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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Are people still this mad? 

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Interesting Links, the latest 

The latest batch of links. At the Clarion we either find them interesting, noteworthy, odd, eerie...you know it ain't an endorsement unless we say it is.

How about one from the files of the weird first. Would you believe Get Grandpa's FBI file.com? Oh yeah. It is what it says, and best of all, it only costs postage and the paper you print it on. And of course, they have a sister site, Get my FBI file.com. A chance to ask yourself have you ever done anything noteworthy? The information is available for free from the United States government. However, the Clarion would bet you writing to ask for your file will get you a file if you don't already have one. It is the nature of the behemoth called bureaucracy.

In a more humanitarian vein we offer you nextbillion.net. This is a blog that aggregates information about sustainable development. It is a terrific site. It has the latest news on development issues. It has a good topic index for old articles. It has a place where you can suggest stories. And best of all because it is a blog, there are tons of comments on every article that enormously expand the conversation. When we have the debate about what the biggest gains achieved through the internet, Al Gore's invention; right up there with the best way to sell people shit ever is gonna be the kind of discussion blogs promote. The Clarion has always had a bit of contempt for the TV news and the newspapers urge to throw in a human in the street comment/quote on so many stories. The thought was what does one person's opinion matter on this story, there are so many people with so many opinions that are going unrepresented by this single quote. This is the brilliance of internet, anyone who wants to make a comment can, and all comments are saved and the conversation goes on ad infinitum.

From the seriousness, back to the goofiness, that's how we roll here at the Content. Work hard, play hard. How's about Bad Gift Emporium for a fun place to play? Billed as the site where bad gifts get a second chance, it is filled with hilarious stuff folks are trying to get rid of because as the site says one person's bad gift is another person's bad gift in a good kind of way. Check out things like the uber-kitsch, "Poker Memories re-enacted by Frogs." described as a memento of weekly poker games, it was a gift so sweet and generous, yet so hideous that the seller has kept it for three years, in a box in the basement.

Even as Yankees supporters, we are able to admit this is funny. Be patient, it has a long intro.

This one is a beauty for the foodies out there. It comes to the Clarion via one of our local Durham readers, a true foodie herself. Gratefulpalate.com is a bacon lovers' heaven. The Clarion has long lobbied for bacon's addition to the four food groups of our youth, since eliminated for the food pyramid, of which bacon is surely a fundamental building block.

Finally, a follow-up note for you, as predicted in these pages the ESPN phone has bitten the dust. The idea of an ESPN phone never made any sense to the Clarion. To our way of thinking there are questions about the whole model of this particular wedge of the cell phone business, known as Mobile Virtual Network Operators. (MVNOs) They are called such because they don't own their own network infrastructure, rather they lease it from a cell phone major, usually Sprint/Nextel. Many of these services specialize around a theme like the ESPN phone did, and it is about the content addition to the phone service. They have lotsa ringtones, Boost Mobile specializes in phone linked GPS locators, Helio supports MySpace on its phone, ironically Disney has a phone that is renown for its parental control features. The Clarion's gut instinct is this model will not generate enough subscriptions for any of these firms to porsper in the face of stiff competition from the cell phone majors. The majors are doing everything they can to provide cool content to subscribers.

As are we. And with that in mind, before we sign off, we will leave you with the links to all of our old interesting links posts.

Interesting Links IV featuring:Nuclear nightmares, Sportscenter complaints, Music, instant canyons/Millard Fillmore's bathtub and the child of Krakatau.

Interesting Links III featuring:Google Book search and related links.

Interesting Links II featuring:other blogs, freecycle, what tarot card are you?

Interesting Links featuring:The Muppet Personality test, I did not know that yesterday, Yeah that Vegan shit and Post Secret. These are HOT links!!

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Kansas City 

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the National Conference of La Raza announced this week that they were boycotting Kansas City for future conferences and events. Both groups cancelled future national conventions scheduled for Kansas City.

The controversy stems from the city of Kansas City hosting a meeting of the white supremacist, anti-immigration group, the Minutemen. That alone was not enough to bring on the boycott, free speech rights continue to exist for most Americans, even under this administration. Rather, what brought calls for a boycott, were when Kansas City's Park Commissioner Frances Semler announced she had joined the Minutemen and broadcast her intentions to attend their meeting. This action, by a public figure, in part responsible for booking Kansas City'y conferences, conventions and the like, was what brought the hue and cry, the calls for a boycott.

The Minutemen's response, attack the city's mayor, Mark Funkhouser, who told Ms. Semler as a public official she could not attend such a meeting in an official capacity. Minuteman Civil Defense Corps president, Chris Simcox, "Mayor Funkhouser is clearly running a sanctuary city (for illegal immigrants) in Kansas City, and rather than demonstrate some leadership by enforcing the laws, he has chosen to play racial politics."


Monday, January 21, 2008

Word Source 

The Clarion is a huge fan of wordsmithery. A word itself, that our publishing software does not approve of, despite Merriam-Webster's citation as far back as 1873. As a fan of such craftsmanship, we love Urban Dictionary.

