghamton's basketball program wanted her to do. Change player's grades to make them eligible to compete. The New York Times reports that Sally Dear, an adjunct lecturer at the university, said the fallout of the scandal had deeply wounder her and continued to affect her. She has stated publicly that she received so much pressure to change her grading policy for basketball players that it bordered on harassment.

As the scandal has enveloped the university how has it played out?

The university paid a $1.2 million settlement to former basketball coach Kevin Broadus to resign. Broadus will receive $819,115 from the Binghamton athletic department and $380,884 from the general fund of the State University of New York. The payment exceeds the value of Broadus’s remaining contract and requires him to withdraw the racial discrimination lawsuit he filed in March and to relinquish his right to any other claims against the university.

Professor Dear? No million dollar payments to her for calling the basketball program on its cheating. Instead, she said in a recent telephone interview with the NY Times that she has not been assigned to teach classes next semester. Punished.

During Coach Broadus's brief tenure six players were dismissed from the team, including one who was busted selling crack. One player was allowed in consecutive semester's to take sixteen and then twelve credits of Physical Education, when the maximum in the second semester should have been two credits. The scandal forced the university's Provost to step down.

How does Professor Dear feel about all of this mess? She told the NY Times, "This is why people don’t blow the whistle. I understand. In my heart and in my gut and every fiber of my being I understand why people don’t blow the whistle, why people are afraid to tell the truth. My life has been a living hell since all this took place."

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Drill, Alaska? A reality check.



The U.S. Geological Survey issued a reality check to those who think that United States can get by without foreign oil. Mind you, those who think U.S. oil resources are/were sufficient are in a special minority of dreamers, right there with those who still think the Earth is the center of the universe and the tooth fairy is real.

Despite the fact that these folks aren't the sort to be swayed by facts or numbers, it cannot help their cause that the U.S. Geological Survey revised the amount of untapped oil reserves that it estimates are in Alaska and its waters down by 90% this week.

The Survey group's new estimate is 896 million barrels of oil are in the reserve, approximately 90% less than a 2002 estimate of 10.6 billion barrels. The good news natural gas reserve estimates were revised upward from 8 trillion cubic feet of gas to 61 trillion cubic feet gas.

Side note, the United States desperately needs more liquefied natural gas terminals. Imagine an America willing to invest in its infrastructure. Too bad, it is a dream, not a reality.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Can the Tea Party get out the vote?



The Los Angeles Times ran an article this morning asking that very question. In their view, the answer is unclear. They report that, "Up to now, the emphasis on the right has been on television ads, and conservative groups — including American Crossroads, founded in part by GOP strategist Karl Rove — have dominated...the push to get the nation's conservative voters to the polls is fractured and untested, with some "tea party" activists refusing to cooperate with more mainstream Republicans, in contrast to the unified and well-organized parallel effort by unions and Democrats, according to key players on both sides."

Is this for real? Or are they just trying to get their side hyped up?

It has long been the Clarion Content's contention that the media is missing the point when they say there has been a massive shift toward the Republicans this election cycle. We heartily disagree. There is simply much of the same simmering discontent that has been present for the last several election cycles. There is a massive undercurrent of unrest in American that spans the political spectrum. It has been seen through insurgent candidacies in both parties: from Howard Dean through Obama to Sarah Palin, the parameters have remained essentially the same even as the particulars have differed.

Will the Tea Party produce a big early fizz followed by a small pop, ala Howard Dean? Or will they have more of an Obama-scale effect?

The Clarion Content is now betting on big Republican gains in the House, enough to net a 20+ seat majority, while the Democrats hold on to the Senate by 2 to 4 seats.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The degeneration of the American Male



The Clarion Content is not typically a fan of Bill Maher. We have no truck with the man, rather we have been little exposed, and have hardly encountered his work. We came across a most fascinating piece of his the other day on the Huffington Post.

The thesis, tongue only partially in cheek, is that white American males are really who is dragging the country into the toilet. There is a deterioration in the morality of America. Standards for civility have dropped off of the proverbial cliff. Maher uses Brett Favre's recent scandal as his whipping post, but he could have easily picked from half a hundred others.

He says that the white American male is threatened by the surge of immigration in the last thirty years that has left them heading towards a plurality with African-Americans, Latinos and Asians. As Maher puts it, "the president is black, and the best golfer is black, and the Secretary of State is a woman, and suddenly this country is way off track and needs some serious restoring."

Next, he flips this white male degeneration around and attributes to it the popularity of "Sarah Palin, Christine O'Donnell, Michele Bachmann; the lovely MILFs of the new right.." He goes on to put this popularity in context, "...and their little secret is that their popularity comes exclusively from white men. Look at the polling: minorities hate them, women hate them -- only white men like them. I'm no psychiatrist, but I do own a couch, and my theory is that these women represent something those men miss dearly: the traditional, idiot housewife...If an election between Obama and Sarah Palin were held today, and only white men could vote, Sarah Palin would be president."

An eyeopening social cultural perspective that dances on the nexus where the humorous, the absurd and the real meet. Good work, Bill Maher. Check it out here.


