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Saturday, May 31, 2008

Clinton's on fire 

The Clarion Content posted on some of Hillary Clinton's twisted logic about how she is actually winning the Democratic Presidential candidate race last week. We called her thinking Orwellian. At the time, we considered comparing her to Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez, Robert Mugabe, et al. but decided against it. Ultimately, we felt it was over the top, she might be saying 2+2 is 5, but she wasn't advocating jailing her opponent or worse their demise. Yet just was we pulled back, candidate Clinton gave us pause again with these remarks to the Sioux Falls (South Dakota) Argus Leader,

"My husband did not wrap up the nomination in 1992 until he won the California primary somewhere in the middle of June, right? We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California. I don't understand it."

Say what? Set aside the issue of whether or not Bill wrapped the nomination before June of 1992, (hint: he did,) and re-read that quote.

"We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California."

Did she just imply she was staying the race in case her opponent was assassinated? Of all the things folks have said, 'Imagine how Clinton would react if Obama said this about her,' imagine how Clinton would have reacted if Obama had said this about her. Instead, Obama reacted coolly upon hearing about Clinton's remarks, demurring that surely she could not have meant it that way.

The Clarion's view is regardless of she meant it, she never, ever should have gone that direction. We were originally going to go on and on about the why's, but they are so self-evident and have been so widely commented on in this last week, we will just offer you, two of the best commentaries we read or saw.

The first is from a most unlikely source, former Bill Clinton adviser, Dick Morris,

"Everybody who has thought seriously about the Obama candidacy, including me and probably including the Senator himself, have reflected on the horrible possibility that he would be assassinated. One cannot think about Obama, the Kennedy-esque candidate without worrying about his safety. But we all observe the discipline of not raising the issue in public. We all worry that to do so would be to encourage some maniac to take a shot. Now Hillary has violated this unstated but heretofore universal taboo and brought up the possibility. That is not to say that she is hoping for a murder. But it is to say that the possibility is uppermost in her mind and a significant part of her rationale for staying in the race. And, by raising it, she has made it more possible."

Morris was apparently incorrect in his assertion that this was the very first time it was brought up, but this was most certainly the most uncomfortable reference. And according to the New York Times, when someone associated with the Clinton campaign mentioned the specter of assassination in New Hampshire, the Clinton campaign called the remarks, "Totally inappropriate."

Keith Olberman on MSNBC excoriated Clinton for her remarks,

As to the second part of Clinton's statement that Bill did not wrap up the 1992 nomination until the California primary somewhere in the middle of June, it walked the tightrope between deceitful and factually flawed. The California primary in 1992 was in the first week of June, not the middle. Clinton's most serious challenger and the early front runner for the nomination, Paul Tsongas, had dropped out. Former California governor and insurgent candidate, Jerry Brown, elected not to run any ads in California for the sake of party unity. But to truly understand what a load of hooey Hillary Clinton's assessment that the nomination was not sewn up until mid-June, look at the final delegate counts and state victory totals from that year.

Bill Clinton won 3372 delegates and 39 states
Jerry Brown 596 delegates and 3 states
Paul Tsongas 289 delegates and 6 states

If it wasn't wrapped up, it was a mere formality. Hillary Clinton was disassembling again.

The Clarion's feelings about the Clinton campaign sank to a new low after these remarks. We continue to believe that her intention is to insure Barack Obama's eventual defeat so that she will be positioned to take on McCain in 2012.

This writer to the Kansas City Star tells it like it is, the writer is one, Rosemary Gudelj, from Lee’s Summit her letter reads in part...

"I realized why I am so strongly in favor of Barack Obama. Senator Clinton and her supporters are bound to a system that promotes bullying over reason, winning over collaboration and an attitude of “my way” at any cost.

To put the well-being of our country at risk to be punitive is a real mirror of the way Clinton would govern. She has shown a willingness to speak to the smallest parts of ourselves, while Obama speaks to our biggest self."

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Friday, May 30, 2008

On the wrong side again 

This week saw the United States of America once again end up on the wrong side of an important weapons systems restrictions treaty. In 1997, it was the Convention to Ban the Use of Land Mines that the United States failed to sign on to. This week it was the Convention on Cluster Munitions more commonly known as cluster bombs.

