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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Drinking the Nets Kool-Aid 

A nice icy cold glass of Kool-Aid from Nets management to their fans...

We hate to skewer the Nets just as they hit the high point of their season. All right, that's a line, as Knicks supporters, the Nets are the archenemy, and we don't hate it at all. Why is it the high point of the Nets season? Well, short of opening night, this is as good as it has gotten for the Nets. Yesterday they beat the number three team in the Eastern Conference to get to 6 up and 52 down.

We at the Clarion Content, as Knicks fans, have always viewed the Nets as provincial upstarts. They are not as threatening as the Devils, mind you, but they are gnats irritating the NY area's NBA king. Jay-Z might be a part-owner, but nobody raps about the Nets. They were doomed when they lost Dr. J. We knew this season was destined to be a joke for the Nets when they offered in a ticket promotion to send Brook Lopez to your kid's Bar Mitzvah, and/or send Yi Jianlian to your company picnic. Anyone this side of Bill Veeck would be cringing painfully at the idea of renting out major league players for free appearances.

Despite that, even we did not expect the Nets to be this bad. They are historically awful! Even with the win yesterday against the Celtics, they are still on pace to break the record for the worst NBA season ever. What is so galling to the Knicks fans on our staff, is the Nets absolute refusal to come to terms with it, to accept just how bad they are and how bad things are going to be. Nope, Nets management just keeps passing around the Kool-Aid Jim Jones style and Nets fans keep swigging it down. The examples are legion.

The Brooklyn arena nonsense predates this season. But despite wild claims by an owner now nearly broken by the real-estate market, Bruce Ratner, the Nets are still playing in the Meadowlands parking lot, in the glorious Brendon Byrne arena. Wait, what about next year? Oh, yes, next year they will become the number two tenant in a downtown Newark arena built for hockey's Devils. Ask any NJ/NY metro area denizen about the ease of getting from Newark to Brooklyn... Despite the distance factor, the reality is Chicago to Des Moines is simpler and quicker. At the Clarion Content, we have yet to see developments that convince us that the Nets will ever play in Brooklyn. The billionaire Russian nickel magnet helps, but unless eminent domain is used Kremlin style he is not going to be enough to get the Atlantic Yards stadium done.

Nor is the tall billionaire going to be enough to bring the Nets fans their wildest fantasy, LeBron. Seriously, LeBron is going to come to Newark? Maybe if the Fugees were still together, but money break groups up like the Five Heartbeats. LeBron is destined for a bigger time franchise, sorry Nets fans. No matter how much salary cap room you have, no LeBron, and oh by the way, no D-Wade either. He is not leaving South Beach for Newark. Maybe you get Chris Bosh, Nets fans, if you are lucky. It is cash and cache that bring big free agents to town. Jay-Z prolly gettin ready to sell his piece a your hoopty and buy into a better team.

Then last week, as if all that craziness weren't enough, in the midst of the worst NBA season ever, the Nets started floating ludicrous and perhaps certifiably insane coaching rumors. They fired Lawrence Frank earlier this year and replaced him with clueless and seemingly unmotivated Kiki Vandeweghe. They started with Rick Pitno, currently at Louisville. Pul-leeze! He might be itching to get back into the NBA some day after his previous unsuccessful dalliances with the Knicks and the Celts, but again, not with your franchise, no matter how bad the tabletop publicity he has been getting has been. He shot the story down publicly almost immediately.

So the Nets people, believing if they won't buy the small lie, perhaps the really big one will sell, launched a Mike Krzyzewski coaching rumor. Ha! He is leaving Duke for the Nets, really? You have a better chance of Red Aurebach coaching the Nets some day. Krzyzewski barely bothered to address the rumor since no one outside of East Rutherford bought it anyway.

There were no big moves for the Nets at the trade deadline. They are stuck with what they have. So put the Kool-Aid chalice down, Nets fans, even the Knicks are better than that, and in fact, at their worst the Knicks did not bottom out this badly.

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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Arrested for doodling 

The story sounds unbelievable, but it is a true tale of zero tolerance gone awry. Credit to one of Durham sharp outgoing females for sending this story the Clarion Content's way. Here goes. 12-year-old Alexa Gonzalez was arrested for doodling on her school desk. No curse words. No hate. She wrote, "I love my friends Abby and Faith. Lex was here 2/1/10 :)" with a green marker.

Surely vandalism. Surely the kind of thing that a kid she should get in trouble for and learn is wrong. Meritorious of a trip to the principal office and some detention, maybe even a suspension for a repeat offender, but that is not what happened in Forest Hills, New York.

There the obviously deranged principal called the cops on a kid who had never been in trouble with the school system. He had her hands cuffed behind her back, and tears gushed as she was escorted from school by the police in front of teachers and her classmates. Off the record several teachers from the school told news outlets, "it was a mistake."

Unfortunately, according to the CNN story it is a mistake that is becoming all too common. Zero tolerance policies across the country have school administrators calling in the cops at the drop of a hat. CNN reports that in 1998, New York City placed school security officers under jurisdiction of the New York City Police Department creating the the NY Police Department's School Safety Division. Today, that department has more employees than New York City schools have guidance counselors. Ridiculous.

