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Monday, October 29, 2007

Things that need to be invented, part I 

Doesn't it seem like all radio stations should simply have a link so that one can buy whatever song they just played?

Obvious, nu?

They should have their website constantly updating what track it was they just played. This would be nice in and of itself, right? (Some stations do this, already.)

But then the playlist should link to i-Tunes, Napster, or directly to the four major record lables, Sony-BMG, EMI, Universal and Warner and for a standard fee one could purchase the track one just heard on the radio.

Record companies would sell a lot of music on impulse buys. Radio stations could get a tiny cut of each transaction and they would have something else to show their own advertisers about listeners and their spending habits, besides specious Arbitron ratings.

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Good Riddance, Goodbye! 

A-Rod opted out of his contract with the Yankees, today. He is the height of arrogance, the soon to be three time A.L. MVP. He listened to the man most loathed in baseball by fans of all teams, Scott Boras.

The Clarion hopes A-Rod never plays another game in a Yankee uniform. We would much rather Cashman stole free agent to be Mike Lowell from the rival Red Sox. Or traded one or two of the young pitchers for Florida's pudgy (hopefully from boredom) Miguel Cabrerra. Cabrerra would fit quite well under the new Joe Girardi regime. He was one of Girardi's young Marlins when Joe won manager of the year.

Incidentally, the Clarion was vehemently opposed to the Torre firing. We knew, as all folks who grew up in the New York Metro area should, one year contracts are untenable in the City. In New York a one year contract meant if the Yanks opened the season 2 up and 5 down in 2008 the speculation about Torre's job would have immediately begun. It wasn't about the money, Joe needed at least a two year deal. Yes, Bobby Cox, manages the Braves on one year deals, but that is Atlanta, and the entire Atlanta media corps is equivalent to the press Joe has to deal with from say, Connecticut alone. (Furgit about Manhattan, the Bronx, Jersey, etc.) The deal offered to Joe was designed to get him to quit and it did.

As for A-Rod a few telling stats and one anecdote says it all.

The anecdote, during World Series Game 4 as the Red Sox were completing their sweep of the embarrassingly over-matched Colorado Rockies, Sox fans behind the Rockies dugout chanted, "Don't sign A-Rod!!" As in, we know he's about to be MVP again, but he is a choking dog, a millstone around his franchises neck, and as we have only recently gotten out from under the curse of the Bambino, please don't bring us the curse of A-Rod. The Yanks haven't won a series since A-Rod showed up. The most telling statistic for Rodriguez is playoff hitting. He is 8 for 59 a woeful .136 in the postseason since 2004. Moreover, the bigger the moment the worse he is, 0 for his last 18 in the playoffs with runners in scoring position.

If you have any doubts that the bigger the moment the worse A-Rod is, his one prolonged slump in the regular season this year was when he got to 499 homers. As attention and media pressure mounted, A-Rod went into a 0 for 20+ skid. He is at his worst the more of focal point he is. But if your up 10-0 and looking for a grand slam to go up 14-0, A-Rod is your man.

So the Clarion says, "So long A-Rod. Don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out! Good luck with the Devil Rays or the Cubs or wherever."

A-Rod may hit 60 dingers next year, but rest assured none of them will be playoff game winners.

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Saturday, October 27, 2007

Vegan Trifle Recipe 

A little bit of research effort and experimentation allowed the Clarion to develop a Vegan Trifle recipe this week. We have been enjoying trifle for many years, since it was first introduced to us by Foster's Market of Durham, North Carolina. The picture above is of the preferred shape trifle bowl.

Our typical non-Vegan trifle consists of bite sized chunks of white cake, pound cake or for a splurge, Krispy Kreme donuts, layered with fresh fruit, and Cool Whip or whip cream. The fresh fruit mix is simply seasonal. Strawberries are a stand-by. Blueberries and raspberries are great. Pineapple is lovely, peaches and kiwis are a fun experiment.