Urban Dictionary is a dictionary composed of reader contributed definitions. The definitions are all accompanied by a thumbs up, thumbs down rating, and listed from most to least approved. Anyone can submit a definition with accompanying examples. Submissions are not paid. So rather than being edited down to one correct, or even several popular versions of any given definition, queriers looking up words see all given definitions ever posited by posters.

The Clarion is addicted to voting on other folks' definitions. Goodness, could anything make the people in my immediate family happier than a dictionary where you can vote whether or not you agree with the definition, as well as submit your own definitions. Sweetness and joy.

At the Clarion we delight in wordsmithery (see Urban Dictionary's definition of wordsmithery here. We love words, meaning and feeling, communication is our lifeblood. We hope we have explicated our favorite new tool, the Urban Dictionary for you. Now we want to throw some fresh word fuel on the fire.

Three words for your pleasure and warmth.

Scenester. Pretendica. Fatabulous.

New words? Not exactly, but only one of them can be found at our friend Merriam-Webster's website.

The first word, scenester, this is just the kind of word the Clarion loves Urban Dictionary for, a word that is clearly moving into the lexicon, but not yet officially accepted. You can see the faint outlines of this because old Merriam-Webster's claims to have scenester in its unabridged version, which has a "free trial" you can sign up for, uh, no thanks. Urban Dictionary already has it and right on the money, too. A scenester is a person who tries very hard to fit into a given scene, generally around music. They are not the true original adherents of the given trend or music, but rather the copycats. In fact, they may not be into the music at all, scenesters tend to be more into emulating the look, the fashion, and the appearance, rather than the substantial thing the scene was originally about; imitators.

The depth of definition offered at Urban Dictionary allows for such nuance. Nuance is an essential part of the structure of the Clarion's thoughts about meaning.

As for the next word, pretendica, the Clarion doesn't think even Urban Dictionary has the full scoop (yet) on how they are using it these days. The Urban Dictionary has pretendica as marijuana slang only. The Clarion will concede that it likely started there, but these days it is used to refer to anything that is a faux imitator. As in, scenesters are pretendica because they are not true believers, but rather fakers. The slang of today will also use pretendica to dis a band, bar, car, ad infinitum. If there is a version of it that can be the real deal, than there is an imitator that is pretendica. Fake Gucci handbags are pretendica. Merriam-Webster has no idea from pretendica. Hilariously trying to guess misspelling their second suggestion, after pretender, is puritanically. But give credit where due, they do know the final word, fantabulous.

Fantabulous which M-W's dates to 1957 as slang. It is also considered misspelled by the Clarion's publishing software, which was coded by illiterate degenerates no doubt. The Clarion does not doubt fantabulous's existence. We did not know it had been around that long since it sounds like something that kids just made up. And well they could have, and well within their rights they would have been to do so. Is there meaning or just nuance added by combining two words that mean basically the same thing. This begs the question, is fantabulous a portmanteau or no?

A portmanteau is a mash-up of two words that form a single word with a blended meaning of the two words that it came from; so the most cited example is usually smoggy, a word that is a combination of smokey and foggy, and an effect that is a combination of smokey and foggy. This is the key not only have the two words been shortened combined, but their meanings have been blended into the new entity. Another classic portmanteau is bionic from biological and electronic. The word that gave birth to the portmanteau, slithy failed to survive. It was coined alongside the new meaning added to portmanteau, formerly luggage, by Lewis Carroll in Through the Looking-Glass. Slithy was supposed to be a combination of slimy and lithe. Perhaps these two words are so hard to associate that their fusion was doomed. What could it possibly mean for something to be slimy and lithe, it would be so dastardly and horrible that one would hardly care to contemplate.

The Clarion would argue fantabulous fails the portmanteau test for another reason entirely, no additional meaning is obviously signified by the fusing of fantastic and fabulous into one word. It is still stupendous, awesome, marvelously good. There are a plethora of words already available to describe events, situations, personas that might be fantabulous. This is not to say it should be banned, surely there are events, situations, personas that can only be described as fantabulous. There is nuance in fantabulous. It is simply to the Clarion's judgment not a portmanteau. Ginormous fails the same test for the Clarion with much less panache. Can't ya just say HUGE!

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Things that need to be invented, part III 

Stove tops with motion sensors and timers connected to cut-off switches.

Believe or not twice during the holiday season the Clarion heard stories of stove tops left unattended starting fires. Fortunately, neither of these fires had disasterous consequences. The bearer of one of these tales also came with a suggestion. It sounded like a smart, practical idea to the Clarion.

Here goes, this reader and Illinois resident recommended that stove tops in new homes be installed with a motion sensor connected to a timer and a kill switch. And why not? The Clarion discussed it with our wise, young friend, whose idea it was, and we agreed that you might go away from the oven with it on for a very long time, deliberately. To put something in the oven and leave for a couple hours is common, but nobody puts something on the stove top for hours and leaves.

From another friend, a recent college graduate, we heard that their old roommate was actually known to come home drunk and wanting to cook. She would start the stove and pass out on a couch or a bed in another room in the middle of the process. She did start a fire once, and it is a small wonder the apartment wasn't burnt to the ground on more than one occasion the way we heard tell.

So why not? Install stoves with a basic motion detector, they are quite reasonable these days. Hook the motion detector to a timer and if the stove top has no one in front of it for more than 20-25 minutes, have it trigger an auto shut off. Sounds easy enough to this liberal arts, non-engineer.


