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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Avatar Reviewed 




We were sitting in the semi-dark. The setting was Xmas week in suburbia, the mall, thronged with mad human traffic, anxious, hurrying shoppers, then a crowded multiplex theater. We knew better. We were way early and got reasonable seats, semi-new fangled 3-D glasses in hand; and subsequently installed on bridge of nose, we watched Avatar.

We could not help but be disappointed, it was spectacular visually, even breathtaking at times. The special effects were other worldly. The companions that we rolled with, a pair of twelve year-old new cellphone owners, gave it a 10. One said it was only his second movie 10 ever (purportedly), tied with Transformers II. James Cameron and his team scored all the visceral points they possibly could, it was eye-popping. Unfortunately, the plot was simplified and rushed to include time for as many cool visuals as possible. In the end, this emphasis on the spectacular over the subtle compromised and distorted the vision of the entire movie in a manner both poignant and tragic.

The Avatar could have been so much better as two or three movies. The story was barely nascent before it was climaxing. Major characters go undeveloped, like the gritty female pilot who frees the former U.S. Marine now Avatar and his scientists collaborators. She is a linchpin, the one military person on their side. But she is hardly sketched, she has about six lines before performing her crucial, heroic act. There is no basis for understanding why she might free them. Why does she take this action that is ostensibly against her own race, the human race, and in favor of the native population? It ultimately leads to her death in a battle where she sides against the human race and her military cohorts in a battle to the death, her helicopter painted with the Na'vi war paint!?! Huh?

The failures of the plot are all the more frustrating because there was plenty of fascinating material here. This could have easily been a brilliant trilogy with spectacularly mad character development. The main character, Jake Sully, the Marine now Avatar, is underdeveloped, too. There is barely any explanation of his brother's death and its effect on him. There is no time for exploration of his relationship with Sigourney Weaver's scientist. Similarly his relationship with the evil colonel is on fast forward. It felt like Jake Sully was be-bopping back and forth between sides, so fast it was hardly swallowable.

Another underdeveloped relationship is the one between Jake Sully, the Avatar Marine, and the future lead medicine woman. It suffers from the same problem, not enough time invested made it feel oversimplified and contrived. It was a cliched blockbuster love story. Why does she fall for him so fast? She is powerful, a future tribal leader. Her brother, the future chief, thinks the Marine-Avatar is a demon, and indeed he has these crazy passing out spells. Their romance is based on what? It could have been so much more developed, and more nuanced in two or three movies.

On top of these gaping character holes, there was lots of fascinating background they left out or skimmed over rapidly. For instance, they hinted at the whole pyschotropic weirdness of being an Avatar, the going inside another creatures body with one's own mind, but they did not explore it (a 12 Monkeys like opportunity missed). They barely discoursed on the nature of being interconnected with a horse or a flying dinosaur as part of one's own being and seeing, consciousness and senses, as the blue people are able to do. And what about the opportunity to delve into Jake Sully, he is a paraplegic! This was visually addressed only. No of the delicate psychological territory was probed. Even in the movie's visuals his morphing into the Avatar and the joy of regaining his legs is addressed in platitudes rather than the subtleties and complexities such an issue might have deserved. It was a missed opportunity to be sure.

There were other great back stories like Sigourney Weaver's efforts at a school and her understanding of the Gaian botany of the planet that are only mentioned in the barest way. This final one about the interwoven, interconnected botany and zoology of the planet, Pandora, and all the creatures on it becomes the centerpiece of the saddest part of this far too screamingly fast paced story. Violence triumphs.

Because there is no time to explain the Gaian nature of the planet Pandora in full, no effort to consider what it means to be a Na'vi, the story is left with other way out than orgiastic violence. This was tragic on many levels, but most poignantly because of the reaction of the kids in the theater: cheering on gruesome violence.

The Avatar's plot briefly summarized: evil American corporation shows up on unbelievably beautiful and verdant forest planet to mine valuable metals with massive bulldozers. They come backed by helicopter flying Marines. The helicopter and jungle visuals are eerily reminiscent of Vietnam movies. The natives resist. They are reluctant to move out of their ancestral home. Negotiations are given a very limited time to succeed. When they don't, helicopter flying Marines show up and blast the natives, families and all, with rockets, machine guns, and flame throwers out of their ancient tree that doubles as the village. The natives are decimated and flea. The Avatar subsequently returns to his Na'vi body from his human state, captures the most powerful flying dinosaur and returns to rally the Na'vi for war.

As a sidenote: Cameron, et al., offered up one more Hollywood movie cliche that reinforces status quo, in this case the patriarchy. When Sully return to rally the Na'vi for war, the Avatar's mentor, trainer, wife and the future head medicine woman is now reduced to the status of cheerleader and translator, while he the outsider, alien, possible demon, rallies the Na'vi tribes for war.

But, as we have said, the deepest, most disturbing tragedy here is the ultimate triumph of violence. The juxtaposition of National Guard and Air Force commercials playing in the multiplex before the movie started with James Cameron's failure to find a vision other greater violence as a solution was stomach churning in its implications. The Na'vi in their use of bows and arrows, their speech patterns, their face paint and costumes, their apparent enmeshing with nature could not have been more American Indian in their depiction.

It was if the plot said simply, "Well if the Native North American Indians had been a little better armed, the evil (white/European) exploiters would not have been able to drive them off the land. The Na'vi just had to get better weapons, first machine guns for riding on their flying beasts, then a helicopter gunship on their side, only then, they could win. Ahh whoops, unfortunately, the plot twists and this level of weaponry is only enough for a tie. The Marines were still going to be able bomb their most sacred tree. But wait, the planet, Pandora, can still out escalate them, all of the creatures of the planet in the penultimate moment of the movie, are seized by an epic collective moment of violence. All the creatures of the alien world join in the attack on the human Marines, the wild alien dogs, the enormous multi-colored rhinos, the other dinosaur like flying creatures and phantasmagoria. It was nuts and vile.

Even if Cameron, et al., were really going to hypothesize a Gaian planet inspired counterstrike, a storm, an earthquake or a massive electric shock delivered by the tree roots would have made far more sense then the gruesome spasm of violence that concluded the movie. This Hiernonymous Bosch like vision, madness and violence fused, had the young folks in the theater cheering the deaths of American Marines at the hands of the natives the Blue people, the Na'vi, and the grotesque alien beasts.