And this wrong headed approach has consequences. Students shunted into the criminal justice system early are far more likely to remain there. Expulsion leads to life long consequences that all of society pays the price for. The cops are not the answer to discipline problems in America's schools. Parents and communities need to take responsibility and intervene long before it is necessary to involve the cops and the courts.

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Friday, February 26, 2010

The Friday Night E-mail shutdown 

The Clarion Content has observed a phenomenon at our offices and in the personal lives of our staff. We call it The "Friday night e-mail shutdown," though it goes on for the whole weekend. We want to ask you, dear readers, is it as pervasive for you as it is for us?

In our little corner of the world, the weekend nearly brings to a halt email communication. We are deluged all week. People expect responses to emails within hours, if not minutes. Then suddenly just after about 6pm Eastern, there is an abrupt and fairly complete drop off to our email traffic, from heavy to near nil. Even the folks who usually reply in five minutes all week, disappear.

Is this true for you, too?

There are probably a couple of phenomenons at work here. One is texting. Social planning of a rapid and semi-spontaneous nature is far easier via text than e-mail. Two is Facebook, a far more social milieu than e-mail (The Clarion Content does not Facebook, but so we hear.) Perhaps a third, is that people who spend so much time working in front of their computer all week are ready to get out from in front of a computer by the weekend, to leave it behind, like letting go the shackles of work itself. We have various friends of the Clarion Content who we know fall into that category. Email even more than computing in general seems to be associated with work and obligation. Many emails are requests for one to do something. Respond or react to something. Have an opinion on something. Sign a petition on something. Action and doing required. Effort.

What say you, dear readers? Are you reading this column on a Monday having spent the weekend away from your computer and email?

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Check it out for real 

This question pictured above is posed by a billboard along I-35 near Wyoming, Minnesota. It is not exactly the center of civilization when one gets to the point in Minnesota where they start naming towns after Wyoming.

According to National Public Radio the push is on to find out who paid to have it put up. The hope is that this will resolve the debate about the billboard's message. Surely, it is ironic?

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Monday, February 22, 2010


The best perspective we have heard yet on the Tiger Woods saga came out this afternoon. Asked for a comment on the Tiger Woods press conference today by the Associated Press, his holiness, the Dalai Lama said, "I'm sorry, who?" And then the silly-ass A.P. reporter had to explain just who the hell Tiger Woods was to the Dalai Lama.

Now there's a perspective!

After having the situation explained, the Dalai Lama dished a little wisdom. "All religions have the same idea [about adultery] ...Self-discipline with awareness of consequences."

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Update: The Falkland Islands 

We always wondered why that war happened. And suddenly, we have an inkling. As it always is, the Benjamins were at the root of the equation. Argentina invaded the Falklands in 1982, before Britain seized back control in a short war that cost the lives of 649 Argentine and 255 British service personnel. This week an explanation for the war better than we had ever heard before surfaced.

Desire Petroleum towed an oil rig to the Falkland Islands over the last several weeks. The oil rig was towed over 8,000 miles from Scotland to the Atlantic Ocean's deep waters off the coast of South America. The BBC reports that the Falklands have the equivalent of 60 billion barrels of oil in total. Only a fraction is currently commercially extractable. Argentina says the move violates its sovereignty, but it has already ruled out renewed military action and is trying to pressure Britain into negotiations.

The Falklands Legislative Assembly, which sold the license to explore for oil to Desire Petroleum, asserted that it had "every right" to develop "legitimate business" in off-shore oil.

The United Kingdom's Foreign Secretary said British oil exploration in the area was "completely in accordance with international law".

The Brits damp squib of a Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, also said the British government had "made all the preparations that are necessary to make sure the Falkland Islanders are properly protected."

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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Your school did what? 

This is one of those stories that is hard to believe even after one reads it. The Lower Merion School District of Ardmore, Pennsylvania has supplied more than 1,800 of its students with laptop computers. It didn't tell the students that the district had the ability to remotely activate webcams in the laptops and photograph students in their homes and bedrooms.

The jig was up when Assistant Principal Lindy Matsko of Harriton High School asserted publicly that student Blake Robbins had been "engaging in improper behavior in his home." Her evidence was photographs taken of the student remotely by the district's secret laptop embedded camera. Needless to say, Robbins' parents sued the school district. The lawsuit alleges, "many of the images captured and intercepted may consist of images of minors and their parents or friends in compromising or embarrassing positions, including, but not limited to, in various stages of dress or undress."

Tech News World reports the school district has rapidly backpedaled. "The district has now deactivated the feature, however, and has no plans to reactivate it "without express written notification to all students and families," wrote Superintendent Christopher McGinley in a statement issued on Thursday."

No kidding? Suddenly it has dawned on them that it was not a good idea to be secretly photographing high school kids in their homes? Didn't anybody in the district see "American Pie?"