Sunday, January 20, 2008

Hike who? 


Vast, endless seas of concrete,
nary a living creature in sight,
save for the paver, humans.


In a time of War,
throbbing with sacrifice,
what is not enough?


The Messy Business 

Ahh yes, the messy business of predictions. Okay then now, careful not to invest with your bookie on the basis of the Clarion's predictions.

One of our loyal midwestern readers said it best earlier this month "While I would never be brave enough to post any kind of predictions, especially with sports, I've pondered betting the opposite of yours."

Thank you. Thank you very much.

We will continue to be audaciously wrong.

"All I say is by way of way of discourse…I should not speak so boldly if it were my due to be believed.---Montaigne"

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Saturday, January 19, 2008

Conference Championship games 

All week the Clarion has been thinking, chalk, chalk, chalk.

How can we possibly pick Eli Manning over Brett Favre in Green Bay?

How can we possibly pick the banged up Chargers to beat the undefeated Patriots?

Suddenly. Doubt. Second thoughts. Your first instinct is right ninety-nine percent of the time, but what about that other one percent?

There is no reason to believe in Eli Manning. The Giants do have an excellent defensive line and good linebackers. However, they will going against the legendary Brett Favre with an undermanned and banged up secondary. So much so that they have elevated a rookie from the practice squad, Geoff Pope who is going to see significant action. The Clarion has to believe that Favre and the Pack are going to get the benefit of the close calls. Eli has admitted he dislikes playing in cold weather. The high tomorrow in Green Bay is forecast to be about zero at game time with a wind chill of about minus twenty. No despite the Giants strong running game, and Brett Favre's propensity for the big turnover, the Clarion envisions them pulling this one out.

That leaves (gasp!) the Patriots.

The undefeated Patriots, against the Chargers quite likely led by back-up QB Billy Volek. Philip Rivers is still technically a game time decision with a sprained knee. Rumor mill has it as a partial torn ligament, if he plays, he won't play long. Oh, and the star, all everything running back, Ladamlian Tomlinson, is nursing beat-up legs, too. Yet somehow...

There are signs.

After a record setting super season, that was totally quiet off the field, Randy Moss is being "publicly extorted" this week.

The Patriots future Hall of Fame linebackers, at least two, possibly all three, have been exploited for the reality that they are closer to said ugly yellow jackets than they are their rookie years. They are slowish. The Chargers have weapons to exploit this, Michael "Burner" Turner, Antonio Gates and lighting in a bottle, the 5'6" Darren Sproles.

The Chargers of all teams have an athlete who can jump with Randy Moss, Antonio Cromartie.

All that said, there is still Tom Brady. If Tom Brady is still vertical in the fourth quarter we're betting on the Patriots to win the game. Could the Chargers uber-fast linebackers alter that outcome? Possibly, Shawne Merriman's nickname is "Light's Out."

For the record the picks: Packers-Chargers!?!
you can't always get what you want...

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

NFL Coaches 

Just wanted to get a quick reminder in before it fades into memory oblivion when the Chargers get their doors blown off in Foxboro, after all we get so few of our predictions right around here, the Clarion told you pre-season that Norv Turner was a better hire than Wade Phillips.

We warned that Jerry Jones hired Phillips because he was the biggest yes-man available. Phillips let Parcells' discipline and rules fly out the window all season. He let Jones come down to the sideline during the last drive of the playoff game to stand over this shoulder. He let Jones not only put tickets to the NFC championship game in each Cowboys' locker before the game. He let the story leak to the Giants. Wade is still winless career in the playoffs.

Norv on the other hand is reminding everyone exactly why Chargers G.M and runner up to Giants G.M. Jerry Reese in the Clarion's executive of the year balloting, jettisoned Marty Choken-heimer after the playoffs last year. This year's Chargers were tentative at first, but last weekend they came up huge when the chips were down. Yes, they needed Payton Manning and Tony Dungy to return to the traditional playoff form, but when they did the Chargers held on even though most of the calls went against them. The Cowboys on the other hand had numerous shots to beat the up and down Giants and failed to find a way to get it done.

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Monday, January 14, 2008

Hillary will say and do anything 

From the Hillary will say and/or do anything required to get elected files:

In a continuing effort to make this point Hillary's team was again insinuating this weekend in South Carolina that Barack Obama sold drugs as a youth in Chicago. Part of Hill's her coterie of corporate elites, BET founder, Robert Johnson, pictured above, put it out there in deliberate, carefully coded comments...

"I'm frankly insulted that the Obama campaign would imply that we are so stupid that we would think Bill and Hillary Clinton, who have been deeply and emotionally involved in black issues when Barack Obama was doing something in the neighborhood that I won't say what he was doing, but he said it in his book."-Johnson

Then when it generated controversy, he ran away from it, denied that was how he meant it.

"My comments today were referring to Barack Obama's time spent as a community organizer, and nothing else. Any other suggestion is simply irresponsible and incorrect."-Johnson

Oh yeah, they have always been honest, stand-up folks, Team Clinton, nothing disingenuous in those comments. Ha!! Hillary is the Democrats equivalent of George Bush II. She wants take the reins of power at all costs. Truth and morality, have no value to her other than as avenues to reach power, when necessary use them, when appropriate discard them. It is the Clintonian philosophy.

