Thursday, April 28, 2011

Not what you want to hear

Storms raged across the American South last night leaving death and destruction in their wake. (Notice how no one jokes about 2012 and Mayans any more? We have been through a lot of late.) Reports indicate 170 souls lost their lives last night across several states.

And in a phrase that may sound all too eerily familiar from Japan, the storms knocked out power to three nuclear reactors, all located in Alabama and operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority. Fortunately, unlike Japan, there was no damage to back-up systems. Diesel generators kicked in, cooling systems were maintained and core temperatures never moved. But don't let any of these nuclear power apologists tell you, "It could never happen here."

Bullsh*t. We are one unforeseen natural disaster away from sharing Japan's circumstances. America must move away from, not toward, nuclear energy.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Is this a redux?

New dog, old tricks?

We can't believe how many times in the last two years we have had to ask the same question?!? How different is Barry Obama from King George the II?

Despite the craven slobbering of the Obama apologist crowd, the facts are he represents more continuity with George Bush II than we ever expected. This today from The Hot Air Archives,
"Obama’s new Afghanistan ambassador is... Bush’s old Iraq ambassador... That would be Ryan Crocker, of course. Please don’t confuse him with David Petraeus, Obama’s top Afghanistan commander who used to be … Bush’s top Iraq commander. Or with Robert Gates, Obama’s Secretary of Defense who used to be … Bush’s Secretary of Defense.

Gates, of course, is stepping down in a few months. At this rate, I wonder if O will replace him with Rumsfeld."
Oh wait, no we forget, Obama's policy is more nuanced. He is using more remote control drones to shoot missiles into Pakistani villages...

As the author of the Hot Air piece notes, the only saving grace of this appointment would be if it is political cover for the President to back away from his dangerously foolish pledge to keep United States troops on the ground in Afghanistan until 2015. The Clarion Content has long held that there is no political center with which to form a congruent Western style State in Afghanistan. There is no more right or reason to prop up a Hamid Karzai than there is a Muammar Gaddafi or a Bashar al-Assad. (Barry and Hillary are backing only one of those other two, this month.)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Shuttle Program

Pioneer 11 approaches Saturn

The Clarion Content has not believed in the value of the manned space program since the Cold War ended. We support space exploration and experimentation. Un(hu)manned exploration is much, much, less expensive. There is still widespread world hunger, millions lack a daily source of clean water, not mention housing and disease, or America's desperate need for infrastructure investment. The Clarion Content cannot support the expenditure of the human crewed space program.

The final launch of the Shuttle program is upon us and with it some reflection on the massive waste. 133 Space Shuttle launches, which USA Today reports, NASA originally estimated $10.4 million per launch, ended up costing a hearty $1.5 billion per launch.

Want more? Those 133 shuttle missions conducted 2,300 experiments at a cost of $192 billion for the program. The cost per experiment? $83 million, 478 thousand and 260 dollars per experiment over the history of the shuttle program...

The most widely cited of those experiments according to Thomson Reuters' science information service, is a 1996 study of "anti-shock" shorts used to measure astronaut fitness. The circularity is self-evident. Human space missions yield little to nothing over uncrewed space missions other than the effects of space on humans.

USA Today quotes economist Henry Hertzfeld of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University, "Economically, you can't make an argument for it."

What a tragic waste. Hopefully, this is the end of an era for such foolishness.

By contrast, the robotic space probes Pioneer 10 and 11 launched in 1972-73 yielded so much data that it has still hardly been tapped and continues to produce valuable experimental knowledge for a combined cost of $100 million!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

What's going on...

Regular readers of the Clarion Content know how bitter we are about the Obama Presidency. Perhaps our hopes were too high. His administration has underlined and put an exclamation point on the premise that there is no significant difference between Republicans and Democrats. Obama was the first major party candidate that the Clarion Content endorsed and oh, how we regret it.

He is cut from the same cloth as Slick Willie and King George the II.

CIA assassinations up under the Obama regime.

Guantanamo still open.

Non-combatants being tried in military courts without the protection of the Constitution.

Signing statements still being used to sidestep the Constitution.

Dictators being backed against freedom fighters wherever it is deemed politically expedient.

Oh, and that rhetoric about helping the little guy, who has been buffeted by King George the II's wars of choice and blase, "Let them eat cake" attitude? Sorry that's out the window.

Tax cuts for the rich extended.

Massive tax breaks for the biggest corporation continue.

And is independent, Vermont Senator, Bernie Sanders points out...

Exxon Mobil made $19 billion in profits in 2009. Exxon not only paid no federal income taxes, it actually received a $156 million rebate from the IRS, according to its SEC filings.

Bank of America received a $1.9 billion tax refund from the IRS last year, although it made $4.4 billion in profits and received a bailout from the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department of nearly $1 trillion.

Over the past five years, while General Electric made $26 billion in profits in the United States, it received a $4.1 billion refund from the IRS.

Chevron received a $19 million refund from the IRS last year after it made $10 billion in profits in 2009.

Boeing, which received a $30 billion contract from the Pentagon to build 179 airborne tankers, got a $124 million refund from the IRS last year.

