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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Learning from the Dutch military 

Doubts about the imminent disappearance of U.S. hegemony? How's about this headline for a harbinger? The Wall Street Journal says, "U.S. Takes Dutch Military as Role Model..." Hey, aren't they and the English the example case given for how hegemonic decline happens?

All right, admittedly the Clarion Content is being a little bit facetious, but Afghanistan is called the Graveyard of Empire. The article in the Journal is about the aid workers embedded with the Dutch military and their natural inclination toward development that accompanies their military presence. The Journal quotes Colonel Gert-Jan Kooij, chief of operations for the Royal Netherlands Army's 13th Mechanized Brigade, "We need to provide defense, but the priority is on development and diplomacy." According to the State Department, there are ten U.S. military personnel to every one U.S. civilian working for the U.S. government in Afghanistan.

Yet for too long, the focus has remained on adding more troops. The Clarion Content does not believe the further arming of the Pakistani military as a proxy is an answer either.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009


As the Clarion Content has warned time and again, there is nothing holding the state of Iraq together but force and the spoils of aid dependency. Throw that much money at a state and many actors are going to try to grab the reigns of power and hold the center together, merely to get their hands in the cookie jar. The problem with this state, as with so many others; Congo, Pakistan, Afghanistan to name a few, is that there is no one unified nation beneath its strictures.

Iraq is divided in multifarious ways. Among the most significant is the divide between Sunni, Shia and Kurd, but even within these groups there are divisions and there are other important groups besides. None of these groups have strong loyalty to the central Iraqi state. Saddam Hussein held them in check only through violent suppression, fear and patronage. As the last week has shown the tempests of division are still roiling beneath a veneer of calm. Nothing America or that outside world can do is going to change this condition. The passage of time and political stability are the only help. Even then groups may decide it is preferable to go their own independent ways.

It is obviously farcical to blame President Obama for the inevitable spike in violence when United States troops depart. The calm was never real anyway, it was merely a lull while all sides rearmed, consolidated and evaluated their relative tactical position. Of course, this reality will not stop the hawks from attacking Obama. Much like the hawks who believed (and continue to believe) America could have preserved an independent South Vietnam with a greater commitment and more force, these folks have an ideological position that will not be morphed by mere facts on the ground. Their ultimate doubt in the reality of their words can be seen (in most cases) by their unwillingness to enlist their own children in the war.

The sad bottom-line is that there is no methodology, no way for winning in Iraq any more than there was a method or a way to win in Vietnam. When no one in the country is on America's side save for the people who are dependent on America for aid, America will be viewed as, inevitably, an externally imposed occupying force. Perhaps the most disturbing thing to come out of the past week was to read Secretary of State Hillary Clinton making promises about United States troops that our government should not keep. She was out of line and writing checks that cannot be cashed, the gradual increase in violence that will continue as the date for United States withdrawal draws near, cannot and should not be justification for extending American troops stay in Iraq.

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No change in Iraq's reality 

As the Clarion Content has warned time and again, there is nothing holding the state of Iraq together but force and the spoils of aid dependency. Throw that much money at a state and many actors are going to try to grab the reigns of power and hold the center together, merely to get their hands in the cookie jar. The problem with this state, as with so many others; Congo, Pakistan, Afghanistan to name a few, is that there is no one unified nation beneath its strictures.

Iraq is divided in multifarious ways. Among the most significant is the divide between Sunni, Shia and Kurd, but even within these groups there are divisions and there are other important groups besides. None of these groups have strong loyalty to the central Iraqi state. Saddam Hussein held them in check only through violent suppression, fear and patronage. As the last week has shown the tempests of division are still roiling beneath a veneer of calm. Nothing America or that outside world can do is going to change this condition. The passage of time and political stability are the only help. Even then groups may decide it is preferable to go their own independent ways.

It is obviously farcical to blame President Obama for the inevitable spike in violence when United States troops depart. The calm was never real anyway, it was merely a lull while all sides rearmed, consolidated and evaluated their relative tactical position. Of course, this reality will not stop the hawks from attacking Obama. Much like the hawks who believed (and continue to believe) America could have preserved an independent South Vietnam with a greater commitment and more force, these folks have an ideological position that will not be morphed by mere facts on the ground. Their ultimate doubt in the reality of their words can be seen (in most cases) by their unwillingness to enlist their own children in the war.

The sad bottom-line is that there is no methodology, no way for winning in Iraq any more than there was a method or a way to win in Vietnam. When no one in the country is on America's side save for the people who are dependent on America for aid, America will be viewed as, inevitably, an externally imposed occupying force. The gradual increase in violence that will continue as the date for United States withdrawal draws near, cannot and should not be justification for extending American troops stay in Iraq.

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Interesting analysis 

"A land where Opposition at least means good seats"

At the end of last week the Clarion Content ran some links to lefty firebrands, Frank Rich and Bill Maher advocating that Obama and the Dems tell the Republicans to "shove it." Not exactly the words of the fair and balanced, this isn't either. Rather it is an interesting link to the ways in which the Republicans are coping with and flailing about in Opposition, from CNN political blogger Mark Preston.


Bayonne, NJ girl throws a no-hitter 

Twelve year old Mackenzie Brown is the first girl in Bayonne Little League history to throw a perfect game. She retired all eighteen opposing male batters. She got to throw out the first pitch at Citi Field this Saturday past when the New York Mets hosted the Washington Nationals. Read the heartwarming story here. Thanks to one of our loyal Durham readers for the heads up on this item.

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Yanks do a partial cave on ticket prices 

Thanks to Reuters for this shot of the empty premium seats at Yankee Stadium.