The message was practically Old Testament in nature, that less than righteous violence is trumped by more righteous violence with the hand of the All-Mighty on its side. Was there no other way out, Mr. Cameron? The natives could only triumph through violence? It did not seem thus to the Clarion Content. It was intertwined with the speed and pace of the movie, plot sublimated to visuals. In two hours and forty minutes could something other than violent escalation have trumped? Maybe not, but in two movies, surely a much better message could have been sent. The planet and its plants could have begun gradually sabotaging the foundations of the Marines base and its walls. The wind disrupting their flights. The rain soddening their days and bogging down their bulldozers. The tale could have been told that something other than greater violence triumphs. In fact, it was well positioned for Gandhi-King non-violent resistance wins moral.

Unfortunately Hollywood's message was, as it is all too often, "He with the biggest stick wins. My violence is more gratuitous then yours, ergo my side wins because my side produces more shock and awe." Back in the real world, Art is not just a mirror for society, for it is all the more multifarious and complex than that. Art is a hall of mirrors, angled in different ways reflecting slices and sections, angles and perspectives depending on where one stands, processing through some four billion human consciousnesses worldwide. That reflection, refraction and interpretation cycle that it is constantly on-going between humans and our Art is going to inevitably distort some of the artist's original message. The audience is not present in his or her head, but Cameron's vision gives little space to capture any positivity out of this movie. For Cameron and his team, greater violence is the answer.

The Clarion Content cannot help but consider the conjuncture between Hollywood and the election of President Barack Obama. Hollywood backed Obama in way that was important, surely fiscally, and perhaps too, in a more content rich manner, a way that influenced his vision and policy. What then about the meshing of Hollywood's visions and Obama's actions? Is it more than coincidental that like Cameron fails to find away out of the Avatar other than hyper-violence? For all the schools, the aid, the visions of Na'vi's peaceful ways and Pandora's Gaian nature escalation of violence is the key to victory. Is it coincidental that Obama similarly for all the lofty rhetoric, aid provisions, road and school building can find no other way out of Afghanistan other than military escalation? How long before the tweens and teens that made Avatar a 200 million dollar movie already make this same connection? Greater violence is the answer.

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Monday, December 28, 2009

Colts decision 


Count the Clarion Content in the camp with those who believe the Colts made a mistake by taking their foot off of the proverbial pedal in the third quarter last night. Leading 15-10 the Colts sent Payton Manning, Reggie Wayne, Jeff Saturday, Dallas Clark and Joseph Addai to the bench. The Jets rallied to win against the third string quarterback, Curtis Painter, and a slew of other back-ups. In the process the Colts lost their undefeated season. They stopped their NFL record 23 game winning streak. They played, in the Clarion Content's opinion, a most dangerous game with their momentum.

Chris Carter was on ESPN radio this morning espousing much the same point of view. The Chargers are rolling. The Patriots looked terrific yesterday and Brady maybe rounding into form at just the right time. Conversely, how much do the Colts play their starters next week, if they pulled them after one drive in the third quarter this week? Their organizational logic would dictate they play them even less. Then as it would play out, the Colts would have a bye-week for the best regular season record in the AFC. Suddenly, they would be playing their first full game of live football in a month in the divisional round of the playoffs. A month of cadillacing and they are supposed to be ready to go against a battle hardened foe immediately? The Clarion Content finds this to be an unwise plan.

We think they evidence is with us, too. Peyton Manning came into the league in 1998. However, he didn't really put it together until 2002. We will give Manning a bye for his first five season as he learned the ropes and went 0-2 in the playoffs. But even since then, the Colts organizational philosophy to take their foot off the pedal late in the regular season has yielded one Super Bowl win in a seven year run with unarguably one of the all-time great quarterbacks. The Colts playoff record over that stretch is a lackluster 7 up and 6 down. They have not won the AFC other than in the Super Bowl winning season. Time will tell of course, but the Clarion Content thinks that the Colts made a mistake sacrificing invaluable momentum by lifting the starters yesterday and losing.

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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Compound words 

Just a quick follow-up to our post on the University of North Carolina's Davis Library Finals' Week flash mob. How many challenging, modern, compound-or-not words were there in that post?

Flash mob, itself, a compound word, two words or hyphenated? Wikipedia opts for two words in its header, but it can't make up its mind because it then opens its entry with, "A flash mob (or flashmob)..." Merriam-Webster also opts for two words. The definitive source for such a modern term, Urban Dictionary (UD), opts for two words, as well.

However, easily flash mob is dispatched by the authorities, the Clarion Content thinks it is not as clear-cut. The idea of a flash mob is a singular concept, not an adjective modifying mob, as would be the case in "large" mob or "wild" mob.

Other problematic words emerged from this same post, handheld, for example. Mozilla Firefox is confident that handheld is not a compound word, brazenly underlining it. But then again, what does Mozilla know? Well for one thing, it knows how to spell Mozilla. Though, not so generous to potential competitors, it underlines Facebook as if it had never heard of the massive network. Facebook is a proper noun, ergo the choice for two words, hyphen or compound word belongs to the owner of the entity that is the name. In this case they have opted for one word, and Mozilla, along with Microsoft Word, Google Docs and their ilk need to accept it.

But back to handheld, once again Wikipedia waffles. "Hand held" re-directs to the article for "Mobile Device" which in its first sentence uses handheld as a single compound word. Searching Wikipedia for "hand-held" hyphenated yields a disambiguation page where handheld is treated as a compound word in four article titles and a hyphenated word in two titles. Mozilla, of course, accepts the hyphenated word "hand-held" because it is made up of two words it accepts and the hyphen is a signifier to treat them separately. Merriam-Webster in this case is definitive opting for the compound word "handheld" and dating it all the way back to 1923. The Clarion Content cannot fail to agree, "handheld" a singular descriptive state, an adjective, one word.

The final to compound or not word that popped up prominently in the Davis Library Flash Mob piece was "chatroom." Of course, Mozilla Firefox, in its stern, unforgiving manner says it is a mispelling. As noted previously, due to a programming default, it is willing to accept to "chat-room." Merriam-Webster agrees with Mozilla's anti-chatroom stance. It dates the phrase "chat room" to 1986 and says two words, no hyphen. It undermines itself to a certain extent because the Google Ad Sense ad on the page shills for a one word "chatroom" site. Wikipedia prefers two words for chatroom although the article opens with the dual warnings, "This article needs additional citations for verification," and "This article may require cleanup to meet Wikipedia's quality standards."

The Clarion Content is inclined to disagree with the fuddy-duddies at Merriam-Webster and the negatistas Mozilla (who think fuddy-duddy isn't a word and have never heard of negatista). Chatroom is a singular concept, a noun referring to a particular meme, a virtual room where one goes online to have chats. Urban Dictionary has no fewer than eleven definitions of "chatroom" all of which treat it as one word. UD also has seven chatroom related phrases defined from "chatroom thug" to "chatroom whore" all of which treat chatroom as a singular phrase. It is certainly still arguable though, even via modern sources, for example, the website www.techfaq.com offers a more reasonable definition for chatroom than any of those on UD, but treats "chat room" as two words.