The Clarion has done almost no Vegan cooking, and absolutely no Vegan baking. Of late however, we have become fascinated with Vegan culture. Long radical Gaians ourselves, we see perhaps close cousins in the Vegans. Digging some into Vegan culture has inspired us to dig more. There are many voracious Vegan bloggers to devour.

Brainstorming the bloggers and other web sources yielded this nummy, nummy Vegan Trifle recipe.

First, bake the cake, then make the vegan whip cream equivalent. Refrigerate it for a minimum of three hours, if you have the space, chill the fruit and the trifle bowl, too.

the Cake

Banana-Flavored Vegan Cake

1-1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup white sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup soy milk
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 to 2/3 of a medium sized banana

Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease a cake pan. In large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Combine remaining ingredients in a blender and puree, then add to flour mixture. Beat for 2 minutes. Bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out dry.

After the cake cools, cut it into 1" x 1" chunks.

Whip Cream Equivalent

In a blender, combine:

two 10oz packages of silken style tofu
3 Tbs of maple syrup (optional substitute-coffee flavoring syrups)
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup white sugar

pour into a container and refrigerate for several hours before using (ideally better to prepare and refrigerate the night before.)

Fruit (suggestions)

1 lb. of strawberries (cut them into halves or quarters depending on their size)
1 pint of raspberries or blueberries (just wash)
1 pineapple (cut into bit sized chunks)

After preparing all the fruit we like to combine it in a mixing bowl and add a couple of healthy dollops of honey, then stir gently. (if you are very confident that your blood sugar is low, along with the honey, add a couple of heaping spoonfuls of sugar in the raw.) You don't want to mush the fruit, just get it mixed evenly, so you don't later have a layer of all strawberries.

Now you're ready to move on to the Trifle bowl. The Clarion recommends the base layer be whip cream equivalent. Just cover the bottom of the bowl. Then throw in a layer of your bite sized cake chunks. Next a layer of your fruit mix, then a layer of whip cream equivalent, back to cake chunks, back to fruit mixture, another layer of whip cream, and repeat. The Clarion prefers the very top layer to be whip cream, with just a few decorative pieces of fruit and perhaps a mint sprig.

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CA Wildfires questions 

Fair or unfair, many Americans and people around the world are going to look at government's (local, state and federal) response to the California wildfires and compare it to the government's response to Hurricane Katrina. They are going to make generalizations about where the disasters occurred and who they affected. This is not unreasonable, but it must be done with great care.

One element underlying all issues related to the government's response to these disasters is the difference in the scale of devastation. It is massive. Hurricane Katrina was so much worse. Hurricane Katrina saw not only more loss of life, but exponentially more houses lost and businesses destroyed. This statement is not to minimize the losses faced by Californians, collectively or individually. Their devastation also occurred on a grand scale and was no less tragic for being smaller than that of the Gulf Coast. This is rather a pro-active attempt to temper the shape of the discussion about the government's differing responses.

There is no doubt that the government has responded much more rapidly and forcefully in California than in Louisiana. There is no arguing that the socio-economic and racial background of the majority of victims in each disaster was quite different. The Clarion believes the difference in whom the victims were undoubtedly had some impact on the government's response, especially at the upper echelons of the federal government hierarchy. George the II's boots were on the ground much, much faster in California.

But again, it is important to recognize how broadly the difference in scale of the disasters affected the response. Hurricane Katrina was much bigger. Far more roads were blocked, distribution of supplies was much more difficult. The net total number of governments and local departments involved in the response to Hurricane Katrina was also far greater than the California wildfires because the scale of the devastation was so much wider in scope. This is to cite but two examples of the effects of the scale.

Allow one final populist comparison, to underline the difference in scale to which the Clarion is referring. The National Football League's San Diego Chargers have relocated the folks who were using their stadium as a shelter and are going to be able to play a game this Sunday. The New Orleans Saints did not play the first game in a decimated Superdome until over a year after Katrina, having played a full season in San Antonio, Texas. There were questions right up to the beginning of the following season about whether or not the team would be able to play home games in decimated New Orleans.

In both of these disasters individuals lost everything and that is tragic.

