Judge This Book By It's Cover

It's like Johnny Cash and Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt". Or Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower". Or perhaps even Joe Cocker and The Beatles' "I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends".

Thanks to Rock Plaza Central, Justin Timberlake's "SexyBack" will never be the same.



Winter. Kiel. Wisconsin.

The Sheboygan River runs through it. Skating on the millpond.

Walking down Fremont Street.

A bona fide winter wonderland.

More snow.


Live From the Edge of the Wireless Wasteland

Kiel is no oasis in the desert. Dial-up still holds sway, trickling through the spinning hour glass at a painful rate. So, my brother and I ventured off toward Lake Michigan to the cosmopolitan grandeur of - you guessed it - Sheboygan.

Seeing family and friends has proven refreshing. The chance to read for pleasure once again has also been rejuvenating; I finally completed Justice Clarence Thomas' autobiography, chowed down some classic American short stories - I especially liked Jack London's "To Build a Fire" - and dove into The Bridge at San Luis Rey. A non-fiction work on Admiral Farragut's Civil War exploits in the South is next on the list.

On the football front, the Packers' abusive loss stings a little less given this bit of news.

On the political front, how would you like your pheasant cooked? Also, my sister reports that a mock-presidential election at Kiel High resulted in 1. Obama, 2. Hillary, 3. Edwards. And yes, incredibly, Republican candidates were an option. In my mind, this does not bode well for the GOP. That crafty Jim Webb also hamstrings Bush over the break.

Finally, a note on the language front:

Gauntlet or gantlet? I've seen the two words confused royally. While uncertainty exists as to whether or not 'gauntlet' now refers only to a glove or two lines one must pass between, I think the distinction is helpful and stand by it. I encountered what I consider the improper usage of gauntlet twice in the aforementioned autobiography of Clarence Thomas (for such a notable textualist, I hope he would not allow the bastardization of the term with such nonchalance simply because it is popular;). I saw it again today while reading a blog. Here's the breakdown:

"Gantlet" originally came from a Swedish word similar to "lane," and referred to the parallel lines involved in an old form of military punishment. Someone forced to "run the gantlet" was made to run between parallel lines of his colleagues, who would hit him with clubs or switches as he passed.

A "gauntlet" (French word) was a heavy, armored glove worn by a knight. As a challenge to fight, the knight would toss his glove to the ground ("throw down the gauntlet"). The opponent accepting the challenge was said to "pick up the gauntlet."

Most dictionaries now accept the spelling "gauntlet" for both of those meanings. There's still a technical term "gantlet" used in railroading, though.

What say ye? Wilt thou run the gantlet in challenge now that I have thrown down my gauntlet?


Good Day

To all our friends from border to border and coast to coast and all the ships at sea. We send you letters in bottles. Eggnog bottles, in fact.

A special shoutout to LIB acquaintances adventuring abroad - we haven't forgotten you!

Steve S in Azerbaijan
Frank H in Macedonia
Gregg N in South Korea
Annie V in Senegal
Paul G in Japan
Mixmaster in Malaysia
Ariane S in Qatar
Mikey R in Thailand
Jake Mountain Creek K - if you're already on your way to the Middle East

And even if you're not Mr. or Mrs. America, greetings - it's been too long!

Gylfi G in Iceland
Joonas in Finland
Ben and Dan in the Midlands
Nirish in Nepal
Shiva in Nepal
Philip wherever he is at the moment
Xavier C in France
Basile V in France
Carlos in Guatemala
Sune in Denmark
Benedikt in Germany
Roberto in Dubai
Roberto in Brazil
Natalia in Brazil
Miriam in Austria
Zineb in Morocco
Yanik, Martin & co. in Germany
Simon & Marieke in China
Francisco in Chile
Tulio in Mexico


Ron Paul on Meet the Press

Today, I watched Ron Paul's now controversial(CNN's synopsis is sloppy) appearance on Meet the Press with some friends.

Three things emerged from the program:

1. Tim Russert did a masterful job of grilling Paul on a variety of issues. Dr. Paul's novelty as a candidate has dominated most coverage of his candidacy resulting in less scrutiny of his record. He questioned Paul's take on Ronald Reagan. Most impressive was Russert's attention to federal earmarks for Paul's Texas district - the candidate was not very adroit in his attempt at a response, which, falling on deaf ears, left him trying to dismissively laugh off the entire notion [here's someone trying to explain it for him]. I had read about such criticisms, and it was good to see Paul nailed down and prevented from whipping out either his general appeal to freedom and liberty or his resort to monetary policy. Any issue of inconsistency, however, seems to arise only because Paul has a higher personal fiscal standard than many legislators.

2. Ron Paul is not quite ready for prime time. As he wiggles toward the political mainstream financially, he needs to diminish the grenade-thrower aspect of his demeanor at certain times if he wants to be taken seriously. Many of his stances are rather bracing - and while refreshing, that means he must explain some of his statements (like voluntarily bringing up the fact that he wants to abolish the Department of Education - at some point, it would be handy to refer to Chapter 9 of Conscience of a Conservative and American educational policy history generally to flesh out such a stance). He needs to qualify his radical view of the al-Qaeda/U.S. interaction- and say that while he understands the al-Qaeda perspective objectively, he ultimately doesn't endorse it. Meet the Press is a token of legitimacy. Paul failed to capitalize on the appearance fully by restraining himself/being a bit more tactful at a few pivotal moments during the interview.

