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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Tobacco Road once again grateful for B-Ball 

Despite years of talking about upgrading their football programs, the Tobacco Road ACC schools, Duke, North Carolina and North Carolina State have yet to make significant strides. The best thing that can be said about their collective football programs is, thank goodness they still have basketball.

This week ESPN put out an early spring, college football, conference by conference preview that underlined this sentiment. Their ACC football preview picked the Tobacco Road schools 10th, 11th and 12th respectively. Yep, expanding the conference sure has helped the traditional ACC programs. ESPN college football columnist, Heather Dinich, highlighted just how far the Triangle schools have to go in football with comments on the individual programs best chance of getting to the ACC title game.

The N.C. State Wolfpack, Dinich says, "Buy tickets," picked 10th.

The North Carolina Tar Heels, Dinich says, "Hope home state hosts the game," picked 11th.

The Duke Blue Devils, Dinich says, "Hope the 11 other teams end up on probation," picked 12th.

Fortunately for the Tobacco Road schools, well except for State, it is basketball season. The time to truly examine their putrid football programs is months away. As for on the basketball court, last night Duke gutted out a very physical home win against Georgia Tech. Big deal you say, they are supposed to win at home versus an under .500 Yellow Jackets squad, and maybe so. But it was a big win for Duke coming off consecutive conference losses to Wake Forest(who incidentally offers proof small schools with real admission standards can play Division I football) and Miami (proof that just having no admissions standards for athletes isn't enough to guarantee football success.)

Georgia Tech's record might not look like much, but they compete hard every time they are on the hardwood. Their schedule shows a one point home loss to Carolina, as well as, close losses to nationally ranked opponents Kansas, Vanderbilt and Indiana. The Blue Devils whose physical credentials have been challenged all season withstood Georgia Tech's best blow and pulled away down the stretch.

Beware Duke haters, in the Clarion's eyes Gerald Henderson had his best game of the season. Dare we say a breakout game? He was everywhere: diving for loose balls, deflecting passes, making good cuts. His 15 points and 5 boards hardly tell the story, he was a presence. Coach K immediately mentioned the impact of Henderson's defense in the postgame radio interview. He said he thought it was the Blue Devils' best defensive game of the season. Henderson is the key for Duke. Athletically they have no one else like him, if he plays to his full potential, especially defensively, watch out haters.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Hey wait a minute 

Or another reason to consider McCain.

The New York Times did a piece today asking selected commentators what questions haven't yet been posed to Obama and Clinton prior to tonight's debate. The Times wanted to know what questions they would ask. Boston Globe reporter Charlie Savage raised the issue of signing statements. He noted that Bush II has issued over 1,000 such signing statements. He pointed out as, did the Clarion nearly two years ago, that the American Bar Association called for an end to this practice.

In the Clarion's view signing statements are among the most egregious violations of constitutional law committed by the Bush administration. Signing statements, and the belief in the accrual of executive power that their aggressive use demonstrates, is what has earned Bush the derisive moniker King George the II. He, Dick Cheney and the administration have played fast and loose with the rule of law, from the Geneva Convention, to warrantless wiretapping, secret renditions, extra-judicial trials, material witness detention, the list goes on and on. Signing statements are at or near the top of said list, for the extent and nature of their violation. If they are not as repugnant as countenancing torture, they are more fundamental, because, they are, in fact, declarations by the executive branch that it is above the law. (any given law, including, but in no way limited to, laws concerning torture.) Beyond any defense offered by the Bush administration about their particular use of signing statements is the precedent and the slippery slope.

From King George II's signing statement added to a bill outlawing the torture of detainees...

''The executive branch shall construe [the law] in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President . . . as Commander in Chief," [which] ''will assist in achieving the shared objective of the Congress and the President . . . of protecting the American people from further terrorist attacks."

The curious thing about the point Mr. Savage was raising in the Times today was that Clinton and Obama both say they would continue using signing statements.

John McCain has said unequivocally he will never issue a signing statement.

Signing statements, which had no pretense to any constitutional force prior to the Reagan administration, violate the separation of powers and subvert the will of Congress, the elected lawmakers of the People.

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Monday, February 25, 2008

Do me a solid 

Do me a solid is a wonderful new phrase that has made an appearance in the modern lexicon. It means do me a favor, but conveys a shading of the favor between friends that the Clarion most appreciates. A favor is an act of grace, consideration or sympathy. Certainly, nothing to be looked askance at, but rather to be accepted with humble gratitude and returned grace.