Like land mines, cluster bombs are an abhorrent device, they are canisters packed with small bombs, called bomblets that spread over a large area when a canister is dropped from a plane or fired from the ground. While this sounds bad enough in and of itself, the real kicker is that like land mines, cluster bombs frequently kill civilians and other innocent bystanders to conflict. Cluster bombs are designed to explode on impact, but frequently do not. The unexploded munitions have killed and maimed thousands in much the same manner that the widely scattered land mines of the past several decades killed and maimed hundreds of thousands of non-combatants.

How on Earth can the United States oppose a treaty to ban the use of these weapons?

Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs, Stephen D. Mull, "We decided not to go to Oslo, because we don't want to give weight to a process that we think is ultimately flawed, because we don't think that any international effort is going to succeed unless you get the major producers and the users of these weapons at the table."

Among the countries that lined up with the United States in refusing to sign on to the convention, the totalitarian People's Republic of China, Pakistan, otherwise known as, the military dictatorship that gave North Korea the Bomb, Vladimir Putin's Russia, along with the Israelis and the Indians. Quite a group of luminaries that America sided with. It is worth noting that the most recent documented use of cluster bombs was during Israel's 2006 conflict with Hezbollah in Lebanon. America has not, as yet, used cluster bombs in Iraq.

The Washington Post quoted Navy Commander, Bob Mehal, a Pentagon spokesman, "...cluster munitions have demonstrated military utility, and their elimination from U.S. stockpiles would put the lives of our soldiers and those of our coalition partners at risk."

Sweet. The logic underlying this premise would allow the use of any effective weapons systems; napalm, fire bombing, flamethrowers, land mines, even nuclear weapons. The argument being, if it has demonstrated military utility, there is nothing the United States of America rules out. Awful. Much like the Bush II doctrine of preemptive war, this logic is untenable in the long haul. It begets a kill or be killed mentality that has been implicit in humanity's worst moments.

Twenty some odd years ago Sting thought we humans had cottoned on to it when he wrote the lyrics,

"There's no such thing as a winnable war. It's a lie that we don't believe anymore"

Two years earlier, Matthew Broderick and a computer had discovered in Lawrence Lasker and Walter F. Parkes screenplay for the Cold War set, War Games,

"The only way to win the game (global thermal nuclear war,) is not to play."

What happened?

This week the United States undermined the principle behind those two quotes, moving closer to, rather than further from, global annihilation. It was a step in the wrong direction.

It is worth noting that while the United States rejected the Convention on Cluster Munitions under George Bush the II, it refused to sign the Convention to Ban the Use of Land Mines under Clinton I. This is especially important to recognize when Hillary Clinton is now excoriating Barack Obama for his military and foreign policy naivete. What Obama really proposes is change, a move away from group think, a willingness to work outside the confines of the military industrial complex's box.

A final point, a nuanced one at that, the Clarion mentioned earlier that the United States had not yet used cluster bombs in Iraq. NATO's European states have insured, as a matter of policy, NATO troops, including the United States's personnel, do not use cluster bombs in Afghanistan. In fact, the United States has barred the foreign sale of cluster bombs that do not have a 99% detonation rate on impact. A small step to be sure, but a step. Unfortunately, absent a unilateral ban, which the Convention on Cluster Munitions calls on signatories to impose with eight years, and the Clarion strongly supports, America will have to count on Pentagon auditors to insure only "good" cluster bombs are being sold. It will have to count on its military commanders to insure that no cluster bombs are being used.

Some solace.

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Gotta give Kobe his due 

The Clarion is not a fan of Kobe Bryant, but after the Lakers moved into the NBA finals by defeating the San Antonio Spurs, even we can admit one has got give Kobe Bryant his duly earned props.

There are a myriad of things that can be said about this post-season and this Laker team, but let us highlight a few for our faithful readers that underline why Kobe deserves most of his accolades. Going down the stretch of the regular season, all of the experts were saying this was the toughest NBA Western Conference in ages, maybe ever. Well Kobe and the Lakers won the Western Conference playoffs. Yes, the Spurs typically win only every other year, they don't have enough gas in the tank the next year to go back to back. Yet still, someone has to knock them off, the Hornets couldn't do it. Shaq, Nash and the Suns never got close. (It cost Mike D'Antoni his job.) Despite their amazing regular season streak, the Rockets and T-Mac still couldn't get out of the first round.