The Clarion Content has been banging on about the ridiculously overpriced tickets at the new Yankee Stadium since the day they announced the pricing plan. It was and is an outrage. They have gotten their comeuppance, though, with Wall Street and the bankers fubar, the highest priced tickets have had major sales issues. This has led to the ugly spectacle of sold-out cheap seats in Yankee Stadium, while whole sections of the best seats sit empty.

Yesterday the Yankees, who have been taking a beating on sports talk radio over the issue announced an attempt to save some public relations face. Fans who bought $2,500 first-row season tickets in sections 16-24A will receive an equal number of free first-row seats for each of this season's remaining regular-season games. According the Wall Street Journal there are also complimentary-ticket plans for fans who purchased season tickets at $1,250, $850, $600, $500, and $325 per game.

The Wall Street Journal quoted a Long Island lawyer and Yankee season ticket holder who cuts to the heart of the chase about the pricing issues of Yankee tickets, "The starting price is so high they've killed our opportunities in the secondary market," said Mr. Dinhofer, who, like many season-ticket holders, has struggled to sell tickets he can't use. "We can't move our tickets."

Read the who article here.

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Sunday, April 26, 2009

No compromise politcal links 

Remember the Clarion Content does not imply endorsement of links just because we put the out there. This applies to any and all of our pieces herein. We believe in furthering the debate and that one has to read widely to take the discussion onward.

Here are two pieces where Lefty leading lights offer the argument that the Republicans are out of it and Obama and the Democratic Party should not compromise. The first by Frank Rich in the New York Times says, "This G.O.P., a largely white Southern male party with talking points instead of ideas and talking heads instead of leaders, is not unlike those “zombie banks” that we’re being asked to bail out. It is in too much denial to acknowledge its own insolvency and toxic assets. Given the mess the country is in, it would be helpful to have an adult opposition that could pull its weight, but that’s not the hand America has been dealt." Read the whole thing here.

Whoa, now that's invective.

The second is piece from the LA Times was written by comedian and political commentator Bill Maher. It is titled, "The GOP: divorced from reality" and subtitled,
"The Republican base is behaving like a guy who just got dumped by his wife." Maher throws daggers at the Republicans. Listen to this.
"Look, I get it, "real America." After an eight-year run of controlling the White House, Congress and the Supreme Court, this latest election has you feeling like a rejected husband. You've come home to find your things out on the front lawn -- or at least more things than you usually keep out on the front lawn. You're not ready to let go, but the country you love is moving on. And now you want to call it a whore and key its car.

That's what you are, the bitter divorced guy whose country has left him -- obsessing over it, haranguing it, blubbering one minute about how much you love it and vowing the next that if you cannot have it, nobody will.

But it's been almost 100 days, and your country is not coming back to you. She's found somebody new. And it's a black guy.

The healthy thing to do is to just get past it and learn to cherish the memories. You'll always have New Orleans and Abu Ghraib."

Kind words they're not. Read the whole thing here.

Finally one follow-up to an interesting links post on our front page where we questioned the Independent and the MEP report for buying into the idea that Somali pirates began in part as a response to EU toxic waste dumping. The Clarion Content wants to make sure that we are clear that we do not dismiss these rumors out of hand, only that we felt to publish them if they were certainties without adding any new info to the debate was a bit naive. The evidence for illegal overfishing is much stronger.


A rare triple 

A Canton Michigan high schooler, Willa Chen, pulled off what is considered an extremely rare triple. She got a perfect score on the PSAT, the SAT, and the ACT. The ACT, a competitor and rival of the SAT, says no more than 1 in 14,000 test takers score perfect on its exam. Ms. Chen will be attending Princeton University in the Fall. Good stuff. Read more here.



King Henrik reigns in the Garden

One game after the Rangers other worldly goalie, King Henrik stood on his head to win the Rangers a three games to one first round series lead, the Rangers Coach John Tortorella lost his head. First he overreacted and benched superpest and raconteur Sean Avery for committing a couple of dumb penalties at the end of Game 4. Tortorella has never been in Avery's corner. He derided Avery when he was still an announcer, before he became the Rangers head man. Our impression at the Clarion Content is that Tortorella has the small man complex. He is the sort who is threatened by a loose cannon like Avery.

His short-sighted scratching of Avery had the Rangers off step from the get go in Game 5. Scotty Gomez clearly missed the pesky Avery on his wing. Then Tortorella compounded the Rangers woes by losing his head, first squirting water on a fan behind the Rangers bench, then flinging a water bottle that hit a spectator in the head. He has been suspended for Game 6. No loss. Hopefully somebody orders him to put Avery back in the line-up. Of course, it is ultimately going to come back to Henrik Lundqvist and his ability to stand on his head, when all about him are losing theirs.

In a rich irony, the Rangers will be coached by assistant Jim Schoenfield the last coach to be suspended by the NHL for a playoff game.

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Two planets 

The LA Times has an interesting article about what scientists consider the two most earthlike planets of the 340 planets discovered outside of our solar system. Oddly enough, both orbit the same star, a dwarf 20 light-years from Earth called Gliese 581. The smaller of the two is one of the smallest planets yet discovered outside of our solar system, only twice the size of Earth. There is a possibility of water on the other based on its distance from its star. Read the whole article here.


Joe Smith, underground rapper? 

Did you know that Joe Smith of the Cleveland Cavaliers, he of the nineteen points and ten boards in only nineteen minutes last night in a victory against the Pistons, was also an underground rapper? Joe Smith who was once the first pick in the NBA Draft. Joe Smith of Norfolk, VA.