3. Ron Paul is incredibly refreshing and interesting to watch. His Constitutional views are so orthodox in many regards they're unorthodox in today's political context. And while they may appear to be outliers, they are usually informed by an extensive reading of history, albeit a somewhat selective and obscure one. He shut Russert down on the issue of amending the Constitution to prohibit controlled substances. Whether Paul is fit to be commander in chief or not in the end, the nation is surely better off for having him present in the campaign. He injects a number of legitimate concerns and issues into the fray that would have otherwise been ignored. And the fervor generated by the Ron Paul candidacy is simply fun to watch. Like the exchanges on the comments of the CNN synopsis piece:

Keep drinking the Kool-Aid, Lynn from Reno, NV. The rest of us will try to save this country.

UPDATE: CNN has now revised its post to correct one of its misquotes.



Really, McBride?

From Jessica McBride:

"Soglin's name was floated (not seriously) recently for UW Chancellor."

Ok? How did she determine it wasn't floated seriously? I know of three different posts beginning with my own that mentioned the idea of Soglin as UW-Madison Chancellor. And I don't know that any of them were made in jest.

Furthermore, why didn't she link to any of the posts that floated the idea?

While Soglin was obviously very liberal, almost radical in his days as a student, I think he has moderated quite drastically in political terms in the intervening decades.

I also don't believe McBride reaches her target with her lengthy post linking Jim Rowen and Paul Soglin to the bombing of Sterling Hall. I'm quite familiar with the bombing of Sterling Hall - and I think campus radicalism in the 1960s and 1970s went unacceptably far - but I don't believe her post actually conclusively ties Soglin to the event. Rowen, perhaps.

She seems to be relying on some sort of vicarious liability/respondeat superior theory or guilt by association based on Soglin's work at The Daily Cardinal (and I think it's rather unfair to group people who work together on a college newspaper as columnists - looking at my own campus newspaper experience would produce some absurd results based on her logic).

At any rate, my post suggesting Soglin be among those considered for replacing Chancellor Wiley was made in all seriousness. I disagree with Soglin on a number of issues, but I think he would make a competent, balanced leading figure who could balance the many interests at play in the university. I also recognize his intimate familiarity with and love of UW-Madison as an institution and his iconic status as an alumnus.

Housing Battle Rages in New Orleans

Les Bon Temps

Over this. Wow.

Catching Mike Huckabee in Iowa

White. Rolling along the rural Iowa highway north of Cedar Rapids, I could no longer tell where the snow-covered fields ended and the pure white fog began. I knew the farm truck in front of me existed. So did Highway 13.

Mike Huckabee was slated to speak at the Delaware County Fairgrounds in the small town of Manchester, Iowa from 3-4 p.m.

As I pulled into the grim road leading into town past the half-hidden Wal-Mart, I had ten minutes remaining. I passed a large 4x8 Mitt Romney sign - one of the few signs of that size I'd seen in all of Iowa. I had already realized I wasn't going to catch any other candidates - Bill Richardson's event had probably already concluded about 20 miles down the road.

Using my instinct and experience with fairground placement in small towns, I found site of the event and whipped into the parking lot where the giant Huckabee bus idled in the mist. My car slipped out of control as I turned for a parking spot and ramped up onto a large snowbank. I tried to back out, only to find I was stuck.

I ran across the parking lot to the small brown building alongside a political button dealer to find Huckabee making his closing appeal to the 40-50 people gathered inside. Bingo boards hung on either side of the room and a small bar filled out the back left corner of the space. A bank of cameras and some reporters lined the left side of the room.

How was he in person? From my limited sample, he proved personable - a little folksy in his rhetoric, but competent. It was a bit like a Cake concert - he seemed exactly what one would expect from the cd; he came off as the same person I've come to know through the debates. I was going to say he came off as almost too articulate, but then I caught myself. The Bush standard of presidential eloquence is no appropriate benchmark.

As Huckabee wrapped up with standard pleas for support in the caucuses - and an emphasized wish for a Merry Christmas - people seemed pleased with what they had heard. Several took yard signs. One of the main handouts in many hands was Huckabee's plan for fighting illegal immigration. There was also a cd with caucus guidelines.

Wading up through the people and cameras crushing the candidate, I realized I was going to get my question in at last. When I finally got up to him, I found he was about the same height as me, perhaps a bit shorter. He sported an orange tie - a different shade, but nonetheless the same color as the tie George W. Bush wore on the day I met him at the White House in 2001. His eyes were sort of bright and seemed almost a shifting gasoline puddle of colors. The cameras moved in and the sound boom swung in overhead.

Hi, governor. I have a foreign policy question. Which do you think is a bigger threat to American national security - Islamic terrorism or the rise of China? I just find it very interesting...