Incidentally another writer who works a fascinating pop cultural nexus is Stephen Marche. His brilliant "1,000 words About Our Culture" column can be found here at Esquire. Check him out!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Not polling cellphone users


Nate Silver

We saw a interesting note from Nate Silver, a baseball guy, a statistician and pollster that the Clarion Content has been following for some time. Silver, once an independent blogger, has recently been hired by the New York Times.

Try not to hold it against him, he still unearths some fascinating data. For example, last week he held forth on the effect on polling of the exclusively cellphone demographic. At least 25% of Americans no longer have landlines; of course, these folks tend to skew tech savvy and younger. Strangely enough, many American polling companies do not do any surveying of the only cellphone using set at all, dialing up only landlines.

None! Egad, a remarkable oversight.

Good catch, Nate. The answer of the pollsters is that they use demographic weighting to make up for the underrepresented. As Silver points out, "It’s always been harder to get men on the phone then women, younger people than older people, blacks and Hispanics than whites." However, Silver points to new study by the renown Pew Research suggesting that bias remains even after demographic weighting is applied. According to Pew the effect of the failure to include cellphones may result in a four percentage point bias against Democrats on the generic ballot.

Read the whole article here.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

From the front



Technology continues to outpace the government's efforts to limit and control knowledge about what is happening on the front lines of War. These two videos are from Afghanistan today, 10/13/10, here and here.

Thanks to Rantburg for the links.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

More corruption



Sometimes here at the Clarion Content we like to highlight stories of corruption and graft within the system simply to preempt those naysayers who wish to tell us, "That could never happen." Having spent years living close to ground level, we firmly believe truth trumps fiction, vigilance trumps cynicism, verification trumps skepticism. There is a brisk black market for human kidneys.

Today we ran across a story of shocking corruption on CNN's website. The Vice-President and Dean of St. John's University in Queens, NY, Cecilia Chang, used her position to indenture students on scholarship. Turning them quite literally into her personal servants, she demanded students take out the garbage, shovel snow, do laundry, chauffeur her and cook food at her home in Queens, New York or face the loss of their scholarships. She also allegedly embezzled university funds for casino expenses, meals at restaurants, shopping trips at Victoria's Secret and her son's law school tuition.

She was suspended by St. John's in January according to an FBI affidavit unsealed by federal prosecutors yesterday. She was indicted on charges that she stole more than $1 million from the university.

Read the whole story here.

Wrongful imprisoned man freed

Long time readers of the Clarion Content know how we love to publish stories of the cops screwing over the people. It runs to the core of our small "c" conservatism. Don't give the Man too much power for you maybe the next one it is exercised on.

We have got another story for you.

A deaf man, Stephen Brodie, was exonerated in Texas for the rape of a five year-old suburban Dallas girl. He was released Tuesday after serving about ten years in prison.

According to the Associated Press, Mr. Brodie has been deaf since childhood, but police questioned him for hours without an interpreter. He eventually confessed, but later told The Associated Press he felt scared and pressured. Unfortunately, the judge ruled the confession admissible at trial. After that Mr. Brodie and his attorney figured a guilty verdict, which was punishable by up to 99 years in prison, was all but certain. So they cut a deal, Brodie plead guilty to assaulting the girl in exchange for a lighter sentence.

Turns out that even when Brodie was arrested and convicted, the cops knew that a fingerprint, found on the window through which the perpetrator entered the victim's home, did not match their suspect or anyone living there. Even worse, prosecutors failed to notify Brodie's trial attorney that testing showed that a hair found at the crime scene and presumed to be the assailants excluded Brodie as the source.

Brodie received an apology from Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins, whose office had reopened the case and whose investigation ultimately led to Brodie's exoneration.

Sorry about those ten years, pal.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Moving downmarket



Despite foolish claims from those safely ensconced in the ivory towers, the recession is in evidence everywhere. One of the ways the Clarion Content sees the impact of the widespread economic slump is the relentless moves downmarket by the American public. Sales of expensive tickets to sporting events are way down, cheaper movie ticket sales are up. Fancy, far flung tourists destinations are suffering, while it is less so for more humble, local places that folks can roadtrip to with the family.

This morning the Nation's Restaurant News pointed out another area where this downmarket shifting can be seen, convenience store food sales. Because what is even cheaper than fast food breakfast? The convenience store. The NRN reports that convenience store traffic rose 8% and sales jumped 11% in the second quarter of 2010.

Read more here in the Nation's Restaurant News.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Two political thoughts



We ran across these two political thoughts in very different places, but we wonder about their connection. Are there implications for the upcoming Congressional elections and the 2012 Presidential elections? We believe so.

The country, America, is an odd mood. America is both angry and disconcerted.

From the the 5th Edition of the book, Presidential Elections, Strategies of American Electoral Politics...
"As the tendency grows stronger for activists to grow further away, not only from each other, but from the bulk of citizens who identify with the party label, it is worth considering whether parties reflect or in fact exacerbate differences. Purists, who care mostly about programmatic and ideological correctness, are replacing politicians, who care mostly about political cohesion and winning elections..." ---N.W. Polsby and A. Wildavsky.

From South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint,
"Following Christine O'Donnell's historic win on Tuesday, the Washington establishment launched an all out assault against me for supporting this principled candidate. They say she can't win and that by supporting her, I've helped lose the seat for Republicans. Well, I've been in the majority with Republicans who didn't have principles, and we embarrassed ourselves and lost credibility in front of the country. Frankly, I'm at a point where I'd rather lose fighting for the right cause than win fighting for the wrong cause."