When evaluating Kobe, beyond the competition, there is the supporting cast question. We know everybody raves about the super-soft Spaniard, Pau Gasol, but the fact is, he was winless in post-season series coming into this year. Young, dynamic, center Andre Bynum hasn't even played in the post-season. The haters can't even complain that Kobe got all the calls against the champs. After shooting 96 free throws in the Utah series, Bryant only shot 11 against the Spurs.

The Clarion won't go too far. The comparisons to Michael Jordan are premature. Jordan had six rings, with no dominant big man. Kobe has yet to win a ring without Shaq, coming into this year Bryant and the Lakers had yet win a playoff series since Shaq departed. Winning these Finals would begin the process of making the comparison more palatable.

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Chris Rock 

Comedian extraordinaire, Chris Rock, had the one liner of the political week, as spotted in The Economist, "Notice how nobody had ever heard of a superdelegate until it looked a black man was about to win the nomination."

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Still the colonists 

"The English Captain, John Terry roars."

There are a few arenas where America still can't compete with jolly, old England. One such place is the football pitch. The bloody, sots kicked American tail again yesterday, two to nil. Bollocks.

The United States has managed to beat England at soccer twice, against seven losses in the last sixty odd years. America's last victory was in Foxborough in 1993.


Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Men's champs

Congratulations to Men's NCAA Lacrosse Champions, Syracuse University!!! And a little recognition for the valiant runner-up, and long time lacrosse power, Johns Hopkins. Good work gentlemen.

Women's champs

And how's about the women's champion, Northwestern University!!! Give it up for the Wildcats who won their fourth title in a row.

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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Avoid the Family Fare BP 

"Fonder Days"

This is a warning to fellow Durhamanians, who like so many Americans are enjoying the blowback pleasures of $4.00/gallon gas. Avoid all of the local Family Fare BP gas stations!!!

All of the Family Fare BP gas stations have had to change the filters in their gas tanks? Gas pumps? Lines? Nozzles? The Clarion can't get a straight answer out of them, despite having questioned various clerks, store managers, and even made inquires via comment on their website. They graciously apologized for our inconvenience, but without explanation.

Regardless of the why, know that it takes an endless amount of time to pump gas at the Family Fare. It took more than 15 minutes to fill a 12 gallon tank on the first occasion. The second time, at a different location, the Clarion gave up after 8 or 10 minutes of pumping and only four gallons of gas. Washing the windows only takes so long.

So we say again, "Avoid the Family Fare BP gas stations!!!"

And incidentally, in their convenience stores, they have recently posted a sign "Limit two gallons of milk per customer." Wtf?!? There was a milk run? Further investigation pending...

Meanwhile, check out this link to a user forum noting the lowest gas prices found in the Durham area.

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Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Millenium of Women 

More evidence why we can only hope it is the millennium of women...from ESPN wire services.

"Bellarmine Prep senior Nicole Cochran should have been celebrating her successful defense of the Class 4A girls 3,200-meter title at the Star Track XXVI meet, Washington's state high school track and field championships.

Cochran, who is attending Harvard this fall, had crossed the finish line first with a personal-best time of 10 minutes, 36 seconds in Friday's meet. But minutes later, according to the News Tribune of Tacoma, meet officials notified Bellarmine Prep's coach, Matt Ellis, that Cochran was disqualified.

According to the News Tribune, officials ruled that Cochran had taken three consecutive steps on the inside line along the far curve on the next-to-last lap of the race, which is when she had made her move to take the lead and break free of the pack.

It is a violation that results in disqualification.

"There's not really much I can do," Cochran told the Tri-City Herald. "We tried to appeal it. It's very unfortunate, but sometimes it's what you get dealt."

Shadle Park (Spokane) High School's Andrea Nelson, who finished in 10:40.04, was declared the winner.

The awards ceremony took place, then Nelson got off the awards stand, walked over to Cochran, removed the first-place medal from around her neck and draped it over Cochran's.

"It's your medal," Nelson said to her, the Tri-City Herald reported. "You're the state champion."