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Saturday, January 12, 2008

American primary primer 

So much is happening so fast it could make your head spin. New Hampshire is over and the pollsters had it wrong. They were calling for Big Mo to carry Barack Obama forward, but old Mo was nowhere to be found. Momentum is elusive, perhaps even ephemeral. It is important to remember that Obama hadn't thrashed Hill in Iowa. Even though she finished third, Obama only beat her by single digits. In New Hampshire the pollsters had her trailing by a wide margin initially. The Clarion felt the race seemed to pivot on a single question asked to Hillary by a New Hampshire freelance photographer Marianne Pernold Young, 64.

"As a woman, I know it's hard to get out of the house and get ready. My question is very personal. How do you do it? How do you, how do you keep upbeat and so wonderful?" she asked.

This question and her response won Hillary New Hampshire.

Here is the video link.

The question that some cynics are asking this week is was this response for real? Is Hillary such an actress that she can tear up on command? The Clarion surely would believe that Bill could tear up on command. We surely believe Hillary is a poll driven creature. Her spinners and handlers were telling her and the media in the transition to New Hampshire from Iowa that the key was softening her image, connecting with the voters personally, as the agent of change, winning the emotional battle with Obama. She was already winning the policy battle and it wasn't doing any good. Check out the insightful, Jon Meacham's thoughts here.

Watch the clip. Did she fake it?

Sadly this week also saw the race waving goodbye to New Mexico governor and former Energy Secretary Bill Richardson. Too bad, Bill, we hardly knew thee. What the Clarion did know was at least interesting. The patrons of the liberal left at NPR said he was the strongest anti-pollution candidate. The Clarion thought for sure as a man who had lived in Mexico, and then in an American border state, he would have a valuable perspective to add on the immigration debate. He was unapologistically vanilla. He never gained traction, never made a splash even though he is a funny and personable fellow.

The campaigns head to Michigan and South Carolina next. In Michigan the debate will be about the recession and jobs. The Democratic candidates have little of value to add to this debate, but it will be interesting to see what happens in the Republican primary, will the voters go for the protectionist populist claptrap of Governor Huckabee? Or will the respect the honest but difficult position that John McCain is laying out, "Some jobs are gone forever."

It is obvious America is not going to be able to compete down to the bottom of the global manual labor manufacturing wage scale. We have to move forward, there is no ground to be made moving backward. Education and technology training are the keys. Incidentally, the Clarion would have thought that this would be a natural position for fomer CEO Romney, but he is such a poll driven phony, that despite his natural proclivities and past statements, this year in Michigan he is creating out of air a new populist stance. By announcing, this week he is opposed to raising mileage standards for cars and Suvs, Romney has shown again, he is as craven and demented as can be. Hopefully, Michigan voters won't be fooled.

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Advertising gets worse 

When you read that tag line, "Advertising gets worse," ask yourself, is your first instinct to say, "I can hardly believe that..." Well, if so, you are not alone. Advertising is a grotesquely pervasive and invasive presence in American life. Technology has exacerbated the situation, graduating from concepts like the Nielsen's to the Facebook Beacon.

Now comes one of the eeriest new advertising technologies in the Clarion's memory!! Sonic beams!! Sounds like we must be kidding, right? But no, see this post from a Brooklyn Blogger. Adapted from military technology, billboards (specifically in New York City, on Prince Street, between Mulberry and Mott) are shooting sonic beams of ultrasound waves to targeted areas on the sidewalk below. Think you are hearing voices in your head? Maybe. Maybe it is just an ad.

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NFL Divisional Playoffs 

On to the second round of the NFL Playoffs.

The Clarion believes this evening in New England, there could be a instant where popular upset pick Jacksonville feels like they have the momentum. There could be a moment where they have a seven, or even a ten point lead, and the commentators are waxing on about Jacksonville's running game, and New England's rust after a week off. Right about then, is when MVP Tom Brady will starting ripping through them like a chainsaw through butter. Dinking and dunking to Wes Welker and Kevin Faulk, bombing to Randy Moss and generally blowing the Jags doors off. Don't believe the Jaguars upset hype! The Clarion likes Jacksonville quarterback, David Garrard. He did make the play of game last week on the road in Pittsburgh. But, don't forget he threw a total of nine complete passes. Are you taking the guys who threw nine complete passes last week or Tom Brady and the Patriots? Seems pretty obvious from here. The Clarion says the Patriots win and cover going away.

In today's earlier game, the Clarion is less certain of our prediction. Despite trashing Matt Hasselback and the Seahawks just last week, we are leaning their direction. A mere seven days ago, we were reminding the world about Matt Hasselback's worst career playoff performances, including the playoff OT pick six game loser Hasselback authored against the Packers. However, our gut instinct says Brett Favre is who is going to make the critical mistakes this week. Everyone has been falling for Packers running back, Ryan Grant. Can he really do it under the bright lights in the playoffs? We doubt it. The Seahwaks linebackers are lightning quick. When the Pack becomes one dimensional, Favre is at his worst. On the other side of the ball, the Clarion is convinced the Packers corners are overrated. Al Harris may have great hair, but he is not a great cover corner. He gambles often enough that he could usurp the old Elvis Patterson nickname, "Toast." And the other corner, much hyped, Heisman trophy winner, Charles Woodson has never played to the potential he showed as undergrad at Michigan. Says here the Seahwaks will score 28+ points in taking out the Pack at Lambeau today.