Privacy lawyer, Parry Aftab, told Tech News World, "I have seen Trojan horses used by stalkers so they could turn on webcams remotely, but this is the first time I've ever heard of a school with the audacity to do something like this. There are criminal trespassing laws possibly at work here, and maybe wiretapping as well. This is not Nazi Germany or Cold War Russia... They have no authority over what students do in their own homes."

It is amazing that nobody in the district saw this coming. How could it not be obvious what a bad idea this was? It just goes to show how much American's general expectations of privacy have eroded. School administrators thought that this was good policy.

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Zebra runs amok in the ATL 

This is where and how circus zebra's live

"Zebra runs amok in the ATL"
We are by no means f*ing with you, dear readers, that was indeed the headline out of Atlanta this afternoon. Our pop culture editor, a radical Gaian, is always telling the rest of the staff that the zoo is animal jail. They think of it as the clink, the pokey, the cell block. In his view, the circus is an even lower form of routine, more akin to a chain gang. Today one of the zebras made a break from the Man. In its case, the man was Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

The story is thus. The circus was in Atlanta. The zebra got loose from his handler and made a break for it. Cue wild goose chase scene now! And, bingo. The Atlanta Constitution Journal quotes Daniel Nance, "All of a sudden, a freaking zebra comes running down the street like a car. Five or six police cars were in hot pursuit. And a bunch of officers on foot."

For real. The boundaries of possible and real events are unimaginably large, and the number of events verges on the infinite, ergo things can and do happen.

The ATL-CJ continues, "Prapik Jani saw the animal jogging along Baker Street a half mile away next to Centennial Olympic Park. Jani...looked outside and saw an African creature running down the pavement. "It was wild," Jani said. "I thought I was seeing things."

Jani said there were "a bunch" of police on bicycles chasing after the zebra."

Reportedly the zebra was cornered in the parking area by the Richard B. Russell Federal Building, which is near the CNN Center and NBA Atlanta Hawks' Philips Arena.

Circus trainers were walking with the zebra when it started to charge again, dragging one of the trainers momentarily before it took off, in another bid for freedom, running across the railroad tracks and through a gate. One of the trainers was holding on to the zebra as it ran through the gate, but subsequently bounced loose as the zebra headed first for a nearby underground tunnel, and then up the block to a freeway entrance ramp. According to the Constitution Journal, "[he] was finally captured on the interstate near the Grady curve. According to witnesses, he was galloping between lanes of traffic on the Downtown Connector before his capture."

When a creature yearns to be free, say what, say what, anything can happen.

Read the Atlanta Constitution Journal's whole account here.

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A very different picture 

When our lead political editor was a Cold War kid, this picture consisted of three white males, every year, year, after year. The picture has changed for sure. Has America come as far down the road? Surveys of racism indicate that it has declined. The pollsters believe our attitudes toward women have changed, too. Do we believe them? Have moved as far forward as a society as the picture makes it look like we have?

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Spy Car, a toy? 

Shopping for Junior?

The flying cars they promised us as children have yet to show up in reality. But dang if the toys haven't gotten better and more fascinating than we could possibly have imagined in our youth, case in point.

Wild Planet Entertainment Inc. is debuting this week the Spy Video Trakr, a remote controlled robotic car which includes a night-vision video camera, speakers and route-mapping feature. Oh yes, dear readers, you can cause a lot of trouble with toy like that. CEO Daniel Grossman knows it and relishes in it.

He told the Wall Street Journal,"A kid can program the Trakr to snap a picture of his sister talking on the phone when she is supposed to be doing homework, then drive the car to his parents and rat her out with a pre-recorded message." Wow! Not only is the remote controlled car pre-equipped as a spying device but it is programmable, so it can be adjusted to do even more. Does this thing have military applications or what? Or perhaps is it already borrowing technology from existing military applications, like the pilotless drones killing in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Real night vision binoculars are already available as a kid's toy, those with a range of fifty feet retail for $59. According to the Journal, Wild Planet has already made available for download a night-vision feature on the car's remote control LCD color screen to see the car as it maneuvers in the dark.

Wild Planet Entertainment is not the only toy company making available toys that ape the trend magnified by the i-Phone, reprogramming, building your own applications. The Wall Street Journal article cites, "Robonica Ltd., a South Africa-based toy robot company, recently debuted Roboni-i, a remote-controlled two-wheeled robot that has a Web site and comes with software that enables users to rewrite the robot's basic's instructions."

The future of toys is upon us.

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Local Music 

Durhamanians and other scattered Clarion Content readers, check it out!!!

We have got some super sweet, local (soon to be global) music for you. The video was shot on location in Durham, NC. Special thanks to the members of Odd Crew productions for sending it our way.

LiLa, the first release from their self-titled album...

"Out with a bang"

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Monday, February 15, 2010

Baseball is coming 

“People ask me what I do in the winter when there's no baseball. I'll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for Spring.”
Rogers Hornsby

Link to Spring Training start dates here.

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Sunday, February 14, 2010


United, but for how long?