In both of these disasters government's response could have been far more effective. But differences abound, in California, government had the failure surrounding Hurricane Katrina to learn from, in California the government had a smaller, more slowly developing crisis on its hands.

Did the government respond equally effectively or with an equal sense of urgency in these two situations? The Clarion believes the answer is a fairly inarguable no, but there are mitigating factors to that response beyond the most base and obvious demographic ones. The composition of the victims will and should be discussed, but not sensationalized, nor used to marginalize all the other differences surrounding the governmental response to these human tragedies.

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Friday, October 26, 2007

Republican Primary Field 

The Clarion offers for your perusal quick capsules on what we see as the Republican primary voter's worries about, concerns with, and objections to, each of their potential candidates.

They think...

Mitt Romney—Is he a flip-flopper? Especially on hot buttons: gay marriage and abortion choice? Plus, isn't he a Mormon? And aren't they a (polygamist)cult?

Rudy Giuliani—He is pro-choice, and generally way too liberal on social issues. He is not only three times divorced, but his kids don't even back his candidacy.

Mike Huckabee—Can a guy with that last name really be substantial enough to win? Isn't he from Bill Clinton's home town?

John McCain—Isn't he pro-war and moderate on immigration? Didn't he and his wife adopt a black skinned child?(Oh sorry-that was a Bush II team objection last time he ran...)

Ron Paul—Who? Has he sold out enough to be president?

They (Republican primary voters) have positive spins on each of the candidacies as well. We'll save those for a later date. These objections are the door that the wooden Fred Thompson is trying to charge through, the door that would have been open for Bill Frist had he not revealed himself to be such a twisted troglodyte over Terry Schiavo.

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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Nukes over America follow-up 

A follow-up to a story the Clarion covered last month; the Air Force accidentally flew six nuclear missiles on a B-52 right over the center of the continental United States, from South Dakota to Louisiana. This was in violation of a policy that goes back to the 1960's about not flying nukes over the United States. (duh.) It occurred during a decommissioning of some older missiles the military was replacing. An issue that is going to rear its head with increasing frequency in the coming years as America's Cold War arsenal ages.

The Air Force to their credit did a serious investigation. Four colonels have been relieved of duty, sixty-five other Air Force personnel were disciplined, and likely rightly so. If you read this article from the Washington Post you will be amazed how many checks these missiles were supposed to go through to make sure they were unarmed before being strapped to the wing of a B-52 bomber. At each stage the procedure was either lax or failed. Awful.

The latest Bush II Sec Def impressed the Democratic chairwoman of the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee with the breadth of his inquiry, so the Clarion guesses we can all sleep safely now. Close your eyes and back to bed America. Nothing to see here, nothing to worry about.

The mission of the 5th Bomb Wing, where the plane carrying the six nuclear weapons originated its flight, is providing combat-ready B-52 aircraft, crews and associated combat support for deterrence, crisis response, global power projection, major theater war and maritime operations and Air and Space Expeditionary Force deployments.

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Friday, October 19, 2007

Posited by way of explanation 

One cannot recount all the experiences one has had, all the memories one has made. There isn't time.

Therefore, Art.


Friday, October 12, 2007

The Knicks; or worse, how can it get worse? 

An audible groan arose from Knicks fans everywhere this week, as if it wasn't bad enough that degenerate coach, Isaiah Thomas, and enabling co-owner, Jimmy Dolan, were in court exposing what an awful, unprofessional, (we'd say frat house atmosphere-but that would be a denigrating insulting to fraternities everywhere) gutter mentality, front office they run. Zeke has to go down in the all-time Hall of Shame for his attempts to explain why it is okay for a black male to call a black female a bitch. "It's different for us." Oh, right? How's that again, Isaiah? Why don't you stand there quietly next to your Mom while her African-American employer calls her a bitch and makes sexual innuendos?