The rest of the top eight finishers then held an impromptu ceremony of their own. Exchanging their medals -- Nelson received the second-place medal, Sarah Lord of Redmond High School took the third-place medal, and so on.

"That's not how you win state," Nelson said. "She totally deserves it. She crushed everybody."

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Stanley Cup Finals 

The Stanley Cup Finals are coming! The Stanley Cup Finals are coming. The question is, does anyone care? Sadly, the answer is, outside of Detroit and Pittsburgh, the home cities of the two franchises competing, probably not.

The Clarion recalls a note we saw during last year's Stanley Cup Finals that only three non-Canadian, out-of-town newspapers had even bothered to send reporters to the games between Anaheim and Ottawa. This year for the first time since the 2000-01, three years before the cataclysmic lockout and lost season, there are no warm weather cities involved in the Cup final.

None of the warm weather, recent expansion cities have deep abiding loyalty to their hockey franchises. In fact, in most of those cities, they are a blip on the local radar, an afterthought. This is not the case for the teams in this year's finals. Detroit is Hockey-town USA. Pittsburgh is enamored with young, Sid the Kid, and their franchise has a history of glorious success. Media coverage is indeed up, but it is a far cry from what it was twenty years ago as this excellent article from the Toronto Globe and Mail details.

There are other obstacles facing the Stanley Cup Finals this year, too. In an oddity, Games One and Two of the Cup finals in Detroit are scheduled on the same nights, tonight and Monday, as Games Three and Four of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals featuring the Detroit Pistons. Worse yet for the NHL, not only are the games scheduled head to head for television purposes, but both series are in Detroit simultaneously, only thirty miles apart. The Red Wings have already had empty seats at Joe Louis arena this postseason. It definitely sucks further juice from what the NHL was hoping was going to be a renaissance series for a league who's trophy has a higher Q rating than any of it's stars.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Scorched Earth? 

Is Hillary Clinton’s primary goal in staying in an obviously lost presidential nomination race to insure Barack Obama’s eventual defeat in the general election? A harsh accusation to be sure, but mounting evidence points in that direction. If Obama were defeated by John McCain, Hillary Clinton would be supremely positioned to win the Democratic Party nomination to take on the then 76 year old, former P.O.W., McCain. Her arguments from this race about electability would play strongly is the thinking. If however, Obama defeats McCain in November, Hillary Clinton would be out of the question until 2016. If it is not her intention, is the effect the same?

The core of what makes the Clarion think such an equation is in the mind’s eye of Hillary Clinton is the tortured, Orwellian nature of the math required to make the argument that she could still win the nomination. It is not just about her team playing the race card. She can’t control what Geraldine Ferraro says. Ultimately, she can’t even control what Bill says. Make no mistake her team has played on this point, even she did, herself, between West Virginia and Kentucky.

What is Orwellian or at least counter-intuitive are her arguments about how many votes she has received. She wants to count Michigan and Florida where she was the only candidate on the ballot. Today on talk radio she compared not counting Florida’s primary to the Bush-Gore 2000 Florida debacle. One can only think her insane or maniacal, when she make points with this kind of logic: Clinton wants Michigan and Florida where only she ran to count, but she does not want the caucuses to count (where Obama won) because they mimic town hall meetings. Not too mention, the elephant in the room, which no one from either campaign has the stones to talk about, Rush Limbaugh’s Operation Chaos which has quite clearly netted Clinton upwards of 200,000 votes in so-called “swing states” of folks who have absolutely no intention of voting for her.

It is the Clarion’s firm belief that this problem, primary voters who won’t vote for her in the general election goes much deeper for Hillary Clinton. We will address that in part II of this piece tomorrow.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Great Night to be a Knicks Fan? 

Wow. It was not exactly a great night to be a Knicks fan. The NBA playoffs are on-going, as you likely know. Once again, the Knicks are not participating in the playoffs.

However, annually, the NBA holds its draft lottery, a ping pong ball procedure to determine drafting order for the loser franchises to select new talent, during halftime of a playoff game. The Knicks have not had the opportunity to participate in the draft lottery for the last two years, despite dropping to depths of suck-a-tation never before seen in team history. Train wreck, Isaiah Thomas, ingeniously traded the Knicks last two lottery picks for the meatball(literally) in the middle, Eddie Curry.