The European Union is probably ruing its successive expansions today. From the once six member coal buying cooperative that was supposed to align France and Germany, the EU, then the European Coal and Steel Community, has expanded into a massive and unwieldy conglomeration of states doing a messy sort of intergovernmentalism dance. Issues of control and sovereignty are unclear and got worse recently with the passage of the Lisbon Treaty. A document that creates a parallel hierarchy within an area that already has way more bureaucracy than it needs.

The crisis of the moment for the European Union is the Greek economy. The Greek government, which faced severe riots last year, is in trouble again. Habitually allowing your citizens to cheat the tax man, along with having a retirement age of 58 for full pension will tend to scramble the finances. Greece worsened the problem by lying about it until the very last minute, keeping unpaid bills off of the books. The question is now whether Germany and France will let Greece face sovereign debt default or intervene. Most commentators are arguing intervention will come in time to stop default, even if it is through gritted teeth. Germany raised its own retirement age to 67 and cannot be very happy paying for Greeks to retire nine years younger.

The elephant in the closet is what does this mean for the rest of Europe. Without a much stronger political union continued bailouts are unsustainable, the citizens of the richer member states simply will not put up with them. Greece is only first on the list of those needing bailed out. Similar problems, profligacy combined with state sponsored financial shenanigans abound in Italy, Spain and Portugal. The problems are long-term and structural, too much black market economy, too much corruption, declining populations and a lack of governmental will leading to stasis and gridlock. This is to say nothing of the newest members of the EU, though not the currency union, Romania and Bulgaria, who's scale of governmental corruption and economic decay mimic more closely the worst economies of Latin America, rather than the best of Europe.


Saturday, February 13, 2010


The Clarion Content has been hearing for sometime about the likelihood of an NFL lockout for the 2011 season. It is only recently that we heard about the threat of the same from the NBA. We have been saying the American sports industry was going to get its comeuppance for some time. A double lockout in two of America's three biggest sports, that sounds about like the sports armageddon that we have been forecasting.

Bill Simmons, our favorite sports columnist, has been warning for a while that many NBA franchises are bleeding cash. The Clarion Content's own analysis and research supports Simmons conclusions. There are just not enough fannies in the seats. America's biggest professional sports, especially the NBA and NFL, made this problem for themselves by raising outrageously the prices of their individual game tickets. (Note: of late baseball teams, led by the Yankees and Red Sox, have been following suit.) These ticket prices are ostensibly a sustainable model in the NFL, fans after getting soaked for their personal seat licenses, only have to pay for 11 or so home games, including the preseason. In basketball, fans are expected to pay for 41 homes games. The NBA knew that they were pricing out the average fan, and they did not care. They thought that they would be able sustain sales though corporate ticket purchases.

They did not anticipate the economic reckoning that has come to America. Corporations are no longer dishing out big bucks for sporting events, whether we are talking about sponsorships or season tickets. The NBA is paying an enormous price. They are willing to admit publicly that ticket revenues are down 8-9% year-to-date. This means they are likely much worse off in some cities. As Simmons says, you can see the Monet paintings in the crowd shots behind the basket. (Empty seats create an impressionistic hue.)

The NBA must have started to come to terms with this reality. Commissioner David Stern, interviewed yesterday on the BS Report, didn't blanch at the subject of contraction. He said he hoped to avoid it, but hardly ruled it out. That was a huge shock to the Clarion Content, even if it was negotiation related posturing. Although the collective bargaining agreement is good through the end of next season rather than this one, the NBA submitted an initial proposal to the Players Union this week, just in time for their annual player representative meeting at the NBA All-Star Game in Dallas.

The proposal is jaw-dropping. It offers up draconian measures: minimum salary would be reduced by as much as 20 per cent, the total value of a maximum contract for a veteran would drop below $60 million (less than half of its current level), contracts would only be 50% guaranteed as opposed to the 100% guarantee they have now, there would also be a hard salary cap that teams could not violate (no more Bird rule, no more mid-level exemption), and first-round draft picks would have their salaries cut by about one-third. Those are across the board cuts exempting no one.

Three years ago we would never have seen the players accepting anywhere near close to that offer. Now? Will there be a lockout? Contraction? A settlement? Neither side can go long without income. The current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires July 1, 2011.

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Intense Weather 

He is not the only one wondering, "What's up with the weather?"

As the Clarion Content wrote last week on the front page, extreme weather is a part of a trend of increased global weather turbulence; from the snowstorms that have been dumping on the Eastern seaboard, to the massive rainstorms and deadly accompanying mudslides in Southern California. This weather is an an outcome of global warming scientists have long anticipated. A warmer planet is a planet with more turbulent weather, weather turbulence means bigger, more intense storms of all sorts, mostly because polar ice cap melting has significantly increased the amount of moisture in the atmosphere.

The signs of warming are everywhere. It is not just the extreme weather. One of the early advocates of population control, localized economy and an awareness of global warming, Bill McKibben writes in the Washington Post today, "in the mountains of the Northeast, for instance, lakes freeze later than they used to, and sometimes not at all: Lake Champlain remained open in winter only three times during the 19th century, but it did so 18 times between 1970 and 2007." So while the American South is getting slugged with snow, other formerly colder locales are getting unseasonably warm weather.