Well, he responded in a rather fatherly manner, they're really like two wings on the same plane. [well, obviously they're both important and I'm looking for you to clarify how the two different threats balance out in magnitude if one is not a bigger threat - at least he sees China's rise as the challenge that it is, though]

He said - and this is not verbatim - terrorism presented the most significant short-term threat seeking to destroy us, but that we also had to pay attention to China's growing economic power in the longer term. [While I didn't find the response flawed given the situation, and my question gave a lot of leeway, I was looking for a bit more nuance - a bit more, specifically, about the nature of the challenge posed by China. It's not merely economic, but also diplomatic, military, and cultural.]

I elaborated on what I thought of the response on camera with someone from CBS directly following the encounter (I think it was Joy Lin).

So, do I heart him? Not really. Signficant domestic policy concerns aside, Huckabee's lack of foreign policy credentials still worries me. While I think he's a bit more competent than Bush, I feel he remains highly analogous to George W. - a Southern evangelical domestic-policy-focused governor with little relevant experience in the realm of foreign affairs.

Out in the parking lot, I attempted to dig my car out as the Huckabee bus rolled on slowly from the fairgrounds parking lot in the cold pea soup. A mother and son from the area kindly helped me out by finding a shovel. The mom found Romney unworthy of trust given a number of radio appearances and newspaper pieces. She wasn't so sure on Huckabee either.

Finally out after some pushing, I was wished a Merry Christmas and safe travels. I gave them some Alligator sausages originally intended for my cousins. Coupled with my lack of a back window, I probably cut quite the random figure tooling off toward Dubuque on the slick roads.

It had been a very long, very strange day. It seemed Louisiana would be a much more sensible place to hold inaugural cauci if they are going to be held at this time of year. And I still had many miles, failed wireless connection attempts, and a reunion with an old friend to go before I made it to Madison for the night.


McCain Surges, Is the timing right?

Well, it seems that the race for the Repbublican nomination for president has gotten even more up in the air than just a few weeks ago. Now it is not only Romney and Huckabee in Iowa, but now we need to bring Senator John McCain back into the equation.

The man who started off the presidential campaign as the man to beat - and was written off as politically dead in August and September - could be on the verge of making one of the most amazing turnarounds in political history.

I'm serious on this, too. Consider the following:

Now, I know that polls in the early states are notoriously suspect, but let's just run through a little scenario. Say Huckabee wins in IA over Romney. This effectively kills Romney because he has spent far too much money and spent far too much time in IA to lose to a guy who has virtually no money and no resources. The NH primary is only a few days later and with McCain within striking distance of Romney, it is very possible that McCain will beat Romney in NH.

Then all bets are off, if McCain even finishes a strong second in SC, it could give him enormous amounts of momentum heading into February 5. It may be tough, but I don't think anyone can count McCain out yet. To tell the truth, I wouldn't mind being in McCain's position right now.

This is going to be a fun primary season.

Fluorescent Bulbs Waste Power (and we just banned the other kind)

This week the newly passed federal bill that increases car fuel mileage has been widely reported. However, I'm surprised that a provision nestled deep in the bill that phases out traditional incandescent light bulbs starting in 2012 has flown under the radar. Until now, California is the only place that's banned them.

With pollution and energy reduction are on everyone's mind, do-gooders want to make sure that people use as little energy as possible. However, fluorescent bulbs aren't exactly bright little angles. Not only do they contain mercury, but they also have imaginary power issues.

Fluorescent bulbs have complex inductive or capacitive aspects to their power use in addition to simple resistivity like incandescent bulbs. A 100 watt incandescent is just a resistor that glows; all of the energy is turned into heat and light.

With fluorescent bulbs, the ballast uses circuitry to convert the electricity from the socket into the kind of electricity the bulb needs to get the gas to glow. The result of the addition of an inductor or capacitor is that some of the power the power company has to produce for the bulb is turned into light and the rest bounces back and forth between the bulb and power plant and is lost in the resistance of the power lines. (Another explanation here about 3/4 the way down.)

I hadn't heard about that until the professor spoke about it in Engineering Circuits a few weeks ago. I paid attention since back around Thanksgiving, I bought a pack of new 'curly-cue' fluorescent bulbs to try out. The electrical engineering professor had taken three different bulbs and measured how they performed:

In the chart, Watts is the wattage that would be printed on the bulb and is what the power company will charge for, VA is the total power usage that the power company has to generate, and Power Factor is the wattage divided by the VA, or how much of the power that the power company has to supply is actually used by the bulb.

As you can see, the fluorescents appear to use a quarter of the energy the incandescent uses, but the power company still has to supply half the power an incandescent would use. That means a fluorescent bulb requires the production of nearly twice the power it actually uses.

In the end, I suppose most people don't care whether a bulb uses all the energy it draws or wastes half of it as long as the total amount of power needing to be generated decreases.

By the way, I've been using one of the new bulbs in my desk lamp and compared to the previous incandescent its light seems pinkish and orangy.

En Route to Iowa

HANNIBAL, Missouri - While my engine was fixed, my rear window wasn't. My jury-rigged window was quickly torn to shreds on the interstate and I discarded it somewhere in Tangipahoa Parish in Louisiana.