Friday, September 17, 2010

GOP establishment worried?



The Clarion Content has been telling you, dear readers, for the past several weeks that the momentum being garnered by Tea Party candidates in the Republican primaries is not actually good for the GOP's general election prospects. These radical candiates that enthuse the base are not going to win in November, despite substantial electoral disaffection with the establishment.

The mainstream media has started to pick up this theme.

CBS News chief Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer

...on "The Early Show" this morning, Schieffer said the fervor of voters who want to throw out incumbents in favor of candidates more right- or left-leaning is worrying the Republican Party establishment, who have long memories.

"What is really bothering the establishment Republicans right now is what happened to Republicans back in 1964," Schieffer told anchor Harry Smith. "You know, they had almost won in 1960 when Nixon ran against Kennedy. The next time around, 1964, Republicans threw out all the establishment people, all the leaders of their party and nominated Barry Goldwater - as I've said many times, a very good man but someone far to the right of the mainstream of the Republican Party. They lost in a landslide.

"Same thing happened to Democrats in 1972: They threw out all the establishment people, leaders in their party, big city mayors like Dick Daley, and nominated - again, a very good man - George McGovern, but someone far left of the mainstream of their party, and they lost in a landslide.

"That's what's bothering the establishment Republicans now: They're worried, are they headed to something like that in 2012?"

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Don't support dependency



The Clarion Content has always been a big believer in helping folks to help themselves. Teach someone how to, provide them the resources to...the old saw is, "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." We ran across a terrific new quote today from this point of view.

"The risk of pity is that it kills with kindness; the promise of passion is that it builds on the hope that the poor are fully capable of helping themselves if given the chance." ---Nancy Gibbs

We ran across this quote here at a worthy charitable organization called Casa de Los Angeles.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Democrats picking some radicals, too



The Clarion Content has been closely following the selection of some radical Tea Party candidates in the Republican primaries. As it turns out, the Democrats aren't exactly moving to the center either. They are also pushing some fringe candidates of their own with much the same mindset as the Republicans, to punish dissenters from the "cause" as they see it.

Case in point in the New Hampshire Democratic primary for Congress.

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee , a group founded to promote the candidacies of Democrats from the left side of the party's soul celebrated a victory yesterday.

PCCC-backed candidate Ann Kuster defeated longtime Democratic activist Katrina Swett in a race to pick a nominee for one of New Hampshire's House seats which is being vacated by Representative Paul Hodes. Swett supported Senator Joe Lieberman's 2004 presidential campaign. Lieberman in turn supported the surge and King George the II follies and foibles in Iraq and Afghanistan to the very hilt. The PCCC cited this as one of the reasons the organization targeted Ms. Swett.

Read more here in the USA Today.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Tea Party candidates

As the Clarion Content noted earlier in the week, by allowing the Tea Party to hijack their primaries, the Republican Party has grievously damaged its chances in what should be a lay-up election cycle. Most Americans are in despair, the economy is in shambles, joblessness is at a twenty year high. It should be simple for the Republicans, the party out of power, to make mid-term election hay.

And they will. However, it is our contention that they will fall just short of winning a majority in either House of Congress. Candidates like Christine O'Donnell for Senate in Delaware are the reason why. This Tea Party backed extremist was a consultant on Mel Gibson's film The Passion of the Christ. She was recently caught in a lie on her resume saying she had graduated Farleigh Dickinson University back in 1993, when it was recently revealed that she actually finished up her degree only this past year. Her campaign pays half the rent on her townhouse, which she says is okay because she lives at "undisclosed location."1

You remember that phrase, right, dear readers?

Tea Party activists say it is all right and all right, because after all the mainstream Republican candidate, Mike Castle, voted with President Obama on occasion. He also stood up to a nut job activist plant in a town hall meeting earlier this year, Representative Castle declared President Obama was a citizen. Them's fightin' words to Tea Party fruitloops.

Castle's opponent Christine O'Donnell received a $250,000 campaign contribution from Tea Party Express. And she received the coveted Sarah Palin Facebook post endorsement.

As the NY Times put it, Delaware Democrats did their happy dance.

1She told the Weekly Standard that she fears that her opponents may be hiding in the bushes, so she does not want to reveal her "real" residence.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Republican Young Guns



The Clarion Content believes that the projected Republican gains in the House of Representatives are overblown. The main stream media has the Republicans recapturing the House and getting nearly even in the Senate. The Clarion Content thinks they will come up just short in both houses of Congress.1

It is our conviction that the Tea Party has pushed the Republicans too far toward the lunatic fringe. Too many of their insurgent candidates that have captured primaries will not win the general election. From Mark Rubio in Florida to Joe Miller in Alaska, it is our sense that the disaffection is not from the middle of the body politic, it is from the edge. The heart of the American public is more discouraged and disheartened than incensed.2

The Republicans will start posing a real electoral threat to President Obama and the Democrats when they start listening to their new Young Guns. The so-called Young Guns, who with a book due out next week have been receiving gobs of publicity, are Congressmen Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan, and Kevin McCarthy. Their new book's Amazon ad reads in part, "Cantor (the leader), Ryan (the thinker), and McCarthy (the strategist)...This isn’t your grandfather’s Republican party..." It is not their fresh ideas that makes the Clarion Content think they are electoral winner, just the opposite. It is their utter lack of new and inventive policies coupled with their pretty packaging. They are just the non-threatening change that the vacuous American Idol watching and Jersey Shore loving public is looking for at this moment.

