What to do...

...when your Icelandic roommate's Norwegian girlfriend is in town for the weekend?

Take a swamp tour and feed the gators out in the bayou, of course. They like chicken, but they'll eat marshmallows, too.

Political Spooktacular

Last night Ron Paul had a really good interview on Jay Leno. Check out the video if you haven't heard what he's about:

I also caught a few minutes of the end of the Democrat debate last night, mainly the segment about education. Man, I tell ya', the Democrats have their solutions for every problem. It's definitely Halloween because everything they said was scary (except canceling No Child L.B.). The federal government is not supposed to be involved in education.

As far as I could tell, the Democrat debate was like a big government money buffet. Every candidate was running up as quickly as possible and piling his plate full. I don't really care what indulgences people partake in on their time, but their's is spending everyone else's money.

And to Republicans, I say look at what precedent you've set. The government is like Dracula; once he's given permission to come in one time, he can come and go as much as he wants. Now that we've spent extra hundreds of billions on war, spending the next set of billions on social programs in comparison looks good. We shouldn't be spending so much in the first place.

Around town, I hear Doyle's going as Frankenstein this year.

Wisconsin Fingerprints in the Casebooks

A few months into my first year in law school, I've noticed what seems to be a disproportionate number of Wisconsin cases cropping up to demonstrate significant points of law. Is it a good thing? What does it say about Badger jurisprudence?

Generally, if a case is noteworthy, it states a new point of law or makes some pivotal shift in an area of law. Does this mean Wisconsin courts are wont to flout stare decisis? Or is it indicative of legal brilliance? Or, more likely in my mind, is it simply a fluke with multiple causes?

A few of the cases referred to:

Vosburg v. Putney

Hoffman v. Red Owl Stores

Mckinnon v. Benedict

PKWare v. Meade

Fullin v. Martin

Some of the cases rise to the surface since they address gaps or flaws involving federal statutes that had only come into being a decade or two earlier.

There's also mention in Torts about the lead paint case that raised ire in Wisconsin during the re-election of Justice Patrick Crooks. My textbook seems to align with those who viewed the case as an outlier among liability cases.

New York cases, however, tend to predominate over Wisconsin cases in the end - and just about every other state, except California, perhaps - as one leafs through the pages.


In the 504

More on the Azeri terrorist case

I'm not allowed to have an opinion on the recent incident (or at least, I can't publish it anywhere), but I just came across this interesting take.

But beware - he seems to be a false Dmitry!


An Eviction Notice for Liberals

Today in the Daily Cardinal I saw an opinion piece: 'Liberal defines ideals, should not be an insult. With this being Madison, I'm surprised that the author feels her efforts are best spent writing this proud declaration.

This article gives me the kind of feeling that I imagine has only otherwise been felt by the Indians. Quite an injustice has transpired in that the words 'liberal' and 'liberalism' have been stolen!

As the liberals would say, I identify as a liberal, in the John Locke/Thomas Jefferson/Founding Fathers/Adam Smith sense of the word. I have to throw a 'classic' in front of it to not get confused with what is paraded around these days. Classical liberalism otherwise shows up as libertarianism, which is a lot closer to republicans than democrats.

Modern 'liberals'--the democrats--have it all wrong and I'm taking the word back. I don't see how the author of the article manages to miss the point when she even quotes the dictionary definition of the word liberal:

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, it is “a political philosophy based on belief in progress, the essential goodness of the human race, and the autonomy of the individual and standing for the protection of political and civil liberties.”

Let's examine this closer:

  • "...based on the belief in progress" Capitalism strives for nothing more than unimpeded progress, yet the liberals keep on trying to slow it down as much as possible with all sorts of government laws and regulations. Furthermore, what counts as "progress" to me is no more legitimate than someone else's definition, yet liberals increasingly attempt to force a few people's visions of progress on everyone else through central government planning.
  • "...essential goodness of the human race" Since people are so good, liberals make things like donating to charity, which had reached unprecedented levels by itself at the end of the 19th century, mandatory though things like welfare, which if anything make people even more dependant.
  • "...autonomy of the individual" Today's liberals want the government to give you health care, college, retirement, welfare, jobs, and money for whatever not to mention keep you from smoking, eating fried foods, using incandescent lamps, etc. They simply do not think about the autonomy of individuals--they only want to make each and everyone of us nothing more than a child of Uncle Sam. Not to mention that we pay about half of our incomes in taxes! Also, consider that all of liberals' policies are made for groups and not individuals, they see primarily hyphenated Americans, special interest groups, and voting blocks when all of us are citizens equally.
  • "...protection of civil and political liberties" Well, they've actually not damaged this area as much as the conservatives have. However, laws apply equally to everyone. There shouldn't be affirmative action and hate crimes, which somehow seem to indicate that some people are created more equal that others.

Even Wikipedia says: "Liberalism refers to a broad array of related ideas and theories of government that consider individual liberty to be the most important political goal."

Modern liberals are not liberals! If anything Democrats are for collectivism and placing society above individuals, which is the antithesis of true liberalism which puts the individual above all.

Here's my final reason: liberal also means favorable to change. Which is the liberal position: to continue the big government policies started 70+ years ago, or to throw them away?

Perhaps when FDR was elected, it was liberal to abandon capitalism and go for big government, but as it turns out, the Great Depression was caused by the Federal Reserve, the ultimate attempt at centralized planning, which even it has admitted to (see the last paragraph).

I'm proud to be a real liberal and I don't like you ruining my name. A true liberal would follow the Constitution and work to maintain small government. Concentrating power only stifles individuals. A true liberal works hard and is content with his lot. He is not motivated by envy.

So, liberals far and wide, having read this, you can no longer call yourself liberal. Your political ideology is in fact the opposite of what a true liberal stands for. You're not the party that Jefferson started. (In fact he's probably spent the last century gyrating in his grave.)

Find a new word; you can even make one up. In Europe, they don't even bother trying to beat around the bush and just call themselves socialists.

Good Work, Steve S?

• Azerbaijan thwarts 'terror attack' on U.S., U.K. embassies

If you're heading to Baku, Steve, don't listen to Johnny Cash.


Momento Mori

Required Sunday Reading

Namely, the ongoing denouement - in the saga of the conservative evangelical movement in American politics.


JFK Prep - Former Salvatorian Seminary - St. Nazianz, Wisconsin

History of St. Nazianz

Story of the Catholic Colony

JFK Photos

"Paranormal Analysis" - and links to historic documents

In 1854, an entire Catholic parish in a small German village uprooted under the leadership of its priest, Father Ambrose Oschwald, and departed for America.

Arriving in Wisconsin, a scouting party headed out through the forest with ox carts to locate the land and begin the settlement. One account from a newspaper article in the 1920s says a divine white heifer guided the men through the forest to the site that would become the village of St. Nazianz. Another account says the men let their own oxen wander after passing the border of the property and selected the spot where they stopped as the site.

Either way, the birth of the Catholic commune marked the beginning of a fascinating religious experiment in the forest. Property was held in common and the community, along intensely Catholic lines, was governed by an Ephorate or senate, although Oschwald seems to have been revered as the real leader of the community.