However, in our view, modern American society, as epitomized by the Mafia movie, has exploited the favor, turning it into a quid pro quo. A quid pro quo is in fact something quite different than a favor, it is an act done, rather than out of kindness or grace, with the expectation of the return action in mind. It is done in the mindset of, "I do this because; then you will owe me (one.) And I will be able to call on you when I need it."

Do me a solid has made an end around that kind of favor to recapture the original essence of the deed. A solid is not a favor that creates or carries with it an obligation, beyond the mutual obligation to care for one another that is inherent in real friendship. It is rather doing the right thing, the obvious act of grace. A friend comes to you in need, you do not tote up the score of whom has helped whom most recently and how much. If they say do me a solid, they need you. To do a solid is to do the right thing in that kind of situation, unquestioningly, with no expectation of return. Friends are always in each other's debt. Friends are solid. You can count on them.

“There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves.” –Jane Austen

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Where's Ron Paul? 

Where's Ron Paul to call out the administration when we need him?

The Bush team has been spending $80 million dollars a month, close to $1 billion a year in contingency (off-budget funds) through a program called the Coalition Support Fund which pays the army of dictator of Pakistan Perez Musharraf. It pays specifically for the opeations of 80,000 to 100,000 Pakistan troops on the northwest frontier of Pakistan.

As the Clarion highlighted months ago the average Pakistani's view is that this conflict is internecine separtism, with long held gripes, that have to do with resource and power distribution. The Washington Post today reiterates that they, Pakistanis, view these actions in the present as "America's War." Survey after survey has shown support for America in Pakistan is extremely low and getting lower.

Now that dictator Musharraf has lost the Pakistani elections, will he go quietly or attempt to cling to power? And what has the Bush adminstration gotten for its $80 million a month in support of a dictator? Quite likely a successor who will be less than kindly disposed to the United States, if for no other reason, than we attempted to block their path to power.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Oil tops $100 barrel 

Oil closed above $100 a barrel for the first time today. This has long been considered a psychological trading barrier, a point above which parameters were undefined. It is a bit of misconception because the parameters are always nebulous and being continually reset by all the players in a given trading market. There is a risk, however, as with any perceptual barrier, that the perception does define the reality, and because an important psychological threshold, if only to the players involved, has been crossed, the rules (for price speculation) could be in even more flux than normal. A run-up of prices from this point is certainly a significant risk.

Sadly, experts indicate that even without further price increases for crude oil, unleaded gas prices in America will likely reach $3.50 to $3.75 gallon in the coming weeks. In states where the price is already this high, it will likely go higher. It is relevant to note, that this is speculation and opinions vary. This is not crude oil's all time inflation-adjusted price record either, that was $103.35/barrel in April of 1980.

The rise in crude oil prices on the New York Mercantile exchange was attributed to, among other things, continued strong demand in China and India, even as the United States slipped into recession and demand here eased. In addition to the risk premium the Bush administration's offensive war has wrought, recent weeks have also seen production problems, in Iraq, Venezula and Nigeria that have fostered supply disruptions, as well as worries about an OPEC production cut.

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Monday, February 18, 2008

Sí, se puede! 

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

Embattled Indiana gets a win 

The Indiana Hoosiers program, swirling under a cloud of controversy from Kelvin Sampson's latest missteps, transgressions and lies, won a big home game last night against the 9th ranked Michigan State Spartans by a dominating 19 points. Sadly, that was the only good news. Things look bad for a program that hadn't had any trouble with NCAA violations in 50 years until Kelvin Sampson rolled into town. Now there are allegations of major infractions!

The win, blow out or not, didn't answer any questions. Athletic Director Rick Greenspan must be held accountable if Sampson is found to have committed the violations he stands accused of committing. AD Greenspan asked Hoosiers alumni, students, staff, faculty and fans to give Sampson, a previous violator, the benefit of the doubt. Many, including the Clarion, did. But true Hoosiers know our good name is what is most important, wins aside. Less than honorable wins are not wins at all. (Michigan)

Stealing Eric Gordon from Illinois left a bad taste in the Clarion's mouth, revelations of earlier phone and texting scandals made us more nervous, now if there is cause found, Sampson and Greenspan must go.

Perhaps a certain recently retired coach would be available to serve as interim athletic director, and lead the search for a new basketball coach?