Ah, these modern words and phrases bring us much fascinating debate. One of our favorite modern linguists, And He Melts noted that, Philip K. Dick in his 1964 novel, The Unteleported Man, produced in the first thirty pages alone a massive treasury trove of hyphenated words ranging from "the impatient ("syn-cof," instead of "synthetic coffee"), [to] the needless ("break-through"), [to] the redundant ("aud-receptors/aud-monitors/data-monitors/data-recorders"), [to] the quaint ("light-years, ""colony-world"), [to] the way-ahead-of-his-time ("UN-egged-on"), and the simply fantastic ("Swiss-made nipple-assist")." We look forward to more of this kind of linguistic fun, thinking, and discussion about the compound words of this modern era. (Which is not to say there are not fun old compound words still to debate.)


Flash Mob decends on Davis Library 

A fascinating spectacle that occurred during Finals' Week at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has just come across the Clarion Content's radar. In what is apparently now a one year-old tradition, a flash mob descended on the university's main library, Davis library, during finals week. Their purpose to blow-off stress in a ritual that would have fired Emile Durkheim's imagination. Originally an underground thing, this year it had a public Facebook page. Attendance was estimated at over 3,000 by the Raleigh News and Observer's December 16th print edition. The video below can attest to that number.

The Clarion Content is fascinated by flash mobbing. It has powerful political applications as was first demonstrated at the World Trade Organization's November 1999 meetings in Seattle. Those were the nascent days of cell phone technology. The handheld computer that is the iPhone was a dream of science fiction. Chatrooms were the 90's caveman equivalent of Facebook. The technology available has exponentially multiplied the scale of flash mobbing's potential.

University of North Carolina officials displayed a wide range of reactions as reported by the News and Observer.

UNC Assistant Vice-Chancellor for Student Affairs Winston Crisp said, "You don't know how many people are coming. If they are going to gather like that, how do you stop it?"

Randy Young a spokesman for the UNC campus police said, "We try to weigh in on whether it would be prudent to stop it or whether it would just be better to let it run its course."

Billy Mitchell, the campus fire marshal, said he had not received any complaints and was not concerned.

Check out the video. Remember it is filmed in the lobby of a massive research library that houses nearly than 5.8 million books. Student organizers brought in speakers and positioned them around the second floor railings.

This photo shows the lobby empty.

This video shows the flash mob scene December 14th, 2009.

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Saturday, December 26, 2009

No surprise 

Lewis Sachs is advising Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner

It should come as no surprise to historians of the American system that the banks that designed the investment vehicles that brought the mortgage market to its knees were betting against them all the while to their great profit. There is nothing in American history to augur that banks will be altruistic. There is much greater evidence that says altruism may be disadvantageous to profits in a hybrid-capitalist system. Gaming the system has proven profitable time and time again in the long run, not for all mind you, but for the best players. This is an important fundamental to consider when studying bankers out-sized compensation packages, the best get rich, the less fortunate go broke.

The New York Times reports that the SEC is studying the details of just how Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank among others designed these synthetic collateralized debt obligations, or C.D.O.’s and then bet against them. Unfortunately, they will be hard pressed to prove laws were broken (and ex-post facto justice is specious at best).

The Times says, "One focus of the inquiry is whether the firms creating the securities purposely helped to select especially risky mortgage-linked assets that would be most likely to crater...some securities packaged by Goldman...soured within months of being created...Goldman and other...firms maintain there is nothing improper about synthetic C.D.O.’s, saying that they typically employ many trading techniques to hedge investments and protect against losses. They add that many prudent investors often do the same."

The Times argues that the creation and sale of synthetic C.D.O.’s helped make the financial crisis worse than it might otherwise have been, creating a multiplier effect by providing more securities to bet against. They note that , "$8 billion [of] these securities remain on the books at American International Group."

The two most interesting revelations of the article are that, one, Morgan Stanley lost $1.5 billion to Goldman Sachs on a single deal, and two that Lewis Sachs a man who became a senior adviser to Obama's Treasury secretary earlier this year,was intimately involved in building these kind of deals. Sachs worked for Tricadia, a management company that was a unit of Mariner Investment Group. He led the team that sold products to investors that plunged more than 75% in value in a year while betting against them to the tune of a 50% profit for the firms own hedge fund.

Ugly, yes. Immoral, yes. Despicable, yes. Illegal, probably not.

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The train 

Taking the train? Unless one is heading to Kabul or Baghdad, President Obama is hardly more concerned about how one gets there than King George the II was. High speed trains were one of the Clarion Content's great hopes for things we might see come from the Obama administration. The country was and is mired in a deep recession. Train infrastructure is a works project that could be used in the fight against massive unemployment. Train infrastructure is a virtuous circle insofar as investing in more efficient transportation has knock-on benefits for all manner of American industries.

But alas. The candidate of change has spent $66 billion in Iraq and Afghanistan in the first half of 2009 alone. This does not account for the troop surge in Afghanistan. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates the expenditures in Iraq and Afghanistan for next eight years (again pre-surge) at $416 billion at the low end and $817 billion on the high end.

Over the next five years the Obama administration hopes to spend $8-13 billion on rail infrastructure, including high speed trains.

20 to 40 times as much spending per year
on Afghanistan and Iraq than for rail infrastructure?

This is the change we could believe in?

Ralph Nader was right along. Pete Townsend was wrong.

Worse yet, America's rail infrastructure is in abysmal condition and is plagued by delays. The highways are no better, as you can ask anyone who traveled the I-95 corridor this Thanksgiving or Xmas.

The Associated Press reported many of the massive holiday week train delays were caused by problems at power stations and substations built in the 1920s near Philadelphia. 1920's!?! And Obama is pissing America's revenues into the soil of Afghanistan!?!

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Local Playboy Cybergirl 

North Carolina, we have got news for you! The latest playboy Cybergirl is from right here in the Triangle. Stephanie Christine attends the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


Franklin Street look out.

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Health Care Bill 

Our northern most New Jersey reader was recently in Durham. Shortly after splitting town said reader sent the office an article that is a must read analysis of both the health care bill and the Obama administration's course to-date.

As loyal regulars know, the Clarion Content has been mightily disappointed with the Obama presidency. We fear that it may be careening toward a Jimmy Carter like scuppering that will lead to a very dark, eight or twelve years of hard rudder to the right. Picture two terms of Sarah Palin with Dick Cheney as her veep née viceroy.