So as if all that wasn't bad enough, Knicks fans have to stomach Isaiah's awful personnel decisions, too. This week he decided to bring back the guy, who started the franchise current collapse, Alan Houston. It was Houston's ridiculous megabucks contract that killed the Knicks on the salary cap for years while Houston didn't even play. This contract was handed out by the man who owned the title of worst G.M. in the NBA when he was let go, Scott Layden. The man, the myth, the moron, that drafted Frederic Weis of France with the 15th pick in the first round. Houston hurt his back shortly after idiot Layden gave him the $100 million contract. (For a standstill shooting guard, who couldn't move his feet on defense and made exactly one successful drive to the basket in his Knicks career-a big one, it was, beating the favored Heat in Game 5.) Now Zeke wants to bring Houston back after three years of retirement??!

Unbelievable. Reggie Miller is more likely to be effective, and like the Knicks don't have enough shoot first guards, Marbury, Crawford, Nate Robinson? Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgh. Worse Dolan extended Isaiah's contract for the magnificent accomplishment of almost making the playoffs last year! Jimbo this is the guy that killed the Pacers and the CBA which had been the NBA's minors over 50 years. More pertinently he has mauled our franchise for years. Last year was a flicker, the Clarion felt a pulse. There are players on the roster we like, sort of. The are parts, pieces, its not the disaster Larry Brown made it out to be. But there is no plan; Starbury is heading to Italy, Curry and Randolph are redundant, no one wants to be the past first point guard. Etc. Etc. A seven seed is the tip-top scenario.

Just in case one thought their might be hope, the Knicks are trying to squash it and its only preseason. There was a brief moment of light in the off-season, we got rid of another shoot first guard and perennial loafer, Steve Francis for nothing. We gave up the promising Channing Frye, but got an interior banging scorer back in the aforementioned Zack Randolph. Randolph has been splattered across the entertainment pages to the extent they have them in Portland, he has serious tabloid loaded, character questions to face in the city that never sleeps. Sure there was no coherent plan for how Randolph and Eddie Curry might co-exist, but in the all but center-less East, they were going to be dominant. Heck, Washington keeps making the playoffs with scrub centers like Brendon Haywood and Etan Thomas. (Yes, the Hibachi and his work ethic are a million miles from Starbury.) But before Knicks fans could even get to visualize this supposed dream pairing, Curry got hurt. Sure enough, the Knicks front office spun it. He was going to miss the next preseason game against the Sixers for sure. Gee thanks. He has a tear in his shoulder. No duh, he is going to miss the next preseason game, sounds like a call Dr. James Andrews moment to the Clarion. Says here we're lucky if we see Curry by Xmas. Extra glad to have Zach Randolph now, word is he's a beast. His numbers prove it out, but the Clarion hasn't watched a lot of his games since he was a mighty raw freshman in his last year at Michigan State.

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Baseball Also Ran Update 

A couple of late season swoons doomed the New York Metropolitans and the Seattle Mariners this year. The Mets collapse was much more dramatic, folding cataclysmically in the final two weeks, blowing a seven game lead with seventeen to play. The Mariners fade was earlier and more prolonged.

The Mets had the N.L. East division lead almost the whole way, 153 straight days and assumed their ticket was punched. They coasted to 53 up and 55 down in their last 108. The Phils charged, and despite the late season slump, the Mets went into the last day of the season with a chance. They blew it.

The Mariners were not expected to contend. They played great in the first half, grabbed the wild card lead. Their manager quit, yet they continued to hang on into August. But a losing skein, capped off with two defeats in three games in the Bronx was their final hurrah. Their slim wild card lead disappeared. They were unable to challenge the Angels in the A.L. West.

Many questions hang over both franchises this off-season, to date, the Mariners have done a much better job answering them than the Mets. Before the season even ended the Mariners signed their marquee free agent, Ichiro. This week the Mariners dismissed their entire coaching staff to give, John McLaren, newly promoted, from interim manager to full skipper, an opportunity to pick his own staff.

