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Sunday, August 31, 2008

87 cents a gallon?!? 

That's right folks, that is what they are paying to fuel up on natural gas in Utah.

Read more about it here, in the NY Times.

Utah is the first state to have large consumer surge in natural gas driving, though Oklahoma is experiencing something of one, too, and large has to be qualified because even by the highest estimates there are 20,000 natural gas vehicles on the road out of 2.7 million vehicles registered in Utah.

Still there are signs of significance, perhaps even a local tipping point, there is substantial backlog on orders for the Honda Civic GX, the only car powered by natural gas made by a major automaker in the America. People are paying to convert their SUVs to run on natural gas. There is a gray market for conversion.


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Manny Ramirez. Manny Ramirez. It bears repeating. What can you say? Sometimes they make them, and then they break the mold. One highly doubts we'll see another Manny. And as much as the Clarion was critical of Manny's lousy behavior and piss-poor attitude before his departure from Boston, and as much as we thought he be good in LA, we never thought he'd be this good. He is singular and unique in an age that hardly comprehends such.

The guy is hitting .419 since he got to LA, with 9 dingers in 105 at-bats, averaging nearly an RBI a game. He is out of his gourd. He is demonstrating that he is the best offensive player in the game bar none. (If A-Rod makes $30 million per, what are they going to give Manny on the open market?) Los Angeles is a town that loves star power.

What boggles the mind is that after a brief surge upon arrival the Dodgers have been unable to take advantage of Manny's offense. Manny has been pounding the ball all over the yard and before yesterday the Dodgers had still lost eight straight. How many times during that slide did the Clarion look at a Dodger box score that showed Ramirez with two or three hits and the rest of the LA line-up with a pathetic two or three hits. Nomar is finished. Kent is close. The kids, Martin, Loney, Ethier and Kemp, are they ready for prime time?

The Clarion is rooting for a Dodger surge, for Joe Torre's sake and because we had the Dodgers over 86.5 wins at the beginning of the year. There is still enough time, but just barely. Manny is more than doing his part, can the team come through?

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

College Football Quickies 

The Clarion read recently that the Big 12 has eleven out of twelve possible starting quarterbacks returning. Yikes! Chase Daniel of Missouri has to be a leading Heisman candidate. And then there is Graham Harrell of Texas Tech, he threw for a mere 48 TDs and 5700 yards last season. He has the best wideout, and possibly the most dynamic player, in the country at his disposal, Michael Crabtree. Many prognosticators pick these two squads no higher then 3rd and 4th respectively in the Big 12 behind perennnial powers, Oklahoma and Texas. Either way, look out the conference is positively loaded.

The are only two squads the Clarion could envision stopping the Big 12 from winning the national championship. One is, of course, Pete Carroll's USC Trojans, who are dripping with pearls all over the defense. Unlike the Big 12 squads however, the Trojans do have some question marks at QB, where starter Mark Sanchez is returning to action from a dislocated kneecap. And egomaniacal back-up, and Arkansas transfer, Mitch Mustain is channeling the bad Brett Farve, "I can throw any pass I want to. I'm Mitch Mustain. Who is that old guy(the coach) to try and tell me what to do. He can't throw the ball like me." (Our spies with the parabolic mikes at USC practice are paraphrasing.)

The other squad that the Clarion could see derailing a Big 12 national champion is West Virginia, new coach and all. They have a solid returning starter at QB, with an outside shot at the Heisman, Pat White. Folks think they will miss starting running back Steve Slaton, but the Clarion believes they will be even better with the diminutive but lighting quick, Noel Devine.

As for the other contenders, Ohio State: we don't believe the hype, USC will beat them going away in September. The SEC will beat up on each other as usual, which is not to say that the BCS frauds might not let a two loss SEC team play for the title ahead of a host of other deserving contenders.

One other note, not a team that will contend for a title, but a team far too many of the so called experts are underestimating, it says here, "Don't sleep on Rutgers. Yes, superb running back, Ray Rice, is off to a big time NFL career, but Greg Schiano's boys won't miss a beat."

National Championship Game prediction: USC-Oklah0ma

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008


The pirates are back at it again. If they ever left that is.

If you have been reading the subsections, you know the Clarion loves to keep abreast of the pirates. As does our source, Rantburg, and the Economist. We saw this week where the Christian Science Monitor says that piracy helps fund many parties in the on-going warlordism of the failed state of Somalia.