Straight. LeBron and the other players call him by his hip-hop aka, "Joe Beast." Smith has apparently been at it for more than ten years. He says he has written hundreds of songs. His new album The Beginning features an appearance by Desmond Mason, a swingman who was Smith's teammate in Milwaukee from 2003-05. According to ESPN's Chris Broussard his hip-hop ode to the Cavs, "One Goal," has become the club's playoff anthem this spring. The song blared through The Q's sound system as the players warmed up before the first two games of this series.

Interesting work. Are there some gang influence issues that we should be questioning? Money laundering concerns perhaps?

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Friday, April 24, 2009

Waiting for the next Star Wars movie 

We finally found the insurance company where Darth Vader has been working while waiting for the new Star Wars movie to start production. Word is that Yoda only accepts closed door meetings to avoid the paparazzi.


Thursday, April 23, 2009


Whoops we knew Major League Baseball was having revenue issues, but we didn't know things had gotten this bad. Apparently the Washington Nationals uniform provider, Majestic, decided to save bucks in this economy by shorting the "Nationals" a letter. They printed a couple of jerseys missing the letter "o" and arrived at, "Natinals." Nice, very Major League of them. It doesn't help the image that it was the team with the worse record in baseball that had these bad new bears jerseys.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

New Label 

It is never a good sign when a food product one consumes fairly regularly suddenly adds a new safety label. Cook thoroughly is an especially unappealing notice. It was just added to the outside of the Totino's Combination Frozen Pizza box. What happened? Somebody cook it less than thoroughly and croak? Keel over? Fall out?

Don't take our food that we wish not to think about in that manner and make it scary.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Rondo has a Triple Double 

The Boston Celtics won a must win game last night over the Chicago Bulls in the first round of the NBA playoffs. A 2-0 series hole minus Kevin Garnett would have been untenable. It was a tight game. Ray Allen hit the game winning shot and scored 30 points. However, as the Boston Herald chronicles, even Allen knew the guy that got them through the night was Rajan Rondo.

Rondo had a sick triple-double, 19 points, the 16 assists, the 12 boards. He led the team in rebounding. Repeat a six foot one inch, 171 pound guard led his team, a Celtics team missing its inside mojo, in rebounding. The Herald article has all the good quotes, including the pre-game talk Celtics Coach Doc Rivers had with Rondo. Bill Simmons also wrote a piece on the series and the Rondo vs. Rose battle.

The playoffs saw another excellent performance in Denver. Chauncey Billups led the Nuggets crushing of the New Orleans Hornets. Billups was 8-for-9 from beyond the arc and thirty-six points. The trade of the season was the Mr. Big Shot for Allen Iverson swap. We totally miscalled it here at the Clarion Content somehow imagining that A.I. would blend in a team concept with the Pistons. Whoops! Furthermore, we wildly underestimated Billups impact in Denver. He has the offense so much more organized. He is the lead dog, but he doesn't have to take all or even most of the shots. Even better when it comes down to a last shot he is willing and able to take it.

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Two stories 

His grandfather says he is a wonderful boy. His fiance says he is a great guy. He wouldn't hurt a fly and that they are still planning to marry in August. He is a twenty-two year old Boston University medical student, although he has now been suspended from school pending the outcome of an investigation.

The Boston Police Department says he is a sociopath and killer, who has used the internet ad aggregator Craig's List to lure women to hotels. Allegedly he binds them and robs them. One of his capers went bad last week, and he stands accused of fatally shooting Julissa Brisman, 26, on April 14 in her room at the Boston Marriott Copley Place.

A man leading double lives? A case of mistaken identity? We will keep you posted.

The story continues.


Sunday, April 19, 2009

Put Joba back in the bullpen! 

Haven't the Yankees ever heard the old axiom, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Clearly not, as they have still not seen the error of their ways. They have yet to recognize and accept mistake they made in removing Joba Chamberlain from the Yankees bullpen, and turning a relative strength into a glaring weakness. Not only did they weaken their bullpen, but they did it to move Joba to the 5th spot in the rotation. The last starter, in the spot which periodically gets skipped, in the spot which isn't even used come playoff time. Instead of having Joba affect 65 to 75 games a year, they are going to hold down his innings and starts again, so that he might effect 25 to 27 games this year. It is crazy.

The Yankees are obviously wrong and unfortunately, they appear to be digging in their heels as if this has become a battle of pride with the New York media. Dumb. Compounding their mistake. Already this season the Yankees middle relief has imploded in three of their six losses, including Joba's first start where Joba needed himself to be the bridge to Mariano Rivera and he couldn't last. Furthermore, as unbelievable as Rivera has been in his Hall of Fame career, he is 39 and the Yankees definitely need to be grooming a successor.

The final straw for the Clarion Content has been Joba's persona and demeanor. As Mike Francesa keeps hammering home on WFAN, New York's sports radio, Joba is like a declawed cat as a starter. He was vicious, fierce and intimidating out of the pen. Now he is tentative, pitching like he is feeling his way, conserving his energy. The Yankees braintrust is killing Joba's mojo! If this ludicrous Joba as a starter experiment goes on much longer, we wouldn't be shocked to see his whole career flameout. WFAN radio has had such luminaries of New York relief pitching as Sparky Lyle, Goose Gossage and John Franco weigh-in with opinions in the last week, all agree Joba should be in the pen.

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Saturday, April 18, 2009

NBA Playoff quick hits 

The NBA playoffs are upon us after a season of much anticipation. The Clarion Content can only say you should have been grateful for how wonderful last season's playoffs were. It is a rarity. Hope you were watching, because after much hype this season's playoffs took a dramatic turn towards dullesville with two big injuries in recent weeks. The Clarion Content agrees with the widely held notion that injuries to the Spurs Manu Ginobili and the Celtics Kevin Garnett (both out for the duration of the playoffs) have taken the number of legitimate contenders down from four teams to two. The Spurs and the Celts may win a round or even two, despite the injuries, but the Finals is likely Lakers-Cavs. It would take a monstrously shocking upset to derail the Kobe vs. LeBron match-up that the league and Commissioner Stern so desperately desire.