Tomorrow we like the Colts to crush the Chargers (by 20+.) Just cannot get a feel for Dallas vs. the NY Giants, we have been down on the Giants all year, but the Cowboys appear vulnerable.

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Political quote of the day 

Ten term Texas congressman Ron Paul from today's Republican Presidential debate Myrtle Beach, South Carolina...

“Are you suggesting the Republicans should write me off because I am a strict constitutionalist? I am the most conservative member here. I have voted, you know, against more spending and waste in government than anybody else,” he said.

“You’re saying now that we have to continue borrowing more money from China to finance this Empire we can’t afford. Let me see if I get this right. We need to borrow $10 million from China, and then we give it to (Pakistani President Pervez) Musharraf, who is a military dictator who overthrew an elected government, and then we go to war, we lose all these lives, promoting democracy in Iraq. I mean what’s going on here? And you’re saying (I am) not appealing to Republicans?” Paul vituperated.

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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

New Hampshire today 

How will the independents break? It is the New Hampshire question today. Up to 40% of New Hampshire's eligible primary voters are independents and thus can vote in either primary. Both Republicans and Democrats have been courting them hard.

On the Republican side, they were seen as the key to John McCain's victory here in 2000. Once upon at time they fueled the Pat Buchanan campaign. Today will they do the same for Texas flat taxer, Ron Paul? And will they do so in large enough numbers to deny Senator McCain, back on the bus, the smashing victory he needs to all but eliminate former governor Romney?

Or will they turn out in big numbers for the Deomcrats and Barack Obama fueling a campaign that has makings of a movement. Obama's camapaign has drawn remarkable reactions, even the most hardened of cynical media critics are waxing about his soaring rhetoric and what his campaign might mean for America.

Both McCain and Obama appear to have the early frontrunners in their respective parties on the ropes. Huckabee, the Republican winner of Iowa is shooting for 3rd in New Hampshire. Rudy Giuliani has all but abandoned the contest. Only Romney remains, the governor of the state next door, New Hampshire is a must win for Mitt. On the Democratic side, Hillary, the presumed inevitable candidate has had that aura shaken to the core. She lost Iowa badly, finishing a dismal third. Her advisors are preparing for the worst in New Hampshire. There is talk of campaign re-shuffle, perhaps the firing of long term staffers and strategists.

Better yet for McCain and Obama both seem to have some natural advantages in the next signature primary South Carolina. (Nevada comes first, but nobody notices.) For McCain, South Carolina is a state with lots of retired military and strong support for the war. The technorati act of Romney is unlikely to play well there, although Baptist Minister Huckabee may resurface. (The Clarion will be shocked if Huckabee can ride his populist economics and war critique to the Republican nomination.) As for Obama, South Carolina is supposed to be naturally advantageous because the Democratic party there is heavily black. However, as we have already seen the landscape of race is changing. Dynamics that once mattered may no longer. Obama demonstrated his viability as a candidate and the maturity of America all in one fell swoop winning in 98% white Iowa. Anything can happen.

And perhaps that is the best motto for today in New Hampshire, anything can happen. Almost nothing New Hampshire independents elect to do would shock us. And isn't that the best mirror to reflect what the nation is feeling in this fascinating political year?

note: New Hampshire's independents weren't the only independents in the news as the University of Oklahoma hosted a bipartisan conference of former Republican and Democratic heavyweights registering their support for a new political course. They signed on to a statement asking candidates from both parties to pledge to appoint a bipartisan cabinet. They hosted the best possibility of an independent candidacy New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Things are getting very interesting.

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Monday, January 07, 2008

It is the state 

The New York Times Week in Review section this Sunday tried to dissect the underlying failures of Pakistan in an article called "Ghosts that Haunt Pakistan" (01.06.08) They wanted to understand why under dictators and elected politicians alike Pakistan has remained one of the most corrupt countries in the world, with some of the highest levels of malnutrition, infant mortality and illiteracy. They conclude that democracy has never had time to fully take root in Pakistan. This is a specious conclusion that underlies the benign rational for the continuing American occupation of Iraq as well. Like most Western commentators and politicians of the last fifty years, the NY Times misunderstands the fundamental underlying problem haunting Pakistan. It is not a lack of democratic institutions or attempts to establish them. It is rather the lack of a central national consciousness. In short, there is no Pakistan.