The colony lasted until 1873 when Father Oschwald - by then renowned as a wise, almost mystical healer and father figure for the community - died, leaving "The Association" in a legal battle to preserve its land. In 1896, the Salvatorian order assumed responsibility for the Catholic institutions in St. Nazianz, building a new church and monastery on the grounds of the old Loretto Monastery just south of the village. In 1939, the Salvatorian Seminary was opened on the same grounds. The building later became JFK Prep in the 1960s. It closed in 1982.

From the point onward, the imposing religious architectural complex lay abandoned and dormant, suffering a great deal of vandalism from gang activity on the premises. It served intermittently as a haunted house in the fall for a few years. After a series of owners and failed schemes, not much has changed in the present day, although Mr. Dale Ristow of Steinthal has refurbished the gymnasium enough to be used as an indoor soccer practice space. The old football field outside is also utilized. Additionally, portions of the more modern priest dormitories have been remodeled.

At one point several years ago, I obtained permission with some friends to visit the property. It was an eerie experience seeing the grand, decaying structures slouching into ruin. Water damage, animals, and vandals had left some devastating marks on the place.

There are two tunnels that I know about. One runs between the main monastery building adjoining the church, traversing the space beneath the back courtyard, ultimately coming up in the old garage/convent building with the large smokestack.

The second runs from the isolated block garage building second nearest the road and terminates in the old printing building - where my grandmother worked at one point - nearest the road.

Father Oschwald's sarcophagus currently rests in the hillside crypt at the rear of the property below the little Loretto Chapel on the hilltop that looks down on the priest and brothers' cemetery. Originally, Oschwald's body was entombed beneath the altar of St. Ambrose Chapel in the space that now comprises the back of the main St. Ambrose Church (the chapel was the original worship place of the Loretto Monastery portion of the building, a lower stucco part which was constructed in the 1860s). Several historical accounts note Oshwald's body was strangely well preserved both shortly after death and even in the 1920s when the body was transferred to the hillside crypt.

A number of alleged hauntings cling to the site's reputation. And while the history of St. Nazianz certainly furnishes a number of intriguing and eccentric plot elements, it seems difficult to establish any of them with much of a factual basis or evidentiary confirmation.

I made my way up to the property on the day after the devastating May 2000 windstorm that destroyed and heavily damaged most buildings in the village when I was there helping with the recovery. While several of the giant old trees on the property had fallen, it seemed little direct damage had hit the complex structures.

Check out the links for more - there's a great deal of information, rumor, and anecdote about JFK Prep to be had. St. Nazianz itself is an interesting little town - one I remember well, as my great grandfather lived there and operated a Chevy dealership. As a result, the family reunion is still, to this day, held in Oschwald Park below St. Gregory's Church.

A view of the JFK Prep gymnasium - currently in use after renovation - the spire of St. Ambrose Church and the JFK Prep main building. Wisconsin high school basketball legend Mickey Crowe played for JFK Prep. My father recalls playing against him there.

East facade, JFK Prep or the old Salvatorian Seminary. The building has suffered extensive water damage since its abandonment in the 1980s, as well as vandalism. An old safe on one of the floors was knee-deep with old financial papers from the institution as of a few years ago.

From left to right: Loretto Monastery (original 1860s Oshwald-era structure now without its original chapel and roof). St. Ambrose Church - 1898 (note the stone grotto in the bushes in front of the spire). Monastery/Seminary. The more modern priest dormitories built after 1950s are to the right, as well as the garage and the printing building. The convent/garage is in the back of the complex shown.

Built shortly after the turn of the century, the main monastery/seminary served as the principal school building until the Salvatorian Seminary/JFK Prep building was constructed across the way in the 1930s. As of 2002, there was a lot of damage inside and a dead racoon in the fourth story hallway. Some remnants of Halloweens past remained on the lower floors as well - including fake bloody limbs and other hautned house materials.

St. Ambrose Church. Built in 1898 by the Salvatorians shortly after they took over the operation of religious life in St. Nazianz, the church replaced/encompassed the earlier St. Ambrose Chapel which adjoined the Loretto Monastery (which lies west of the current church). Supposedly the bells in the tower had to be removed in the late 1990s by the village because vandals were ringing them in the night.

The Loretto Chapel - built by Father Oschwald in 1872 to replace a glass shrine and an even earlier basswood-niche shrine for a statute of Our Lady of Loretto. You can still see the older, original pinkish stucco underneath the exterior in places. Beneath it, the 1920s hillside crypt can be seen. Father Ambrose Oschwald's sarcophagus is located inside behind a barred gate, the original German tomb inscription over the door. The remainder of the hill is covered with the graves of clergy, both priests and brothers of the early Oschwald order and the later Salvatorian Order. A statute of the Salvatorian Order's founder, Father Jordan, stands among the cedars.


My Nonagenarian Neighbor Downstairs or Marbles with Mussolini

It struck me, as we sat one morning, coffee in hand, the sun washing in through the picture window, blanketing the conversation.

She's 92 years old. That's amazing.

Two weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to sit down with my spitfire of a downstairs neighbor, Mrs. Inge Elsas. I've mentioned her earlier on the blog, but I thought she was in her early eighties. And I didn't know the full extent of her fascinating life story.

Born in Hamburg, Germany in 1915 to a Jewish family, Inge could not get her equivalent of a high school diploma in 1933 due to her religion as the Nazis rose to power. She left Germany and her family for Switzerland and subsequently ended up working as a governess for Italian counts. At one point she recalled playing with some of her charges at a palace in Italy, only to have Mussolini, who knew the count, crouch down and to play marbles with her and the children.

As the Nazis moved into Italy and foreigners were told to leave, Inge got a job as a governess with an American ambassador's family traveling around Europe. At one point she spent Christmas in Norway with the Ambassador Joseph Harriman's family. After later stints with an ambassadorial family in Brazil and in Washington, D.C., Inge moved to New Orleans where she headed a school for girls, given her background in childcare and special needs education and care.

She met her future husband there. Like her, he was a Jewish immigrant who was not a U.S. citizen. Somehow, he was drafted for World War II despite his non-citizen status for his language skills. While serving in Europe, he was captured and imprisoned in a German concentration camp. Unlike Inge's family, he survived and returned to the U.S. after the war when he married the girl he had left behind.

For fifty years, Inge has lived downstairs in the small flat here on Liberty Street. Her husband deceased for some years now, she lives alone and still rents. She can't bear to leave all the good memories in the place she raised her children. She loves the sun and has one little den room in the back full to the brim with items decked out in sunflowers. It's a mirror on her personality, which, despite her severe osteoporosis, is always cheerful and lively.

Her walls are hung with awards from various civic organizations and photos of the people she loves. One certificate denotes her status as a distinguished alumna of Tulane (Social Work degree). She still volunteers five days a week at various nursing homes, her temple, and other institutions, getting picked up by her "guardian angels," a group of friends who transport her since she never got her driver's license. She even teaches Bible classes to senior citizens - most of whom are Christian. "We look for the themes," she explains with a bit of a smile regarding the New Testament.

As she recounted the story of Katrina (luckily, the floodwaters never got up to the floorboards here), I sit in awe. She paints a vivid picture of the heap of junk and detritus outside in front of the house, the awful smells emanating from a destroyed fridge. Two of my own great grandfathers, who lived to be 95 and 97, welled up from my childhood. I could see Grandpa Isaac, age 90, carrying chunks of tornado-downed logs ever so slowly to the wagon along with my uncles on my grandparents' farm.