Miles Mogulescu at the Huffington Post has the situation nailed. Much as the Clarion Content was crushed by the sellout the escalation in Afghanistan represents and the nuanced way in which we know it to be a disaster, Mogulescu is totally disappointed with the emasculated health care bill and his razor sharp analysis shows what it will change most is to cast the embrace of the corporate-capitalist ethic in bronze.

Read it here. It is positively eye opening!

Compare Mogulescu's molotov cocktails with the damp squib that is the analysis produced by the ostensibly liberal, but undeniably profit driven New York Times.

Now strangely enough the Clarion Content and old Miles Mogulescu probably come out a parsec or two apart about what we'd do about health care. But if there is one set of entities that we at the Clarion Content trust less than the Feds, it is the massive multinational corporations. And that sort of makes us Mogulescu's pal here, in an 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend' kind of way.

The devil is in the details. May bad legislation not be passed!


Nets moving forward 

Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards

Despite all of the Clarion Content's negativity it appears the New Jersey Nets are moving forward in their efforts to move to Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards. There are still hurdles to clear. The first shovel full of dirt won't be turned in time to interest free-agent LeBron James, but developer and Nets owner, Bruce Ratner, signed 640 documents relating to the closing on the project yesterday, according to a report in the New York Times. The Times also noted that $511 million in tax-exempt bonds for the planned arena were put into an escrow account. The state of New York petitioned courts to condemn large parts of the 22-acre site, including some parcels owned by residents who oppose the project and the state’s autocratic and unconstitutional use of eminent domain.

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Deadly cocktail 

The Clarion Content was greatly saddened to hear about the death of actress Brittany Murphy at a mere 32 years of age. She first came to our notice in Clueless, where she was paired with long time Clarion Content fave, Alicia Silverstone.

Murphy, a stunning beauty, played the ugly duckling wonderfully. She later had more serious and interesting roles like the tragically abused, chicken eating Daisy in "Girl Interrupted" and Eminem's love interest in the biopic, "8 Mile."

There has been mad speculation surrounding the details of her death. She was a tiny person and was reportedly underweight, bordering on anorexic. We have to be honest, that and prescription drugs were first things bandied about the staff office when we heard of her passing.

The Clarion Content has been attempting to sound the alarm bell about the wave of prescription drug addiction that has been sweeping over America. Celebrities, rather than being immune, have been at the forefront, from Rush Limbaugh's arrest with a suitcase full of prescription drugs, to Heath Ledger's tragic death from a drug cocktail of his own mixing, to this week's announcement that Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler was checking into rehab to get off prescription painkillers.

Reports from Fox News indicate Murphy may have been stumbling down the same tragic path. Scads of prescription drugs were found in the bedroom of the home where she suddenly collapsed. Murphy may have been practicing what is known as polypharmacy, the administration of excess prescription medications. The problem was compounded because likely none of the doctors writing the prescriptions had the full picture. Bottles found in her bedroom had prescriptions written for Murphy's mom (who does not live in the home) and Murphy's husband.

The list of drugs is long enough to be horrifying to the casual observer (even one steeped in drug culture): Topamax & Carbamazepine, anti-seizure medications used to treat depression and bipolar disorder; Topamax is also commonly used to treat migraines, benzodiazepines, Klonopin & Ativan usually prescribed for anti-anxiety, Vicoprofen & Hydrocodone which are narcotic painkillers, Propranolol, a beta-blocker used for high blood pressure and heart disease, as well as a performance anxiety drug and for migraines, plus the generic for the antidepressant/anti-anxiety drug Prozac; the antibiotic Biaxin; and methylprednisolone, which is an anti-inflammatory.

Going through anyone's medicine cabinet after their death is likely to reveal some personal information. It is for similar reasons that folks are so concerned about keeping their medical records private. There is no guarantee that these drugs caused Murphy's death or that there were not other factors, including possibly pneumonia or the flu. However, the Clarion Content thinks it is important that the laundry list of drugs is brought before the public eye as a warning. Our bodies are a delicate vessel. We are each only given one. Youth and celebrity both produce a euphoria and depression cycle that for many borders on bi-polar. Over medicating oneself is not the answer.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Wack is back 

Bantering around the Clarion Content's editorial offices has revealed a consensus that "wack" is back. Once part of the standard verbiage of the youth of the seventies and eighties "wack" had been on an unofficial cultural hiatus. It had moved to the fringes. It had, if you would, become a little wack to use the word wack.

In the office, the speculation on wack's re-rise centered on the times. The culture of the seventies had a brief redux in the late nineties, when trends like bell bottoms and the song "I will Survive" resurfaced. The era was nostalgically treated in "Dazed and Confused" and "That 70's Show," but this was all a few years back, and it didn't bring wack back. Rather it is the times today, now- the era, the age, the situation. This decade, call it the aughts or the double zeroes as you will, but the way things are going, things; in our lives and society are more wack! Ergo it is more appropriate to use the word wack these days.

In the nineties when the most wack political shit happening was Oval Offices blowjobs and Lincoln Bedroom rentals, wack was not the cultural norm. The stock market was still booming, the real estate market was humming too. Kids of the 90's generation, born after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviets as a potentially world annihilating enemy, had not seen that much wack shit. Suddenly, September 11th, 2001 shifts the paradigm.

It follows that as much wack shit happens in a decade as had happened in the whole lives of their parents. Two wars, America's evisceration as the world's beacon of liberty, massive wealth collapse and unemployment: cumulatively a yawning vision that augurs they might finally be that proverbial generation that grows-up to do not quite as well as their parents did; fiscally.

Wack, indeed.

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Long time hacker busted 

During high school, when Albert Gonzalez hacked into the computers of India’s government, as well as those of NASA, he wasn’t punished, the FBI came to his high school and basically said, “Don’t do it anymore,” according to a Wired.com story about the notorious TJX hacker. Ten years out of high school, after five years as a Secret Service informant ratting out other hackers, Gonzalez spiraled out of control.

He and his attorney are appealing his 15 year sentence for hacking into TJX, the Dave & Busters chain of restaurants and numerous other businesses. He obtained 36 million card numbers from TJX, the largest international apparel and home fashion off-price department store chain in the United States, whose brands include TJ Maxx and Marshall's.

According to Wired.com's reporting, "When the Secret Service learned of his role as an administrator on Shadowcrew (one of the underground carding community’s leading forums for selling stolen card data), they turned him into an informant. He worked undercover to help snag more than a dozen cyberthieves in an investigation dubbed Operation Firewall. Gonzalez also gave lectures to law enforcement groups and the American Banking Association about the methods and technologies used by cyberthieves."