From there on out, I drove all the way to St. Louis with the breeze for company. And a nice Hound of the Baskervilles-style cold fog in northern Arkansas and southern Missouri.

A dear old friend from the Madison blogosphere - who now works for Harrah's casinos - graciously provided lodgings for the night in St. Louis.

After cruising north through the cold rain, I'm here on Main Street in the hometown of Mark Twain trying to figure out my next step, though.

Namely, how do I best maximize my time while detouring through the political battleground state of Iowa?

Unforuntately, Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson are off in the northwest.
Tom Tancredo is speaking at 2:00 in Des Moines, but I doubt that's worth my time.
But Hillary has a number of events in the boonies down in the southeastern corner of the state that I might try to hit up. Bill Richardson also has a few near the middle of the state that I may be able to catch.

Huckabee is up in the northeast, and if I can time it right, that's where I want to be - I feel getting a question in with him has the potential to be the most revealing since his stances aren't entirely as well-known as Hillary's are in the eyes of the public. I'd especially like to ask a foreign policy question.

Which would be more worthwhile - attending a Hillary appearance or a Huckabee appearance?

Stay tuned for more coverage.


Farewell NOLA

Stay classy.

A Little Accordion Music

I was waiting for my car to be repaired so I can return home - and in good New Orleans style, it took a little longer than expected. As in a few days longer. But it's done now, and I'm almost ready to hit the road.

Clearly, I had some free time and old Wisco on the mind as I waited...so I rocked out in the stairwell here on South Liberty Street... Enjoy!

"I'm not sure I can trust you."

The French Quarter's anti-graffiti crusader gets slapped around by the commissioners for being overzealous.


Oh what did you see my blue-eyed son?


Alexander, a homeless man. He was dressed up so he could use the restroom across the street from his tent in Duncan Plaza in downtown New Orleans. He is 50 years of age. He used to drive an eighteen wheeler. He has a bad back, but he says he wants work. Here, you get a picture he says. Off in the distance, workers prepare to fence off the plaza for reconstruction of a federal building.

He breaks down the tent city in the shadow of City Hall. Don't go over over by that back wall of tents, he tells me, those people don't have their Prozac and their meds - the elevator's stuck between floors. Over there it's okay, the pregnant lady she's over there.

Where will you go when they close this down? Well, you go up a few blocks and down under the interstate. That's where we'll go. And that is no place for women and children to be living.

Where did you sleep last night?

Some individuals couldn't stand to stand by and brought food

to those living under I-10

in New Orleans

at Canal Street.

It may be warmer here, but it's still hard.


of Rice

Belugas in Santa Hats - and a Southern Naval Showdown

To borrow a phrase from the blog Lakeshore Laments, here is today's sign the end is nigh:

However, the Australian government will be casting a different eye over the activities of the Japanese whalers in Antarctica - it plans to send a former P&O cruise ship, now converted into an armed vessel, to the region to monitor the hunting.

Following high-level talks, the vessel, Oceanic Viking, which has a reinforced hull to cut through ice, will be leased to the government to track the Japanese whaling ships and keep a check on their activities.

The crew is trained for polar conditions and they will use 'super-telephoto' lenses to record the whale slaughter.

In addition, the ship will have two .50-calibre machine guns manned by a customs boarding party should a clash of any kind with the Japanese vessels occur.

Ominous. Who knows what the Japanese ships will use to retaliate? And the article doesn't even mention what the whalers should really fear - Greenpeace activists riding a pod of rogue attack narwhals, loudspeakers a'blaring.

Tent City, Downtown New Orleans


Is this incendiary drivel supposed to be taken seriously as an argument? The post involves two things I've been talking about lately, and I hope it's solely meant to rile up comments or traffic because this -

So Ron Paul — the $6 million man — doesn’t care about Black people?

- is laughable. The homeless here are not Black people alone. And Ron Paul suddenly has a duty to save the homeless of New Orleans because his supporters were creative and successful? I don't get it.

Additionally, the poster at Backyard Beacon is clearly violating it's own ground rules as laid out on its site:

Neutral Point of View
In lockstep with the principles of citizen journalism, content must be written from a neutral point of view (NPOV), representing fairly and without bias all significant views (that have been published by reliable sources). This is non-negotiable and expected on all articles, and of all article editors.

Quite the shamockery.


Andrew Sullivan on the GOP Nomination

Ron Paul over McCain

A day after Paul's $6 million+ record-breaking one-day haul.

It's an interesting, thoughtful assessment any disaffected conservative/independent/libertarian/classical liberal might find worth reading.

Interview with a Homeless Man - New Orleans

I interviewed "Dave", a man living under the I-10 overpass at Canal Street here in New Orleans. Dave sleeps under the bridge like many others and told me about being robbed, beaten up, and enduring the recent cold.

Blue & White

Wisconsin May Yet Be Pivotal in GOP Presidential Primary Campaigning

Howard Dean tossed out the potential a few weeks back. University of Wisconsin Professor Charles Franklin predicted it as a possibility months ago:

And if the early primaries and caucuses don't produce a clear front-runner, Wisconsin could be in a strong position to name the eventual nominees, he said. "If that happens, we are geniuses to keep our primary where it is," Franklin said.