This is a person who has conquered age, scoffs at it, wobbles a bit without her cane as she gets up to wish me off to my studies but doesn't think twice about it.

"You are so quiet upstairs. And you are sure you can't hear my television when I have to turn it up sometimes? Then this is working out very well."

Yes, people with hearing aids make good neighbors. Not because parties go unnoticed, but because their lives are so very interesting, so hidden, so wrapped in the commonplace.


Early Bird Catches the Worm

One last word on David Horowitz

Today the College Democrats chair, Oliver Kiefer, wrote a column in the Badger Herald that attacked the College Republicans for bringing David Horowitz to campus. While I do not always agree with the way in which Mr. Horowitz expresses his opinions, they are nonetheless legitimate critiques of Islamic extremism.

Having participated in all of the discussions about whether or not we should bring Mr. Horowitz to speak at the university, I can tell you with absolute certainty that none of the College Republican leadership harbors any prejudice against Muslims as a group. Contrary to Mr. Kiefer's insinuations that we brought him here for racist or bigoted reasons, we accepted Mr. Horowitz's offer because we knew that it would bring attention to the issue of Islamic extremism. Had we only shown a movie or held our own, smaller event no one on campus would have given Islamo-Fascism Awareness week a second thought - nor would we be having this conversation.

What troubles me is that Mr. Kiefer would rather bring up irrelevant points such as the gay marriage ban that passed last November. In his words,
How can he, and the College Republicans who sponsored his lecture, criticize the governments in that region when they advocate for a hateful constitutional amendment that discriminates against homosexuals in Wisconsin?

Leaving aside the fact that the CRs did not take a position last fall because there was no unanimity among the leadership, the amendment is in no way comparable to the summary executions and killings of women and homosexuals that take place in radical Islamic societies. It is absolutely irresponsible for Oliver to imply that the CRs or Mr. Horowitz are bigots and racists when he offers no proof.

Mr. Kiefer chastises the CRs for bringing an intolerant speaker to the university and for being intolerant ourselves by associating with Mr. Horowitz. What exactly was the intolerance that bothered Oliver? Was it Mr. Horowitz's intolerance of radical Islam? Was it Mr. Horowtiz's statements that moderate Muslims need to do more to stand up to radical elements? What exactly was it?

Many times during his speech, Mr. Horowitz stressed that the group most often targeted and killed by extremists is other Muslims. The Taliban killed thousands upon thousands of their own people in the name of religious purity. The "insurgents" in Iraq that are killing tens of thousands of people are killing fellow Muslims, in part for no other reason than those who are targeted do not share the terrorist's twisted views of Islam. If Mr. Horowitz were really a bigot, why would he take the time to explain that part of the problem? He easily could have focused solely on terrorism aimed at Jews and Christians.

If we frame the problem in these terms: that Muslims, Jews and Christians are all at risk of being targeted by Islamic radicals, then the current struggle in which we are engaged is truly global. In the eyes of the extremists we are all infidels and equally deserving of death. In this light the purpose of IFAW is to unite and not divide.

I and the CRs that brought David Horowitz to this university see the threat in these terms. The effort this week is designed to do nothing beyond promoting the discussion of the dangers of radical Islam and how they threaten all of us. We have no problem with peaceful Muslims and Mr. Kiefer and the College Democrats know that. It is deplorable that he would imply otherwise.

It really disturbs me that the response is not so much about the substance of Mr. Horowitz's remarks, but about other issues that are irrelevant to the subject of Islamic extremism. Over at The Hippie Perspective, Erik complains about the state of American discourse and cites the General Betray-us ad in the New York Times, the Rush "phony soldier" smear and the Graeme Frost controversy.

What Erik doesn't mention though - and I know he does this intentionally - is that the political Left is responsible for the ad attacking General Petraeus and the attack on Rush - whose comments were taken entirely out of context. The attacks on the Frost family were completely out of line. The problem is that Erik, Oliver and others on the Left refuse to acknowledge the bad acts by their own side and focus solely on the mistakes of the Right.

If you want a debate, let's have one. Do you want to discuss the dangers of allowing Islamic extremists to gain control of another state in Iraq? Or how about the horrible treatment of women and minorities in places like Iran or Syria? Oh, that's right, I'm a conservative and a Republican so I can't talk about those things.

Explain how that isn't just a little bit intolerant. Seriously, tell me why it's okay for liberals and others on the Left to insult me as a racist and a bigot without any substance to the accusations. Have we really gotten so politically correct that I can't even mention that Islamic extremism is a danger and we need to face it head on?


If you're feeling down, don't look at this post

Last night, I saw the first tv ad this side of last December for a Christmas movie. Though it's been getting chillier and there are leaves on the ground, I hadn't actually realized that it's the end of October already.

Increasingly there is less of this:

and much more of this:

I was going to mention how my favorite time of the year is from the end of October through the beginning of January, but for some reason that snowy picture looks particularly dismal right now. One the one hand, I like the warm feeling of the holidays, winter food, fresh snow, and the sound of snow falling as well as on the other sun, green plants, thunderstorms, and long days.

I'm under the impression that the rest of the country thinks Wisconsin is some kind of frozen wasteland. Excluding the summer humidity, I love our climate. It has just enough of every season. I'd probably get weird if I lived in a climate without snow.

Harsh Geometry, East New Orleans

The angles are severe.


Granny Cart Lady

Every college campus has its colorful, iconic, eccentric, well-known characters. At the University of Wisconsin in Madison, it's hard to miss figures like Scanner Dan, Piccolo Guy, and Tunnel Bob.

Here at Tulane, it's the infamous "Granny Cart Lady," an ancient woman with her namesake cart who ostensibly sits in on classes and generally drives people nuts/creeps people out.

I haven't encountered her yet, but one of my classmates here at Tulane posted this sweet video.

Didn't see this one coming...

UPDATE: Here is the Journal Sentinel story.

The Wheeler Report is reporting that the state Senate Democrats have ousted Judy Robson as the Majority Leader and replaced her with Russ Decker. I don't have anything to link to right now, but I will update as soon as something becomes available.

The obvious question is: Why? Governor Doyle just gave Robson an endorsement and she did negotiate a fairly liberal - in terms of spending - state budget. Well, I am sure that Decker will tell us, but I doubt it will be the whole story.

My bet is that the extremely liberal Democrats in the Senate are furious that Robson caved on taxes and caved on Healthy Wisconsin. The problem here isn't that Robson introduced the ill-advised government run health care plan, but that she didn't fight hard enough for it.

It will be interesting to see what the Senators say.

Colbert '08 - Seepage and Flow

Today on Drudge, we see the following link:

Colbert's Campaign May Run Afoul of Law...

It links to a story at ABC News published today.

October 24 - ABC News

Given that this point was made earlier in rather blatant fashion at two high profile political observer sentinel outposts, I'm surprised it took so long to trickle up - or down - to Drudge.

October 19 - Politico.com
October 23 - Slate.com

In the face of today's hyper-news cycle, the five day lag makes the story look like an erratic boulder that finally worked its way through the ice to the ablation zone of the media glacier.