Perhaps after one more go, the nation will be ready for some real change? And hopefully, not the backward looking bromides of the Tea Party goons.

1Says here the Republicans come within 5-7 seats of a majority in the House of Representatives and within 1-3 seats of capturing the Senate. This virtual tie will be a rebuke to Obama. It will be a difficult challenge for either side to get anything done in this partisan climate. However, with the right powerbrokers it would not shock us to see Obama make like Clinton in 1994-5.

2Turn out will be low. Low enough for the Republican fringe to make huge gains? We think not quite. Significant yes, huge no.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

More good news from Afghanistan


Ron Paul could not have done any worse...or two sides of the same coin

Despite the lies and bullshit that King George the II's successor, Barry Obama, is spewing from the Oval Office, the reality is America continues to finance its own fucking over in Afghanistan. News yesterday and today have once again highlighted this reality.

As reported in the New York Times, The Financial Times and elsewhere, on Wednesday, the last business day before a national holiday, Afghan state security forces attacked, punched, pushed, and pummeled back hundreds of its own governments' employees. These workers were attempting to storm the central branch of the embattled Kabul Bank to claim their monthly wages. You see, dear readers, there has been a run on the bank.

Why, you ask?

Well, the King George II and Dick's stoolie in Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai has been up to his elbows in corruption. President Barry, in his attempt to play the hard man, has looked the other way. In the meantime the Kabul bank has lent hundreds of millions of dollars to allies of President Hamid Karzai and poured money into risky real estate investments in Dubai. The Afghan president’s brother, Mahmoud Karzai,is the bank’s third largest shareholder. He lives in a beachfront villa in Dubai bought for him by the chairman of Kabul Bank. Coincidence, he says, "Every issue is twisted to use against the Karzai family."

The bank is a key pillar in the new American sponsored financial system in Afghanistan. Too bad, because it is one more way the American taxpayer is paying to extort ourselves.

Now the security of its deposits are in question. Maybe Goldman Sachs could lend them some of our money? Or AIG?

The Financial Times reports Karzai's brother was better known for running Afghan restaurants in the United States until his Karzai was put on the golden throne by Bush II, Dick and their billionaire corporate partners Haliburton and Blackwater. Today Karzai's brother has considerable financial interests not only in the Kabul Bank, but also an Afghan cement producer, a Toyota dealership in Afghanistan, mining and real estate.

Might have been smarter to invest those billions in America...

Or is that thought unpatriotic?

*fyi America has spent $105 billion of Afghanistan so far in 2010. Good thing we don't need that money at home.

The War in Iraq, reflections


John McCain could not have done any worse...or two sides of the same coin

The Clarion Content is not usually a big fan of Frank Rich of the New York Times Op-Ed page. While well meaning, we feel like, on occasion, Rich overclaims his case to the detriment of the point he is trying to make. Since we are often guilty of the same, perhaps we are more troubled by this habit than most of his audience.

This past week, however, in light of President Barry Obama disgusting and shameful speech given shortly after United States troop strength in Iraq was cut to only 50,000, Rich penned a gem. He quoted Boston University professor of history and international relations Andrew Bacevich, who as a West Point-trained officer served in Vietnam and the first gulf war and whose son, also an Army officer, was killed in Iraq in 2007. The Pentagon under Obama is rebranding Operation Iraqi Freedom as Operation New Dawn — a “name suggesting a skin cream or dishwashing liquid." But despite Obama's, Cheney's and Bush II's attempts to whitewash history, the reality is far different.

Bacevich continues, "common decency demands that we reflect on all that has occurred in bringing us to this moment...The surge, now remembered as an epic feat of arms, functions chiefly as a smokescreen, obscuring a vast panorama of recklessness, miscalculation and waste that politicians, generals, and sundry warmongers are keen to forget."

Rich reminds us of the obvious fabrication, even at the time, of Rummy's pet attack dog, Paul Wolfowitz. Iraq's oil revenue was going to pay for the costs of the war to the American taxpayer. After over 100,000 deaths, over a trillion dollars of American tax dollars and one global crash later, dear readers, you should read the whole Rich article.

Find it here.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Depression



The pundits are debating the depth of the Great Recession and arguing about whether a double-dip recession is impending. Or are we in a Japanese style, "Lost Decade?" Perhaps we are facing a repeat of the 1970's style stagflation? These discussions about nomenclature hold little interest for the Clarion Content. We can see reality from ground level.

And it ain't so good, brother.

Yesterday day saw the release of another telling statistic from outside the cloistered world of Wall Street and the Federal Reserve. The United States birthrate has fallen to its lowest level in at least a century. Historically birth rate decline has tracked economic decline.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, "The birthrate dipped below 20 per 1,000 people in 1932 and did not rise above that level until the early 1940s. Recent recessions, in 1981-82, 1990-91 and 2001, all were followed by small dips in the birthrate."