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Saturday, February 16, 2008

Dayonta 500 

If you aren't excited for this year's Daytona 500, you obviously didn't see the finish to last year's race!!

The 2007 Daytona 500 was far and away the most exciting Daytona since the legendary 1979 race when Richard Petty came from a miraculous, last lap, 3rd place as Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison literally fought it out on the infield grass after crashing on the final straightaway of a 500 mile race. Watch the unbelievable clip of Daytona 1979 here. This clip is slow to load, but sooooo bad ass. This race, this lap is where the Clarion's love for NASCAR truly blossomed.

Watch the final two laps of the 2007 below. Ignore the clueless announcers, who miss the whole thing. Keep your on the yellow and red, Penzoil, number 29 of Kevin Harvick. Harvick is 7th place when the clip starts, the first time he is barely visible is at the 17 second mark on the clip, he can be seen, yellow with red trim, well back, for 10, 15 seconds. He is still 6th at the one lap to go white flag. Harvick makes one of the all time guttiest passes you will every see!! The clip still makes the Clarion editorial office erupt. The announcers nearly miss it completely as Harvick comes from nowhere, the "doomed outside line," beating out sentimental favorite, Mark Martin by inches at the finish line as the field wrecks behind them. 500 miles of racing decided by inches on the final lap. It was bad ass.

And while Martin was many folks sentimental fav, the Clarion was pulling hard for Harvick, the driver who really inherited Dale Earnhardt's legacy. A racer, not a pretty boy making jeans commercials, Harvick took over Earnhardt senior's car when he was killed on the track at Daytona in 2001. Like his mentor, he took the hard outside line, the outside line is for the bravest of the brave, because you gotta run the car right up against the wall. Watch the clip, they, in the person of Kyle Busch, run him right up against the wall at 200 miles an hour and Harvick, he just keeps driving a straight line and mashes the pedal down even harder.

Harvick has raced the 29 ever since Earnhardt's tragic death. His number 29 implies the loss of Earnhardt, who raced the number 3 car. Despite winning numerous races before the 500, he has only achieved limited popularity in a NASCAR universe of stars. He is less well known than champions like Jimmy Johnson, Jeff Gordon, and Tony Stewarts, as well as the beloved, photogenic, losers Dale Jr. and Michael Waltrip.

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Under Reported, part II 

Part II: Under sea cable damage significantly slows internet and telephone traffic to Asia and the Middle East, sabotage is suspected.

Five undersea cables that carry internet and phone transmissions have been cut in recent weeks. Experts agree this is unlikely to be coincidental, simply based on the number of bunched occurences, and their normal relative rarity.

Initial reports when the first cable was cut off Egypt about ten days ago blamed an abandoned undersea anchor. These reports were not considered credible at the time. Then there were other reports out of India, who's internet traffic was most effected by the disruption, that passing ships travelling outside of their normal routes to avoid weather may have caused the ruptures.

Now this week, a second cable as been cut off of Egypt, as well as three other cables, including one in the deep Mediterranean, and another linking Qatar to the United Arab Emirates. The Egyptian authorities report their on-shore video surveillance cameras show no shipping in the affected area during the hours when service was lost. What do the CIAs satellite photos show? It is important to note that cable breaks and cuts in the internet infrastructure are not entirely uncommon, more than fifty were suffered worldwide last year. It is merely the clustering in the timing and location of these breaks that has industry folks talking. (Once again, the Clarion is surprised about the limited run this story has received in the mainstream American press.)

International reports varied widely with some undisclosed "intelligence" sources discarding the claims of anchors or ships cutting lines, and service providers from Reliance of India to Verizon passing these claims on as if they were gospel. Verizon also announced that internet traffic between the Unites States, India and the Middle East was slowed. These delays, though measurable, according to their spokespeople are measured in milliseconds. Much as the reports of what caused the disruption varied, reports of the significance of the disruption varied as well. Despite Verizon's claims of delays of no more than milliseconds, ABC News' website says Egypt lost more than 70% of its outbound internet traffic cability, and India lost between 50%-60% of the same.

As the Clarion banged on about in Under Reported, part I this is potentially the kind of terrorism that poses a far greater threat to the United States continued well-being than anyone or anything in Iraq ever did.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

College B-Ball update 

The Clarion is widely known to ignore college basketball before the turn of the calendar on January 1st. During especially good NFL playoff years, like this one, we have been known to pay little attention to college basketball until the Super Bowl ends. And as we all know, there is only a tiny window between the Super Bowl and the Daytona 500. So we had better get on it while the gettin's good.