What about Digg? Any better job in getting word to the masses?

Digg - nothing in the highly enlightening comments on an items soliciting help for Colbert that I can see that makes the point (the ABC story has started registering) but, from what I can tell, there was one from 5 days ago that only got 18 Diggs by today.

What took so long for the basic tidbit of legal analysis to spread? I suppose you could argue the mainstream news outlets didn't consider the run a legitimate phenomenon out of the gates.

And I haven't even looked at the 1,297 Discussion Topics or 30,672 wall posts on the 1,000,000 Strong for Colbert Facebook group to see if illegality was mentioned there early on...

Elephant Ears

Want to Teach English in China?

An Australian friend of mine just opened a school in the Chinese city of Shenyang:

Hey Buddy, how are things?

Just letting you know my english school has begun trading. If you are interested in returning or have some friends who would like to come to China earning good money let me know.

Hearing his stories this summer about teaching English in Harbin, China, the venture seems like a pretty good gig - the exchange rate is favorable. The cultural experience is handy. And the adventure is apparent.

He's currently looking for native speakers to join the school as teachers.


Katrina Aid for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Qatar


I was a bit perplexed as a friend of a friend announced the news a few weeks ago.
As a Tulane student affected by Hurricane Katrina, she had just discovered she was slated to receive a $36,000 scholarship. [Congratulatory] Annually. [Amazed] From the nation of Qatar. [?]

How odd. Hugo Chavez offering to help as a means of political gamesmanship I can understand. But Qatar? I know the U.S. military brings a good deal of economic activity to the country - I believe Mike H has been to the capital, Doha - but petroleum revenues must be high to allow for such an outlay.

During his visit to the US one month after the storm, the Emir H H Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani had pledged an extraordinary sum of $100m on behalf of Qatar to assist the hurricane victims.

The small peninsular Persian Gulf nation's "Emir's Fund" aid money is also funding new mobile health units here in New Orleans. It's a respectable political gesture for what looked like a big hazy blob of sand out the window this summer as I flew over the Persian Gulf between Bahrain and Dubai.

Thanks, Qatar.



Ann Coulter at Tulane University for Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week - Firsthand Account

Despite the continued rain and flooding, I ventured back to McAlister Auditorium on the Tulane campus to watch this evening's circus. A near-capacity crowd got verbally rowdy - from both ends of the political spectrum. But what about Ann herself?

The night's fare, as she stood ironically on stage under a communal symbol - Louisiana's giant old Pelican that resembled a pterodactyl feeding its young - was typically provocative and preposterously over the line:

Verbatim quotes from Ann Coulter, as heard from my seat on the main aisle:

"Where are the reflective Arabs saying 'Why do we hate the Jews?'"

"Do we confront them or offer to perform exotic fetishes on them?" - on Islamo-Fascists

On the Guantanamo detainees: "the little darlings" and "savages" and "Ruthless terrorists who would slit your throat if they got the chance are treated better than you when you fly coach...to visit grandma in Kansas."

"At what point will liberals stop genuflecting before Islam?"

"Democrats are coming up with more ways to lose indirectly." - on the Armenian Genocide resolution

"They are Muslims." - on Turkey (which is arguably really not the case - Attaturk, secularism, etc.)

"I can't even believe how stupid that woman is." - on Nancy Pelosi

"We've killed 20,000 al-Queda in Iraq." - to wild applause (confusing, though, because is she referring to "Al-Queda in Iraq" or "Al-Queda" who were in Iraq?

"If Iraq is a holocaust it is the most tepid, slow-moving holocaust I've ever heard of." - pointing out that more people died in one day of World War II missions than in Iraq (hmm)

"They're like Democrats - with more gumption." - on the insurgents in Iraq (again, hmm)

"Maybe we could get the weapons inspectors looking for gays in Iran." - must admit, even I laughed at this one

"You put [FDR] on trial for being a war criminal or shut up about Iraq." - to a questioner

"Yeah, I think we oughta gin up the old treason prosecution machine." - on traitors

"I don't think it's gonna happen - until I become President." - on repealing the 19th Amendment, which allowed women to vote

"Unless you wanna nuke the entire Middle East, we've gotta take this country by country." - to a questioner

"What do we do with Muslims in America? You could deport them." - to a questioner and widespread gasps in the audience (wow)

"No, we don't know every time Ruth Bader Ginsburg takes a crap." - on government surveillance and her support of using it to catch terrorists

"I don't know." - response to final question regarding treatment of people in China

UPDATE: Here's a synopsis of the evening from the Tulane administration's news outlet, the Tulane New Wave.

Tulane Classes Cancelled for Flooding

This just in over the emergency texting alert at 1:56 p.m.:

Classes cancelled at Tulane's Uptown and Elmwood campuses and the School of Public Health. Visit emergency.tulane.edu for more.

Remember those torrential rains I mentioned this morning? Well, by the time 1 p.m. had rolled around, Freret Street in front of the Tulane University Law School was flooded but for about a foot-wide area at the crown of street - and that was awash with waves.

It's a wet one out there.

Oh is it wet.

I was unable to reach the Tulane emergency site.

I could hardly walk anywhere on campus given the flooded sidewalks and rivulets running full bore off the lawns and paths toward the gutters.

Here in the law library, custodial staff are coming in with shop vacs. A gray wastebasket is jammed high into one of the now-vacant book alcoves on the east side of the room, presumably catching water from a leak.

Wonder if Ann Coulter's appearance is called off as well?

Some Thermodynamic Observations

The class I like the most this semester is Thermodynamics; it's the study of heat and power.

I've come across a few sobering thoughts in thermodynamics. For example, no matter how novel a new design for an engine is, it's maximum possible efficiency has already been determined by the temperature difference between how hot one can burn the fuel and the cooler surroundings. To make machines do work, there has to be a temperature difference to exploit.

Another thought is the concept of entropy. Entropy is the measure of uniformity of energy. A glass of water with an ice cube has lower entropy than a few minutes later when the ice has melted and it's all water.

Entropy makes certain processes irreversible and the total amount of entropy is always increasing in the universe. That means the whole universe is like a giant glass of water with a constantly melting ice cube--energy is getting irreversibly dispersed rendering it useless.

Sometime in the distant future, the universe will use up all its useful energy. Stars will fade out and matter will cool off and equilibrium will be reached with the vacuum of space.

The other thing is that government is just like entropy. The total amount of both is always increasing, they both reduce efficiency, and they both can never be reduced or destroyed.

Tulane Awaits Coulter

And sets out some interesting guidelines:

Student groups wishing to protest are required to register with Student Affairs. "It is not our attempt to deter anyone from [protesting], but we are simply trying to manage the event by knowing who and how protests will occur," Assistant Vice President for Campus Life Kevin Bailey said.

Why? While grounded in the law, the policy seems antithetical to the nature of an American university.

As of this morning, however, the torrential rains, if they continue at their current pace, are looking like more of a hurdle to any potential protesters. Half of the sidewalks are presently covered in inches of flowing water.

It's the Great Pumpkin!

After a week of cold and intermittent rain, Sunday dawned beautiful and sunny, and I had a plan.

In Azeri, Sunday is literally called "Bazaar Day," and I had an important item to pick up. Part of our mission here is to share American culture with Azeris, and I planned to do just that.