The Christian Science Monitor, citing a Kenyan maritime expert, said that this week saw a 48 hour stretch that was the busiest ever for Somali pirates. This is one of the world's hottest spots for piracy . The CSM cites Andrew Mwangura, of the Seafarers' Assistance Program, who analyzes piracy Kenya's port city of Mombasa. He says that piracy money flows into all kinds of coffers, "The pirates are earning millions of dollars. A lot of that is invested in businesses in the United Arab Emirates and Kenya, but a lot is also funding the fighters on both sides – government officials, warlords, and Islamists are all getting their share."

The Clarion is curious to know by whose definition other than the externally imposed are these brigands even Somali? This piracy is about a failed state and a failed economy. In a situation with no work, piracy and kidnapping for ransom might appear an attractive option for the chronically unemployed and impoverished. Per capita income in Somalia is estimated at $600 per year. It sounds quite plausible that the pirates who take the ships are pawns in a much larger game. How does an unemployed Somali with an AK-47 sharing a speedboat with twenty fellows armed with their own AK-47s, and perhaps grenades, dispose of a couple of million dollars in ransom money? At the ATM?

The Monitor clearly makes the connection between the externally constructed state's failure, violence on land, absence of the rule of law and piracy. On that note the Clarion noticed another act of piracy this week near another impoverished, but not as yet failed state, Bangladesh.

It is worth noting, too, that the linked Economist article makes the connection between extreme poverty and piracy.

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Sunday, August 17, 2008

Long Break 

Sorry about the long break between posts. We are relocating the Clarion Content's offices within Durham. We will be back to daily postings by the end of this week.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


We will have peace for all, or we will have no peace at all.---Mikhail Gorbachev

In a globalized world, Mr. Gorbachev's words of warning have never seemed truer. The idea that one war, or one assault can justify another has never been used (abused) more broadly.

The example tormenting the Clarion this week is the Russian invasion of Georgia. In Georgia, a newly democratic government, is under assault from its much bigger neighbor, who has irredentist designs on the breakaway statelet of South Ossetia.

America has lost its moral high ground. George Bush the II railed at this unpremeditated assault on a sovereign state, but the Russian leader, Vladimir Putin, merely laughed him off.

Bush II has no clue and no credibility, having unilaterally invaded an Iraq that had no weapons of mass destruction, harbored no Al-Queda representatives and posed no threat to United States sovereignty. In fact, Mr. Putin sees his country's invasion as analogous to America's invasion of Iraq. In Putin and Russia's view a strategic imperative in a region that is important to the state cropped up, and needs to be addressed. Massive modern military force will allow he and the Russians to wipe out resistance of a pathetic third world army in mere days, while the world protests but takes no action.

Blowback---the unintended consequences of diplomatic, military or espionage operations.

If George the II had to come to power via the same Machiavellian route as Vladimir Putin, he wouldn't have had the fortitude to make it to Mayoralty of Crawford, Texas.

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Friday, August 08, 2008

Delicious Sopes 

amateur photo

The Clarion was delighted to get to experience the private chef work of a dear friend recently. The dish on the menu could hardly have been as spontaneous as the chef's ease made it appear. The basis for the meal, apparently, was prior knowledge of certain members of the editorial staff's proclivity for sopes. The Clarion was not able to procure the exact recipe from said chef, so we will talk you through a many layered delight as best we can.

Starting with the sopes. Sopes are a thick circle of fried or baked ground maize (the same base used for tortillas and tamales; the Clarion has heard them referred to anecdotally as Mexican pitas.) Wiki says that they are from the city of Culiacán, Sinaloa. No independent verification of that. At this meal the sopes were baked a tiny bit crispy, but were still soft and chewy on the inside, perfect texture. Wiki claims that sopes are traditionally topped with refried beans and crumbled cheese, as well as onions, red or green salsa (made with chillies or tomatillos, respectively,) and acidified cream.

The Clarion got to eat better than that! These sopes were topped with a spicy black bean paste, and an uber-tender beef brisket that had spent hours cooking with roasted poblano, anaheim and banana peppers. This brisket was melt in your mouth, but with a pungent fire from the capsaicin of the peppers in the background. You could have stopped there and thrown on a dollop of sour cream and it would have been phenomenal.

But this chef didn't! The black beans and brisket were accompanied not only by the requisite sour cream, but also a pico de gallo of red onion, tomato, and yellow peppers, as well as guacamole, and a roasted red pepper tomatillo salsa. (Incidentally, the tomatillo salsa was delightful with corn tortilla chips before the meal.) The coup de grâce for the sopes was a fried plantain garnish that added a little sweet to all that spice. The sopes were served with a side of saffron brown rice. It was off the hook yo!