McKibben notes that cross-country skiing races in the Green Mountains of Vermont have been canceled. Canada has been trucking snow into Vancouver, the site of the Winter Olympics. Despite that logistical effort, it was just announced this morning that the men's downhill skiing competition at the Vancouver Olympics has been postponed indefinitely due to slushy conditions.

As we have noted, not all the impacts of warming are bad or harmful for humans, but those who deny the existence of climate change are on more intellectually specious ground every day. As the Clarion Content advocated last week, the focus of the debate must shift to what are the impacts of global warming and which of those impacts it is costs effective to attempt to ameliorate.

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Friday, February 12, 2010


The Clarion Content happened across two articles that traipsed down the same path but came from very different views about the right and the left of American politics. (Please don't let label confusion trip you up, the spectrum is as broad as the population is diverse.)

One of the articles was on the BBC News website, the other was on the Washington Post site. Both attempt to trace why and how politicians of the left and right appeal to their constituencies. The BBC article, as one might assume, is written from a view sympathetic to the left. Somewhat more surprisingly the Washington Post is from the right. It is a feature is written by Gerard Alexander an associate professor of politics at the University of Virginia. It is part of a lecture he is delivering called, "Do Liberals Know Best? Intellectual Self-Confidence and the Claim to a Monopoly on Knowledge." He is coming from quite a different perspective than the BBC.

It is interesting though that both news organizations chose now to publish articles on the subject. The parallels within the articles fascinate. For example both use the historian Richard Hofstadter to set the scene for the left's perception of the right. In the BBC article titled, "Why do people vote against their own interests?" Hofstadter is paraphrased describing the mixture used to win on the right,"'the paranoid style' of American politics, in which God, guns and race get mixed into a toxic stew of resentment at anything coming out of Washington."

The BBC wants to explain why the right thinks and behaves the way it does.

Professor Alexander in the Washington Post believes it is the unfair labeling of the right done by the left that has coarsened the debate and diminished the conversation. He, too, cites Hofstadter, "the Manichaean style of thought, the apocalyptic tendencies, the love of mystification, the intolerance of compromise that are observable in the right-wing mind."

Both authors cite the use of the phrase Bolshevik plot to describe the Democrats health care plans. The BBC says
But it is striking that the people who most dislike the whole idea of healthcare reform - the ones who think it is socialist, godless, a step on the road to a police state - are often the ones it seems designed to help.

In Texas, where barely two-thirds of the population have full health insurance and over a fifth of all children have no cover at all, opposition to the legislation is currently running at 87%.
Professor Alexander retorts,
Many Democrats describe their troubles simply as a PR challenge, a combination of conservative misinformation -- as when Obama charges that critics of health-care reform are peddling fake fears of a "Bolshevik plot" -- and the country's failure to grasp great liberal accomplishments.
The parallels of the two pieces don't end there. Both articles cite books by Drew Western and Thomas Frank. The BBC gives them far more play, quoting a Bush-Gore debate excerpt from Western's book that shows the village idiot Bush "aw shucks" style paralleled versus the wooden, wonkish Gore. Bush dumbs down the issue to make his point and in the court of public opinion win the argument.

The BBC buys Franks's proposition about how this works when it says,
The Republicans have learnt how to stoke up resentment against the patronizing liberal elite, all those do-gooders who assume they know what poor people ought to be thinking.

Right-wing politics has become a vehicle for channelling this popular anger against intellectual snobs. The result is that many of America's poorest citizens have a deep emotional attachment to a party that serves the interests of its richest.
And then it quotes from Frank about the vicious cycle he perceives on the right,
"You vote to strike a blow against elitism and you receive a social order in which wealth is more concentrated than ever before in our life times, workers have been stripped of power, and CEOs are rewarded in a manner that is beyond imagining."
Fascinatingly Professor Alexander makes essentially the same argument in the Washington Post. The only difference? The BBC thinks Frank is correct. The professor thinks Frank is belittling right-wing voters and their reasoning.
"...liberal condescension, exemplified in Thomas Frank's best-selling 2004 book, What's the Matter With Kansas? Frank argued that working-class voters were so distracted by issues such as abortion that they were induced into voting against their own economic interests. Then-Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, later chairman of the Democratic National Committee, echoed that theme in his 2004 presidential run, when he said Republicans had succeeded in getting Southern whites to focus on "guns, God and gays" instead of economic redistribution."
Their conclusions, despite their different takes on the narratives offered by the left to discern the right, are startlingly similar. Both authors see wellsprings of populism shooting up in America. Both see virulent anger and a distaste for intellectual elitism. The BBC says,
"the ultimate sin in modern politics is appearing to take the voters for granted.

This is a culture war but it is not simply being driven by differences over abortion, or religion, or patriotism. And it is not simply Red states vs. Blue states any more. It is a war on the entire political culture, on the arrogance of politicians, on their slipperiness and lack of principle, on their endless deal making and compromises.