Without further adieu a few college basketball thoughts, to be expanded on more fully at a later date.

The Clarion's early Final Four picks

North Carolina
and Big 10 team (from Michigan State, Indiana and Purdue)

The Clarion's National Championship pick-Georgetown

Don't Sleep on...

Baylor- Scott Drew, Bryce's brother, Homer's other kid, is coaching the heck out of a team that came back from a cataclysmic blow to the program. (murder.)

The Atlantic 10- Could be a four teams in the tourney year for the A-10!?! Xavier looks as good as they have since NBA All-Star, David West, was leading the squad to the Elite Eight.

Maryland- Gary Williams squad, if they can squeak into the tournament, always plays to the level of their competition good or bad. They are the only team to beat a healthy North Carolina this year. Greivis Vasquez and James Gist are guys who are going to play at the next level.

Kevin Love- The UCLA freshman center is the real deal. He is being compared to Wes Unseld and Bill Walton, two of the best passing NBA big men ever. To say a guy throws the outlet pass like Unseld is as high a compliment as can be given on outlet passing. To have your low post passing game compared to Walton, who could riff with anyone, and made everyone around him better, is mighty special.

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Sunday, February 10, 2008

Under Reported, part I 

We have two new stories that have crossed the Clarion's editorial desk in recent weeks that we feel are getting under reported in the mainstream media. Why isn't there more shock?

Part I: the CIA announces the agency has evidence that power grids have been hacked into!?! No joke, no exaggeration.

They refuse to give specific details about which power grids or even which countries have suffered this fate. They will only talk obliquely about what sounds pretty dramatic: about this hacking, "Criminals have been able to hack into computer systems via the Internet and cut power to several cities." What? Why isn't this front page news? This is just the kind of modern terrorism America should be preparing for, homeland security indeed.

This is just the kind of terrorism that the massive waste of resources in Iraq, human and financial, has caused America to take its eye off of. Saddam Hussein was never a threat to cut the domestic power grid. No one and nothing in Iraq posed this kind of immediate threat to America. Yet while the Administration is proposing $70 billion more to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan just through the end of this summer, the real threats to the United States go blithely unreported. Cyber-terror? Airport screeners? Vulnerable nuclear power plants? Who has time we're managing a civil war in the Persian Gulf, and another disintegrating state in Asia Minor? Repeat the CIA admits power grids are being hacked.

Furthermore, the announcement was a shock to many of the energy industry professionals at the security conference, "the disclosure came as news to many of the government and industry security professionals in attendance..."

The Clarion is anxious to point out there are often many more vectors on these kind of issues than the obvious. Not everybody is equally confident about these reports.

Either way the ambient fear level is raised. This type of threat, this is the nature of homeland security, not offensive wars.

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Saturday, February 09, 2008


Two opposite extremes of sportsmanship were brought to our attention this week.

The first surrounds an event that occurred at the University of Illinois. We were delighted to note the apology posted on the University of Illinois's website for their fans behavior during a game this week versus the Indiana University Hoosiers. The controversy arose over star Indiana freshman, Eric Gordon, who spuriously reneged on a verbal commitment he made to play for the Illini. Now Gordon has no business in college at all, no interest in an education and is merely another one of Myles Brand's pawns trying to position himself for maximum earnings in the NBA. The fact that the powers that be wish to exploit him in the interest of Big 10 revenue before he can do so is not his fault. The people who pay their money for seats to the Illini home games in Champaign, however, had only him available as the target of their vitriol, the system, itself, being a far more amorphous (un-boo-able) entity.

Had they merely booed him in the line-up introductions and then booed him every time that he touched the ball, no apology would have been necessary. And that is what the majority of fans did. But a few fans couldn't leave it at that, and started chants that included obscenities and curses. Wonderfully enough, the Illinois athletic department still believes that its basketball games should have a family atmosphere. Thus the apology. At the Clarion, we loved it.