Good news for the outliers born this year, bad news for the rest of us.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Save the Seeds!


Let your vision get a little blurry and you will see the picture the mural forms.

Alerted by the vigilant blogger who has been running from the man since 2007, we urge you to support the Pavlovsk Experimental Station. The seed bank is in deep trouble after a Russian court ruled yesterday that the Russian Housing Development Foundation can take the land the seed bank is on and sell it to private home developers. (See all totalitarian countries have eminent domain policies, not just America.) It is home to 5,500 varieties of edible plants, mostly fruit. And like the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, it attempts to perform a crucial service helping to (literally) insure Earth's biodiversity.

According to Boing Boing, the Pavlovsk Experimental Station's collection made it through World War II and many of its varieties can be found nowhere else on Earth. They note that seed banks like this can be used as breeding stock, to impart useful traits like drought tolerance or weed resistance to more common varieties. These efforts are ever more important as Monsanto and their ilk attempt to patent, horde and neuter seeds. Moreover, as the effects of development increase the pace of the sixth species extinction, such breeding could become crucial to human survival.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Some Olive branch



In the vast array of lies told by King George the II and his advisers it is easy to sometimes forget a few. One of the whoppers that Bush-Cheney brought to us, not quite as patently false as the Iraqi's have uranium cake, but perhaps more politically significant, was that America's invasion is bringing peace throughout the region. Look at the knock on effects, places like Lebanon are being becoming peaceful and democratic.

It seems hard to believe but once upon a time, Lebanon was referred to as the Switzerland of the Middle East. It was looked upon as beacon of multi-cultural, pluralistic statehood. Of course, that was gone back in the Reagan era, long before King George even got the silver spoon out of his mouth. However, he and Dick had the temerity to claim that invading Iraq had once again led to multi-ethnic, inter-religious peace in Lebanon.

That was lie was put to bed a couple years ago when Israeli and Hezbollah fought a war in southern Lebanon. The Bushies and their delusional friends claimed that because this was a war prosecuted by Hezbollah and that all that needed to happen was for the right government to be put in place in "democratic" Lebanon and peace would flower.

Of course, multiple offensive wars against fellow Muslims helped continue the process of radicalizing the entire state, insuring the next war Israel fights in Lebanon will not only be against Hezbollah, but also against the army of the state of Lebanon. Well done, a-holes.

We saw a little precursor earlier this month. According to the Debka file, "By its cross-border sniper attack on Israeli forces Tuesday, August 3, which provoked a major clash, the Lebanese Army laid down a new fact of life in the Middle East: The next war against Israel will be fought - not only by the Hezbollah militia, but by the Lebanese army. Its mission has been merged with the radical objectives of the Iran-backed terrorist group."

Wait, no olive branch? We thought King George the II's other Middle East achievements brought peace and multi-party democracy to Lebanon?

The Debka File continues, "The border tensions brewing for weeks on the Lebanese-Israel border boiled over...into a heavy exchange of cross-border fire. Lt. Col. Dov Harari, 45, from Netanya, brigade commander of the eastern Lebanese border sector, was killed on Israeli soil...Lebanon reported three soldiers and one civilian killed in heavy Israeli retaliation.

When the shooting started, the Israeli officers were watching Israeli soldiers clearing brush on their side of the border near Kibbutz Misgav Am opposite the Lebanese village of Adeisseh to clear the line of vision for surveillance cameras. The UN later confirmed that it had been given due notice of the work and had informed the Lebanese government in advance.

The incident escalated when Israel opened up with tank, artillery and helicopter fire and the Lebanese brought in mortars and RPGs."

Wow, we had been told by Dick and his King that Lebanon was another of those places that benefited from their offensive war in Iraq.

Maybe not so much.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

High speed rail & Politico speak


SSDD

The reality and the political spin are a little bit different when it comes to North Carolina and high speed rail. We know, you are thinking, "News Flash: What? The spin and the political reality don't match!?! Say it isn't so..."

But seriously, dear readers, once again the claims of Washington do not exactly measure up to the reality on the ground. Our local Congressman, here in Durham, David Price, sent an email around to constituents, including some of the Clarion Content's staff, reading in part, "Recovery investments that will have a lasting impact are creating or sustaining thousands of jobs in the Fourth District...A $500 million recovery investment will make the twenty year-old dream of high-speed rail from Charlotte to Raleigh a reality."

On the website of the North Carolina Office of Economic Recovery & Investment the story reads a little differently, "Today [July 12th, 2010], Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced that the U.S. Department of Transportation and the State of North Carolina have finalized a grant agreement for $20.3 million, the first installment of the $545 million awarded to the state."

Read that again.

Less than 4% of that $545 million authorized by the Feds is actually on the way to the state. This is not exactly what one would have garnered for ol' Congressman Price's email.

Moreover this money will not actually be used on installing high speed rail system, tracks, trains or corridors! Nope the North Carolina Office of Economic Recovery & Investment website continues, "The North Carolina Department of Transportation will use the $20.3 million to refurbish passenger coaches and locomotives to expand rail service across North Carolina. The Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration is actively working with the North Carolina Department of Transportation on additional grant agreements for the remaining $525 million to further develop the state’s high-speed rail corridor."

Read that again.