And when the politicians say to the people protesting: 'But we're doing this for you', that just makes it worse. In fact, that seems to be what makes them angriest of all."
Professor Alexander addresses the issue of race that BBC omits. He almost has to, as the right feels compelled to explain away the en masse shift of the American South from the Democratic column to the Republican. The professor's not very convincing answer is that polls show racism has declined, and Obama won. Those who read the quotes of the Joe Sixpack in the South before the last presidential election will find those arguments a bit hard to swallow.

Professor Alexander cites Jay Leno's man on the street interviews and asks if one really believes that Jay only interviews people from the right, of course not is his conclusion. Yet Alexander says the left dismisses the right as if that were so. He cites everyone from John Stewart to the Daily Kos to the Obama White House as being willing to label the right wing and dismissively ignore their policy proposals. Unfortunately, he is reluctant to admit that the right does the same, claiming rather, "A few conservative voices may say that all liberals are always wrong, but these tend to be relatively marginal figures or media gadflies such as Glenn Beck."

Still he sounds an important warning in his conclusion, one the Clarion Content firmly believes is important to heed,"Perhaps the most important conservative insight being depreciated is the durable warning from free-marketeers that government programs often fail to yield what their architects intend...Even liberals should think twice about the prospect of decisions on innovative surgeries, light bulbs and carbon quotas being directed by legislators grandstanding for the cameras."

Link to the BBC article here. Link to the Washington Post article here.

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Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Brrrrrrrr... Cold 

Unfortunately for one unknown stowaway the external airborne temperature of Delta Flight 59 from New York to Tokyo's Narita Airport often drops as low as -50C during flight. The Guardian of the UK reported that a long sleeve plaid shirt and jeans were not warm enough to survive the trip for one mysterious male rider who was found inside one of the landing gear compartments dead-on-arrival. A mechanic discovered the body during routine maintenance checks. The body, which has not been identified, has no visible signs of injury save for frostbite.


Sunday, February 07, 2010

Super Bowl ratings 

The last time the Nielsen's were updated this was a cutting edge color TV

A savvy, local, Durham painter made an interesting comment to the Clarion Content's editor the other day. He said that he thought this might be the highest rated Super Bowl ever. The analysis behind his argument was tight. The mid-Atlantic Snowmageddon snowstorm guaranteed a huge chunk of the country is a captive audience. It also means that in that region far fewer folks will be watching collectively at sports bars and other peoples' houses.

Long time readers of the Clarion Content know that we have been highly critical of the Nielsen ratings for ages for just this reason. The Nielsen's are a monopoly and have not been pressed to get better. This flaw has existed for ages and they have ignored it. The biggest television spectacles and especially sporting events tend to be watched collectively, the Oscars and the Super Bowl are the classic examples. The Nielsen's in no way account for this. They continually underrate the viewing audiences for these events by counting television sets, not eyeballs. They do not account for sports bars. The Nielsen's are wildly wrong during the NCAA tournament and every Sunday of the NFL season.

We agree with our local painter, this Super Bowl could be the highest rated Super Bowl ever by Nielsen. But will that really mean more people watched it?

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Break-up the Kings? 

Kings leading scorer Anze Kopitar

The Clarion Content has never seen the Los Angeles Times put the L.A. Kings hockey team at the top of the sports page. Yesterday, they did. Even as the Lakers won in Portland for the first time in half an decade. The Kings won their ninth in a row. They came back on the perennial powerhouse Detroit Red Wings from a 3-0 deficit. The Kings are 17 games over .500 and tied for 3rd in the Western Conference.

Is L.A. starting to notice?

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Saturday, February 06, 2010

Mid-Atlantic snowstorm 

Follow this link to some cool pictures of the Super Bowl weekend snowstorm...


The Obama's Super Bowl Party 

Obama watching last year's Super Bowl at the White House

Game on!

A White House Press release yesterday stated:
"On Sunday, the President and the First Lady will host a Super Bowl party at the White House. Attendees will include Members of Congress, Cabinet members, as well as service members who were injured in Iraq or Afghanistan and their families. This event is closed press. A list of expected attendees is below.

Members of Congress:
Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA)
Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA)
Rep. Joseph Cao (R-LA)
Rep. Andre Carson (D-IN)
Rep. Brad Ellsworth (D-IN)
Rep. Baron Hill (D-IN)
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA)
Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT)

Cabinet Members:
Secretary Shaun Donovan
Secretary Arne Duncan
Attorney General Eric Holder
Administrator Lisa Jackson
Secretary Janet Napolitano
Ambassador Susan Rice
Secretary Kathleen Sebelius
Secretary Eric Shinseki
Secretary Tom Vilsack"
Yeah, but how many televisions will there be? What kind of food are they serving? What is the seating like? How many rooms are they having it in? These are the kinds of questions the Clarion Content wants answered.

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Lane Kiffin skewered 

One of our loyal Ohio readers forwarded along this video clip which roasts former Tennessee Volunteers coach Lane Kiffin to the tune of Runaway Train by Soul Asylum.