The Mets, conversely, dismissed manager Willie Randolph's selection as hitting coach, Rick Down, mid-season. General Manager Omar Minaya and Randolph agreed on compromise candidate, Howard Johnson, as a replacement. Minaya’s favorite player coach, Julio Franco, was cut, and Ricky Henderson was added to coach first base. Coincidental or not, these coaching moves match the time frame of the Mets worst baseball, a surge of mental mistakes and lazy plays. The Mets were awful after Henderson and Johnson were brought on board. Time and again, they didn’t know how many outs there were, they made baserunning blunders, they loafed, they swung at the first pitch, made the third out at third, failed to take the extra base, played porous defense and were generally atrocious, worse they were lackadaisical about it; David Wright, Carlos Beltran and few other, older, professionals excepted.

The leader of the pack for lousy Mets play was Jose Reyes. The Clarion touted Reyes as our preseason MVP favorite. (If we had a ballot today, we’d vote for Jimmy Rollins.) Reyes started off hot, but was already slumping when the Mets changed coaches against their manager’s will. Reyes slumped further, hitting an anemic .205 in September. His head was somewhere else in the middle of a pennant race as he demonstrated by failing to hustle, getting caught stealing more frequently, playing poor defense and hitting way too many pop flies for a slap singles lead-off man.

Some commentators have suggested the loss of Julio Franco or double play partner Jose Valentin as mentors may have been crucial. Other have questioned Henderson’s influence, noting manager Willie Randolph objected to some of Henderson antics including card playing in the clubhouse before games. There were rumors that Reyes was burning the candle at both ends, hanging out late night on the town with newly acquired double play partner Luis Castillo.

If any of this last is the least bit true, the Mets need to intervene, before Reyes goes the way of their last round of young superstars, Daryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, et al. Reyes is young. He has terrific baseball potential. From the Mets angle he is signed to a long term, under market value deal. There is no reason to trade him. There is every reason both from a baseball perspective and a much bigger picture perspective for the club and the front office to do everything they can to make sure the young man has his life in order.

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Monday, October 08, 2007

British politics update 

Four months or so back the Clarion warned that Gordon Brown was a surefire led pipe lock to find a way to screw up Labor's electoral majority. This week he may have done just that.

In the run-up to the Labor Party convention he allowed a huge buzz to build-up that he was going call an early election. He was going to secure his own mandate. There was no absolute need, with Labor's comfortable majority in Parliament, he doesn't have to call an election until 2010.

How did what seemed like a very strong first 100 days come apart so badly in recent weeks? It began when Brown stumbled on Iraq, a very unpopular war with the British public. He suggested that Britain was going to reduce troop levels in Iraq. Of the 1,000 troops he initially suggested would be brought back, 250 had already returned to Britain. Another 250 were already scheduled to be rotated home. Whoops. Still, Gordon Brown was going to have his election, the whispers were everywhere. Then, just before the Conservatives own convention their Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer announced a plan to dramatically reduce property taxes on the British middle class. It was very popularly recieved, especially amongst what might be described as Blairite swing voters. Tory Party leader, David Cameron, gave a bang-up speech at the convention answering questions about his youth and substance in the process. Suddenly, this week under the glare of polling data that indicated the possibility of a hung parliament, with the Liberal Democrats holding the baton, Brown ditched the idea of gambling on an election that would have made him the shortest serving Prime Minister since the Victorian Era.

The British media is excoriating him for being a vacillator, always a problem for Gordon. (Kinda like the Bush I wimp factor.) The politico talking heads are saying he will never have another chance like the one he has blown. He has two years to recovery, but by all accounts taken a major blow to the chin.

Brown has issued a new Iraq plan, indicating half of Britain's troops will be withdrawn by next year. He has taken full responsibility for the "election fiasco" (his words) which has the Liberal Democrats tooting the horn for fixed terms.

Gordon Brown had better hope the next two years are mighty good for the British economy.


Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Failure of United States Hegemony 

Situation Burma, Iraq, Pakistan

The current socio-political status quo in Burma, Iraq and Pakistan reveal the outline of the massive failure of the superstructure underpinning the application of American power in the years since the Cold War disintegrated. These three states are not representative of the entirety of the multiplex of countries with which the United States has relationships. They are most defintely particular. There are other places where United States power projection has achieved greater successes. These three states share certain commonalities that when looked at in parallel underline the structural failures, seams, cracks and tensions in United States policy that render so much of its potential for postive impact impotent.

