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.