Over breakfast tea, I told my host family that I was going to buy a pumpkin. At first, they were skeptical. "Why the deuce would you buy a pumpkin?" I told them it was for a very special American holiday.

Then they were thrifty. "You know, we have a bunch of pumpkins stacked up upstairs -- you can use one of those! Buying one at the bazaar will be 10 manat!" I told them the upstairs pumpkins were not big enough.

Then they were thriftier. "You could use a watermelon!" But I insisted.

So it was off to market to buy a fat hen pumpkin. Two stalls had pumpkins for sale, but all were far too small to carve a face into.

Then, way in the back, there it was: a nice-sized, very green gourd: the perfect pumkin. It wasn't quite Great Pumpkin proportions, but it was the biggest one around, and I could see that it would do just fine.

Pleased with my (only three manat) purchase, I drank some more tea, and then rushed home to do the honors.

I gleefully began cutting and gutting away, scooping out innards by the handful (a thing I hated doing as a kid, actually). I sketched out a face, and proceeded to carve it: triangle eyes and vampire fangs, as I noted to a friend in a text message, "= spooky x10." And indeed it was: a green pumpkin-vampire leering out an unwary passersby, one corner of its mouth (intentionally? unintentionally? Who can really say?)crookedly perked up.

I showed it to my host mother. I quickly got to my feet, expecting to have to catch the poor woman in a swoon of fear at the fright I'd created with just a dull Azeri knife and some good ol' American stick-to-it-iveness.

She laughed, in the same way you'd laugh at a little kid who was doing something goofy for no apparent or understandable reason.

My host brother strolled by, and I beckoned to him. "Look what I have created!"

"Oh, that's nice," he said. "What do you do with it?"

Defeated, I brought Vladimir to my room, a sanctuary of spookiness in an unspookable country.

Now, if only my copy of It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown! would get here...

Unexpected surprises

The guy who runs the good Internet cafe is rocking some DEL tha Funkee Homosapien, but only just for a moment. Soon enough, it's back to weird Russian pop and Celine Dion.


Vampire Cops Sexually Assaulting Students at Tulane?

I don't know quite what to make of all this...

"I woke up the next day, I had no clothes on, and I had two deep holes on my neck... I didn't know what to do," John said. "I was scared… I didn't know what had happened."

I trust some larger media outlets than the Tulane Hullabaloo will pick this up and get to the bottom of the allegations.

The Pelican Breach

Gee, thanks!

Madonna of the Blocks

Jindal Wins, Wisconsin Visits

Bobby Jindal wins outright in Louisiana.

As the nation's first governor of Indian descent - and the youngest current governor when he takes office - Jindal pulled off quite a feat. Admittedly, Blanco's performance during and after Katrina did not provide a very high baseline of expectations to exceed.

The week leading up to the historic election brought a few friends calling from the Badger State.

UW alum Chirag Shah, friend of the blog, came down from D.C. with a national crew to help on the Jindal campaign's ground game. Everyone in the group learned how to pronounce "beignets" and "cafe au lait." He makes it sound as if the victory party last night in Baton Rouge went well after a few long days of doors and other visibility activities. While the mood was jubilant, he hinted that some folks sensed the victory might be the last bright spot on the national GOP horizon for some time.

Jesse Russell of Madison's Dane101 also hit the Big Easy for a conference this week. He's not exactly a Jindal fan, but our dinner and drinks group on Magazine Street talked more about local oddities (like the pronunciation of the word "orange" as "urnj") and culture than anything else. It sounds like Dane101 is doing well.

Bessie Cherry, also along on the visit, filled me in on Madison's newly re-opened Majestic Theater, which also seems to be humming along pretty nicely, almost as persistently as the electrical transformer that buzzed a few feet from us as we chatted above the street on the upper veranda at Balcony Bar.

This week was a long slog school-wise, and the visits proved to be just what the doctor ordered.


GOP Presidential Debate Tomorrow

There's another one tomorrow, Sunday, at 7pm central time on Fox News. Watch it, or not.

Will Fred continue to be charmingly befuddled? Will Rudy give us 911 reasons to vote for him? Will Mitt continue to be a political Schrödinger's cat? (It's the weekend; I'm being facetious.) Your predictions?

Update: I emailed a question to debate@foxnews.com, they were asking earlier on tv: I would like to quickly ask each of the candidates which constitutional amendment, excluding the first and second, they find the most valuable as a citizen and why as well as how they would plan on maintaining it for Americans as the executive of the federal government?

Louisiana Primary Election 2007


In the 504

Night, Jackson Square near the fortunetellers.

Old School Newspapering

Reason Magazine peels back a few layers to take a look at the Madison-born satire newspaper, the Onion, and contemporary journalism.

One reason The Onion isn’t taken more seriously is that it’s actually fun to read. In 1985 the cultural critic Neil Postman published the influential Amusing Ourselves to Death, which warned of the fate that would befall us if public discourse were allowed to become substantially more entertaining than, say, a Neil Postman book. Today newspapers are eager to entertain—in their Travel, Food, and Style sections, that is. But even as scope creep has made the average big-city tree killer less portable than a 10-year-old laptop, hard news invariably comes in a single flavor: Double Objectivity Sludge.

Overlooking the fact that the Onion actually has very little quasi-reality-based news, the writer concludes that the Onion is successful representing traditional journalism while the modern papers are floundering trying to make everyone happy.

My family gets both Chicago papers and even the weekday issues are quite large; I can't imagine most people read more than a few sections even after paying for the whole thing. Newspapers have been adding more sections and features and their readerships have been decreasing.

If done well, I think a 'just the meat and potatoes' newspaper would work, especially in cities with lots of commuters on public transportation. A paper like that would be cheaper since fewer sections require fewer specialized reporters as well as fewer pages require less effort to produce. Papers have to innovate if they want to stick around.


Another one bites the dust

Sam Brownback out tomorrow

Unsolicited Newspaper Advice

As a quasi-media person it's interesting to observe how the two daily student newspapers change slightly from year to year.

Last I heard, the Badger Herald is still biggest student paper in the country. It still prints in a bigger size than Daily Cardinal. I've spoken to a few people in my classes about campus papers and they seem to prefer the Herald's bigger size. I don't really care since I pick up both. However, I do notice a lack of size when the Cardinal tends to fit about one and a half opinion pieces in a regular issue and the Herald runs at least two or three opinions.

Both papers have their own reputations for politics. Obviously, liberal voices are much stronger on campus. I don't mind, though. Where else could the socialist column be found between the columns of the campus democrats and republicans, let alone be printed at all?

Amongst the AP stories I read elsewhere, all of the generic filler pictures, and other stretching measures used to fill the big pages, the Herald seems bloated and unwieldy. Not to mention, I hate the 'newsprint on my hands' feeling and it looks and feels newsprinty gray.

Altogether, the Cardinal puts together a better physical package. It is a good size for fitting in classrooms and it's got a consistently sharp, classy layout.

Something that's been lacking this year in both papers is good comics. Considering original stuff, White Bread and Toast and the Herald Raccoon are usually good for some one-liners. Other than that, I'm not really dedicated to either bland multi-week plots or someone's daily non-adventures.