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Two quick links 

Two quick interesting sports links that crossed the Clarion Content's desk this week. One came from a local Durham painter who loves his sports. It is to a Jason Whitlock article about why the threatened NFL lockout will not or should not happen. The Clarion Content has been operating under the assumption that the lockout is faiti accompli. It is what we have read and heard elsewhere. Whitlock takes the common sense approach and analyzes the NFL's presence, as well as its cultural centrality.
Whatever discomfort billionaire NFL owners might have with sharing more than half of their total revenue with millionaire players, the owners will get over it when Goodell explains what their partnership with players has wrought.

The popularity, TV-ratings-driving and cultural-influence distances between the NFL and Major League Baseball and the NFL and the NBA have never been wider.

The Pro Bowl -- the most worthless sporting event known to man, a game ditched by 40 percent of the roster this year -- garnered massive ratings on ESPN. The NFL is a force of nature right now.
Read the whole piece here.

The other link is to an article that is a less sober analysis of the evening the Indians decided to hold "Dime Beer Night" at Municipal Stadium. Needless to say, shenanigans ensued, on a scale that makes Disco Destruction Night at Old Comiskey Park look like a family picnic outing in comparison. This link came from Bill Simmons.
Early on, the demand for beer surpassed the Indians' capacity to ferry it to concession stands, and a luminary, perhaps the same person who suggested the promotion in the first place, decided to allow fans to line up behind the outfield fences and have their cups filled directly from Stroh's company trucks. The promotion achieved critical mass at that moment, as weaving, hooting queues of people refilled via industrial spigot.
It is a crazy tale. Read it here.

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The Clarion Content probably spends far more time writing about the negatives than the positives that come out of the world of sports. And we love sports! This week we saw a delightful and encouraging article about the nature of sports in the New York Times. It verified something we heard out of radio row at the Super Bowl on the Jim Rome show. We can't quite recall which it was of the many NFL players whom Rome had on his show that said it, but of the many NFL vets, Rome got one of them discussing his favorite times playing football, and he ranked them from best to least favorite; high school best, college next, NFL last. He said in high school, one knew all the cheerleaders and had grown up with his teammates. At each level after that it got more impersonal and more professional. It became more of a job. The New York Times article made a similar point.

A high school sophomore in Darien, Connecticut, Peter Barston, has surveyed hundreds of young, local athletes about why they play sports. The New York Times reports the project was born of curiosity when last summer, Bartson's father, Mike, attended a workshop by the Positive Coaching Alliance, a national organization advocating a kinder youth sports culture. There he saw a presentation that referred to a 20-year-old study by scientists at Michigan State’s Institute for the Study of Youth Sports. They had polled young athletes about their reasons for participating in sports. Barston, inspired, attempted to emulate the survey locally.

In a reminder that kids rule until adults cynically co-opt them, Barston found something very similar to what Michigan State's much more formal survey discovered. His survey a single page list of 11 reasons children might have for playing sports, included lifestyle (to have fun, to make friends) and the competitive achievement (to win, to earn a college scholarship). Just like the Michigan State researchers, Barston instructed the local Darien athletes to assign points based on the importance of the reasons for a total of 100.

Barston found a striking pattern. No matter how he categorized the responses, the most important reason youngsters gave for playing sports was the same: to have fun! This was the number one response from football and basketball players, from boys and from girls, and from players in each grade from fourth to eighth. In the basketball survey, 95 percent of boys and 98 percent of girls cited fun as a reason for playing, nearly twice the number who mentioned winning.

Michigan State's professional researchers found the same thing. According to the Times, "Their study of 28,000 boys and girls around the country asked, Why do you play sports? The top answer then was “fun,” followed by “to do something I’m good at” and “to improve my skills.” “Winning” did not crack the top 10."

Barston's work has resonated in his home town of Darien, the Times quotes a member of the local junior football league’s board, saying the survey was a “touch of reality” for adults.

“It reminds us why kids play sports in the first place,” he said. “It’s not about winning a championship in the fourth grade and having that be a life achievement.”

Can we get a hooray?

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Friday, February 05, 2010

Remember it's not just theoretical 

Anthem Blue Cross is located in Woodland Hills, CA
#1 Wellpoint Way, Westlake Village, CA 91362

Whatever one thinks of the hash Congress made of the health care bill, it is important to remember that America's health care system is a mess in reality, not just in theory. News out of California served as a reminder of such this week. California's largest for-profit health insurer is substantially raising rates for customers with individual policies.

Folks who have Anthem Blue Cross will see premiums will go up by nearly 40% at the end of March. The company also warned that it may start raising premium more frequently than every twelve months. The corporate scum at Anthem Blue Cross can get away with this as long as they notify the CA State Department of Insurance and show that they are spending at least 70% of premiums on medical care. Where is the Unabomber when we need him? We are quite sure he could deliver a special message to these greedy leaders about how the public feels about this kind of profiteering. Anthem is a subsidiary of WellPoint Inc. According to the Los Angeles Times the company announced an eightfold increase in profit for the last three months of 2009.