They are not spending a penny of this $20 million on high speed rail. They are using it to fix up and clean-up existing locomotives and passenger cars. A semi-worthy cause we are quite sure, but not forward looking or forward thinking, and certainly not high speed rail. These cars and locomotives likely won't even be compatible or usable on a high speed rail system. But that is where the bureaucratic inertia is sending our dough.

Unfortunately, this lack of vision, this inertia is endemic. The use of the stimulus funds and recovery money follows a strict routine: lofty promises, loftier pronouncements, limited distribution of funds in a backward looking manner that kowtows to status quo interests.

Change? Yeah, right!

Monday, August 16, 2010

One more possibility?


The former Governor of New Mexico, Gary Johnson

Call it a follow-up to a follow-up, after running you through the list of possible Republican Presidential contenders for 2012 twice already in the last month we saw one more name being touted by one of our favorite conservative writers and thinkers, Andrew Sullivan. Sullivan currently does most of his work for The Atlantic monthly and the full piece can be found here.

Sullivan is a small "c" conservative. He notes the importance especially now of backing a candidate, "who share[s] [one's] professed beliefs, as opposed to helping ciphers who'll advance... [one's] agenda out of a combination of policy ignorance, malleability, and personal indebtedness."

The outside the box candidate that he likes is the former governor of New Mexico, Gary Johnson.

Craigslist killer commits suicide



Accused Craigslist killer Philip Markoff apparently committed suicide in jail yesterday. He was found dead with a plastic bag over his head. He had been living quite the secretive double life before the murder. He was attending medical school at Boston University and planning to marry when he was arrested at age twenty-four with his fiance.

His fiance was cleared and apparently had no idea. She rapidly called off the wedding. In addition to the murder, he was also charged with armed robbery and kidnapping in two similar incidents in which the victims were solicited via Craigslist, but were not injured.

Authorities said that Markoff allegedly shot Julissa Brisman, a New York masseuse who traveled to Boston after placing an advertisement for her services on Craigslist, three times with a handgun on April 14, 2009 after they struggled in the doorway of her room on the 20th floor of the Marriott Copley in Boston.

He had been awaiting trial ever since.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Presidential Pick-up



We are not talking about Obama meeting and greeting ladies. We are talking basketball. And when you are the Prez, you can get some sweet run for your pick-up games.

President Obama decided to test that theory with Michelle in Spain wrapping up a five-day vacation with their younger daughter, Sasha, with a visit to King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia on Majorca. Their older daughter, Malia, is at sleepaway camp. And when the wife and kids are away, Dad will play.

Basketball, people, basketball.

And play he did. The game was at Ft. McNair in front of an audience of wounded troops. Participants, in addition to the President, included Carmelo Anthony, Shane Battier, Chauncey Billups, Derek Fisher, Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Etan Thomas, Dwyane Wade, David West, Pau Gasol, Maya Moore Alonzo Mourning, Bill Russell, Grant Hill, Magic Johnson and LeBron James.

Kobe Bryant made an appearance but not play. LeBron is happy to goof around in an exhibition. Kobe plays for blood or not at all. (If someone isn't throwing a table leg through someone's heart, than it had better be an NBA game.) Don't hate the player, hate the game.

One further question, Etan Thomas? Etan Thomas? How did he get here? Does he know Reggie Love from high school or something?

Special thanks to the Caucus Blog over at the New York Times for sending this our way.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Can the Government track your movements?



Earlier today, we published a fiery invective from our small "c" conservative hearts about ridiculous government interference in the minutia of our lives. Read it here. This issue touches that same nerve, but in a much bigger picture way.

As reported by the Washington Post, "A federal appeals court ruled for the first time Friday that police cannot use a Global Positioning System device to track a person's movements for an extended time without a warrant."

This will move the issue towards the Supreme Court because federal circuit courts in New York and California have previously upheld warrantless GPS tracking of vehicles by the Man and his flunkies.

This time a D.C. Circuit court ruled that, "such surveillance technology represents a leap forward in potential government intrusion that violates constitutional protections against unreasonable searches."

The Post reports, "The federal government has mandated that U.S. cellphone carriers make nearly all their phones trackable... However, companies say that the federal law that allows them to turn over data to law enforcement without subpoenas is prone to abuse."

No kidding. So, they can and already are tracking you with your phone.

Thanks a lot, King George the II!

And way to stand-up to him, you knock-kneed Democrats!

Law enforcement defends their right to use the technology as a cost savings to taxpayers. Brilliant! If it is cheaper for the cops, who needs our rights?

It is always Danger Will Robinson time when we reach the courts as the last line of defense for our freedoms.

Government does not get it



This is just the kind of b.s. from certain government a-holes that fires the engines of our libertarian, small "c" conservative hearts. When we tell you that you are not going to believe this story, you are not going to believe this story. Get the man out of our lives, stop the administration!

This tale takes place in Portland, Oregon. Where a seven year-old, Julie Murphy and her mom, set up a lemonade stand at a local neighborhood art fair. Julie had become enamored with the idea of having a stand after watching an episode of the cartoon pig Olivia running one, her mother, Maria, told the Oregonian. Unfortunately, cold-hearted government flunky, Jon Kawaguchi, an environmental health supervisor for the Multnomah County Health Department decided he had to throw his weight around. Claiming concern for public health, from gallons of bottled water mixed with Kool-Aid, a-hole in chief, Kawaguchi told seven year-old Julie that she had to shut down her lemonade stand for failing to obtain a $120 temporary restaurant license.