On to Round 1 in brief...

Boston Celtics vs. Chicago Bulls

Even without Garnett the Celtics should have just enough to win this series. Vinny del Negro is an awful coach. The Bulls however have been hot down the stretch, at one point winning 11 of 14 with the Bobcats nipping at their heels for the final playoff spot. The Celtics were extended to seven by the Hawks in the first round last year, don't be surprised if it happens again.

Detroit Pistons vs. Cleveland Cavaliers

How far the Pistons have fallen? When they dismissed Larry Brown we never anticipated they would fall this far this fast. After the Chauncey Billups trade they barely scratched their way into the playoffs. A.I. left the team on a self-imposed exile. They likely won't even take a game from the Cavs.

Dallas Mavericks vs. San Antonio Spurs

This had to be the match-up the Spurs wanted the least. The Mavs who have lost in the first round each of the last two years and have to be burning to do better. They played the Spurs even 2-2 in the regular season. Will the Spurs again bench contribute enough to get them through this series? Duncan has looked tired down the stretch. Tony Parker should kill J.Kidd on the offensive end, but will it be enough? The Spurs will need seven, weakening them for the next round's opponent. They could even very well lose this series.

New Orleans Hornets vs. Denver Nuggets

The Clarion Content's sports editor is bummed that this series had to happen in the first round. It surely feels like a second round series. We don't want to believe that Melo is going to get knocked out in the first round again, but facing Chris Paul, whew. Is there a better player in the Western Conference not named Kobe? The Hornets are defensive minded and the Nuggets like to run. Mr. Big Shot, Chauncey Billups has turned out to be a tremendous pick up. The Nuggets look organized and lethal. A hard series to call? Denver has the homecourt in game seven, says here Chris Paul finds a way to win anyway.

Houston Rockets vs. Portland Trailblazers

This another series where it is a shame that the teams are meeting in the first round. In the Clarion Content's eyes the Rockets are the team with the best chance to take out the Lakers. (We root heartily against the Lakers.) Other folks think the Trail Blazers because of their superb home record against Phil Jackson's crew have the best chance to beat LA. Against each other it is a clash of match-ups. Brendon Roy and Blazers would prefer to push the ball. The Rockets have the defenders for Roy in Artest and Battier. The Rockets would like to get the ball into Yao in the post. The Blazers have Joel Przybilla and Greg Oden. Advantage Rockets, says here they win it in six. (Yep, they are better without McGrady.)

Los Angeles Lakers vs. Utah Jazz

The Lakers should crush. Despite the fades at the end of the season by the aging Derek Fisher and the youthful Jordan Farmar at point guard, Kobe and Gasol will be too much for the Jazz. Jerry Sloan is a great coach, so it is puzzling that this crew has underachieved. Is it all Carlos Boozer's karma?

Philadelphia 76ers vs. Orlando Magic

The Clarion Content would be very surprised if the 76ers had anything to offer in the way of resistance here. Orlando has too many weapons. Starting with Dwight Howard, their super solid big man, the best player on the court in this series. Orlando also offers a cast of three point shooters, Rashard Lewis, the versatile Hedo Turkoglu, the dynamic rookie Courtney Lee and even J.J. Reddick has been in the mix off the bench down the stretch. It will be more than enough against the Elton Brand-less 76ers. Andre Miller is a good point guard, but Philly just doesn't have enough cats who can put the bisquit in the basket. Orlando's Stan Van Gundy is a huge coaching edge over Philly's relative unknown Tony DiLeo.

Miami Heat vs. Atlanta Hawks

Perhaps the most intriguing first round series in the East. Can D-Wade alone get by the Hawks? Joe Johnson and the gang pushed the champion Celtics to seven games in the first round last year. One has to figure that experience will benefit them this year. Still Wade, has been there and done that, and then some. A tough draw for the emerging Hawks. If they can keep their emerging corps, Josh Smith, Marvin Williams and Al Horford together their 'wait 'til next year' will really mean something.

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Follow-up to the dead cat bounce 

This is a quick follow-up to our piece querying whether or not this was, as we fear here at the Clarion Content, the dead cat bounce.

Perceptive commentators noted after Friday, April 17th when stocks rose again, the Dow Jones Industrial index had scored its biggest six-week gain since July 1938. With very little rhyme or reason underpinning this gain, the wise will be profit taking (selling their shares) early next week. You have been forewarned.

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Friday, April 17, 2009

Links of Interest and Interesting Links 

For perusal and pleasure some of the odds and ends, the serious and the curiosities, the flotsam and jetsam of the internet that has either crossed our desk seemingly of its own volition or been sent our way by you, the readers.

From the inane to the insane as the saying goes. We can't tell you which category this first one is in really. The Clarion Content has been covering the piracy story for quite a while and following it for an even longer time. One of our usually reliable and favorite bloggers, the MEP report, threw us a curveball by putting their support behind a commentary in the U.K. paper the Independent. We had to follow up. Where did the pirates come from? The Clarion Content has heard a myriad of sources cite the overfishing of Somali waters story before. However, the other issue, that the commentator in the Independent raises, toxic waste dumping, based on a single source, is news to us. If it is true, it is egregiously awful. We put slightly more stock in Mr. Hari's accounts of pirates of the earlier centuries.