Tonight the Knicks with the 5th worst record in the league, had a small chance to get the first pick in the draft and a possible star in point guard Derrick Rose. Nope. They instead got the sixth pick, which doesn't sound incredibly crummy until Knick fans read ESPN draft expert Chade Forde's mock draft column. It predicts the Knicks taking some 19 year old Italian kid whom no one but Forde has heard of? Danilo Gallinari? Because new Knick's Coach Mike D'Antoni played with his Dad in the Italian league for eight? Really? Seriously? And of course Forde loves the kid!!

"D'Antoni knows how good the versatile Italian forward really is. It might not be a popular pick in New York, but D'Antoni will make it work."

Sure. Right. Of course. And the tooth fairy will be right over with back payments, plus interest, for lost teeth, and a new set of dentures...

Frederic Weis ring any freaking bells?

How long until LeBron is a free agent???

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Monday, May 19, 2008

Kelvin Scam-son lands on his feet 

The departed Indiana Hoosiers coach, admitted cheater Kelvin Scam-son (Sampson) landed on his feet last week securing a job on new coach, Scott Skiles, Milwaukee Bucks' staff.

Sampson was caught out in October 2007 after an Indiana University investigation showed Sampson & Co. made more than 100 impermissible phone calls while still on probation for too many phone-calls to recruits issues at Oklahoma University. The Clarion was wrong in our initial assessment of Scam-son as a possibly successful hire for Indiana. Dead wrong. We warned by folks familiar with the Oklahoma program and didn't fully appreciate it.

The fallout continues, the recently released NCAA's academic progress report shows the Hoosiers well below the penalty line score of 925, at 899, an embarrassing 268th out of the 337 Division I-A schools. This means they face the loss of additional basketball scholarships. Worse yet, this is the kind of scandal that chips at the very fabric of what Indiana basketball stands for, what is supposed to set it apart. As the Clarion understands it, "one and dones" (freshman players who leave after one year) who don't finish the second semester of the school year have a dire affect on a program's score. So if Scam-son recruit Eric Gordon decided to blow-off classes during the semester that just ended Indiana could face the loss of additional scholarships...

Wow, that is some record for old Scam-son, so who hired him? Scott Skiles, a former Indiana high school basketball hero who then Coach Bobby Knight wanted no part of because of rumors of problems; Skiles was subsequently arrested twice while an undergraduate at Michigan State.

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Saturday, May 17, 2008

Not as well known as Jesse Owens 

John Woodruff, another track hero of the 1936 Berlin Olympics passed away last year. He won the 800 meters in those Olympics on August 4th, 1936. When he died last October the Clarion had never heard his story. Well, "Long John" Woodruff, a freshman at the University of Pittsburgh when he represented America at the '36 Olympics, left quite a story. Here goes.

The Berlin Olympics were shrouded in politics. Hitler was intent on using them as a vehicle to demonstrate the validity of his theories on the Aryan Master race. Jesse Owens victories in the sprint races at these Olympics are woven into the American consciousness. Lesser known, Woodruff, faced a whole different complication than Owens did in the sprints. Owens won a remarkable four gold medals. In the three sprints 100, 200 and 4*100 relay, there is no racing out of one's lane. There is no point to it. Logistically, it is implausible and by the rules it is a foul. Woodruff in the 800 had a problem, the Germans were cheating, conspiring against him. With no such prohibitions to stay in one lane, they had him boxed in. He told the New York Times the story...

"On the first lap, I was on the inside, and I was trapped. I knew that the rules of running said if I tried to break out of a trap and fouled someone, I would be disqualified. At that point, I didn’t think I could win, but I had to do something.”

I didn’t panic. I just figured if I had only one opportunity to win, this was it. I’ve heard people say that I slowed down or almost stopped. I didn’t almost stop. I stopped, and everyone else ran around me.”

Woodruff let the other runners pass him by completely. He started running again, caught the pack on the last lap, took the lead, only to lose it again momentarily before a final push at the finish line garnered him the gold medal.

Quite the story we hadn't heard. Had you?

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Practical Advice---Ironman 

If you are headed out this weekend to see the movie "Ironman" word on the street is stay until the end of the credits for a sneak peek at the next Ironman/Avengers movie.