It reminded us of our years as an undergraduate at Indiana, where fans not only didn't interrupt the last several versus of the national anthem to cheer, but actually sang, young and old, loud and proud. At Indiana in that era, Coach Bob Knight would not allow a student section. He would come on the public address system to order the fans to stop chanting anything lewd or excessively berating the officials, that was his role. Even chanting the letters, "B.S." was off limits. Heck, at Indiana in those days, they wouldn't stand for people waving things behind the basket to distract the opposing team's free throw shooters. Those doing so were warned, once, twice, then summarily booted from Assembly Hall. Sportsmanship reigned supreme at Indiana and the midwest, generally. We are proud to see the University of Illinois attempting to uphold the same kind of standard in a far different era.

As a child of the New York metro area, the Clarion was shocked at the level of sportsmanship and class exhibited at Indiana. The Clarion had looked down at the midwest as inelegant, unsophisticated flyover country our whole life. We found we had much to learn.

The other incident of sportsmanship is an amusing lowlight brought to you by those Jerseyans and New Yorkers the Clarion grew up with and around. Apparently, it occurred in the hours and days following the Giants miraculous Super Bowl win over the Patriots. We ran across this email in a hilarious, scorchingly awesome, post Super Bowl email-centered column from Bill Simmons.

"I manage a bar in Boston, and after the worst Boston sports moment since 2003, the phone began to ring ... a total of 11 calls came in from random people in New York, 411-ing bars in Boston to heckle us. One of the bartenders is from Chicago, and she was completely perplexed. I simply explained, "This is why we hate New York so much." She nodded and said, "Now I see." I don't care how awful Boston sports fans can be, have any of us ever 411-ed New York bars? No, we simply roll cars with New York plates onto their roofs."
-- Matt B., Boston

Not exactly the classy sportsmanship of the midwest, but high comedy in the cause of sporting rivalry nonetheless.

Note: the Clarion does not support the rolling of cars in celebration of sporting victories.

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Friday, February 08, 2008

Year of the Rat 

We at the Clarion just wanted to wish a belated happy New Year to any and all celebrating the Chinese New Year!! May the year 4706 be peaceful, healthy and joy-filled for you all.

May it be an especially auspicious year for all the rats out there!!


Support change 

Priceless verse from this ditty,

"I went to get a loan and they asked my race,
I wrote down human inside the space..."


Wednesday, February 06, 2008

For Real 

The defense budget proposed this week by the current administration for the fiscal year 2009 is 70% higher than 2001. The plan calls for Pentagon spending totaling $514 billion dollars. This does not include money budgeted for the on-going actions in Iraq and Afghanistan for which the budget requested a further $70 billion dollars. This $70 billion dollars is only expected to cover expenses through July 2008.

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Pithy F*rging Saying (5th ed.) 

"The glory of greatness must always be measured by the means one uses to acquire it." -Henry David Thoreau

"It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can keep a man from lynching me and I think that's pretty important, too." -Dr. Martin Luther King

"Violence is like a virus, and the more you bomb it, the more it spreads." -Anonymous

"All of your possessions are temporal. What's in your heart and your mind is eternal." -staff

Link to old Pithy Sayings posts.


Monday, February 04, 2008

Super Bowl, day after 

The Giants won the Super Bowl? The Giants won the Super Bowl. There may not be enough crow in this world to fill the Clarion's request.

We're stunned. We know we're not alone, but we're still stunned, dumbfounded. Even though, as the game unfolded, we kept saying to ourselves, they're letting the Giants stay in this. The Giants have thrown an interception, had a fumble, allowed a pretty big kickoff return, and the Patriots aren't making'em pay. The Patriots were flat the whole game. They made curious bad choices, like electing not to go on 4 and 2 in the Giants territory, but then later going for it on 4 and 13. What?? Their play calling was conservative. They ignored Randy Moss until their last drive of the game. They didn't adjust to the Giants' pass rush. They never looked upset that they were losing.

Yet the whole way, there was still this sense of this can't be happening. There is no way the Giants are going to win. Even with 35 seconds left, when the Giants had to kickoff with the lead, we were remembering John Kasay and the Panthers. We were thinking, you better not kick it out of bounds. You don't want to give Brady a chance. And even when Lawrence Tynes didn't kick it out of bounds, we still thought, with Brady, Moss, Welker, yes it would be amazing, but it wouldn't be shocking to see them drive down the field for the last second game tying kick. (We thought it might come down to the Pats missing Adam Vinateri. And maybe it did, because there sure were some curious non-field goal choices by Belichick in game the Patriots lost by 3 points!)