According to information that surfaced at his trial, Gonzalez maintained his criminal contacts on the side and devised methods to hack into huge companies. He had first been arrested in 2003 in Manhattan for stealing money from ATMs using numerous cloned bank cards. He had previously worked for the industrial giant Siemens, and was only twenty-one at the time of his first arrest.

Now after being chewed up and spit out by the government, he is twenty-eight and facing fifteen years. Is prison likely to rehabilitate him? Will we hear from the TJX hacker again?

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Serious Concerns about Health Care reform 

by Anthem Sled (a Northern New Jersey guest columnist and thinker)

I am a young, healthy, self-employed American. I have no health insurance. When I voted for President Obama I was, to use a favorite phrase of his, “cautiously optimistic” that this Congress would pass a health care reform bill that might allow me to obtain a simple, bare-bones plan for a reasonable cost (not for free!) that would protect me from bankruptcy if I got hit by a bus.

This week, my cautious optimism became doubt.

With the elimination of the public option, there is now nothing left in this “Health Care Reform” bill that constitutes any kind of “reform” at all.

Connecticut Independent Joe Lieberman has obstinately outweighed the combined efforts of his Democratic colleagues in the Senate who were willing to take a risk and go for the real change that the public option represents. Fresh off a shameless attempt to grab headlines by exploiting the Fort Hood tragedy to talk tough on “Terrorism” (in this case, the terrifying surname of a madman), the Iraq War supporter and (pardon me while I suppress my gag reflex...) former Democratic Vice-Presidential candidate has proven himself to be an Insurance Industry lap-dog. “According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Mr. Lieberman received $688,344 in contributions from the insurance industry during the 2008 election cycle, though there were several industries with bigger contributions. Lieberman said health insurers didn't influence his stands. "I've never hesitated to take on the insurance companies," he said.” Senator Lieberman declined to give an example.

Thanks to the efforts of my own two Senators, New Jersey’s Big Pharma delegation of Lautenberg and Menendez, along with President Obama, a provision to allow the hugely cost-saving re-importation of prescription drugs has been left out. This is good news not only for Pfizer and Merck, but also for the Niagara Bus Company, who can count on continuing to carry seniors hundreds of miles up to Canada, just to circumvent the kind of protectionism I was cautiously optimistic would go out with the Bushies.

One attempted compromise was to expand Medicare to cover uninsured 55- to 64-year-olds. That would only mean that the Federal Government would increasingly bear the burden of caring for the older, sicker portions of the population while Aetna, Cigna, et al can continue to cherry-pick. It’s the bank bailouts all over again: profits are privatized, but losses become the burden of the American taxpayer.

So what exactly are the Democrats in the Senate voting for? According to Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), "Rahm told us months ago: Everything can be compromised except our ultimate goal of getting something done. Everything else is negotiable."

So the ultimate goal here is to vote for a Healthcare Bill so Democrats in Congress can say, “I voted for the Healthcare Bill.” Whether it actually lowers costs, increases preventive care, or covers some of the uninsured... that’s negotiable.

Whether this sham of a healthcare reform bill passes or not, when I cross the street, I will continue to be cautiously optimistic that I won’t get hit by a bus.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Unhelpful France 

So much for the French being all sorts of excited about Obama's election as President of the United States. The French were mouthing rhetoric at the time that his election marked the dawn of a new era of U.S.-French relations.

The actuality has not exactly matched up to the lofty words proffered. If the French were really considering a new tack in foreign policy they would be trying to find ways to help Obama defuse tension, especially in Eastern Europe, where it has a direct impact on them, because of the areas proximity, and in some cases countries' membership in the European Union. Not so much, instead, the French are stirring the pot, by attempting to once again cozy up to Russia.

The BBC reports the the French are negotiating a deal to sell an autocratic Russia a Mistral-class assault warship which is capable of transporting and deploying up to 16 helicopters, 13 tanks and 450 troops. France would be the first NATO member to go ahead with weapons sales to Russia. Obviously, this particular piece of hardware is for offensive not defensive purposes.

The BBC notes, "Russian generals have said that, had they had such a warship during the August 2008 conflict with Georgia, they would have been able to reach its shores within 40 minutes - rather than the 26 hours the country's navy took after setting off from their base in the Ukrainian Crimean port of Sevastopol."

This is just the kind of support Obama was hoping for from the EU for the fledgling country of Georgia.

The BBC also quotes a French military expert at the Sorbonne, "It's obvious that such weaponry would allow Russia to mount aggression against its neighbors. It looks like France is giving Russia a green light for new imperialistic wars."

Helpful, France, very helpful.

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Monday, December 14, 2009

Cop Caught 

One could publish a ridiculous story about the cops just about every day in America if one searched for them. Here is today's, courtesy of the Boston Herald.

"A Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office corrections deputy, Dorethea Collier, 48, was arrested Monday for assaulting a man at gunpoint who was having sex with her daughter in the deputy’s home."

Sweet. And that seemed legal to you how, Sheriff Collier?

Of course, after the nineteen-year old she found in her daughter's bedroom closet complained, Collier was arrested and charged with false imprisonment, aggravated assault and battery.

The story: Mom the sheriff, arrived home, heard something suspicious in from her daughter's bedroom. Daughter tries to hold door shut against Mom's entry. Mom busts in anyway, finds a partially clothed daughter, and a naked man in closet. Still in uniform she grabs the dude out of the closet punches him three or four times, points her gun at him, handcuffs him and orders him to his knees. He is held until the sheriff's husband shows up. He also hits the dude a few times, before he is eventually allowed to leave.

And Sheriff Collier tops off the whole incident, in her arrogance, by filing a trespassing complaint against the dude who was doing the deed with her daughter.

Dude, well he called the sheriff’s office’s internal affairs department to complain. Sheriff Collier was arrested after a review by the state attorney’s office.


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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Best of the best 

The Clarion Content's staff are regular visitors to Craig's List. We love their collection of the best posts submitted by Craig's List users. This isn't your grandma's Reader's Digest.

Here are the two best, "Best of Craig's List" Posts, that the Clarion Content has seen lately. Both reveal the hilarious, insider perspective that many folks have, but which is so rarely ventable in a public forum. Craig's List allows for the anonymous shout or the anonymous shout-out.

First from Fairfax, VA a post entitled, "The drudgery of adulthood for single, free-spirited life..."
Tired, achy, worn-down 39 year old seeks to trade one weekend with his 20 year old former self. 20 year old former self will get a gut, thinning hair, bills, a honey-do list a mile long, a soul-killing job, and the realization that it's going to be another 26 years to retirement. Tired, achy, worn down 39 year old will get a flat stomach, chest and arm muscles, a full head of hair, and access to keg parties and tipsy 18 year old college women. More than willing to make this a permanent thing.