This next one is an incredibly long article. Don't say we didn't warn you. It is however, brilliant. It is a masterfully nuanced piece on sentimentality, using the chemical saccharin as the conceit or entrée. It was sent to us by our ever intrepid northern most New Jersey reader who is a fount of good links. We were familiar with neither the author, who's first novel we are now eagerly anticipating, nor the magazine that published the essay. It is called the Black Warrior Review.

This next link is from the Los Angeles Times. It is a truly inspirational story about a girls high school cross-country team in Simi Valley, California. There at Royal High School, the girl's cross-country team includes one blind runner. This girl, who is in physically fine shape, has been blind since birth. She wanted to be on the team. Some places would have seen it as a logistical nightmare, even the coach admits he initially had liability concerns. She is only enabled to run through the self-sacrificing efforts of her teammates who allow themselves to be tethered to her and run side-by-side with her around the course. This is a story about kids and a coach that get it. Warning you may cry.

This is a link to a fascinating op-ed piece in the New York Times
by a man we have often disagreed with, David Brooks. In it he argues that there are chiefly two narratives of how we got here emerging from the carnage of the financial ruction we are in the throes of, the greed narrative and the stupidity narrative. He does an excellent job of embedding the links, a practice faithful readers of the Clarion Content know we love. Brooks links the big and important essays on the topic to his piece. Were the bankers greedy or stupid? Even if you think both, the Clarion Content whole-heartedly agrees with Brooks's conclusion that we shouldn't trade the hubris of Wall Street for the hubris of Washington, D.C.

This one we can't even remember how we came across. Ingenious reusage of an old i-Pod. It even tops using fubar cd's for coasters.

This final link was quite the surprise from the BBC. We had heard the oft repeated, possibly true, urban legend that the album Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd can be synched up with the movie the Wizard of Oz. According to a relatively rational sounding Wikipedia post there are some moments of bizarre coincidence such as when Dorothy finally awakens, the lyric can be heard, "Home, home again. I like to be here when I can." But the BBC has'em beat! Had you ever the theory that the Wizard of Oz was a monetary allegory about the gold standard, the populist movement and William Jennings Bryan? We bet not. Read the whole story here.

This is the link to old Interesting Links posts. (After clicking through the link, you have to scroll down past this one for oldies but goodies.)

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Best recent vintage political one-liner 

The best political one-liner that the editors of the Clarion Content have heard or read lately comes to us from the May 2009 issue of Esquire courtesy of Stephen Marche, "Napoleon said one should never ascribe to malice what can be adequately explained by incompetence, and the one positive legacy of the Bush years is that no one can sensibly believe in the 'vast right-wing conspiracy anymore.'"

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Obama takes a good stance on nukes 

Ten days ago on his first trip to Europe as America's leader, President Obama gave a speech in Prague to a cheering crowd of more than 20,000 in the city's historic Hradcany Square. In this speech he took a line on nuclear weapons that the Clarion Content largely agrees with. He desperately needed to make this speech to lay out America's stance and mindset after the era of a Bush Doctrine that endorsed preemptive strikes. It was (is) essential that the United States communicate to its allies and enemies alike that if that policy is not fully repudiated, it is at least far from the way America thinks about nukes. Some of the most dangerous potential blowback scenarios created by the disastrous attack on Saddam's regime involve Iran and North Korea lashing out in fear of being preemptively struck first.

To children and policymakers of the 1980 preemptive strikes were the stuff of nightmares. We went to bed praying the Russians loved their children too, at least enough not to unilaterally first strike. President Obama leads America in a different era but as he noted in his speech, "the existence of thousands of nuclear weapons is the most dangerous legacy of the Cold War. Today, the Cold War has disappeared, but thousands of those weapons have not." He continued making a point the Clarion Content heartily agrees with and has long espoused, "as the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the United States has a moral responsibility to act."

After nearly a decade of ignorance and failure to focus on the real threats, President Obama is leading those actions. In his speech, Obama promised to negotiate a strategic arms reduction treaty with Russia by the end of the year that will significantly reduce the number of nuclear warheads. Earlier in his European trip in London, Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev agreed to produce a new arms control treaty to replace the current Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, (START II) that expires in December.

Read more here in the LA Times

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Greg Paulus, Michigan QB? 

File this one under the category of "Well can you believe that!" Especially for local Durham readers and Duke basketball fans. Greg Paulus is going to get a chance to win the starting quarterback job at Michigan. That's right, you read that correctly, 6 foot 1 inch, 180 lb Greg Paulus.

Paulus started for three years at the point guard for Duke basketball, and handled his transition to a bench player his senior year with grace and dignity. Paulus has one year of eligibility remaining in another sport. And since he is a smart kid and will complete his degree in four years, he can go to graduate school elsewhere and play immediately.

Reportedly he is not guaranteed the starting job at Michigan. Coach Rich Rodriguez (who is hardly a man who can be taken at his word) says Paulus will be competing with two freshman and junior Nick Sheridan, who started four games last year, but broke his leg in the spring.

What Paulus didn't think he could beat out Thad Lewis for the Duke quarterback job? Granted Duke did have a better record than Michigan football last year!

Paulus was the Gatorade National Player of the Year as a senior at Christian Brothers Academy in Syracuse, N.Y. He passed for 11,763 yards and 153 touchdowns in his high school career.

Read more here at ESPN.com

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Too much Facebook leads to bad grades!?! 

This just in from Captain Obvious at the Ohio State University; too much Facebook can lead to bad grades. No way.

A study of 219 users reported that OSU students who use Facebook spend less time studying and have lower grades than students who don't use the formerly hip social networking site. However, don't count on these folks self-diagnosing. The study noted that noted that 79% of Facebook users said that using the social networking site was not interfering with their studies.