And now it looks more possible than I would have ever guessed.

In fact, it is entirely plausible that Mike Huckabee of Arkansas will win the caucuses here[Iowa]; that John McCain of Arizona will win New Hampshire; that Mitt Romney of Massachusetts will win Michigan, Fred Thompson of Tennessee will win South Carolina and Rudolph W. Giuliani of New York will win Florida. In those circumstances, with no obvious front-runner, and with many of the candidates having adequate resources and varying bases of support, they could just divide the prize on Feb. 5 and move on to the next primary.

It seems somewhat unlikely to me - and doesn't account for the intervening media madness that will factor into decisions by primary voters in each subsequent state following Iowa. However, if such a scenario did evolve, it means Wisconsin, despite its late February 19 primary - which I thought condemned it to irrelevance - could become a pivotal player in the presidential race once again.

So, of the GOP candidates, who has the edge with Wisconsin Republicans poll-wise and who has the edge organizationally?

- A December 11 Badger Poll hands Fred Thompson 30% of support Wisconsin Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (one must always take a Badger Poll with a grain of salt, though - and probably road salt instead of table salt) This could have something to do with it, though.

- As of a December 7-9 Strategic Vision poll, Rudy Giuliani garnered the support of 26% of likely Wisconsin Republican voters, followed by Huckabee at 20%. Interestingly, the next highest percentage went to undecided at 13%. That's probably a boon to Huckabee, who still has room to grow as a relatively unknown quantity - as opposed to a candidate like McCain who has long been well-recognized nationally.

- For what it's worth, Tommy Thompson backs Giuliani

- Organizationally, Rudy is also making moves to tie himself to state money

Admittedly, anything can happen before the primary date actually arrives. I think it's more likely the GOP field will have been whittled down by February 19 than become more fluid. Even if February 5's uber-primary proves less than conclusive, there are still a number of caucuses and primaries on dates prior to the 19th - in places like Virginia, Washington, Maine, and even here in Louisiana - that stand to make Wisconsin's primary less of a political fulcrum.

Recalling The Great White Fleet

100 years


Questioning the Housing Crisis

I've wondered many times since I've arrived if it really exists here in post-Katrina New Orleans.

I waded pretty deeply into the local housing market when I searched frantically for housing in August, and I found a wide variety of options available across a sizable price range. Sure, I'm a student in a particular part of town, but my extensive scans of craigslist and other real estate listings made me certain the crisis certainly wasn't as severe as it was portrayed.

The Times-Picayune goes in-depth and dredges up a few interesting points meant to temper some of the rhetoric of housing activists:

Even as some protesters spoke of low-income people being "kicked to the curb" by demolition plans, federal officials said nearly 300 units in public housing complexes across the city are either ready for occupancy or nearing final inspection. Work is under way on an additional 800 units, to be ready within three months to a year.

In the private sector, landlords have offered more than 500 apartments eligible for federal vouchers, which in many cases cover 100 percent of the rent through a program set up after the 2005 hurricanes.

And while the rhetoric has planted a perception that the scheduled demolition of the aging complexes is a result of Katrina, in reality it stems from a national policy shift launched well before the flood. Demolition of public housing in New Orleans has been going on for years as federal officials have sought to improve housing for the poor.

Even so, there are still tens if not hundreds of homeless people sleeping under I-10 at Canal Street each night. And a tent village across from City Hall.

Saints Win

A friend had an extra ticket to the Superdome today, and so I enjoyed my first Saints game.

Coming from a Lambeau Field/Camp Randall football heritage, the dome seemed a little too sterile - and empty. The noise level at points during the win over the Cardinals was pretty intense, however.

Tailgating here takes place in a bit more raucous fashion in some ways than in Wisconsin. But the setting is a lot sketchier - dirt and gravel junk-littered expanses under the riotous Marquette Interchange-style freeways wrapping around downtown.

Some routes to and from the stadium from parking areas are highly inefficient - a bridge over a highway was backed up for a half hour and many fans - like us - eventually crossed the highway in frustration, jumped a barbed wire fence, crossed railroad tracks, and sneaked through the fence on the other side.

Entering the dome itself involved a strange vibe. I thought of the hellishness of Katrina and the dire situation, the masses stranded on the very ramps I was walking up toward the gates. Everyone was so very happy today, decked out in black and gold, shouting "Who dat?" A measure of normality. So much has changed.


Somebody Get the Crumpets

There's a Tea Party going on today.

It's the second online Ron Paul "money bomb" - the site shows 35,539 pledges of $100 as of today, or $3,553,900.00. The initial money bomb had fewer people pledging, though, and raked in $4.2 million.

But you can keep track all day long with graphs here.

It's really pretty incredible - the official Ron Paul campaign site has a live update feed showing the amount of donations for the 4th Quarter - which already exceeds $13.4 million - and the donors as they happen.

If nothing else, this is a fun, novel candidacy to watch. These grassroots make every other campaign's look like astroturf.


Behold The Banjitar

Signs XI

A public service announcement from some concerned citizen at Plady Ground, Uptown. In case you didn't know.