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Yummy Lentils 

The Clarion was recently quite delighted with a new lentil recipe that a dear friend made. The party in question has a big family and typically prepares meals in quantity so as to be able to store freeze and reheat. This batch of lentils was probably made to triple the proportions that are shown in the recipe that follows below.

amateur lentil photography

#1----2 tsp good olive oil
#2----2 cups of yellow onions (large dice) approx 2
#3----2 cups carrots (large dice) approx 3 to 4
#4----1 tbs minced garlic approx 3 cloves
#5----1 26 oz can whole plum tomatoes
#6----1 cup french green lentils (approx 7oz)
#7----2 cups chicken stock
#8----2 tsp mild curry powder
#9----2 tsp chopped fresh time leaves
#10----2 tsp kosher salt
#11----3/4 tsp ground pepper
#12----1 tbs good red wine vinegar

heat #1, add #2 & #3 cook on medium low for 6-10 minutes until the onions start to brown, add #4 cook for 1 more minute, meanwhile food press #5 until coarsely chopped, add #5 thru #12 to the pan, raise heat to bring to a boil, then simmer for 40 minutes, let set for 10 minutes.

Our friend's version is light and sweet, but still hearty. There are layers of background flavors, first you taste the salt and the sweet, then there is a musky richness and finally the hint of curry. Complex, satisfying without being overwhelming, or ultimately too forceful; it was a very good meal. The first night it was served with a cast iron skillet of cornbread and orange-apricot marmalade.

In the Clarion's less than humble opinion it tasted even better day two and three, like so many gravies and soups. The second time it was served with a crumbled sour Pecorino Romano cheese.

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Paris Hilton is running for President 

See more Paris Hilton videos at Funny or Die

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Thursday, August 07, 2008

Tampa Bay-Minnesota 

Tampa Bay-Minnesota. Tampa Bay-Minnesota, we were flicking around the radio dial yesterday morning in the Clarion's offices, when we hit ESPN Radio's Mike and Mike in the Morning program. The first words we heard out of Mike Greenberg's mouth, were Tampa Bay and Minnesota.

And for the first time, possibly ever, in early August, the Clarion mistook a NFL discussion about those two places for a baseball one. Greenberg and Golic were chewing over what cities' franchises might went old Brett Favre.

Here the Clarion was, thinking about the Twins and the Rays, both in first place. The Rays surely for the first time ever this late in a season. We're talking about a franchise that has never won 70 games.

Baseball is ruling in Tampa and Minnesota?? Though the first place Rays still aren't selling out the Trop, it was only 67% full last night. Now that Farve has been dealt to the Jets, the next time Mike and Mike talk Tampa Bay-Minnesota, might it really be about baseball? Possibly even in September or October?

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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Paris Hilton is running for President 

See more Paris Hilton videos at Funny or Die

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On theory 

While researching something else the Clarion ran into this fascinating introduction to an essay about Social Development Theory. The amazing introduction that pulled us in is about the importance of theory, itself (see below.) The article was written by Harlan Cleveland and Garry Jacobs. Follow this link to the full article. Here is the introduction verbatim from Human Choice: The Genetic Code for Social Development,

"Importance of Theory"

The formulation of valid theory possesses enormous power to elevate and accelerate the expansion and development of human capabilities in any field, leading to fresh discoveries, improvement of existing activities and capacity for greater results. Science is replete with examples of theoretical formulations that have led to important breakthroughs, such as the discoveries of Neptune and Pluto, electromagnetic waves, subatomic particles, and new elements on the periodic table. Today scientists are discovering new substances on computer by applying the laws of quantum mechanics to predict the properties of materials before they synthesize them. In fact, a broad range of technological achievements in this century has been made possible by the emergence of sound theoretical knowledge in fields such as physics, chemistry and biology.

As management expert Peter Drucker put it, “There is nothing more practical than a good theory.” Valid theory can tell us not only what should be done, but also what can be done and the process by which it can be achieved.

Social development can be summarily described as the process of organizing human energies and activities at higher levels to achieve greater results. Development increases the utilization of human potential.

In the absence of valid theory, social development remains largely a process of trial and error experimentation, with a high failure rate and very uneven progress. The dismal consequences of transition strategies in most Eastern Europe countries, the very halting progress of many African and Asian countries, the increasing income gap between the most and least developed societies, and the distressing linkage between rising incomes, environmental depletion, crime and violence reflect the fact that humanity is vigorously pursuing a process without the full knowledge needed to guide and govern it effectively.

Advances in development theory can enhance our social success rate by the same order of magnitude that advances in theoretical physics have multiplied technological achievements in this century. The emergence of a sound theoretical framework for social development would provide the knowledge needed to address these inadequacies. It would also eventually lead us to the most profound and practical discovery of all – the infinite creative potentials of the human being.