However, the study found that found that Facebook users, who generally studied between one and five hours per week, had GPAs between 3.0 and 3.5, but nonusers, who studied 11 to 15 hours per week, had GPAs between 3.5 and 4.0. Admittedly, the study controls were weak and there certainly could be other causes for the lower grades not considered. But it probably comes as no surprise to the parents telling the kids to get off the darn computer, looks like heavy Facebook use is linked to lower grades.

Read more here in Computerworld.

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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Attack on the grid 

Tens of thousands of Northern Californians were without Internet access, landline or wireless phone services after sabotage apparently severed fiber optic cables. Word is someone(s) opened manhole covers in San Jose and San Carlos, south of San Francisco, in the pre-dawn hours Friday morning and cut several fiber optic cables belonging to AT&T and Sprint. The New York Times reports approximately 52,000 Verizon landline and wireless customers were also affected. Because AT&T provides the fiber connections that link cell phone towers to their respective networks, wireless subscribers from almost every carrier were also affected by the attack. Some Verizon Communications DSL customers also lost service, because their system uses AT&T fiber-optic cables to send its data traffic to its own nationwide network.

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Friday, April 10, 2009

One more step away from fascism 

The Obama administration announced it had moved one more step away from fascism this week. Having already stated its intention to close the Soviet style, indefinite-detention-beyond-the-reach-of-law facility that King George the II and Viceroy Dick operated in totalitarian Cuba, Obama CIA director Leon Panetta announced that the United States would no longer use "black sites." Black sites were secret overseas prisons where King George the II routinely had people tortured and interrogated.

CIA Director Panetta said the agency has a plan "to decommission the remaining sites." He added that "Agency personnel" will take charge of that process and that any outside contracts still involved in site security will be "promptly terminated." The evil duo of King George the II and Viceroy Dick frequently employed private contractors in an effort to shield the government from liability and to make an end run around human rights protections enshrined in the Constitution.

Thus ends another of the darkest chapters of the legacy of King George the II. Read more here in the Washington Post.

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Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Unemployed in Virginia? 

Future fate of Virginia House of Delegates members?

Unemployed in Virginia, too darn bad, so says the Republican controlled Virginia House of Delegates, who yesterday made their state the first to officially reject federal stimulus money. The petty, but employed, members of the Virginia House spit in the face of the less fortunate, turning down $125 million in federal money targeted for the unemployed.

Virgina's unemployment rate is lower than the national average but has doubled in the past year. In a vote largely along party lines, Virginia's Republicans voiced a loud and clear, "Who cares?" These folks who are members of the House of Delegates rake in over $17,000 per annum for a part-time job that last 45 days a year. (on a full-time, two week vacation basis that pro-rates to over $98k a year.)

But you, you leeches on unemployment, they'll be no extra $25 bucks a week for you. In Virginia the Republicans have it all figured out, "Let them eat cake."

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Is this the dead cat bounce? 

The Dow Jones Industrials and the broader stock market rebounded for just a moment over the last week as President Obama was in Europe on a trip to meet with the G-20, a group composed of some of the world biggest economies and most influential countries.

The dead cat bounce, an old Wall Street insider term, refers to the saying that says, "Even a dead cat will bounce, if you drop it from enough a of height." The underlying behind the theory being that following a big enough crash, even something with no reason or logic to rebound will bounce back for just a moment, because of the underlying disbelief that it could have fallen that far, that fast.

With no immediate signs of relief in the United States job market, manufacturing or housing sectors, one can't help but wonder if what we saw at the beginning of this week was the dead cat bounce. As earnings season begins, the string of gruesome announcements to come is likely to continue to depress stock prices.

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Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Annual Baseball Predictions: American League 

Welcome to our annual baseball predictions! Here at the Clarion Content if faithful readers know anything, it is to take our predictions with boulders of salt.

American League West...

If it wasn't for the lowly A.L. Central this would be the worst division in baseball. The Angels, the defending champs, have gotten older. Tori Hunter and Vlad Guerrero are terrific, but not what they once were. They added subpar defensive outfielder, Bobby Abreu, a steady hitter with limited power, definitely not the Manny they needed. They lost their closer Francisco Rodriguez. Lucky for them the rest of the division is atrocious. The A's brought back the aging Jason Giambi and are counting on numbers from the frequently injured Eric Chavez at 3rd base. Their starting rotation was decimated by trades last year. Newly acquired Matt Holiday's numbers will no longer have Coors Field inflation. The Texas Rangers are all offense, no pitching. Their ace Kevin Milwood, wouldn't be most teams number #4 starter. The Seattle Mariners, coming off a 100 loss season, have a new manager and a new G.M. They brought back Ken Griffey Jr. for nostalgia purposes, but he won't match the departed Raul Ibanez's offensive numbers.

Order of Finish

1. LA Angels (over 89.5 wins)
2. Oakland A's (under 81.5 wins)
3. Texas Rangers (under 73.5 wins)
4. Seattle Mariners (under 72.5 wins)

American League Central...

The Minnesota Twins always seem to find a way. Last year minus Johan Santana, minus Tori Hunter, minus Carlos Silva they battled through 162 games to force a one game playoff for the division crown. They still have Mauer and Morneau. And the Clarion Content is crazy about their young arms. Francisco Liriano is a Cy Young candidate. We told you about former minor league ERA champ, Kevin Slowey, eons ago. Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn and Glen Perkins look great rounding out the rotation. Joe Nathan anchors a solid bullpen. The Cleveland Indians are expecting a bounce back year. Here at the Clarion Content we could see it from their offense, Victor Martinez was hurt, Grady Sizemore underperformed. But their pitching is hugely suspect, Carl Pavano #3?!? Can Cliff Lee repeat his miraculous '08 campaign, we doubt it. The Chicago White Sox under the feisty Ozzie Guillen and crusty Kenny Williams always manage to hang around. We are concerned that their stars are aging; Jermaine Dye, Jim Thome, Paul Konerko. Even with the departure of solid starter Javier Vazquez, they should have enough pitching to be competitive until the All-Star break, then it will depend on whether Williams and the Sox braintrust decide to unload stars for prospects or add pitching for a post-season run this year. The Kansas City Royals are everybody's trendy off-season pick. And they are probably better, but remember that getting to .500 would be six game improvement. Is it really reasonable to expect more than that? There are a lot of young kids in the mix. Finally the Detroit Tigers, we have them booked for fire sale mid-summer. The Dontrelle Willis acquisition has been a disaster and the rest of their pitching staff has fallen apart along with it. Miguel Cabrera and Carlos Guillen could be on the market.