Smathers' Misguided Seg Fee Sigh

If we want civic engagement on this campus, turning a debatable topic like seg fees into some sort of “war of financial liberation” is entirely counterproductive. As one friend said to me, “I’m just so tired of people making this subject a ‘do-or-die’ situation.”

No, it's not entirely counterproductive. It's closer to entirely necessary.

As someone who slogged through the trenches of UW segregated fee battles during my time on campus, I know the very reasons Smathers gives for simmering down -

If we ever intend to galvanize the public and promote action on any number of political campaigns, we have to give the public a break and ratchet down the intensity. Students have limited schedules, tests and personal crises to deal with before they get to something like segregated fees. If these issues seem more like an ongoing tragedy rather than an easy fix for an engaged public, no one’s going to pay attention.

- are the exact conditions that necessitate bringing the heat. While advocating a step back from the brink for real deliberation is usually good advice, it's less appropriate with segregated fees at UW. The vast majority of students don't pay attention to segregated fee policy because many of them don't even know what segregated fees are. Only when a few soldiers stand up and begin a concerted, vocal, high-profile campaign does the issue even cut through the apathy and make its way onto the table for discussion. A few klaxons are in order.

Further, the piece's attempt to analogize to federal politics is easily distinguishable. Students are a transient citizenry constantly rotating through the university; ASM is not a government that will affect them all their lives, so the incentive to learn about it is greatly reduced.

Smathers' prescription to chill only ensures the segregated fee profile on student radars will look more like a B-2 than a B-52. And that's a problem for students' financial pictures whether they realize it or not.

Mr. Smathers, though? Start the campfire. Break out the guitar. Hope you can remember all the words to kumbaya.

Most students can decide how they feel about the system?

Seems simple to me, and most students can decide one way or the other how they feel about the system.

Really? A. Do they know what segregated fees are? B. Do they know enough about them - and all of the history entailed? C. Do they know how to engage to impact their own fees?

It can get a little complicated once we get to the front lines of SSFC, but students have a few avenues to act on the issue.

Unlike bureaucratic seg-fee funded organizations, most indivividual students don't have sufficient institutional memory to make much headway. Those who do usually don't have a critical mass of bandolier-wearing comrades to overcome the organizations - which have a far greater incentive to get even a few of their members involved than any individual student.

And maybe some would, if we didn’t beat the issue into the ground.

Maybe none would. I think that's far more likely. Except for those who benefit disproportionately from the funds.

Frankly, if we ever want get anything done, we need to take down the stress, have a drink and regroup our thoughts.

In theory, all of Smathers' observations work out tidily. Reality is a bit different, though. And change in the manner advocated is often illusory. The institutional inertia of all those positions now dependent on segregated fees means what's passed off as compromise in SSFC or when amending overarching policy usually still requires a massive outlay of student dollars nonetheless.

In the end, by its very nature, the issue of excessive segregated fees cannot be resolved by sprawling out in a hammock, mimosa in hand.

Down By the Wharves


Theology degree or not?


The Carcasses of All Four Finals Now Lie Smoldering in the Heat

Let's just say I've gone from this...

...to this...

...in 15 minutes.

Get ready for a great big bear hug, Wisconsin.

I'm coming home soon.

For your consideration

There is, let me assure you, nothing in nature more egocentrical than the embattled democracy. It soon becomes the victim of its own war propaganda. It then tends t oattach to its own cause an absolute value which distorts its own vision on everything else. Its enemy becomes the embodiment of all evil. Its own side, on the other hand, is the center of all virtue. The contest comes to be viewed as having a final, apocalyptic quality. If we lose, all is lost; life will no longer be worth living; there will be nothing to be salvaged. If we win, then everything will be possible; all problems will become soluble; the one great source of evil -- our enemy -- will have been crushed; the forces of good will then sweep forward unimpeded; all worthy aspirations will be satisfied.

--George Kennan, Russia and the West Under Lenin and Stalin




A staff member of the John Birch Society pins down Tommy Thompson on his presidential preference - and his thoughts on Ron Paul - during an airport encounter in Detroit.

Apparently the Society is still operating out of its HQ in Appleton, Wisconsin.

Whatever your thoughts on the group, its namesake is a genuinely interesting character. A Baptist missionary who aided some of Jimmy Doolittle's Tokyo Raiders when their B-25s crashed in China, Birch was later killed by Chinese communists.



Hanukkah Procession, New Orleans

Blue and red lights flashed on the glass louvers of our sunroom tonight as I printed the latest incarnation of my Contracts outline. Unusual...I saw Mrs. Elsas, our nonagenarian downstairs neighbor, standing on her porch.

A police chopper began making its way down South Liberty Street.

A string of about 20 vehicles followed in the wake of of the motorcycle, most bearing roof-mounted menorahs. The procession wound slowly around the corner, each vehicle loaded with people, all of them waving and shouting "Happy Hanukkah, Mrs. Elsas!" out of open windows.

We rushed to the windows and waved at the unusual sight. Then, a few minutes later, a police SUV brought up the rear and the little Jewish parade disappeared into the muggy night.


China's military masses firepower along the cyber front.