Second from Chicago, IL a post entitled, "Cute but doomed girl who gave me the finger..."
You: young hipster girl with dark hair in two ponytails. Your ride stopped smack dab in the middle of George last night, while you took your sweet time pouring yourself out of the car, opening up the back door, pulling out your groceries and making sure your panties were on straight. We couldn't get around you, so my friend honked his horn, just a couple of times. You finally allowed us to pass, carrying your bag in one hand and using the other to shoot us the bird.

I know that you were totally the most punk rock girl in your dorm. However, you now live in the neighborhood known as Avondale. The person you flip off could very well be a Maniac Latin Disciple or a tough street girl who is waaaaay meaner than you. A neighbor once got a beat down for telling a kid to get the f**k off of her car. I know there's a family out there, probably in Crystal Lake or such, who loves you to death and is terrified about your move to the big city. For their sake, keep your head low, choose your battles carefully and chill out.

Check out more from the Best of Craig's List here.

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NBA at the quarter pole: Part II the West 

Welcome to the second half of our thoughts, comments and notes on the NBA at one quarter of the way through the regular season. See part I about the NBA Leastern Conference here. The NBA Western conference is stacked by comparison, topped by the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers.

In our view, as we told you in our NBA preview, we think the Lakers took a step back in replacing Trevor Ariza with Ron Artest. It has been hard to tell with the patty cake schedule they have had so far, playing 17 of their first 21 games at home, where they have gone 15-2. Kobe broke his finger last night in the first quarter and spent the second half throwing in shots left handed. They cannot be discounted because of Bryant and their battle-tested core of Fisher, Odom and Gasol. How much they get out of Bynum and Artest will determine if they can go the distance again. The Clarion Content isn't rooting for them to win the title, and isn't betting on them either, but we surely wouldn't be interested in wagering against them.

The only two teams we could see taking out the Lakers before the finals are from Texas. The first one is an oldie but goodie, the Spurs, if everyone somehow comes through the season healthy, look mighty dangerous. After an awful 4 up and 6 down start they are 7-3 in their last ten. Richard Jefferson is shooting nearly 46% from the field. Tim Duncan is shooting a sweet 55% per. DeJuan Blair is growing up a little every game. He exploded for 18 and 11 boards last week against the Celtics. Antonio McDyess has yet to contribute much, but like Duncan and Ginobili it is simply about surviving the regular season for McDyess. The Spurs have been managing all of their minutes cautiously.

The other Texas team that we think could threaten the Lakers is not the Mavs. It is rather the Houston Rockets. The Rockets have won 5 of 6, including a victory over Lebron and the Cavs. They are playing nearly .600 ball. Laker exile, Trevor Ariza looks like a steal, averaging 17.7 points per game. It should be noted the Clarion Content has loved Ariza since he was a Knick. Without Yao and McGrady, the Rockets are sharing the ball, Aaron Brooks and Carl Landry are tossing in 17.1 and 16.3 a game respectively. Battier continues to play his glue game. They lead the Spurs by a game and trail the Mavs by 2.5 games. Although nobody wants to get caught in the eight spot and have to face the Lakers right out of the gate, it is better than being on the outside looking in on the playoffs.

Denver's inconsistent effort and George Karl's temper make the Nuggets a prime candidate for implosion. It is just a question of when. The Hornets have already blown up. Byron Scott got fired, Chris Paul plays every game pissed. Absent an ownership change the franchise seems doomed. Paul looms as the top free agent candidate for the 2011 off-season. A position he has to prefer to competing with LeBron, D-Wade, Stoudemaire and Bosh this off-season. Portland coming off the Greg Oden disaster will struggle to make the playoffs. The Zombie Sonics led by the brilliance of Durant are up and coming, they have a shot at the eight seed. Memphis and Sacramento tie for the semi-prestigious, "Wow they don't suck as bad as we thought they did" award.

The two Western Conference teams we can't figure out, the Mavs and the Suns. Can we really get sucked into believing in either one of these teams again? Haven't we been down this road in the regular season with them before? Kidd and Nash are thirty-six and thirty-five respectively, they can't possibly hold-up, can they? At this point both squads are playing nearly .700 ball and would be slotted as the #3 and #4 seeds in the West. Nah, we are not buying it just yet.

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They are dusting off the name of John Cappelletti this weekend. Who is John Cappelletti you ask? He was the tailback and one of the leaders on Joe Paterno's undefeated 1973 Penn State Nittany Lions. On a 12-0 team, Cappelletti rushed for 1,522 yards and 17 touchdowns in 1973. He closed the season with three straight 200 yards rushing games, including 220 against the North Carolina State Wolfpack.

Cappelletti, from Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, won the Maxwell Award, the UPI College Football Player of the Year, and the Walter Camp Award. He was also the 1973 Heisman Trophy winner. This weekend they are dusting off his name because of what he has in common with one of the leading candidates for the 2009 Heisman, Stanford running back, Toby Gerhart.

Gerhart led the NCAA Division-I in rushing this year with more than 1,700 yards. He also led the country in touchdowns with 26. He won the Doak Walker award, annually given to the best running back in college football. He faces some stiff competition in New York tonight. Florida quarterback Tim Tebow is seeking to join Ohio State legend, Archie Griffin, as the only two time winners. Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh is seeking to become the first defensive player to win since Charles Woodson in 1997. (Woodson also returned punts and played a little wideout, meaning Suh could become the first exclusively defensive player to win the award.)

Gehart, should he win would become the first PAC-10 winner from a school not named USC since 1970. He would also become the first player to win the Heisman from a four loss team since 1969. But neither of these are his connection to Cappelletti. Gehart, should he win tonight, would be the first white running back to win the Heisman since his Penn State predecessor.

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NBA at the quarter pole: Part I, The Least 

Home of the New Jersey Nets

A few thoughts, comments and notes on the NBA at one quarter of the way through the regular season. The Clarion Content noted in our NBA predictions that there was very little chance of anyone outside of Boston, Cleveland and Los Angeles celebrating an NBA title this season. Sorry Cleveland, but we have already narrowed that list to two contenders.

First... the NBA's Eastern Conference "The Least"

LeBron and Cavs have been up and down this season. Shaq has contributed little. They have lost to mediocre squads like Chicago, Washington, Charlotte and Memphis. Even the normally driven LeBron, periodically looks like he is thinking ahead to his impending free agency.

The Celtics, on the other hand, have leaped off the page. Rajan Rondo is an All-Star point guard, no doubt. KG finally appears fully healthy, although one has to wonder how he will hold-up with nearly 60 games to go before the playoffs start. Sheed is contributing off the bench. Eddie House is doing his Vinnie "Microwave" Johnson impersonation. They haven't even had Big Baby Davis on the squad yet, he was a valuable point scoring reserve last year.