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Pithy F*rging Sayings (7th ed.) 

"A spirited mind never stops within itself. It is always aspiring and going beyond its strength; it has impulses beyond its powers of achievement, if it does not advance and press forward and stand at bay and clash, it is only half-alive. Its pursuits are boundless and without form; its food is wonder, the chase, ambiguity."---Montaigne

"The truth that is suppressed by friends is the readiest weapon of the enemy."---Robert Louis Stevenson

"Every so often we overcome the loneliness of distrust."---staff

"A bad conscience is a kind of illness."---Nietzsche

"Don't resist doing the right thing."---staff

"In the middle of difficulty, lies opportunity."---Albert Einstein

links to old sayings posts...


Sunday, May 11, 2008

Bush heads to the Middle East 

Update Lebanon

As George Bush the II heads to the Middle East this week, another one of his administration's Orwellian overclaims is in tatters. Much like our headline shot, of the Bush administration's ludicrous attempt at deception (self, too) in Iraq, "Mission Accomplished," the "Cedar Revolution" in Lebanon has been nothing more than a neo-con induced hallucinogenic vision. The Bush administration's methodology has been to claim what they wish were true as certain, with no room for dissent.

The claims of change and peaceable democracy arriving in Lebanon were evidently faux from the beginning to long term Middle East watchers. Even the term, "Cedar Revolution," was coined externally by an U.S. Under Secretary of State, Lebanon is splintered.(1)(2) The concept of "Cedar Revolution", like the concepts of peace in the larger Middle East or democracy in Iraq, was a good concept. Its well-spring was the assassination of then Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri on February 14, 2005. The Bush administration, followed by other world leaders (3), observed the demonstrations that took place in the streets a week later and massively misinterpreted their influence. These protests resulted in the resignation of Syrian strawman, prime minister, Omar Karami. However, the underlying fundamental divisions in the country were unaffected.

Lebanon is another state with boundaries drawn by a western (French) map maker, enforced by western military might, that ignore the underlying tribal, national and religious identities on the ground (4). Despite assertions by the Bush administration, and their enemies in France's then Chirac led government, that Syrian influence would be purged from Lebanon and democracy would reign supreme, the facts on the ground, once again, did not match the lofty rhetoric. Syria did withdraw its troops, but it did not discontinue its support for its violent proxies, nor the meddling of its intelligence agencies in the highest levels of Lebanese affairs. Assassinations abounded. Syria openly pressured the Lebanese government to bypass its constitution to extend the term of the president. The office has since gone vacant, in lieu of a compromise.

This messy state of affairs got worse this week, just before President Bush's Middle East trip, when Hezbollah took to the streets of Beirut en masse in a show of force. The Lebanese government termed it an “armed coup” against Lebanon and issued a call for help. Yesterday fighting broke out in northern Lebanon, and amongst some Druze and other non-Muslim groups.

There is on-going momentum to arguments that connect Iran and Hezbollah. However, in this case it appears it is Hezbollah's impatience with political stalemate rather than Iran's bidding that has rekindled a higher state of war in Lebanon. The Clarion's point is simply make no mistake, despite the Bush administration's foolhardy overclaims of a "Cedar Revolution" Lebanon never left a state of Low-Intensity Conflict.(5)


(1) The idea of a Western imagined "Cedar Revolution" ala the "Orange Revolution" in the Ukraine and the "Rose Revolution" in Georgia was a wholly externally imposed vision. The citizens of Lebanon are much more familiar with the people power street demonstrations of Hezbollah, civil war, and great power interference than non-violent protest resulting in reasonable democratic elections. Which is not to say non-violent protest resulting in reasonable democratic elections cannot happen, only that there is not a local history of it.

(2) Lebanon is literally splintered. By mandate its government includes a Maronite Catholic Christian President, a Shi’a Muslim Speaker of the Parliament, a Sunni Muslim Prime Minister and an Orthodox Christian as the Deputy Prime Minister.

(3) Note like Iraq's WMD, the Bush administration is able to run for cover under the rubric of, "other western intelligence agencies thought the same thing."

(4) Needless-to-say, Iraq and Afghanistan fall into the same category of externally imposed state borders and central government, over multiple nations and tribes.