In the online world, I always browse through the Herald for comments on stories and the shout outs. The Herald is much more of a campus discussion that the other paper. I pretty much never look at the Cardinal online, they haven't given me a reason to.

On the bright side, word on the sidewalk is that non-anonymous comments will be coming to the online Cardinal.



Wisconsin's False Coast

Scanning a local blog, I found this excerpt about cultural liberalization based on whether a city is located on the coast or in the hinterlands, strictly geographically speaking:

ANOUAR MAJID: It's a port city like Tangiers. It's a port city. So, it's connected to the outside world through maritime trade and historically and so, port cities are very interesting. That's why if I may venture this crazy hypothesis-- that's why coasts usually tend to be more liberal than the hinterlands or than the-- because they're exposed to outside influences. Tangier is more liberal than Marrakesh and Fez, Morocco. Historically have been. BILL MOYERS: A subversive heresy comes by osmosis, right?

True? The exchange made me think of back home in eastern Wisconsin. There, the coast bordering Lake Michigan used to represent a key entry point for immigrants and a lively maritime commercial scene.

Today, however, the Lake Michigan coastline, in a cultural sense, acts as the greatest barrier of all to outside interaction (not that the state of Michigan has much exotic fare to export beyond Sufjan and Jack White). It doesn't provide for cultural exchange with external influences beyond bulk shipments to Green Bay and Milwaukee as it once did prior to the advent of the interstate system in the 1950s.

At the same time, it prevents regular interaction with any neighboring state, unlike a river or artificial political boundary line, for example, beyond the two ferries that cross to Michigan at Manitowoc and Milwaukee.

Add to this the relative dearth of reasons to go north of Milwaukee for the non-Wisconsinite (barring a weekend in Door County or a November hunting excursion in the UP) and you're left with a geographic region that, as connected as it may be technologically and commercially, has now been comparatively culturally isolated on the ground for over half a century. It's had injections of Hmong and Hispanic communities. But since the Great Lakes schooner went the way of the zeppelin, geography has held sway.

I've referred to it before as "The Great Eddy." It's a coast that produces the hardest of hardcore sconnies, a coast that has become a hinterland.

Stew in the area's various dominant ancestral heritages and you arrive at the interesting result of the cultural isolation: a trend toward political conservatism.

As someone who worked on the campaign trail in eastern Wisconsin during the 2006 elections, it was interesting to see the changing numbers and landscape in bellweather counties like Sheboygan and Manitowoc. Dominated by German ancestral roots (and sprinkled with Dutch and Belgian enclaves), the historically Democratic counties have begun to swing Republican in the past few cycles based on their demographics. The slow transition away from an overwhelmingly manufacturing-based economy may also be in play, but I think ethnic national and religious heritage is an even stronger factor given the geographical cultural isolation.

UW Professor Emeritus Booth Fowler
has been researching the correlation between Wisconsin ethnic heritage and voting patterns, and some of his findings hold interesting clues to the region's political future, in my mind. I believe he will be releasing a book with some of his findings in the next year. I won't say much until then except watch the German Catholics.

In Lieu of Leaves

While the leaves here in New Orleans are still deceptively lush and green, I can tell by the sitemeter that fall has arrived.

How? A few classic search phrases that direct people to our old posts are appearing with greater frequency, including variations on:

1. Madison Halloween State Street Riots
2. Did Ya See Da Turdy Pointer?
3. St. Nazianz JFK Prep

Clearly, college students nationwide are preparing to make the pilgrimage to Madison for the annual revelry - although I doubt it will ever be quite as lively again as it was during my four years of undergraduate. In the comfort of retrospect, the pepper spray now brings a smile to my face rather than a gag to my throat and tears to my eyes.

Likewise, the orange army is no doubt gearing up to head north to the cabin, hankering for a taste of treestand.

Number three presents the most interesting phenomenon - the annual spike in interest over the former Salvatorian Seminary complex outside of the tiny Wisconsin village of St. Nazianz.

I plan to do a full post on the interesting little village - and its intriguing, some say haunted, complex of abandoned Catholic buildings that seem particularly appealing around Halloween.


Political Junkie?

Get your presidential primary polling fix...in a new highly-concentrated form.

The lines tell the story.

- Romney's general, continuing upward trend
- Obama's inability to break through
- Thompson as a complicating factor in the South
- Rudy's continuing dominance in giant states like NY and Cali
- McCain's precipitous tumble from the plateau

Big Muddy

"It is a strange study,--a singular phenomenon, if you please, that the only real, independent & genuine gentlemen in the world go quietly up and down the Mississippi river, asking no homage of any one, seeking no popularity, no notoriety, & not caring a damn whether school keeps or not."

- Mark Twain, 1866


Interview With a Facebook App. Developer

Recently, I discovered that my friend Phil Edwards is a Facebook Application developer.

I wasn't certain whether to be in awe of his hipness or loathe him for creating yet another monster in the bowels of his Brooklyn lair. I had actually heard of his application - "Art" - before, however, and I had even considered adding it before he mentioned it to me. So I chalked it up as a positive.

Intrigued, I tossed Phil a few questions about the ins and outs of the heady Facebook App. scene and he was kind enough to oblige.

Brad V: So how did you get involved in creating and promoting a Facebook App.? You majored in English at the University of Wisconsin - have you always had some hidden techie inside?

Phil E: I've always thought that Web 2.0 apps are a fascinating medium. I've read that marketing is just mass psychology, so some of the things that appeal to me in writing and reading appeal to me on the web. Originally, my friend and I were working for about half a year on another project. It was a social network where you add your favorite non-profit as a "friend" and help drive support to that group. Well, when Facebook Applications started, one of the first ones called "Causes" basically did what we wanted to do, and had millions of users within a few days. Instead of dwelling on our loss, we decided to use our knowledge to hit the ground running.

Brad V: Got it. What exactly can one do if one decides to pimp one's profile out with the "Art" application?

Phil E: Well, basically, you can put classic Art on your profile and show an image, slideshow, or random great work of art. We also have that functionality for 6 other media areas (through different, linked applications). However, the profile is just the starting point for Art. You can also create a gallery, browse classics with the entire community, and play games that expose you to new works. People spend a lot of time doing that, believe it or not.

Brad V: Now, I've always wondering if apps are a money-making venture? If so, how do you make money? If not, is this just for fun or about sending signals?

Phil E: Well, it is my job now, so it's definitely got to bring something in. We make money from selling stuff (posters), but also from advertising. Facebook has some really powerful (and possibly creepy) tools to advertise in really precise ways. For example, I could target an ad toward 23 year old males in Law School- that's got to be worth something. While advertising on Facebook is still in its infancy, we're already seeing some exciting numbers and different types of ads. I think that, eventually, the industry-wide trend toward online ad-buys will extend to Facebook fully.

Brad V: How do you actually interact with the facebook staff or apparatus?

Phil E: Well, there's some communication between "developers" (us) and Facebook (them). We have tools for submitting bugs in the system, and sometimes they watch us complain on message boards. Right now though, the channels of communication are pretty narrow.

Programming wise, we hook into their API. An API is basically the framework of the system, so it lets us plug into different aspects and contribute our own data, while maintaining privacy of the users. It's getting more robust each day.