Their article hints at this theme noting Pakistan's first Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan was killed by a Pashtun separatist. They note that the recently deceased Mrs. Benazir Bhutto's father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who was Prime Minister twice, for a total of six years, during the 1970's, was hung over a Baluchistani dispute. They also relate that even Pakistan's founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah was Gujarati. And more recently they mention, twice Prime Minister, the deposed Nawaz Sharif, who tested Pakistan's nuclear weapons, is a Punjabi. None of these nations or nationalities are countries. Of course, when one of their own is holding power in the imaginary creation of the West, the state of Pakistan, they are going to try to grab all of the spoils of governmental power they can. U.N. aid budgets, I.M.F. loans, military budgets, federal contracts, etc. are all dispensed by the central state. But this state has no real constituents who identify with it, it is not a nation. There is no loyalty to Pakistan. The generals and dictators have taken the reigns of power for the same reason, plunder, some come with a tribal or ethnic constituencies, for others, the military itself is the organ expecting to feast on the state.

The same thing is going on next door in a faux Western creation. Afghanistan is a state divided among the peoples who are first Pashtuns, Uzbeks, Tajiks, Hazara and Turkmen. There is no loyalty to the center, look at the tortured attempts to produce a semblance of a parliament. When the strong man is removed the power of the state collapses and only the budget(the spoils) remain. Neither the Soviets, nor the Taliban held the Afgahni state any more together than current Primer Minister Hamid Karzai.

Witness the disintegration of Iraq after the removal of Saddam Hussein. There is no Iraq. Before the invasion a dictator held together a figment of the western imagination that contained scads of different Shia and Sunni Arab tribes, plus Kurds, Persians, Armenians, Assyrians, Turkmen and Marsh Arabs. Who in an Iraq is first and foremost an Iraqi? If one declared that loyalty in Baghdad who would one turn to for protection first? Quite likely an American, as opposed to one of one's own, because to identify with one's own is to explicitly identify as something other than an Iraqi first. Again, note the agonizingly slow process of attempting to negotiate the division of anything in Iraq. The fact that all patronage and power has to have a division of turf, booty and loot speaks volumes about the non-existent unity of Iraq.

The ethnic and religious divisions in these states are not like the American melting pot, gradually stirred together into a sauce over a hundred years. Unfortunately, they are far more reminiscent of the virulent ethnic and religious divisions that brutally ripped apart that faux state of Yugoslavia. The West has to address this quandary, and immediately, if it has any hope of peaceably resolving the torment facing Pakistan, Afghanistan or Iraq. Supporting the dictators that suppress these divisions simply cannot be American policy. Nor can vainly promoting the ideals of democracy while handing out the spoils of global capitalism to a favored few chosen by the state.


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Sunday, January 06, 2008

2007, Well that sucked, part II 

2007 was a tough year for America. In part one of this piece the Clarion looked at why it was a lousy year for New York sports fans, and American sports fans, in general. But 2007 will be remembered as a rocky year for America for a lot bigger reasons than the Michael Vick dog fighting ring and NBA referee fixing scandal.

2007 was a year where oil prices and consequently gas prices shot through the roof. Oil was up more than 57%. Gas was $3.00 in most of the country all year. Worse yet the tools in Washington passed massive pro-Ethanol legislation mandating billions of gallons in fuel tanks by 2022. This has had the horrifying blowback of driving up the prices for many staple foods in America. Rising food prices are of course, bad news and irritating in America, but across the 3rd world it can be a disaster, especially in combination with rising fuel oil prices.

More suckatation included the heretofore unsinkable American housing market seeing some declines, in a few areas, at both the top and bottom end of the market, huge declines. At the bottom end, this asset decline led to massive foreclosures and unwelcome government intervention in the housing market. At the top end, in combination with fancy derivatives and equity vehicles, it led to ostensibly independent banks selling huge chunks of themselves to sovereign debt funds from Abu Dhabi, China and elsewhere. Meanwhile middle America having already borrowed via home equity loans against the increasing value of their homes to prop up consumer spending is stretched thin. College tuition and health care costs continue to rise faster than inflation. Average wages, save for CEO's are flat in America. 2007, ladies and gentlemen. Blech.

But sadly the litany continues, despite pouring hundreds of billions of dollars into Iraq in the past four years, 2007 saw more United States casualties than any other year. Of course, the on-going consequences for the citizens of Iraq continue to be devastating and deadly. We can only hope the pause in the fighting and decrease in bombings at the tail of 2007 offer an opportunity for a modicum of stability to take hold. Unfortunately, the Clarion is unable to muster optimism. Sadly 2007 also saw more American killed in Afghanistan than any other year since the United States invasion in 2001. Despite this stability remains elusive in Afghanistan as well. Many development projects are stalled. Rural Afghanistan is destitute and therefore growing as much opium as ever. Afghani President Karzai has little control outside Kabul and a few other cities. The law of the land is still the business end of a rifle. Next door in a ill-constructed state, Pakistan, 2007 saw the United States continue to support a brutal dictator. In 2007 nation-building remained as trying and vain an effort as ever.

Rampant environmental degradation continued apace. Exploitation of natural resources and growth trumped any concerns of deep ecology. Perhaps the most startling and scary environmental story of 2007 was the disappearance of the bees in the United States. There is a massive, unprecedented and unexplained decline in the bee population. No less than Cornell University estimates the potential danger to American agriculture as cataclysmic.


In 2008 it is time for each of us to do our part to collectively seize the reins and apply the brakes. The Clarion believes change is possible. We can do it.