Americans who are prisoners of the political gridlock in Washington, D.C. (and in this case Sacramento) will accept a lot under the rubric of democracy, freedom and the American dream, but at some point their frustration will boil over and they will seek solutions outside of the system that has failed them. When frustrations reach a boiling point, it will be difficult to control the (seemingly spontaneous) reaction.

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Thursday, February 04, 2010

Calvin and Hobbes creator 

Bill Watterson the creator of the legendary comic strip Calvin and Hobbes broke a twenty-year silence this week. He had not given an interview since 1989. A proud Clevelander, Watterson sill lives in the greater Cleveland area. He answered a few questions for his hometown paper, The Cleveland Plain Dealer. The Clarion Content cannot help but wonder if he was influenced by the recent passing of one of the other all-time famous recluses, J.D. Salinger. Both men were brilliant thinkers in their own mediums. We can't help but believe that the explosion of media attention surrounding Salinger's death, and the subsequent speculation into the vacuum that Salinger left, had to influence Watterson's decision to air some of his positions now. Less is more up to a point, but leave the masses too blank a slate and they will make use of it. Read the whole Plain Dealer article here.

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Tuesday, February 02, 2010


Perhaps you already know this, dear readers. Or perhaps you don't suffer from ingrown toenails. However, if you do or know someone who does, maybe you will appreciate this tidbit.

Ingrown Toenails
Cutting tiny v-shaped notches in the center of the toenail (while not pretty) prevents ingrown nails very effectively. The nail is urged to grow toward the center of itself, rather than outward into the toe and cuticle area.

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Monday, February 01, 2010

Ron Artest is flaky 

The Clarion Content knows that this is not news. However, we did see new bemusing notice of Artest's flakiness this week. Artest ditched the Lakers' team visit to the White House this past Monday. Coach Phil Jackson told the LA Times that Artest had the 2 and 1/2 hour flu. Artest reportedly discussed with teammates before the event that he was worried he would feel like a third wheel. He is the only player on this season's Laker team not on last season's championship squad.

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Should we talk about the weather? 

Long Beach, CA

The Clarion Content is not a global warming denier. However, there is so much misinformation out there floating around the global warming debate that it frustrates those who recognize the warming of the planet as scientific fact.

Warming is a long term trend. And however detrimental it is to humankind, it is ludicrous hyperbole to suggest that it will wipe us out as a species, let alone destroy the planet. It will make it hard (or even impossible) for humans to continue living in some of our current habitats, but that is a far cry from the cataclysmic disaster that warmings most fervent proselytizers preach about. Make no mistake, our language here is not accidental, the supporters of global warming from actual scientists to the inventor of internet, Al Gore, have taken their fight against global warming to the level of a religious crusade. In the Clarion Content's view this is outrageous and a tactical mistake. Major scientific studies about warming have been discredited and/or undermined by this posturing. To the Clarion Content, it would be much more honest to debate warming's harms and other outcomes on an economic basis. In our view, that is what the debate it about, how much money is responding to the effects of warming ex post facto going to cost, versus how much is attempting to ameliorate and avert warming's harms and other outcomes in advance going to cost.

Either approach is likely to be expensive. They require major changes in societal behavior and habit. It is our belief that like health there are logical, cost effective, preventive steps that can be taken and that there are prohibitively expensive and unnecessary actions that make no sense when the patient is the planet. The Clarion Content puts an American "cap and trade" bill as we have heard it proposed in the second category. One of the better preventive steps we think Americans must consider is taking a long hard look at is the locations where we build and have built. There are frequent reminders of the urgent need to reexamine where we humans live.

The effects of global warming are already being felt. The most commonly perceived is what we might call "weather turbulence" or the increased intensity of storms worldwide. There are a plethora of examples: the worst United States tornado season in 100 years, heavy winter weather in England--after a season of historic flooding, extremely cold temperatures in the American South, stronger and more frequent hurricanes, snow in Jerusalem and on and on. This weather turbulence underlines the urgency to vet more carefully where we, as humans, live. We cannot simply keep rebuilding in the most vulnerable areas and subsidizing it as a part of the public good. Our libertarian sensibilities say both, build where you will, and don't expect the collective to reimburse the foolhardy for the cost of building somewhere especially vulnerable. We might show up as friends and communitarians to help you rebuild your house or business. Elsewhere, perhaps?

The most recent eye popping example of extreme weather wreaking havoc on a highly populated area came from what is normally balmy Southern California. Two weeks ago the National Weather Service recorded at least one tornado and four waterspouts in Orange Country, California. Boats docked in a marina were tossed more than fifty feet in the air. In a matter of minutes chest-high water gushed through the streets of Belmont Heights, CA . The storms ripped the roofs off of buildings and shattered windows. The Los Angeles Times reported scenes of chaos. Our hearts go out to those who have suffered and are suffering.

Be warned warming will inflict far more severe harm on other less affluent communities with fewer resources to cope with severe weather.

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