The guy was not kidding. According to the Oregonian, a "lady with a clipboard" came over and demanded their license. When Julie's Mom explained they didn't have one, the woman told them they would need to leave or possibly face a $500 fine. Surprised, Mom started to pack up. The people staffing the booths next to them encouraged the two to stay, telling them the inspectors had no right to kick them out of the neighborhood gathering! [This is America you, fascists!] They also suggested that they give away the lemonade and accept donations instead and one of them made an announcement to the crowd to support the lemonade stand. That's when business really picked up -- and two inspectors came back, Mom told the Oregonian. Young Julie started crying, while her mother packed up and others confronted the inspectors. "It was a very big scene," her mother reported.

Way to go jerks! Off to Russia with you overly bureaucratic scum...

Of course, their boss, another government flunky wasting our tax money, Eric Pippert, the food-borne illness prevention program manager for the state of Oregon's public health division told the Oregonian, "Technically, any lemonade stand -- even one on your front lawn -- must be licensed under state law." Heaven forbid common sense should intercede! He did admit, "County inspectors are unlikely to go after kids selling lemonade on their front lawn," centering his pathetic excuse making and defending his right to suckle the tit of government largess around the fact that Julie and her Mom had been at a public, neighborhood art fair.

Locals are organizing a Lemonade Revolt for the last Thursday in August.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Contenders follow-up


A third Bush...

Allow us a quick follow-up to our post the other day about the early Republican contenders for 2012. New York Times blogger Ross Douthat penned a similar piece the next day. He brought one name to the table that we did not, as Douthat dubbed him, the ultimate insider, Jeb Bush. Douthat says that insurgents like Palin and Huckabee normally struggle to win the nomination of the Republican party. He believes that enthusiasm for the "his turn" candidate, Mitt Romney, is very limited.

Could we really get another Bush? Read the whole article here.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Republican Presidential contenders


Obviously Photoshopped, but still funny...

Former House Speaker and leader of the Republican Revolution of 1994, Newt Gingrich, publicly sized up the potential Republican Presidential contenders for 2012 recently. Collectively the Republicans are chomping at the bit to take on Obama. No surprise, given his lackluster performance so far.

Gingrich sees a field that may be as many as nine deep, if one includes Gingrich, which he, himself, did not. Who else then? Besides the obvious never stopped running trio of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, and the woman who can see Alaska from her front door, Gingrich also listed Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, Senator John Thune of South Dakota and Representative Ron Paul of Texas.

Sizing up their chances at the Republican nomination: Representative Paul is an outsider who has a better chance at making a solo flight to Mars than winning the nomination. Governor Pawlenty is too moderate when the base is frothing at the mouth. Gingrich, himself, is guaranteed to say or do something that is so outrageous it disqualifies him. Governor Barbour is an insider's insider, but to the Clarion Content he feels more like a Karl Rove than a George Bush the I. Governor Huckabee's aw shucks routine is one of the few ways the Republicans could set up an Obama landslide.

That leaves a much narrower field: the early favorite from last time, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, a strong dark horse candidate, Senator John Thune of South Dakota, a weak dark horse candidate, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels and the 800 pound gorilla in the room, former Alaska Governor, Sarah Palin.

In the Clarion Content's uber-early reckoning, we would be hard pressed to see any of these folks derail the Palin train. She is coming for us all.

Gasp!

Special thanks to The Hill for steering us to Gingrich's remarks.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Not yet or Nyet for the economy



The Nation's Restaurant News posted a gloomy impression of the outlook for casual restaurant chains, considered by some to be a bellwether of consumer confidence. It reported that Ruby Tuesday, The Cheesecake Factory, and BJ’s Restaurants each said same-store sales increased for their latest quarters.

However, the NRN's expert said, "We continue to believe a rapid consumer ‘rebound’ is unlikely, and even if the consumer strengthens more quickly than we expect, we do not believe they are likely to immediately trade back up to casual dining. We believe the high-water mark for customer traffic will take years to recapture, if it is even possible, unless the supply of units in the marketplace has a much more substantial correction than we are currently seeing." This dark cloud provided to you by Steve West at Stifel, Nicolaus & Co.

In their view, these restaurant captured customers from other restaurants, but did not add business to the total pool. What Mr. West means by a substantial correction in the supply of units in the marketplace is a lot of restaurants closing and a lot of folks losing their jobs. Ugly.

Read the whole article here.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

No surprise

This tidbit from Mark Knoller, a CBS News reporter, should come as no surprise, "Obama has spent all or part of 65 days on vacation, including days at Camp David. At this point in his tenure, George W. Bush had logged 120 days [vacation]. That included 13 trips to his Texas ranch."

Friday, July 16, 2010

Durham refinances

While cities and municipalities across the county are in heaps of financial trouble, things are not so bad here in Durham, North Carolina. Earlier this month the city received approval from Standard & Poor's, Fitch and Moody's, the three big credit ratings agencies, to refinance up to $60 million in bonds at an AA+ credit rating. This will save Durham approximately $2.1 million in interest charges on bonds and other loans original made to the city in 1998, 2001 and 2008.