Order of Finish

1. Minnesota Twins (over 83.5 wins)
2. Chicago White Sox (over 79.5 wins)
3. Cleveland Indians (under 85.5 wins)
4. Kansas City Royals (over 75.5 wins)
5. Detroit Tigers (under 89.5 wins)

American League East...

There is however one division of quality in the American League, the A.L. East. Last year's defending American League champs, the Tampa Bay Rays figure to have a fight on their hands from the Boston Red Sox and the free spending New York Yankees. The Yankees, of course, made the splashiest acquisitions, the fat, fat man C.C. Sabathia, the injury-prone, coming off of a career year A.J. Burnett and an All-Star with a great glove, switch-hitter Mark Teixiera. Yet the Curse of the A-Rod still looms. Will the Yankees play great without Alex, only to have him come in and ruin the vibe? Or will they play lousy without him, putting so much pressure on Rodriguez to perform that he starts his annual big game wilting a couple months earlier? Either way, it just doesn't feel like the Yankees year. Volatile skipper Joe Girardi is wound tighter than steel cable. G.M. Brian Cashman is also under the gun. Says here, not enough healthy pitching, too much pressure on Teixiera and Rodriguez, drag the Yanks down to third place, behind both the Red Sox and the Rays. The Red Sox are loaded even without Manny. The rightside of their infield sports two homegrown MVP caliber talents Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia. They have more pitching than one can shake a stick at, Beckett, Dice-K, Lester, Penny and Wakefield, with Smoltz, Buchholz and Justin Masterson waiting in the wings, not to mention Jonathan Papelbon to close. The Rays have pitching and young talent too. Led by B.J. Upton, Evan Longoria and Carl Crawford, their offense will be potent. They added Pat Burrell to D.H. He should be productive. Their real strength might be the bullpen, which has lots of good set-up men and David Price in Durham waiting in the wings. The Baltimore Orioles have a passel of promising young talent from outfielders Nick Markakis and Adam Jones to second baseman Brian Roberts. That and a smidgen of pitching probably won't get them to .500 in the toughest division in the league. The Toronto Blue Jays have spent the last several years underperforming expectations. This year their one phenomenal pitcher Roy Halladay will truly have to go it alone. A.J. Burnett split via free agency. Young arms Dustin McGowan and Shaun Marcum are hurt. This could be the year the bottom really falls out.

Order of Finish

1. Boston Red Sox (over 94.5 wins)
2. Tampa Bay Rays (over 87.5 wins)
3. New York Yankees (under 97.5 wins)
4. Baltimore Orioles (over 73.5 wins)
5. Toronto Blue Jays (under 80.5 wins)

Tomorrow the National League preview...

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Monday, April 06, 2009

Broncos-Bears trade QBs 


Okay, okay, we know the Denver Broncos got a bevy of draft picks for their young, tempestuous quarterback, Jake Cutler, in addition to Bears starter Kyle Orton. The Broncos received the Bears first round pick, this year and next, as well as a third rounder this year. The Broncos now have five picks in the top 85 for the 2009 draft, that is something to build around. The way their defense looked last year they'll need them.

The Clarion Content has been a vocal critique of Jay Cutler and his braggadocio. Who cares if you think you can throw farther than Elway, Jay, if you can't beat Phillip Rivers when it counts? We were not surprised to read that Cutler has the same agent as Brett Favre. He was a reportedly an arrogant pain at Vanderbilt and his NFL career has been no different, despite his Pro Bowl status. Cutler strikes us as cut in the mold of Jeff George.

The guy the Broncos got back couldn't be more different. We have been an Orton supporter since back to his days at Purdue where he followed Drew Brees through Joe Tiller's sophisticated passing offense. The Denver Post is already writing about Orton's positive attitude and work ethic. (Cutler was known for his lackadaisical practice habits.) They also note for the record that, "Orton was 21-12 as a starter with the Bears, including a 15-2 record at home. Cutler was 17-20 for the Broncos, 10-9 at home. "

The Bears are heading in the opposite direction from the Broncos with this trade, mortgaging their future for the now. It makes some sense, their vaunted defense, anchored by Tommie Harris and Brian Urlacher, isn't getting any younger. They are going with their win-now plan in a comprehensive manner, too. They signed recently released Ram veteran left tackle, Orlando Pace. Word is they have talked about bringing in former St. Louis wideout, and aging star, Tory Holt. They need the help there too, a converted DB/punt returner, Devin Hester, led the team in receiving last year with a measly 665 yards.

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Sunday, April 05, 2009

Anchorage and Mt. Redoubt 

Picture sourced here.

Air travel has been disrupted to and from Anchorage, Alaska off and on for the last several weeks Alaskan insiders tell the Clarion Content. The reason is Mt. Redoubt which is spewing a steady stream of smoke and ash into the air from its volcanic core.