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NFL Wild Card Weekend, part II 

At 14-13 Redskins yesterday, the Clarion was feeling pretty confident about our predictions. When the Redskins recovered the muffed kickoff deep in Seahawks territory it looked like everything was breaking their way. Then a colossal turnaround, a missed field goal, a couple of pick sixes and it was a blowout, game over, season over. Seattle's defense looked very quick.

Jacksonville allowed Pittsburgh to creep back into the game late in the fourth quarter last night, but Pittsburgh never looked confident. Coach Mike Tomlin panicked and went for two points way too early (and from the 12 yard line.) They had no running game. For Jacksonville, when all the chips were stacked on the table, they turned to ECU alum David Garrard. On 4th down and the season, he took off on the QB draw, sneaking through holes, breaking tackles and landing on the Pittsburgh 11 yard line, setting up Josh Scobee to kick the game winning field goal. It is not often a team wins a playoff game when their quarterback only hits nine of twenty-one pass attempts, but Jacksonville did.

So the Clarion was one and one.

We knew picking two road teams was risky. Today we are going with the home favorites. Though like the rest of the sports universe, we were very pleased that the Giants elected not to roll over and play dead against the Patriots last week, they suffered the injuries that they had feared. They lost starting center Shaun O'Hara. This can only hurt turnover machine Eli Manning. He had lost seven fumbles this year with his starting center healthy. Manning not only is a fumbler, but tied for the league lead in interceptions with 20. The other two quarterbacks who through 20 INTs this season are sitting at home this week. Manning, though still a kid, has come up small in the playoffs twice already. Across the way in Tampa Bay, veteran signal caller Jeff Garcia has a history of playoff success. He beat these same Giants in the playoffs last year with the Eagles.

The Bucs also have a significant edge in the coaching department. At the Clarion we like and respect Tom Coughlin. He seems like a guy who wants to do things the right way. He has been handed a team and locker room filled with ego and self promoters, yet led the Giants to the playoffs three straight years. Coughlin lost Hall of Fame running back Tiki Barber, who was constantly undermining his authority, and still took this squad to the playoffs. But the bottom line is, he is no John Gruden. Gruden is one of, if not the best X and O mind in the NFL. Two weeks of resting his starters to prepare and scheme is a ton for Gruden. We all remember how he destroyed the Raiders in the Super Bowl, simply because he knew their offense even better than they did. This may be a low scoring, close to the vest game, but the Clarion likes the Bucs.

In the late game, the Clarion would love to pick Tennessee. Everyone and their mother, thinks Norv Turner is an awful coach. The Clarion thinks he hasn't been in a good situation yet. We are willing to concede that Jeff Fisher is a far better coach. But it appears that the Titans spent all of their energy making the playoffs. They enter this game awfully beat up. There are questions whether starting running back, USC alum, and former Reggie Bush backfield mate, LenDale White can play. Even if he does play, he will not be 100%, neither will quarterback Vince Young.

The rational pick is the Chargers. LD is an MVP calibre running back. Philip Rivers is an efficient signal caller, and a coach's son. Chargers tight end Antonio Gates may be the best athlete on the field. (Remember Vince Young is limping on a bad quad.) Although, we like the Tennessee defense and think Keith Bullock is a superb linebacker, the Chargers still have more athletes on the defensive side of the ball, too. They have a defensive player of the year, knock out specialist, Shawn Merriman. They have the league leader in interceptions, Antonio Cromartie. They have excellent talent on the defensive line, too, led by defensive ends Igor Olshanksy and Luis Castillo.

The bottom line is the Chargers are healthier and have too much talent. Just like the Clarion thought, despite all the reservations folks had about Norv Turner, there was no way the Chargers wouldn't win the AFC West, the same holds for this playoff game. They have too much for the banged up Titans today. They will outlast them. All that said, we still would lay down any of our hard earned Benjamin's to bet against Vince Young.

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Saturday, January 05, 2008

NFL Wild Card Weekend, part I 

This should be a delightful weeekend of football. There are some good Wild Card games on tap. For a change on Wild Card weekend, most of the match-ups are toss ups. In fact, the Clarion could make a case for each of the road teams winning, quite the rarity.

In the first game of the day, the Redskins are riding a wave of emotion, back-up quarterback Todd Collins, and a four game winning streak. Collins, who hadn't thrown a pass in years, before being called upon to relieve the injured Jason Campbell midseason has been terrific. The Redskins should be credited for having procured a backup who knows the offense backwards and forwards. Collins spent ten years holding a clipboard for this same offense and offensive coordinator in Kansas City.

In addition to Collins, the Redskins have an excellent running game led by the inimitable Clinton Portis, ably backed by Ladell Betts. The Redskins also have skill at the wideouts. Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle-El are a dynamic duo of playmakers. Every short slant against the Redskins is a threat to go to the house with those two. Chris Cooley is a more than serviceable tight end.

The Redskins also boast a stout defense. A defense anchored by under sized, future Hall of Fame middle linebacker, London Fletcher. The defense despite the tragic death of All-Pro safety Sean Taylor still boasts superlative backfield talent. Nickelback Fred Smoot would start on almost any other team in the league. Carlos Rogers, Shawn Springs, and LaRon Landy are all capable of perfoming at a very high level.