Brad V: Where do you see apps and Facebook in general heading in the future? Will Google buy out Facebook and thereby usher in The Matrix?

Phil E: While I don't think Google will buy Facebook, I do think that Facebook, Google and other companies will do their best to surpass every dystopia conjured in the past 30 years. As they gain more personal data, we'll see advertising intrude on every corner of our lives, and yet be too placated by the benefits to protest. Think about all they have right now- Google has everything you've searched for (via g-mail account), and Facebook has all your demographic data. That's more data than any government has about its citizens. But instead of controlling you, Google and Facebook will use it to sell you (though George Saunders, Phillip K. Dick and others might say the two are the same).

Brad V: As knowledge of and participation in Facebook gradually goes mainstream beyond college campuses, it's increasingly the subject of media coverage. As someone who's a bit closer to "behind the curtain" than the average layman, what do you think of the coverage? Accurate? Wildly misleading?

Phil E: I've worked as a journalist in the past, so I already realized that a lot of reporting is in the artful assumption. But now that I'm so deep into this industry- I'm frighteningly knowledgeable, for survival's sake- it's phenomenal to see how many mistakes are made. Almost every article I've read from mainstream media sources (forget about the blogs, for now) has had some sort of major error in it. And Facebook is a totally transparent platform. If reporting is this inaccurate and lazy on something as simple as Facebook, imagine how bad it must be concerning actual secrets (real businesses, the government, etc.).

Brad V: What apps do you have on your Facebook profile?

Phil E: I probably have about 40-50 apps on my profile right now, and have probably tried about 200. It's market research- I've probably tried at least 500 different ones since Platform launched.

Brad V: Are there any apps out there that you just can't stand?

Phil E: I generally don't like the ones that devalue platform- the hyper-viral apps like "Zombies". They make a bad impression on advertisers and potential clients. Our apps have far less users but get a ton of page views- I wish more people knew that aspect of platform.

Brad V: Anything interesting coming down the pike - as far as what your company is doing - that you can share?

Phil E: Yeah- we're going to launch something pretty cool in the next week, across our 7 core apps. I won't say anything specific yet, but it will combine the passive nostalgia of VH1 with the crowd-rule of Digg. We think people will have a lot of fun watching and will get to waste a lot of time. I already have making it.

Brad V: Just what I need :)

Let sleeping dogs lie

The House Foreign Affairs Committee is really complicating the Middle East situation. They put a resolution naming the Ottoman Empire's mass killing of Armenians genocide out for a vote in the US House.

Historically Turkey has been a good friend since the Cold War. Our relationship with them was especially valuable since they're pretty much the only western Muslim country. They're also strategically located between Europe and the Middle East and central Asia.

Now that they've put it on the table for a vote, we can't just drop it. I didn't really know very much about what happened--I had thought that perhaps the Armenians were sent to bed early without dinner or something, but they actually had the whole concentration camp set up used against them.

In the last week, news stories show that Turkey is getting stirred up against us--we're sticking our fingers in their old wounds. They might deny us access to move across and over their country, which would force us to get to Iraq by sailing past Iran.

Turkey has been making noise about border incursions from the Iraq side. Not to mention that their biggest concern with Iraq is what could become Kurdistan. The Kurds located in Iran, Iraq, and Turkey, consider us to be their allies and they might have autonomous aspirations, especially with the lack of Iraqi national cohesion. Turkey and Iran surely wouldn't want to lose some of their territory.

I question the timing of all of this. First of all, it's been 90 years. Secondly, we really need to not be actively encouraging any more countries to dislike us at this point. Thirdly, Congress should not legislate history. But most of all, the Democrat controlled Congress is attempting to make the war so difficult to fight that we can't continue it. It almost seems like they're trying to sabotage Iraq, instead of just cutting off funding or voting the military home.

I'm going for sabotage. The proposed resolution is even non-binding! The resolution would have no positive consequences nor costs, other than losing us our main ally in that theatre, making the war effort more difficult.


"What's a Radiohead?"

From a blog at the Washington Times:

Deputy press secretary Tony Fratto said he is a big fan of Thom Yorke and the boys, and plans to get their new album...

Mr. Fratto, however, appeared to be the only person in the press shop who was aware of the new album, which has drawn attention for its release.

Gordon Johndroe, spokesman for the National Security Council, said he is "90 percent sure" that he has a few Radiohead tunes on his iPod.

When asked if any of those songs were from their 2003 album, "Hail to the Thief," which some consider a reference to President Bush, Mr. Johndroe said, "not that one."

And what about press secretary Dana Perino, the No. 1 mouthpiece for President Bush?

"I don't even know what that is," she said, when asked. "Is that a band?"

Hey, at least it isn't bad news coming out of the White House. By the way, if you haven't heard their new album, I highly recommend it. The first listen was like Christmas in mid-October, and it's only gotten better. Take a listen, it's free after all.

On the Levee

Moonwalking, New Orleans

Ann Coulter Headed for Tulane

UPDATE: For quotes I recorded firsthand at the Coulter speech, go to my post here.

Hmmm...she's slated to arrive here on campus during the final week of Ramadan for "Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week."

Political commentator and author Ann Coulter is tentatively scheduled to speak at Tulane on Oct. 22. The engagement is a component of the nationwide-campus programming event called Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week, which is organized by the David Horowitz Freedom Center. Members of the Tulane College Republicans announced last week that Coulter would be visiting campus, but few details about Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week have been locally released.

It's not a question of whether or not she'll make some outrageously offensive or ridiculous statements. It's just a matter of how outrageous, offensive and ridiculous they will be when she does make them. Or how many books she wants to sell.

Why the College Republicans would be trying to associate with her in any way befuddles me.

Strangely, the "Student's Guide to Hosting Islamo-Fascist Awareness Week" lists two divergent aims for the week of protest:

The purpose of this protest is as simple as it is crucial: to confront the two Big Lies of the political left: that George Bush created the war on terror and that Global Warming is a greater danger to Americans than the terrorist threat. Nothing could be more politically incorrect than to point this out.

What does global warming have to do with the war on terror? The strange marriage of causes reminds of the comical left leaning protests in Madison that could rarely resist embracing a buffet of causes when they took to the streets. The lack of focus and the strident trappings also greatly weakens the credibility of any argument relative to unfavorable aspects of Islam.

I might have to live blog, though. These things are generally quite entertaining little circuses even if intellectually sapping - especially here, since, according to the article, there's a "Students Against Ann Coulter" group.

Sounds like a movie

at least a made-for-tv movie:

A pleasant, historical little town in upstate New York, used to not be so picturesque. Then a rich lady, more specifically, Madison's own Pleasant Rowland of American Girl Dolls, swept into town offering to fix it up. What could possibly go wrong?


Cafe au Lait

I don't get universal healthcare.

Really, I don't. It's not because I enjoy seeing people deprived of their full health, or I'm cheap, or I'm full of hate (especially for the poor), etc. It's simply morally wrong.

A few days ago, I saw a tv ad featuring children urging viewers to tell Congress to override the President's veto of SCHIP. I've also heard jokes about how anyone against the program hates children, blah blah blah. Think of the children! I'm glad it was vetoed and I hope it stays that way.

If enough people want to get children free healthcare, then their donations should be enough to set up and maintain non-profit children's hospitals.