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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Marines tours in Afghanistan extended 

Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced today that approximately 1,250 Marines serving as trainers for the Afghan security forces will have to stay in country almost a month longer. The Marines in question are from the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment (in Afghanistan.)

The Christian Science Monitor reports roughly 2,700 people have been killed this year in fighting in Afghanistan. The Associated Press reports that United States commanders in the region have said that they need three more combat brigades – or as many as 10,000 more troops.

Although what they hope or think that they might accomplish with said troops is unclear.

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Impending doom? 

Is it a sign of impending doom? Five cloned puppies made by a South Korean company for (go figure) a Californian are about to be the first commercial canine clones sold in the United States.

The Californian, a screenwriter named Bernann McKinney, brought her dog's frozen cells to RNL Bio in Seoul, South Korea. The company cloned McKinney's beloved pit bull terrier, Booger, in conjunction with a team of Seoul National University scientists. McKinney will keep three of the five cloned dogs and donate the other two to work as service dogs. McKinney already has five other dogs and three horses. She paid an estimated $50,000 for the procedure. However, it has been reported that this was a cut rate price for the work, available to her only as the first customer and because she has agreed to do promotion work for RNL Bio.

Should you be worried? The Clarion isn't sure, but certainly it seems like there are a nearly unlimited range of unknown possibilities related to cloning.

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Sunday, August 03, 2008

Can drink you under the table! 

The pen-tailed tree shrew of Malaysia can drink you under the table.

Doubt it ?

These little guys can knock back the equivalent of up to nine Guinness a night. Their beverage of choice? Bertram palm nectar naturally fermented to have an alcohol content of 3.8%.
Big Boozer

You go little shubba!



Canada lost an ice sheet seven square miles in area last week. The ice sheet broke off from the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf off of the north coast of Ellesmere Island in Canada's Qikiqtaaluk Region. It was the biggest piece of ice shelf to crack loose since 2005. However, before you panic and start moving back from the coasts in anticipation of rising sea levels, note: Ellesmere Island was once encircled by a single huge ice shelf that broke up in the early 20th century. And according to Derek Mueller, a research at Trent University, the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf has been steadily declining in size since the 1930's. The time scale in question here (as with much of the Earth's warming issues) is geologic.

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Same old Michelle Wie 

Michelle Wie once again this week followed her typical path, happier to be the sideshow freak than the competitor. She decided to skip the Women's British Open, an LPGA major, which she would have to qualify her way into, to take a wild card to appear at a men's PGA tournament. Why do the work of qualifying when you can be handed an entrance ticket, albeit to an event where you will be a non-competitor? Which will generate more hype failing to qualify for the Women's British Open or failing to make the cut (again) at a PGA event?

As usual Wie opted to play with the men, as usual she garnered scads of media attention, and as usual she failed to make the cut. She shot an 80 on Friday to finish tied for a cool 118th place. Not to mention, this was the B men's tournament of the week. The top 50 male players in the world weren't playing with the scrubs and Michelle in the Reno-Tahoe Open. No, they were at the WGC event, the Firestone, battling it out for supremacy. That is not Michelle Wie's style or mantra, she isn't interested in winning, just publicity. She needs to find a carnival or state fair, since she can't and is afraid to compete with the world's best women.

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Saturday, August 02, 2008

Can drink you under the table! 

The pen-tailed tree shrew of Malaysia can drink you under the table.

Doubt it?

These little guys can knock back the equivalent of up to nine Guinnesses a night. Their beverage of choice? Bertram palm nectar naturally fermented to have an alcohol content up to 3.8%.

Big Boozer

You go little shubba.

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Not yet 

Manny Ramirez, aka the Man-Ram, had a chance to do something spectacular in his debut for the LA Dodgers. He came to the plate in the ninth against the NL West division leading Arizona Diamondbacks with the Dodgers trailing 2-1. The heretofore punchless Dodgers are a couple games behind the Arizona for the West lead. Facing their closer, Brandon Lyon, with Russell Martin on first base and nobody out after a leadoff single, Ramirez grounded into a 6-4-3 double play, and the Dodgers went quietly into the night.

Fear not Dodger faithful, it was only one night and Manny did have a couple of hits. They'll be more late inning situations to come, more big at-bats and the Man-Ram will come through like the October bopper he is. As part of the trade that shipped Manny from Boston to the left coast, the Dodgers agreed to waive the option years that the Red Sox held on the end of Manny's contract. This means Ramirez is set to be a free agent at the end of the year. Says here, the Man-Ram will be motivated by the contract drive and will be mashing down the stretch.

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