It is on the Redskins secondary that the Clarion believes today's game will turn. Both teams have excellent coaching. Seattle's Mike Holmgren is probably a better X's and O's guy, but Joe Gibbs is a master motivator leading a team on a mission.

Seattle's offense has struggled to run the ball. Yes, Shawn Alexander has aged. But even more important was the Seahawks allowing All-Pro guard Steve Hutchinson to depart. Hutchinson was road grading for "the" Adrian Peterson this season. Holmgren has conceded Seattle's lack of a running game and adapted to it amazingly. Quarterback Matt Hasselback is having an outstanding year, passing for almost 4,000 yards and 28TDs against only 12 INTs. But the Clarion can't but somehow remember his failures of playoffs past. (including a game losing interception in this Wild Card round.)

Maybe this is the Seahwaks year, Quest Field is a notoriously tough road venue, but somehow, we're not feeling it. The gut says more like it might be a one and done for Seattle, and perhaps even a Mike Holmgren retirement. We like the Redskins to pull the upset. There is a little voice inside the Clarion that thinks this Redskins team could make a run. Maybe even a three game, road win, road win, road win run? Could it happen? Even if it did, the Pats would be waiting at the end to administer the smackdown.

In the night game it hardly feels like calling for the uspet, predicting the road team to win, after all Jacksonville just beat the Steelers at Heinz field a mere three weeks ago. Now Pittsburgh is without leading rusher Willie Parker. Jacksonville has two healthy and talented backs in Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew.

Also this is the Clarion firmly believes this is the time of year when the Steelers will truly begin to miss former coach Bill Cowher. He was forever under appreciated in the Steel City. Okay, he only won one Super Bowl, but his overall playoff record despite a string of average at best quarterbacks was phenomenal. He got to the freaking Super Bowl with Neil O'Donnell folks!! Jimmy Johnson had Troy Aikman. O'Donnell was washed up as soon as he left the Steelers. After O'Donnell, the Steelers foisted Kordell Stewart on poor Cowher, then Tommy Maddox and Charlie Batch. Even Roethelsberger in the Clarion's less than humble opinion is no beaut. And that is another reason that we like the Jags today, ECU alum David Garrard is no less skilled than Big Ben.

The Steelers have a first year head coach in Mike Tomlin. They are playing a back-up running back, though we like Najeh Davenport. They have a rookie wide receiver across from future Hall of Famer Hines Ward. The Jags are led by a seasoned Jack Del Rio. For the Clarion, it just doesn't add up. We're calling for the Jags victory.

Dear Readers-We promise not to pick both road teams tomorrow.

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Thursday, January 03, 2008

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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Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Iowa Caucuses 

Time for a few quick prognostications before the presidential selection process officially starts Thursday in Iowa. Needless to say that is still New Year's Day, and this has to be penned, underlines how early the primaries are starting. There is no reasonable justification for this primary schedule. It hardly seems possible that this is the best way to select presidential candidates.

But enough ranting, without further adieu let's get to the predictions.

The Clarion believes the winner on the Republican side of Iowa caucuses will finish third in the New Hampshire primary behind John McCain and Rudy Giuliani. Iowa will go to either former Arkansas governor, Mike Huckabee, or former Massachusetts governor, and son of a governor, Mitt Romney.

The Democratic side of the Iowa caucus race is too close to call. It is possible that either one term Senator, Barack Obama or John Edwards, might beat the front runner Hillary Clinton. The Clarion thinks it unlikely that either of these men, even if they win Iowa, will be able to use it as a springboard to capture the Democratic nomination. The Clarion would be genuinely shocked if any noise is made in Iowa by the other worthy, but largely ignored Democratic contenders, Congressman Dennis Kucinich, Senators Joe Biden and Chris Dodd.

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Pithy F*rging Sayings (4th ed.) 

Wishing you all a joy-filled, peaceful, healthy 2008.

Thought we would start the year with a few Pithy F*rging Sayings from the Singularity, call it a little kick start motivation.

You/we can make it happen. At the Clarion, we believe.

"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win."---Mahatma Gandhi

"To be nobody but yourself in a world that is doing its best night and day to make you like everybody else means to fight the hardest battle that any human being can fight."---e.e. cummings

"If you have ever been called defiant, incorrigible, forward, cunning, insurgent, unruly or rebellious, you're on the right track. If you have never been called these things, there is yet time."---Clarissa Pinkola Estes

"There may not always be a way out, but there is usually a way onward."---staff

"There is nothing noble in being superior to some other person. The true nobility is in being superior to your previous self."---Hindu proverb

"It must be considered that there is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle, than to initiate a new order of things. For the reformer has enemies in all those who profit by the old order, and only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by the new order, this lukewarmness arriving partly from fear of their adversaries, who have the laws in their favor; and partly from the incredulity of mankind, who do not truly believe in anything new until they have had an actual experience of it. Thus it arises that on every opportunity for attacking the reformer, the opponents do so with the zeal of partisans, the others only defend him halfheartedly, so that between them he runs great danger."---Machiavelli

"The abuse of tea has taken on the characteristics of a plague-it is not only confined to men, but has even spread to women and children. The situation is be coming very dangerous. Tea abuse...takes the form of an imperious and irrestible craving."---Tunisian physician (1930)


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