Ominous - and worth a read.

Law Library - A Model of Composure

'Apparently the mannequin is some 3L's gig. Her name is Mandy and she is "cramming" for finals just like everyone else. I guess her appearance has become a tradition of sorts during finals time. She even has her own facebook profile. But give Mandy credit, she looks pretty damn good for someone studying for finals!'

No need for food or bathroom breaks. Great posture. Only one eye to keep focused. Man, besides all the catcalls, it must be nice.

Technical note

Interestingly, but perhaps not unexpectedly, being associated with the United States government brings along certain restrictions. Those restrictions, as they relate to blogging by Peace Corps volunteers, can be found here. As such, I'm sorry to announce that a certain icon has been removed from its place at the top of the LiB sidebar. Due to the interpretation of my country director, the message it presented could impact the apolitical nature of the Peace Corps mission. What you're now seeing, including the additioal material in the disclaimer, is the reflection of a compromised reached that allows me to stay with the LiB crew during my PC service.


Fare Thee Well

South Liberty Street, New Orleans - A testament to the power of craigslist.

Safe travels back to Iceland, Gylfi!


Must be the excess ethanol fumes:

Don't write off John Edwards. Of the big 3 candidates, the former North Carolina senator has the highest FAV rating, trailing only Bill Clinton in popularity. This could bode well on the second choice front.

Clinton is seen as the least honest and trustworthy and the candidate who least represents change. That's bad news for her because those are the two top things that Iowans are looking for. Her advantage is on issues and experience, a category in which she leads by a whopping 52% to 14% margin over Richardson.

Hillary Clinton leads Bill Richardson on issues and experience? I'm sorry. That's a sign of one wildly, woefully, almost willfully misinformed Iowa Democratic electorate.

Bill Richardson may present a lackluster figure in debates and his campaign may be subpar, but Hillary Clinton's record of rising by force of association and personal story absolutely pales in comparison to Richardson's relevant experiences as a legislator, cabinet secretary, diplomat, and governor.



Guerilla marketing remnants

"There's going to be a lot more disturbing the peace before this is all over, I'm afraid."

So says law professor Bill Quigley, who teaches across the street at Loyola University, following his arrest at a recent New Orleans City Council meeting.

Quigley's arrest resulted from his protest in council chambers against the planned destruction of four massive public housing complexes here in New Orleans abandoned after Katrina. Bulldozing is slated to kick off December 15.

While a number of former housing residents actually want to see the projects razed, the current state of the vacant complexes has always raised practical questions for me and one of my roommates as we've driven by. From a cost perspective, does it make sense?

While it's difficult to know the precise condition of the properties since trespassing is not allowed - and the areas are rather eerie these days - the actual brick structures, while ramshackle at present, don't seem unequivocably beyond renovation. In fact, with a little work, they would constitute more substantial housing than much of the decrepit housing stock in Central City.

On a pragmatic level, why spend $31 million to raze the buildings pre-emptively instead of selling the existing structures and property to private developers who might decide independently whether it is more cost-effective to renovate the buildings as they stand? If not, let them raze the structures. This method would be more likely to provide some low-income replacements for the over 4,000 apartments lost because there would potentially be lower costs for the private developers to turn the extant properties around, requiring lower rents to recoup the conversion costs.

Perhaps the cost of individual demolition of portions would be prohibitive. But then bulldoze two or three of the four complexes to retain some economy of scale and try my strategy with those complexes that remain.

The question of who would actually want to live in more expensive new construction in some of the project neighborhoods is also relevant.

These are practical potential objections to the decision to raze the projects here in New Orleans. While I sympathize with the plight of those affected by Katrina, I do not believe people are entitled to federally-funded housing - unless there's an issue with a pre-existing contractual relationship.

Unfortunately, the civil rights activism here in New Orleans has not shed any light on whether or not such relationships existed as a basis for protest or if the present sound and fury merely runs parallel to rhetoric of the homeless people in a now-endangered tent village outside City Hall who, interviewed on the local news, are waiting for the government to do something for them. Chanting slogans at Ray Nagin from the plaza isn't going to do much.

"La Nouvelle Orlean Faite-Le Vous-Meme"


Who Will Replace UW Chancellor Wiley?

It's official.

Chancellor John Wiley will, before a year has elapsed, no longer stand silvery gray before the columns atop Bascom smoking clamly, sure as clockwork, in the afternoon shade or snow, surveying the bustle on the slope below.

While I will never forget a fall/winter 2002 Isthmus interview in which he regrettably said UW was too white and too small town (nor the messy handling of the Barrows affair), I found Wiley ultimately served as a balancing figure in the sum of my experience over the course of four years. From a student perspective, the university certainly could have had much worse.

Wiley, while engaged with student leaders, still presented a firm front when it came to segregated fee policy - although unfortunately he was never especially hospitable toward forces hostile to seg. fees, as in the opt-out movement. He detested being jacked around by student labor activists but sought out practical solutions to what he deemed legitimate underlying concerns. He also stood firm against efforts to harass or kick ROTC programs off campus. During the Islamic cartoon controversy, he encouraged discussion and refrained from impinging on free speech and open intellectual discourse along the lines of UW tradition even though he clearly would have preferred the ruckus had never happened.