Let us then examine these states, some of their parallels, and the differences in United States policy and action toward them.

The case for war in Iraq was made around Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs.) In the end, Iraq and its dictator Saddam Hussein were found not to possess nuclear weapons or significant stockpiles of any WMDs. Pakistan and its military dictator do indeed possess known and tested nuclear weapons. Iraq was under United Nations sanctions for its pursuit of WMDs. As recently as 1993 Pakistan was being sanctioned by the United States government for illegal receipt of missle technology. As long ago as 1985 Pakistan was being sanctioned by the United States government for the pursuit of nuclear weapons. Pakistan carried out its first nuclear test in 1998.

The United States supports General Perez Musharraf, the military dictator of Pakistan. This support has continued despite his attempts in the last year to remove the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. The attempted removal produced widespread protests and street demonstrations by the lawyers of Pakistan and the dictator, Perez Musharraf, temporarily backed down. General Musharraf wanted to remove the Chief Justice because the judge was using what is left of the legal apparatus of Pakistan to object to the General’s attempts to retain his uniform and his office, after pledging to resign the Army in 2004. The General made this pledge as he attempted to convince parliament and the courts to legitimize his rule, period, through an ex post facto consitutional amendment sanctioning his 1999 coup. Now he is trying every means possible to retain the presidency despite having never been directly elected.

To repeat for emphasis: all of these actions were taken by a military dictator supported by the United States government. It is possible to argue that support is too soft a term to describe the exercise of power that the United States uses to keep their man on top. The package includes billions of dollars in aid, weapons and other kit, military training, tacit agreement to ignore the tribal grievances of Baluchistan (where incidentally amongst a tribal minority is where Pakistan chose to test its nuclear weapons.) The United States also disregards and even encourages the territorial violations of Afghanistan, extrajudicial killing of Afghani and Pakistani citizens by the Pakistan Army and Secret Service (ISI), as well as accepting Musharraf airburshing away the worry of hundreds of fundamentalist Madrasses in the Pakistan heartland. The United States has judged General Musharraf as the best positioned to keep a lid on this state.

American policy makers value political stability in Pakistan above all other elements in their calculus on the state. The General is their man and they will do everything and anything to keep him in place. The General has survived multiple assassination attempts this year alone. Saddam Hussein was once judged by the men in the gray suits in Washington as the best way to keep a cork in the bottle that was Iraq. In a country riven by Sunni and Shi’ite religious divisions, composed of what were once three Ottoman provinces, United States policy makers believed a firm hand and secure bulkwark against Iran were what was needed. Saddam subsequently spent decades suppressing the independent freedoms of Iraq’s nations and peoples from the Marsh Arabs to the Shi’tes and the Kurds. Suppressing is surely too soft a word for a dictator who was executed for mass gasing of his state’s own citizens. There are pictures of Donald Rumsfeld and Saddam Hussein shaking hands as recently as 25 years ago.

In 2003 the United States went to War with Iraq and sought the arrest and removal of dictator Hussein. Eventually following his arrest by United States Military forces, America allowed his execution to occur in a most unseemly manner. It was carried out by the newly installed Iraqi regime after a cursory wave toward the rule of law, with more than a jigger of victor’s justice.

At the time of Rumsfeld’s handshake and America’s support Saddam’s irreligiousity, like that of the Burmese junta, like that of General Musharraf, was an asset in the eyes of U.S. policymakers. Saddam was only into the cult of himself, hijacking the Ba’ath party to this end. When the American suits compared him to Iran and the Ayatollah they were able to convince themselves of his utility. Just as they are now and have been convincing themselves in Pakistan of the need for General Musharraf to stay in control. Political stability trumps, but most especially when a state already has nuclear weapons. Iraq and Saddam were attacked because of the imminent threat their possession of WMDs posed to America, not because of the state’s form of government or Saddam’s repression of his people. There is more cause in Zimbabwe. In 1991 America specifically looked away as Saddam mauled the Shi’tes. In Pakistan, Musharraf keeps actors America considers much more Ayatollah like away from the nuclear button.