Elsewhere the East is putridness. Don't be fooled by Orlando, who made a horrible call adding Vince Carter's chemistry and inconsistent effort to the mix. Is he already rubbing off on Rashard Lewis? Lewis started the season with a ten game suspension, and this week added to his list of accomplishments, refusing to go back in the game when told to by Coach Ron Jeremey, errr, Stan Van Gundy. Useful, Rashard, really useful. Dwight Howard still has no range and no moves. Last year's playoffs demonstrated that he is deadly from five feet and closer, but if teams can force his catches further away from the basket, he is a non-contributor. He is also woefully immature as a team leader, a problem on an Orlando squad lacking team discipline. Thrown-in the Vince Carter deal, Cal product Ryan Anderson has been terrific, averaging nearly eleven points in a mere nineteen minutes.

The bottom of the East is so bad that it appears as many as three sub .500 clubs could make the playoffs. The Milwaukee Bucks have cooled off after rookie Brandon Jennings' electrifying start to the season. The Bobcats appear poised under veteran carpetbagger Larry Brown to hang around the edges of the playoff race. The Bulls are underachieving and inconsistent in their focus and offense. The Pacers missing their best player Danny Granger, but may be developing something for the future. Rookie Tyler Hansbrough, from the University of North Carolina, has been getting more minutes and been producing with them. Last night he had a career high 21 points. Indy has also been getting production of late out of 7 foot Georgetown alum, second year player, Roy Hibbert. These bottom feeders along with Le Bullet and the Knicks should be grasping for that final playoff spot and the right to get swept by the Celtics in the first round.

The 2009-10 Nets will not challenge the Sixers 9 up and 73 down all-time NBA record for suckatation. There are too many other bad teams and the boys from East Rutherford are gradually getting healthy. They have, however, already imploded their chances at signing LeBron. And, the Clarion Content would still bet they never play a home game in Brooklyn.

It should be noted that we can hardly get a handle on the Atlanta Hawks. The have a passel full of talent. The have Bob Knight disciple Coach Mike Woodson running the show. Could they be for real? They are off to a strong 16 up and 6 down start.

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98 year old charged with murder 

From the files of truth trumps fiction, comes a wild story out of Dartmouth, Massachusetts. Prosecutors believe that Laura Lundquist is the oldest person ever charged with murder in Massachusetts. Lundquist, who suffers from dementia, claimed the 100 year old victim had been trying to takeover the nursing home bedroom they shared. Lundquist had moved a bed side table in their quarters to block her roommates path to the bathroom. She attacked a nurses aide who moved the table back to its original position.

According to the Boston Globe, "The defendant made statements prior to the victim's death that she would get the victim's bed by the window because she was going to outlive her." The 100 year old victim, Elizabeth Barrow, was reportedly healthy, friendly, and vigorous, a proud 5-foot-2 grandmother of three, who was still strong enough to walk on her own and aware enough to read two books a week.

Brandon Woods Nursing Home staff found her body at 6:20 a.m. under a bed sheet with a plastic bag tied loosely around her head. Initially it was thought that she committed suicide, but the results of an autopsy by the medical examiner found that Barrow had been the victim of "asphyxia due to strangulation and suffocation."


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Thursday, December 10, 2009

NASA selecting a new patch 

NASA challenged its past and present space program workers to design an emblem to mark the end of the space shuttle era in a contest that ended December 1st. They are now going through the nearly 100 entries received, including a few by those who rode one of the shuttles to space. There are only five shuttle flights remaining. The shuttle program began back in 1981. Over the years, fourteen astronauts have lost their lives on shuttle missions.

Check out a couple of cool entries here.

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"We don't need no stinkin' allies. Or rather we have them..."

Apparently, the Obama rhetoric isn't as from that of King George II as one might have thought.

"Because this is an international effort, I have asked that our commitment be joined by contributions from our allies. Some have already provided additional troops, and we are confident that there will be further contributions in the days and weeks ahead..."

Is this what President Obama meant? According to the Yonhap News Agency, "South Korea finalized its plan Tuesday to deploy up to 350 troops to Afghanistan for two and a half years to assist U.S.-led efforts to fight insurgency and rebuild the Central Asian country."

Wow that is awesome! Talk about Bush-like! America sends 35,000 troops, and its stalwart ally South Korea sends 350 troops. Its not like America has spent the last 50 plus years with its troops deployed to protect a (less than?) grateful South Korea.

Is it simply that South Korea much more clearly recognizes the futility of the mission?

Yonhap reports, "The plan, finalized after a Cabinet meeting presided over by President Lee Myung-bak, came after U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates visited Seoul in October for annual security talks between the allies...The initial contingent will be made of 320 troops, ministry policy director Jang Gwang-il told reporters, adding 30 more could be sent if needed."


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Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Channeling Sam Bowie 

Greg Oden continued this week, if you will forgive the pun, dear readers, down a trail blazed by former Portland center, Sam Bowie. Oden's injury plagued career, following a dubious drafting ahead of a more talented, but smaller player, parallels Bowie's career thus far. Oden was selected ahead of the scoring sensation of the Zombie Sonics, Kevin Durant. Bowie was selected ahead of the six time title winner, Michael Jordan.

Oden missed rookie season after undergoing microfracture surgery on his right knee. Last year Oden missed six games after injuring his right foot in the season opener, then was out for 14 games after the All-Star break with a bone chip in his left knee. Oden like Bowie showed warning signs of being injury prone in college. (His legs aren't the same length, for goodness sake!)

Bowie had missed two full seasons at Kentucky with a stress fracture in his left shinbone. After being drafted second by the Blazers, behind Olajuwon and ahead of Jordan, he played most of his rookie season before severe and repeated leg injuries limited Bowie to only 63 games over the next three seasons.

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Census advice 

One of our Pennsylvania sources sent us some advice about dealing with the 2010 United States Census. It has already gotten underway in some places and is set to get going across the country. This advice comes from the Better Business Bureau, and the Clarion Content has verified it is legit.

"With the U.S. Census process beginning, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) advises people to be cooperative, but cautious, so as not to become a victim of fraud or identity theft. The first phase of the 2010 U.S. Census is under way as workers have begun verifying the addresses of households across the country. Eventually, more than 140,000 U.S. Census workers will count every person in the United States and will gather information about every person living at each address including name, age, gender, race, and other relevant data. The big question is - how do you tell the difference between a U.S. Census worker and a con artist? BBB offers the following advice:

** If a U.S. Census worker knocks on your door, they will have a badge, a handheld device, a Census Bureau canvas bag, and a confidentiality notice. Ask to see their identification and their badge before answering their questions. However, you should never invite anyone you don?t know into your home.