He also brought in a great deal of funding and proved decisive in shaping a course for major campus construction.

So, which candidates should UW pursue as a replacement for the post of chancellor?

I hope the old alma mater thinks either big or homegrown:

1. Professor James Baughman - Chair, UW School of Journalism and Mass Communication

2. Paul Soglin - Noted Alum, Former Mayor of Madison

3. Tommy Thompson - Former Governor, Distinguished Alum, Cabinet Secretary
(As I was looking for the BH editorial to link, I discovered SSFC just voted regular members pay for attending meetings-anathema!)

4. Madeleine Albright - Former Secretary of State, currently a professor at Georgetown

5. Colin Powell - Former Secretary of State, Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, What else is he doing these days?

6. A UW Science or Engineering Administrator who worked as a professor (the Wiley model)

7. Dean Lawrence Ponoroff - Dean of the Tulane University School of Law, guided law school through Katrina and post-Katrina recovery (his personality and abilities would jibe well with UW)


St. Charles Streetcars Push Past Napoleon

Heading down Joseph Street this morning, I was thrilled to see something I had never seen before. A streetcar cruising west along the upper portion of St. Charles Avenue toward Tulane.

Heading down St. Charles, I saw the temporary barriers at Napoleon Avenue standing off to the side of the tracks. More streetcars nosed tentatively along under the oaks, decked out in ribbons and garland.

It was one thing to see them back in business last month. It's another to see them running at last where they were meant to be, a mere four block-walk away.

"a bland, smiley-faced God"

David Brooks homes in expertly on the essence - or lack of essence - in Romney's "faith speech":

In rallying the armies of faith against their supposed enemies, Romney waved away any theological distinctions among them with the brush of his hand. In this calculus, the faithful become a tribe, marked by ethnic pride, a shared sense of victimization and all the other markers of identity politics.

In Romney’s account, faith ends up as wishy-washy as the most New Age-y secularism. In arguing that the faithful are brothers in a common struggle, Romney insisted that all religions share an equal devotion to all good things. Really? Then why not choose the one with the prettiest buildings?

In order to build a voting majority of the faithful, Romney covered over different and difficult conceptions of the Almighty. When he spoke of God yesterday, he spoke of a bland, smiley-faced God who is the author of liberty and the founder of freedom. There was no hint of Lincoln’s God or Reinhold Niebuhr’s God or the religion most people know — the religion that imposes restraints upon on the passions, appetites and sinfulness of human beings. He wants God in the public square, but then insists that theological differences are anodyne and politically irrelevant.

Bracing analysis. Brooks captures what could be viewed as the intellectually dishonest retreat of religious conservatism away from unabashed belief to making only the religious/non-religious dichotomy relevant politically. Ecumenicalism triumphant conceivably weakens any particular religion's claim to truth. Religion, then, becomes a mere token of political affiliation. Religious voters are Mac users. They wear red jerseys.


When talking candidate religion and politics, what's concerning?
1. A candidate affiliated with a religion who seems to be a lukewarm adherent for convenience
2. A candidate who believes strongly in religion and touts it, nearly implying an exclusion of non-religious people from the common national heritage
3. A candidate who adheres to a less well-known faith who refuses to elaborate on it, leaving the electorate unclear about how "personal" adherence would actually impact a decision-making process

It seems to me that Mitt Romney potentially fits all three bills on any given occasion. That's a bit troubling.

Ann Althouse also raises some appropo questions about my third concern in her look at Romney's speech:

He strongly states that a candidate for office should not have to explain or defend the doctrines of his religion, and he equates such a requirement with violating the constitutional proscription of religious tests. But are we really forbidden to take into account that we think a candidate's religion is too bizarre or too evil for a competent, reliable person to align with? What if the candidate were a Satanist or a Scientologist? Would we just put that to the side lest we violate the ban on religious tests?

We certainly consider a host of other factors about a candidate in the whole - many of them far more trivial.


Writing on the wall? What writing on the wall?

The chief blunder of Romney's speech, however, was his failure to address the existence of non-religious or even agnostic people beyond railing against the Michael Nedows of the world. The emergence of politically-charged "religious victimization conservatism" itself should have been enough evidence of the historical trendline's trajectory away from a society and politics imbued with a common religious backdrop.

14.1% [of Americans] do not follow any organized religion. This is an unusually rapid increase -- almost a doubling -- from only 8% in 1990. There are more Americans who say they are not affiliated with any organized religion than there are Episcopalians, Methodists, and Lutherans taken together.

Short-term, reliance on a religious electoral core might not be a problem with the right candidate, but the Republican Party, from the angle of purely political considerations, needs to look outside its current milked-by-Rove hard base if it's going to be viable in the long run.

1. Independents have a bad taste in their mouths regarding an overtly religious president given the experience with President George W. Bush (whether the strict association is fully justified or not). 2. Look at Giuliani's numbers in key, more moderate states like Florida and California (even if Romney and Huckabee do well in Iowa, New Hampshire, etc.).

Irving Berlin said it best

I'm dreaming...