(5) Witness the series of high profile assassinations, and other attempts, often with the implication of the Syrian intelligence agencies involvement that followed the so-called "Cedar Revolution."

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Saturday, May 10, 2008

Wave goodbye to Michelle 

Michelle Wie is rapidly disappearing into the sunset of her career at the ripe old age of eighteen. Playing in only her second tournament of the year, she finished dead last in the first, Wie failed to make the cut the Michelob Ultra Open. This wasn't one of the PGA tournaments, her parents and advisers so cruelly pushed her into in the last couple of years. This wasn't an LPGA major. This was just a regular ol' weekend on the tour and once again Wie couldn't hang, couldn't even make the cut.

Who can blame her? Since being exploited like circus sideshow freak at the ripe old age of 14, the wheels have completely come off Wie's career. Not since Tracy Austin, who incidentally achieved much greater successes, has a young athlete had their career so utterly destroyed by greedy parents and agents. Wie couldn't win on the LPGA tour, she could barely compete, yet her folks, knew if they could push her into men's tournaments through sponsors' exemptions and other back doors, her Q rating would jump tremendously. It did. We all know who Michelle Wie is.

Sadly for the teenager who was Michelle, she had to face the glare of that Q rating and the intense media scrutiny that comes with it, after relative failures rather than successes. And oh yes, a bunch of somebodies from tournament sponsors, to the tours, to the media and her family made oodles of money off of Michelle's exposure. Wie despite having never won a professional tournament, signed 8 figure sponsorship deals with Nike and Sony. Hype sells. Wonder how she feels about it now? Can she make a mid-career comeback, ala, Jennifer Capriati who fell all the way to arrests and heroin addiction before escaping the influence of the users exploiting her? Will she end up like Mary Pierce, completely estranged from her father?

Parents there is a lesson here. Let your kid be a kid first, they have the rest of their lives to be an adult.

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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Links of Interest and Intersting Links 

These are the links that piqued the Clarion's interest from one skewed vector or another in April. Whaddya mean it isn't April anymore? Where that go? Ho. Ho.

This link is a bit older, but it is a good one. (To read events in order scroll all the way down to the bottom-most post and read the posts from the bottom up.) We here could hardly lead you down the rabbit hole that originally got us to this blog, dear reader. It is from an American medical student, a 3rd year OB/GYN Resident from Indiana, Dr. Christina. She writes in the first person about the work she is doing in Afghanistan. It is gripping stuff. This blog was written in 2007. The latest we read Dr. Christina was working in Kenya. The Clarion frequently hears criticism of the first person diary style blog, and it is surely not our style, but sometimes it is invaluable. The perspective in this kind of blog is so immediate, strong, and intense, only the very best on-scene reporting can attempt to match it. And even then, the reporters are often constrained by caveats and mandates that diarist bloggers may or may not subscribe to.

Here is another link to a first person on-scene diarist blog. It is written by two people in neighboring areas. The Clarion has not had a chance to explore this link as fully as Dr. Christina. Blogs of note deserves the credit for steering the Clarion to this second blog, the gaza-sderot.blogspot.com.

This next link isn't to a blog at all. It is rather to a site called Ted.com. Ted.com is "inspired talks by the world's greatest thinkers and doers." There are video clips of phenomenal speeches by the hundreds. This link was sent the Clarion's way from an Australian friend of ours months ago, but only recently were we reminded that though the office had been using it, we hadn't posted it in one of our interesting links columns. There is some terrific video content up here from some of the best and the brightest.

We hope we have thrown you hungry lions some of the meat with those first three links. Each offers an opportunity to go there, be it with a blogger or with a speaker. These next couple links are more of the food for thought variety, grist for the mill. This first one is from a joint Stanford-Cal Tech study indicating that paying a higher price for wine (ostensibly any food) can trick the brain into producing a chemical that makes one more inclined to like it. Brilliant, the more you pay the more likely you are to like it. (Stanford probably uses this argument to set tuition.) The arc of this study fits neatly into an oversubscribed American hypothesis that says human beings are hard wired for capitalism. The results were published by the National Academy of Sciences.

This next one is about a fascinating intellectual dilemma facing Obama and Clinton personally as they wage the contest for the Democratic presidential nomination. It was wonderfully explained in the Washington Post by one Shankar Vedantam. The choice facing Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton individually as Vedantam illuminates it is...