The Los Angeles Times reports that, "...scientists with the Alaska Volcano Observatory say a lava dome is forming. That hardened lava atop the crater might ultimately become unstable and lead to more explosive eruptions. In fact, this tempestuousness might last months, as it did in 1989-90."

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Snap goes the Wilkins Ice Shelf 

Not quite yet, but it is being reported that a key ice bridge linking two pieces of an ice shelf the size of Jamaica snapped this week. This area is on the western side of the Antarctic Peninsula. It is an area that has been frequently pointed to as indicator of rapid change in Antarctica. The Wilkins Ice Shelf has been stable since first being documented in the 1930s, but has begun a rapid retreat in the last two decades.

The BBC reports, "Newly created icebergs were seen to be floating in the sea on the western side of the peninsula, which juts up from the continent towards South America's southern tip."

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Saturday, April 04, 2009

No names 

Duke Cheerleader, Holly Kokinda

The Clarion Content sees photos of cheerleaders all over the internet. Cheerleaders, in general, feel like something of an antiquated pre-feminism institution. The defenders of cheerleading will say it is a sport and that the cheerleaders are athletes, too. If one has ever seen a cheerleading competition, that is quite evident, they are athletes.

This has left us at the Clarion Content wondering. Is it the misogyny of sports, the schools, the news outlets or American society in general that accounts for this difference: NCAA athletes of all stripes are typically identified by name when photographed by media outlets. Cheerleaders almost never are identified individually in photos. Just another pretty face? Pretty objectifying from our vantage point!


Michelle Obama touched the Queen 

On no she didn't!?! Actually yes, yes she did. Queen Elizabeth put her arm around First Lady Michelle Obama's back on Wednesday, during the reception that Buckingham Palace threw for leaders attending the G-20 summit in England. Ms. Obama responded to the gesture in kind. The initial reaction of the English tabloids, "Oh the horrors!" Even the more staid, nominally mainstream, Times of London said, "Protocol is abandoned as Michelle Obama cozies up to [the] queen."

However, polls indicate that most Americans found nothing wrong with gesture. Surely, the graceful Queen in no way objected. According to the Atlanta Constitution Journal, a Buckingham Palace spokesman said, "It was a mutual and spontaneous display of affection." He added that he couldn’t remember the last time the queen had so publicly departed from the royals’ no-touching protocol. In typical Obama style what was normally an insuperable barrier was transcended with grace and ease.

Read more here.


Friday, April 03, 2009

Things that need to be invented, part VII 

Merriam-Webster's dictionary website has a handy feature that enables audio pronunciation of words by one's computer. So if one were to look up, for example, the word indict, one could find out it was pronounced "in-dite" not "in-dicked" simply by clicking the little red speaker logo. If one were capable of reading those funky phonetic symbols, this might mean something to you... \in-ˈdīt\ ...as opposed to this... \in-ˈdik\ The Clarion Content does not yet have anyone on staff who speaks that language. We need the little red icon. We cannot figure out how the word is pronounced simply from the phonetics. Recently, it dawned on us that there is another situation where we need the audio pronunciation too.


This very same application needs to invented for the pronunciation of words in Spanish. There are already many free translation sites in which words can be taken from English to Spanish (or for that matter a variety of other languages). Probably the best among these sites is Google translate. Natch. This makes Google the prime candidate to invent such functionality. It seems like the technology already exists. Programmers would simply have to tell the computer to pronounce the "j" in por ejemplo, for example, in Spanish, rather than pronouncing the "j" in the English manner.

Looking up the translation of words from one language to another, all but instantaneously on-line, is a wonderful innovation. Now we need it taken to the next level. For us Americans, starting with Spanish, we need audio pronunciation of the translation. Somebody please invent this! Thanks.

Find old "Things that need to be invented" posts here. (This post will show up first, older posts will be below it.)

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Thursday, April 02, 2009

NBA homecourt 

The Los Angeles Lakers have endured a little stumble over the last week, they lost in Atlanta to the Hawks. Then they followed that up with another defeat at the hands of the Charlotte Bobcats. The lowly 'Cats are on the outside looking in the race for the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. They are only a game back of the Bulls and their defeat of the Lakers, capping a season series sweep of the LA, may have changed the course of the NBA championship this season.

The reason why we say that is that the Bobcats put a capper on a week where the Lakers may have ceded homecourt advantage in the NBA to the Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James should both squads reach the Finals. If LeBron and Cleveland have homecourt, that could be enough to tip the balance in a tight series.

When analyzing the Lakers prospects, there has to be the question of whether or not Kobe Bryant is fatigued, having gone all the way the Finals last year, some twenty-odd playoff games, and then the Olympic run on top of it. Also, the enigmatic Lamar Odom has also cooled off from a scorching February where he averaged 16.5 points and 13.4 rebounds per game. In March he is back to a more human 11 pts and 9.2 boards per game. Coterminously and perhaps not coincidentally, the Lakers have likewise cooled from playing .817 ball year-to-date to playing .667 ball in March.

There has been some seeding scuffling just before the NBA playoffs. The Clarion Content does not believe the champion will come from outside the "big four" Celtics, Lakers, Cavs, Spurs. However, there are seeding things happening, beyond the Lakers mini-slump, that could effect which of those four teams wins the title. The Spurs have gone 5 up and 5 down in their last ten, sliding dangerously toward the middle of the playoff pack where many Western Conference contenders might threaten them in the second round, if they have homecourt advantage. Similarly in the Eastern Conference, the Celtics and the Magic are in a tight battle for second and third place in the conference where the winner will have homecourt advantage in a second round confrontation. It is not unfathomable that with homecourt and a healthy Dwight Howard versus a gimpy K.G. that Orlando could work a little Magic on the Leprechauns from Beantown.

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