Well, nope. The kicker didn't matter at the end. They did throw deep to Randy Moss for the first time all day. And he did have the Giants' secondary double team beat, and Brady heaved the ball 75-80 yards in the air, but unfortunately, it needed about two or three more feet on it. Brady didn't have it. Moss didn't catch it. And that was that.

Now, Eli Manning has won as many Super Bowls as Payton. Eli has won as many Super Bowls as Brett Favre. Tom Coughlin has won a Super Bowl, and his job security is finally off of the table. We may be in shock, but the facts of the matter aren't going to change.

All hail the conquering Giants...

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Saturday, February 02, 2008

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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Friday, February 01, 2008

Entrepreneurial America 

It is the Clarion's belief that the populist elements of the Democratic party consistently underestimate the power of the role of the entrepreneurial spirit in American body politic. The Democrats who lead the carousing against tax cuts for the rich, these folks can never understand why more of the electorate isn't outraged about the way the system is screwing them. Their thought is something along the lines of, if not for the government and its restraining hand, why the rich people and the big companies would be putting their thumb down on the little person even harder. They are shocked that a substantial majority of Americans don't see it the same way.

This kind of thinking is a large portion of the populist line Al Gore ran on in 2000. Class warfare. It is the theme John Edwards attempted to run on in both 2004 and 2008, two Americas, one for the wealth fat cats and one for the rest. (Note: that both, Gore, through dint of inheritance, and Edwards, through being a lawyer, had come to be one of the fat cats, and that this might have worked against them.) This week Edwards announced he is withdrawing from the presidential race. Does this signal the death knell of economic populism in the Democratic party? And if so, why? And what about the entrepreneurial spirit?

Yes, the unions are all but dead, but unemployment is at historic lows. High school graduation rates as a percentage of the total populace have never been higher, but the costs of a college education has never been higher either. What about the cost of health care and health insurance? Where does the answer lie to the Democrats inability to reach more voters with these critiques? Who is this slice of America that the populist left can't get and therefore can't reach? Bill Clinton, from the more moderate center left, was able to capture enough electoral votes to win despite supporting anti-left economic policy measures like NAFTA(which the majority of Democrats in both houses of congress voted against) and changing welfare. Was it because some substantial portion of the electorate voted for Ross Perot? He was anti-NAFTA, anti-free trade and globalization, why were Gore and Edwards unable to capture Perot's block of voters?

It is most evident that the Clarion has more questions than answers at this point. First let us return to our original proposal, the populist Democrats underestimation of the entrepreneurial spirits' grip on the American imagination. When Gore or Edwards fulminate against the system they mistakenly presume that most Americans envision their path of advance to wealth via working for other people. The rhetoric here is from Edwards' stump speech, "Today, under George W. Bush, there are two Americas, not one: One America that does the work, another that reaps the reward. One America that pays the taxes, another America that gets the tax breaks. One America - middle-class America - whose needs Washington has long forgotten, another America - narrow-interest America - whose every wish is Washington's command. One America that is struggling to get by, another America that can buy anything it wants." This rhetoric presumes an America that cannot advance on its own. It presumes an America where Americans must apply for jobs with and work for somebody else. It assumes a Manichaean world with only two scenarios. One is either a faceless worker, a cog, be it in retail, service or manufacturing or one is a holder of an average undergraduate degree, doomed to disappearing in stacks of resumes, hoping for, at best, incremental advancement in pay and title working for the corporate monolith. Gore and to a greater extent Edwards look at that system and accurately assess how few big winners there really are. Query how many Americans make $200,000 or more working for someone else's business; the answer very, very few, less than 2% of the population. This begs the question that Gore, Edwards, et al. don't see the answer to in our view, which is why don't more Americans see it their way.

The reason the Clarion thinks more Americans don't see it their way is the entrepreneurial element of the American dream. Many, many American's who don't necessarily have college degrees, but might, don't envision making their fortune working for someone else. Yes the odds are very long against making it as an entrepreneur, but it isn't about the reality of this vision for the members of the electorate who hold it. The dreams of millions of working Americans, subs, tradesmen, plumbers, electricians, carpenters, painters, landscapers, roofers, the list goes on ad infinitum, aren't of making their bankroll through the slog the corporate world, nor do they dream of being the worker in somebody else's company, be it a factory, a mall or a Wal-Mart. The same is true for the restauranteur or the computer start-up. Their dream is to make it on their own terms. This may mean make a substantial amount of money or it may simply mean the freedom to take they day off when they feel like it without having to call into "the boss."