"Your supporters passionately believe you ought to win the race...The longer the race goes on, however, the more bitter it becomes. Increasing numbers of your supporters say they will never support your competitor...Pulling out of the race means giving up your dream -- when you think you are the better choice. Staying in risks collective disaster...Act selfishly and cause collective disaster, or act altruistically and aid someone else who is acting selfishly. Either way, selfishness wins."

As Vedantam notes this situation is often termed the tragedy of the commons. The more selfish person gains an apparent advantage. The classic article where the term was resurrected from the dustbin of history was written by biologist Garrett Hardin. His article used the tragedy of the commons argument to address population growth and resource scarcity. It provoked voluminous debate upon its appearance in 1968.

Food and fun for thought. Love your feedback.

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Monday, May 05, 2008

Horse racing must change 

Horse racing must change or it must go.

This weekend another Kentucky Derby, another disaster, ending in the death of an innocent animal. Two years ago it was Barbaro, yesterday it was the filly Eight Belles. Despite the fact, that the animal cruelty pimps at NBC didn't show it, Eight Belles shattered both her ankles and was writhing agony when she was put down on the race track immediately after the race. NBC didn't want to upset viewers. (Lest they not watch next year, and advertising revenues decline.)

The Clarion is not going to issue a blanket call to ban horse racing, but it is certainly an issue that has to be given some serious thought. It does seem quite apparent that the use of the whip in horse racing must be immediately banned. Eight Belles jockey, Gabriel Saez, was whipping her all the way to the finish trying to urge her on. This is standard operating procedure in thoroughbred horse racing. Standard operating procedure also accepts the tragic fact that a horse dies 2 out of every 1,000 starts races on dirt tracks. The twenty animals in the Kentucky Derby have all started at least three times in their young, three year old lives, most have started more than that. It is just a matter of time. Eight Belles had started nine races before the Kentucky Derby earning her owners in excess of $300,000.

Where there is more frequent death the answer seems obvious. There is little debate in America about whether cock fighting or dog fighting should be banned. Fifty years ago it wasn't that clear cut. Public morality changes with the times. 500 years ago burning live cats for public spectacle and entertainment was not uncommon. Surely, we won't be racing horses to their deaths 500 years from now. And if we can't or don't want to move to an immediate ban of horse racing, it is at least time to ban the whip.

Nobody should be whipping horses to run faster for their (or our) entertainment, aggrandizement, and of course, ultimately their wallets. It is cruel and Americans should not stand for it.

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Friday, May 02, 2008

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.

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Thursday, May 01, 2008

Baseball quick notes 

The honchos who run baseball are trumpeting the records for April victories set by several franchises, including the hot starting Arizona Diamondbacks and the less noticed, St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs. Despite picking them fourth in the N.L. West in our baseball predictions, the Clarion is willing to concede the D-Backs are for real and will be around to stay. We let our blind hatred of Randy Johnson influence our feelings about the entire team. The Cards, on the other hand, are a paper tiger, who will likely finish in the middle of the pack in a mediocre N.L. Central.

"Wow!" You might think, three clubs set franchise records for wins in April. The thing the baseball P.R. people aren't telling you is that these franchises are playing more April baseball games than ever before. Of course, they are setting franchise records for April wins, in the golden age of baseball, they didn't start the season until the second or third week of April. (eg. Truman threw out the first pitch of the 1950 season April 18th.) There was a reason they didn't start the season until mid-April. It is too flipping cold. Last year, there was a week of April snow in Cleveland that made a messed up a season's worth of schedule. The Clarion gave you our thoughts on the mockery made of opening day this year. Further compelling evidence that holding games in nearly the calendar winter is wreaking havoc on the integrity of the game, it is May 1st and only one player in the American League, Texas Rangers center fielder, Josh Hamilton, has started all of his team's games. Ridiculous. Baseball wasn't meant to be played in freezing cold. The players get hurt.

Way to go M.L.B.!! All this so they can hold the World Series in the bitter weather of the last week of October. Greed, it's faaaaaaaaaaantastic. Does anyone wonder why baseball has lost its position at the pinnacle of American sport?

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