Otherwise, people simply don't have a right to universal healthcare, because someone else has to actively provide it to them. As long as 'medicine' is more than 'plants from the woods,' someone has to labor making or doing something that has been discovered or invented by someone else to that person.

There are two ways to go about this: either mandate the doctors, pharmaceuticals, and engineers supply as much healthcare as needed for free and let them figure it out, or force everyone to pay everyone else's aggregated bill. The first is slavery and the second is theft, both of which are wrong.

Just because some people need medical goods and services, the fact that they are private property doesn't change. If someone hadn't invented it in the first place, there wouldn't be anything to demand, anyway.

Of the two ways, preliminary plans for American universal heathcare take the more 'thefty' path of the government paying for everyone's healthcare with our tax money.

I can't come into your house and take some of your money for part of my medical bills because you'd call the police for robbery, which it is, and worse, if I have a gun. What's different if every American, via the federal government, shows up on your lawn and demands you contribute towards their medical bills? And it is still a robbery if you got some benefit from said national healthcare.

For that matter, it would still be robbery if you were forced to donate money to a charity. It would still be robbery if it were only for your benefit, say, if I forced you to buy yourself a gift at gunpoint. (Our student segregated fees would be under this category.)

As long as the exchange/donation isn't voluntary, it's robbery.

I once read something along the lines of "there's no such thing as the general good, there's only a coincidence of private interests."

As I see it, some people who want their medical costs to go down are trying to do so by strong-arming everyone else into paying their bills. It's stealing and still wrong if 99% of people fall into the first group. The ends, no matter how pleasant the rainbows and rivers of chocolate are in a country with universal healthcare, do not justify the means of extracting involuntary payments from everyone.

It's widely acknowledged that populist hero Robin Hood "stole from the rich and gave to the poor." A majority didn't mind since they were on the poor end, but it was still stealing, nonetheless.

What say you? Are universal healthcare and a lot of other government programs theft? (Yes, I suppose it's a bit hypocritical of me to be attending a public university.)


Friday Music Video

It's Friday again and you know what that means! Up until the Wednesday debut of Radiohead's In Rainbows, to which I can't stop listening, I had been listening to Caribou's Andorra.

The album has the warm fuzziness of 60's pop rock, yet it's considered to be electronic as the band's only member, Dan Snaith, digitally assembled the entire album with a single microphone and a computer. His sound doesn't lack in any way, however.

Andorra was released at the end of August, and here's the first song off the album, Melody Day:


A Nobel Peace Prize for Al Gore?

Why would he even be in the running?

Al Gore, the former US vice-president, on Thursday overtook Barack Obama in a closely watched futures betting market on the next Democratic nominee fuelled by speculation that he would pick up the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday.

Regardless of where you stand on the issue, I don't see how raising awareness of global warming qualifies one in any way as being a peacemaker.

Live Blog: Magazine Street

Palm fronds wave along the side of the front porch here at the coffeehouse*. The live oak on the curb isn't doing its job. The sun beats down through a space in the snaking boughs. This is one hot October for a Wisconsin boy.

The leftover Times-Picayune on the table says Bobby Jindal is heavily favored in the October 20th primary for Louisiana Governor, pulling over 46 percent in a poll while the other candidates don't even break 12 percent. Jindal is clearly the most well-known candidate, has the most funds, and, given Blanco's performance during and after Katrina, represents a clear divergence from the present. While some of his campaign ads wander into typical Republican rhetoric, I think his best argument is a simple demonstration of competence and organization given the landscape.

But this is Louisiania. It's a jungle primary. I wouldn't be surprised if it goes to a runoff even with the numbers as they are.

Today's readings for Torts are interesting, focusing on the duties of landowners for various types of individuals on their lands. One note about "child trespasser doctrine" brings to mind my grade school days and my extensive wanderings around the Wisconsin countryside to build forts and adventure through the woods with friends. Whew - we weren't liable.

Cars rumble down the shaded street. You can feel it when a big truck passes the banana tree across the way. People shout from the corner next to the bright blue tattoo shop and walk out from Le Bon Temps bar nextdoor. Beads hang from the wires overhead. A couple walks up the steps into the renovated shotgun, sweating noticeably.

It's nice to wear sandals.

*I've attempted to stop here twice before during normal hours to find it closed. This is NOLA, however. Good luck finding a place to eat after 9pm. But feel free to stay at the bar all night. And smoke while you're there.


John Stossel coming

The co-anchor of ABC's 20/20 is coming to campus next Monday. Last year I received one of his books and it nudged me down the path of libertarianism. I'm thinking about going.

Event: John Stossel Lecture
"Give Me a Break"
Host: Collegians for a Constructive Tomorrow
When: Monday, October 15 at 7:00pm
Where: Union Theater in the Memorial Union

Did I mention it's free?

In the 504

On Odyssey

"And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages."

David Brooks, in his latest piece, says Shakespeare's seven ages were long pared down to four and are now rebounding to a more nuanced six. Among them, he focuses on his own creation, "Odyssey":

the least understood is odyssey, the decade of wandering that frequently occurs between adolescence and adulthood.

During this decade, 20-somethings go to school and take breaks from school. They live with friends and they live at home. They fall in and out of love. They try one career and then try another.

Their parents grow increasingly anxious. These parents understand that there’s bound to be a transition phase between student life and adult life. But when they look at their own grown children, they see the transition stretching five years, seven and beyond. The parents don’t even detect a clear sense of direction in their children’s lives. They look at them and see the things that are being delayed.

At first, I thought, "Yeah, that's dead on." As someone who's squarely within his odyssey stage, it seemed prescient in that reliable Brooksian way of interpreting the world.

But is it really anything new? Or is Brooks' creation merely some modern wrapping paper on an age-old reality? Twentysomethings have, from my readings, long been running around avoiding "the inevitable."

While they're "not about slacking off" and likely a function of the "fluidity" of social work life as Brooks says, I think the odyssey years are less of a reaction to modern life conditions than one against the past.

I believe members of my generation see a stable life without meaning as one with little worth. We're glad our parents provided a settled home environment for us to grow up in, but we realize that they effectively chained themselves to their domesticity to do so. We want the best of both worlds - liberty and adventure to go out and encounter a few memorable sirens and cyclops, but also the prospect of the eventual anchor of standardized success hanging off on the distant horizon.

Looking around at some of my compatriots from undergraduate, however, I find many in my circles are embracing the odyssey. Right now, I know recent UW graduates in Malaysia, Cameroon, Thailand, South Korea, Japan, Azerbaijan, and Macedonia. Within the U.S., other friends are hiking the Appalachian trail and either working or going to law school from Seattle to Miami and everywhere in between. Perhaps it's a function of the UW, but I can think of very few who are married and few who remain in Wisconsin.

Then again, maybe the prevalence of the "odyssey" as a stage of life is a simple response to modern life - but not the fluidity or hyper-competitiveness of modern life, rather to its subtle sterility and over-informed nature. I think we want to face a harrowing scyalla and charybdis or two so we have some stories to tell, something to set us apart as individuals in the face of faux individuality imparted by the likes of Youtube, blogging, and the internet generally - which, while ostensbily enabling us to demonstrate our uniqueness, makes us, based on underlying structures, all the more alike in the end.