This portion of the American body politic is suspicious of, if not out right hostile to the economic populism of Gore and Edwards. (Clinton assiduously courted the business vote, though not this specific subset.) The entrepreneur is not pining for more regulation, nor more taxation. Her or his dealings with government have quite likely left them feeling it is an impediment and an imposer additional hurdles, costs and burdens. Gore's and Edwards' populist themes represent big government in this way generally, but especially in terms of being portrayed as pro regulation of business, and pro regressive taxation (on everything from changes in the estate law to income tax rates.) The accuracy of this portrayal matters only modestly, the perception in the minds of the voting public constructs the reality of the outcome. So if Gore, Edwards or any other Democrat tack in this direction they will be portrayed as pro bigger government, more regulation and more taxation. Hillary Clinton's ill-fated attempt at health care reform was shot down by the perception of these twin demons lurking. Again recall most of Bill Clinton's domestic achievements are clustered around what might be termed centrist positions. The Clarion thinks that the campaigns of both Gore and Edwards foundered on their failure to understand these entrepreneurs and their perspective.

It is impossible to ignore the question of race completely on these questions, specifically the entrepreneurial spirit and the levelness of the playing field. America is not yet a color blind country. We at the Clarion believe and hope we get a little bit closer every day. We are not yet sufficiently well versed to address the racial issues on these questions, other than to say there is a long history of higher barriers to entry for non-white males to almost all endeavours in America for much of its history.

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Arlen Specter, wasting our time and money 

The Clarion was incensed to awake this morning to a New York Times article detailing Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Spector's desire to investigate the NFL's destruction of the so called "spygate tapes." The spygate tapes refer to a first week of the season game this year where the New England Patriots were caught taping the New York Jets defensive signals. Where is Specter's head? How clueless is he? He has been pursuing this matter since at least Novemeber 15th.

Senator Specter is on the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Senate Appropriations Committee and is the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, yet the NFL is an issue he is going to devote time, energy and taxpayer money to?!! It is literally the most disgusting sort of grandstanding. Of course, in attempt to make as much mileage out of it as possible, it is the first link on the Senator's official senate.gov website this morning. The link leads directly to the NY Times article.

The Clarion was mad enough to fire off this email to the Senator this morning.

Dear Senator Specter,

If it is not evident to you that there are far more pressing priorities for our country then whether or not and how the New England Patriots stole the New York Jets signals, you should resign immediately!!

Quit wasting taxpayer's time and money on investigating sports. It is transparently grandstanding.


Durham, NC

The Senator's almost immediate response is very telling. Here goes...

(Please do not reply to this email)

Thank you for taking the time to contact me.

I receive a large volume of E-mails, phone calls, faxes and letters every week from concerned citizens like yourself.

Unfortunately, due to the high volume of mail, I can only respond if you're a resident of Pennsylvania. If you need to find out who your U.S. Senator is please go to www.senate.gov.

Essentially, Senator Spector's answer is, "F-u, good sir. If you are not one of my constituents I could care less about your opinions. I won't even deign to respond to your correspondence."

Does anyone wonder why the American electorate is both jaded and dissatisfied? The avenues of communication are faster and broader than ever before, yet our elected politicans are able find easy justifications to ignore average Americans. Perhaps if the Clarion's letter had been sent via snail mail, with a donation check, Senator Specter might have paid it a smidgen more attention.

Note too, that this form letter email response is not just an Arlen Specter thing, this is the standard response when emailing any Senator save your own. How vile!!

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The Clarion has two maps for you. The one shown above, which is called the map of freedom. (close-up) It is published by the Freedom House. It is a color coded map indicating the relative freedom of all of 193 states and 15 territories. Green is free, yellow is partially free and purple is not free. The gages of freedom that Freedom House uses are based on a comparative assessment of global political rights and civil liberties through survey ratings and narrative reports. While not perfect, it is widely used and respected. It presents a bleak assessment when one considers how little of the global is assessed as free (green.)

It would have been interesting to see the Freedom House map done as a choropleth map like these showing a fascinating remapping of the 2000 American Presidential election. (Sorry the picture was not movable so you have to follow the link.) The shape of choropleth map is transformed to emphasize the variable that carries the crucial information. In the case of the the linked example, it is electoral votes. The Freedom House map could have been choroplethed by population to better visually indicate how much of the world's population is living free. As you can see from the examples at the link the perceptual difference is immense.

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