** Census workers are currently only knocking on doors to verify address information. Do not give your Social Security number, credit card or banking information to anyone, even if they claim they need it for the U.S. Census. While the Census Bureau might ask for basic financial information, such as a salary range, it will not ask for Social Security, bank account, or credit card numbers nor will employees solicit donations.

Eventually, Census workers may contact you by telephone, mail, or in person at home. However, they will not contact you by Email, so be on the lookout for Email scams impersonating the Census. Never click on a link or open any attachments in an Email that are supposedly from the U.S. Census Bureau."

All makes good sense to us. Be cautious with your personal information, answer no more than the basic questions. Never give out your social security number, bank account info or credit card info to a anonymous stranger!


Saturday, December 05, 2009

Unfortunate Timing 

Golf Digest either timed it perfect or totally wrong depending on your perspective about publicity. If any publicity is good publicity, than they got it just right. If the content matters, they could not have been more off with their Photoshopped cover this month.

"Ten things President Obama can learn from Tiger Woods" Indeed!

Of course the issue went to press just before Tiger had his accident and the scandal broke. It was too late to change it or pull the cover.

Just a sidenote on how ridiculously out of whack modern America's sense of timing is, this is the cover of the January 2010 Golf Digest, and it was too late to do anything about it during the last week of November! This message brought to you by the society that couldn't be more out ahead of itself in a rush to nowhere: Christmas music and decorations starting just after Halloween... Black Friday store openings gradually creeping forward year by year from 6am to 5.30am to 5am... 2010 model cars on sale in September 2009

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Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Hope Fades 

President Obama's decision to send even more troops to Afghanistan (to be announced Tuesday night, against his own ambassador's recommendation) sends a loud and clear signal to the Clarion Content; more of the same. A real change in America's wayward direction will require a much more radical change in leadership.

Critics of those who voted for Ralph Nader for President in 2000 and/or 2004; what say you now?

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Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Facebook contact a violation 

The Clarion Content is fascinated by the lines drawn in and around the new world of social networking. We recently discovered that, as it turns out, one can be arrested for violating an order of protection by making Facebook contact. In a Tennessee case, which originally came to our attention via ABC news, a woman, Shannon Jackson of Hendersonville, Tenn., was arrested for violating a legal order of protection that had been previously filed against her when she sent a Facebook "poke" to another woman. Amazingly the judge ordered her arrest when the only basis for documenting the contact was a printed screen grab.

Violating an order of protection in Tennessee is a Class A misdemeanor that can be punished with up to 11 months, 29 days of incarceration. Even if the woman wins her case, she will be saddled with the expense of retaining a lawyer. ABC quotes an expert from the Stanford Law School's Center for Internet & Society, "Although 'poking' is a somewhat passive and new form of technology-enabled correspondence, it is still a form of communication restricted by a protective order."

The times, they are in flux.

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LPGA members 

The Clarion Content has been generally following the story of the LPGA tours collapse. We knew that they had fired their commissioner. We knew that they had lost a significant number of tournaments from next year's schedule. (They have lost nearly 30% of the events from the 2009 schedule.) We see LPGA golf as the vanguard of wider teetering of revenue streams and value across the sports world. If we are right, athletes everywhere should beware, and put a few dollars in the bank. Much of our previous discussion of sport's economics in an era of cratering balance sheets had been about ownership's losses and vulnerabilities.

We just recently saw an article about LPGA tour pros in the New York Times that made us sit-up and take notice. The article was about Reilley Rankin, a LPGA tour pro who earned more than $400,000 a mere two years ago. Last year Rankin wasn't even breaking even on her expenses. She earned about $73k as the 100th player on the tour's money list. Of course, the competitive pressure to score well and finish high was intensified tremendously. She needed financial help from her family to finish the year. The same issue has occurred for a number of other golfers according to the New York Times, including Jamie Hullett who is working in her family's store to help make ends meet. Male golfers have to-date been insulated. The number 100 player on the men's PGA tour, Ted Purdy earned $838k. (Feminism's work is clearly not yet completed.)

The LPGA has been decimated by the loss of advertising revenue and sponsorship. Baseball, basketball, NASCAR, and cycling to name but a few have been facing smaller, but similar troubles. Just as the financial woes of the LPGA have bled through to its players, chances are these other sports will see the same thing occur.

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Who's got next? 

The Clarion Content has been hearing some fascinating speculation about who might be the next Republican Presidential candidate. Of course, President Barack Obama has yet to even complete his first year in office, so it is awfully early to ponder. It is only Obama's wafer thin stack of accomplishments that has discussion brewing this soon.

The two most interesting names reflect a trend, one that started long before Obama and Sarah Palin, but a trend that they most definitely epitomize. In the quest for the presidency today, it is far more important to be telegenic than to be substantial. In that same vein, two names that are being thrown around as potential Republican nominees are (former) television commentators, Lou Dobbs, of CNN fame, and Glenn Beck, of the ostensibly fair and balanced Fox News.

Dobbs appeared on former senator and previous candidate for the Republican Presidential nomination, Fred Thompson's radio show. Dobbs was asked, "Have you given any thought for running for President?"

"Yes, is the answer," was his response.

The National Post of Canada reported, "Mr. Dobbs' spokesman, Robert Dillenschneider, said there was no timeline for announcing a decision." However, Dillenschneider did say, "People have always said Lou Dobbs had a bigger, brighter future. But he was very committed to CNN while he was there. He never really thought about running until the day after he left when people started coming to him."

Dobbs carries with him the baggage of all the rhetoric he spewed on the air. His rants against immigration carried with them a particularly dark vitriol and malevolence.

Dobbs has also yet to rule out challenging first term incumbent Democratic Senator Bob Menendez for his New Jersey seat in 2012.

Mr. Beck, who shares Mr. Dobbs hatred of dark skinned foreigners, has yet to make any kind of definitive statement. The New Times reports, "[Beck] says he will promote voter registration drives and sponsor a series of conventions across the country featuring conservative speakers, all leading up to a rally in Washington, D.C. in August."

It also quoted Grover Norquist, who is the president of Americans for Tax Reform, “They [TV personalities like Beck] are spokesmen for a movement that you can see emerging."

The Clarion Content agrees. While it is far from clear that either Glenn Beck or Lou Dobbs have what it takes to seize the Republican Presidential nomination, the rumblings from their camps are symbolic. An ineffective (thus far) President Obama has a small window in which to improve his performance before the speculation about his imminent replacement intensifies significantly.

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