But where does this leave old Burma or Myanmar as its dictatorship has attempted to reinvent it? This state, too, has been under American sanctions to little affect since 2003. Why does America not propose to invade Burma to depose its evil dictatorship and free its people? Is it simply because Burma does not possess weapons of mass destruction? Instead of pursuing regime change in Mynamar, American policymakers have pursued a course of encouraging the regime to change its behavior. If there were Al-Qaeda connected groups in Burma being pursued by the Myanmar Junta's security apparatus, would America support said Junta?

Those who would accuse American policymakers of pursuing an anti-Islam, anti-Arab agenda would surely have a hard time making a case that explains why America felt compelled to free Iraqis from their dictator when sanctions were ineffectual, but won’t initiate the same actions in Burma. Is it because America looks at the landscape in Burma and out of the corner of its eye at Vietnam, and thinks it would lose? Is it because America looks at its experience in Iraq and thinks it would lose? Are Iraqi human rights more important than Burmese? Mr. Greenspan said Iraq was all about oil in his book and then backed off. Burma exports natural gas in signifcant quantities. 7.5 billion cu m (2004 est.) It is presumed to have the largest natural gas reserves in Southeast Asia.

How could America lose in Burma if it were the flipside of Vietnam? In Vietnam the majority of citizens (North and South combined) wanted America out. They identified America with neo-colonialist exploitation. They succeed in convincing America to withdraw. (The United States, and the other states of Empire came back with branded post modernist MNC colonialism.) The Burmese people seek freedom, how can America help them? By invading? Thru more sanctions? Is there a state to be built? Are their multiple nations, ala Iraq? How can the answer be that the American government is impotent? How can it find away to keep the despised dictator in power in Pakistan, but not a way to help implement the Burmese people’s most basic desire for human freedom. Years have passed with no progress. The recent protests have again highlighted the situation which is either long unchanged or worsening. How can America be incapable of improving the situation?

Do the answers lie in the rubble of the civil war that has followed the removal of a dictator in Iraq for weapons of mass destruction that ultimate did not exist? Not exclusively. What role do and should American experiences in Somalia and Serbia play? In Pakistan? In Afghanistan? How can America present its face at any world forum, while continuing to justify the Iraqi invasion, but ignore Burma? The blowback of the Iraq war is far and wide, but the failure of American policy and the application of power by the world's biggest economy runs much deeper. Iraq is a symbol and a symptom of America's hubris and failure, but not the first cause of it. On the other side of the world American policymakers are impotent in the face of a human rights disaster carried out by a nefarious oligarchy in Burma. What happened to soft power? Is the concept antiquated in a globalized world? Will outlaw states always find a way around? Despite a Pentagon budget that outspends the world’s next twent biggest militaries combined, despite all this money yet America can affect no change in a place no bigger than the home state of the President. American power is broken.

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Baseball Playoffs 

The Clarion could make a case for any of the four A.L. teams to win it all.

Briefly it's, the Indians: the top two starters. The Angels: speed, grit and Vladimir Guerrero. The Yankees: the line-up, if A-Rod hits, and the bullpen, if Mariano is the Mariano of old. The Red Sox: the one, two and three starters and David Ortiz. No matter what team wins the A.L., the Clarion picks them to win the World Series.

In the N.L. the Clarion picks the Phillies to be the best of a bad lot. The Diamondbacks just got to 90 wins on the last day of the season, the worst record to be best in the league in ages. The resiliency the Phillies showed driving to the finish to catch the Mets, despite having significant injuries during the course of the year, will serve them well. They are catching the hot Rockies, winners of 13 of 14 coming in, including the one game playoff. If any of the N.L. teams other than the Phils, win it will be a travesty on par with last year, the 2003 and 1997 Marlins. The Phils at least have a legit squad an infield for the ages. The rest of the N.L. couldn't hold a candle to any of the champs from pre-expansion era. (1977) Doesn't mean one of the N.L. squads won't win, just that it would be another anonymous champion for a diluted sport.

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