Valero Energy, the 25th largest company in America with $68 billion in sales last year received a $157 million tax refund check from the IRS and, over the past three years, it received a $134 million tax break from the oil and gas manufacturing tax deduction.

Goldman Sachs in 2008 only paid 1.1 percent of its income in taxes even though it earned a profit of $2.3 billion and received an almost $800 billion from the Federal Reserve and U.S. Treasury Department.

Citigroup last year made more than $4 billion in profits, but paid no federal income taxes. It received a $2.5 trillion bailout from the Federal Reserve and U.S. Treasury.

ConocoPhillips, the fifth largest oil company in the United States, made $16 billion in profits from 2007 through 2009, but received $451 million in tax breaks through the oil and gas manufacturing deduction.

Over the past five years, Carnival Cruise Lines made more than $11 billion in profits, but its federal income tax rate during those years was just 1.1 percent.

Duck and Cover is on-point as usual. It is awfully hard to feel optimistic. There are no saviors over the American horizon, rather a passel of psychotic Nero's are vying for Obama's throne and scepter.

While bearing in mind, the first moment of violence co-opts the Revolution, it is time for radically new approaches.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Asleep at the controls

The FAA has reported six incidents this year where FAA air traffic controllers have fallen asleep on the job. Nice. The latest was this week, when a Nevada air traffic controller fell asleep while landing a plane with a medical emergency on board. The near catastrophe has prompted the government to put an extra staffer on midnight shifts at more than two dozen control towers across the country, according to CNN.

The pilot of the Nevada flight attempted to contact their air traffic control tower seven times with no response. After repeatedly circling the field, the pilot elected proceed and landed safely anyway. The Feds says that in the twenty-seven major control towers staffed with only one controller during the midnight shift, it will be mandatory to add a second controller.

Hope so.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Mall vacancies

The Clarion Content warned more than a year ago of an impending secondary real estate bubble that could smack the American economy around, commercial real estate. We had read lots of analysis that said there were a ton of short term commercial real estate loans that were going to have to be refinanced, only with the new lower property valuations figured in. The slowing economy was also supposed to continue to hurt commercial occupancy rates.

This week we read that the less disastrous of these two dire predictions is indeed happening, this year malls and strip malls are supposed to see their highest vacancy rates in more than twenty years according to the Wall Street Journal. The paper reports, "Mall vacancies hit their highest level in at least 11 years in the first quarter." The expectation is that the worst is yet to come.

There is, as our sources suggested their would be, a glut of commercial real estate space. Reportedly, more than one billion square feet of retail space was built in the fifty-four largest American markets since the start of 2000. Many retailers that had been key mall and stripmall tenants, Borders, Blockbuster, Circuit City and Comp USA have nose-dived or gone out of business.

American cities already staggering under repeated economic body blows are losing lots of sales tax revenue as shoppers continue to migrate on-line. Big Box corporations are crushing mid-size competitors and specialty stores. The impact on the overall economy is very real. The base of pyramid that supports our massively indulgent and expensive lifestyles as Americans is having foundation issues. We must look at ourselves in the mirror carefully.

Egypt's presumed revolution

As we warned in these pages last month, there was no revolution in Egypt. All the protestors in Tahir Square were able to accomplish was regime change. They got old Hosni Mubarak out and insured that his fat cat son would not succeed him as ruler. The state apparatus did not change. The military remained in charge. Events yesterday in Cario continued to underline this dramatic and disappointing reality.

According the Washington Post, "Angry anti-government demonstrators returned to Tahrir Square late Saturday, some declaring that they were ready to face martyrdom, less than a day after Egypt’s military rulers used force to break up a protesters’ camp in the place where their revolution began. Angry anti-government demonstrators returned to Tahrir Square late Saturday, some declaring that they were ready to face martyrdom, less than a day after Egypt’s military rulers used force to break up a protesters’ camp in the place where their revolution began."

On the ground in Egypt, it is evident that the regime is being run by the same ilk as it has been for more than fifty years, military statists. This is why demonstrators refuse to simply fade away.

Read the whole ugly story here in the Washington Post.

Of course, the regime is backtracking and putting a PR cover into play.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

New spy plane?

Amateur skywatchers have tracked down America's latest spy plane the X-37B. The plane which looks like a miniature version of the space shuttle is pictured above this column. It is unmanned and flown remotely. According to Wired, "The X-37B has generated intense interest, long before it ever left the ground. Boeing originally developed the twenty-nine foot ...craft... Then, the military took over in 2004, and the space plane went black. Its payloads were classified, its missions hush-hush."

Why it has such a cargo sized hold has been a matter of intense speculation. Space observers have tracked the plane following its second launch into orbit last week. Reportedly, "The X-37B is traveling in a slightly elliptical orbit more than 200 miles up, swooping from 43 degrees north latitude to 43 degrees south." According the expert Wired talked to, Brian Weeden, a former Air Force Space Command officer, now with the Secure World Foundation, the X-37B is orbiting around the fat middle of the planet, flying over the Middle East, Africa, and much of China, giving up global coverage, but getting more frequent passes. The orbit suggests that the space plane is spying.