Thanks to the Durham Herald Sun for this note.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Local Congressman in trouble

A local North Carolina Congressman is in hot water after being caught on tape grabbing an amateur videographer by the scruff of the neck. Congressman Bob Etheridge, of Lillington, NC, which is just north of Fort Bragg and Fayetteville, and south of Raleigh, was leaving a fundraiser hosted by California Congressperson Nancy Pelosi.

The amateur cameraman is waiting on the street ala the paparazzi and asks, "Do you fully support the Obama agenda?"

This question irritates the Congressman and he demands to know the video cameramen are. He repeats the question several times as they refuse to answer. He attempts to swat the camera out of his face unsuccessfully, then gets even more aggressive. The tape shows Representative Etheridge, a Lillington Democrat, holding the young man by the wrist and grabbing him by the back of the neck.

Did the Congressman get ambushed? Yes. Did he overreact? Yes. This is the logical extension of what happens to public discourse when America plays gotcha politics. We can all get in the sewer together or we can all climb out of the sewer together.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Was Rifkin right?



The Clarion Content saw a note that caught our eye this afternoon while reading David Brooks on the Op-Ed pages of the New York Times. Brooks was discussing the effects of the economic stimulus package on the American economy and employment. He was defending debt reduction as the urgent priority now. The Clarion Content is not so sure.

Regardless, we were fascinated to see this tidbit about the nature of employment loss during the current economic turbulence, "According to a Hamilton Project/Center for American Progress study by MIT economics professor, David Autor, high-skill sectors saw no net loss of jobs during the recession. Middle-skill sectors like sales saw an 8 percent employment decline. Blue-collar jobs fell by 16 percent."

Brilliant, but controversial political theorist, Jeremy Rifkin was predicting this sort of employment shakeout in America all the way back in the first term of the Clinton administration. His book The End of Work, agree or disagree, should be mandatory reading for American policymakers today. It is, if hyperbolic, eye-opening.

The Clarion Content would argue that one way to address these unemployment trends, which are likely to whip up tremendous social tension if ignored, is to allow lots of legal immigration, priming the economic pump from the bottom upward.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Supreme Court backs away from Miranda



The Supreme Court in a controversial 5-4 decision, that highlighted the importance of Presidential elections that determine Supreme Court nominees, backed away from strict enforcement of Miranda Rights last week. Miranda Rights refer to rights specifically outlined in the United States Constitution that a criminal suspect may or not be aware they have.

The Miranda warning is so standard in United States criminal procedure that many of us are familiar with its basic form from television and the movies, "You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to speak to an attorney, and to have an attorney present during any questioning. If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be provided for you at government expense."

The Supreme Court having long held that the "burden rests on the government" to show that a crime suspect had "knowingly and intelligently waived" his rights changed its position. The Court, packed with appointments made by King George the II, ruled in favor of coercive interrogation. (Clearly a policy the Bush-Cheney regime favored.) The Court decided that a suspect's words can be used against him if he fails to clearly tell police that he does not want to talk. The police are no longer required to get a statement of the subject's waiver of their right to remain silent before interrogating him.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor said the ruling "turns Miranda upside down" and "marks a substantial retreat from the protection against compelled self-incrimination."

One more step towards the Sovietizing of the United States.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Is the growth model bankrupt?

A Durhamanian friend of the Clarion Content who is currently going to school in Buenos Aires sent us a fascinating piece that jives with a worry that has been clanging about in the back of our minds for sometime. Is growth, as we have known it since the Industrial Revolution, sustainable? Have we whacked the big blue Gaian ball out of balance? Is it elastic, will we see it come rushing back into balance with a cataclysmic sixth extinction?

The piece is from a blog haughtily titled, God's Politics. Nonetheless it is surely food for thought...

Here is an excerpt that made us think
I am...reminded of what G.K. Chesterton once said when asked what was most wrong with the world. He reportedly replied, “I am.” Already, we are hearing some deeper reflection on the meaning of this daily disaster. Almost everyone now apparently agrees with the new direction of a “clean energy economy.” And we know that will require a re-wiring of the energy grid (which many hope BP will have no part in). But it will also require a re-wiring of ourselves -- our demands, requirements, and insatiable desires. Our oil addiction has led us to environmental destruction, endless wars, and the sacrifice of young lives, and it has put our very souls in jeopardy. New York Times columnist Tom Freidman recently wondered about the deeper meaning of the Great Recession when he asked, “What if it’s telling us that the whole growth model we created over the last fifty years is simply unsustainable economically and ecologically and that 2008 was when we hit the wall -- when Mother Nature and the market both said, ‘No More.’” The Great Spill makes the point even more.

Read the whole article here.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Cell phone networks



Did anyone else hear anecdotal evidence of cell phone networks being strained on New Year's Eve? The Clarion Content had heard a little bit about it at the time, but over the last several months as we have asked around, more and more folks reported that their text messages lagged many, many hours behind, as everyone sent mass texts to everyone else in their phone, "Happy New Year!"

What does that tell us about the vulnerability of cell phone networks in crisis? How easily can those networks be overwhelmed? Does one need a landline or a CB?