To Pay the Rent and Back

Happy Leap Day

Catch the fever and cough on a friend!

Since it's Friday, here's a music video:

You might recognize the song, Sleeping Lessons, from a commercial. I got the Shins' most recent album last week and it's pretty good.

New Orleans I-10 Homeless to be "Cleared Out" Today

I don't know where all the people living under the interstate will go.


McCain's Panama Canal Zone Birth A Disqualifier?

Drudge hints that it's the next major McCain candidacy question the NYT will raise. And it's been raised by smaller media outlets.

(UPDATE: Here's the NYT Article, hot off the e-press)

Will it matter?

The New York Times is poised to hit again by running a story on the eligibility of Senator John McCain to run for the Office of President.

According to the U.S. Constitution, Article II, Clause 5, “No person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty-five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.”

The perceived problem is that Senator John McCain was not born in the United States but rather at Coco Solo Air Base located in the once controlled U.S. Panama Canal Zone.

If this is the case, does this pose a problem for the electorate? Will this face a challenge with the US Supreme Court? Could this be a reason why Mike Huckabee remains in the race and why Mitt Romney only suspended his campaign?

I remember reading about McCain's place of birth in his wikipedia entry, but didn't think much of it, other than the novelty of the locale. And the unfortunate decision during the Carter administrartion to cede the Panama Canal Zone by treaty, which took effect in 1999 (makes me wonder about all those arguing that Panama was never officially U.S. territory - then how could we cede the sovereignty we had over it, technical conception as lease in perpetuity notwithstanding?).

If the issue hasn't been raised by any primary opponents nor, now that McCain's been the presumptive GOP nominee for some time, either of the Democratic contenders, I don't think it's going to have much political traction.

Legally? Seemingly, McCain's birth took place on what was de facto United States territory at the time of birth. And even then, there's the U.S. conception of natural citizen familiar to many military brats. But it comes down to "natural-born" as pointed out in this 1998 Washington Post piece addressing the question of McCain's presidential eligibility on Canal Zone grounds:

Some might define the term "natural-born citizen" as one who was born on United States soil. But the First Congress, on March 26, 1790, approved an act that declared, "The children of citizens of the United States that may be born beyond sea, or outside the limits of the United States, shall be considered as natural-born citizens of the United States." That would seem to include McCain, whose parents were both citizens and whose father was a Navy officer stationed at the U.S. naval base in Panama at the time of John's birth in 1936.

Clearly, the definition of not just natural, but "natural-born" versus "naturalized" citizen lies at the heart of the matter. The Fourteenth Amendment is cited by those who say it trumps the 1790 law (and Dred v. Scott) in fleshing out the terms in the qualifications of Article II, Section 5 and disqualifies McCain, who they would see as a "naturalized" as opposed to a "natural-born" citizen:

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.

However, here are two interesting - and, I think, pivotal - tidbits from the legal breakdown of citizenship from the State Department's guide to acquisition of citizenship. First, while...

c. Despite widespread popular belief, U.S. military installations abroad and U.S.
diplomatic or consular facilities are not part of the United States within the meaning of the
14th Amendment. A child born on the premises of such a facility is not subject to the
jurisdiction of the United States and does not acquire U.S. citizenship by reason of birth.

...McCain was born not in just any military base, but a military base within the Panama Canal Zone - which, while not a state, could qualify under the territories exception that seemingly applied to Barry Goldwater in 1964 (Goldwater was born in Arizona Territory in 1909 before statehood in 1912 - explicit statutory provisions also extend natural born citizenship to those born in pre-statehood Alaska and Hawaii). Moreover, McCain's age could be his saving grace - certainly this...

d. Prior to January 13, 1941, there was no statutory definition of “the United States” for
citizenship purposes. Thus there were varying interpretations.

...should give him the benefit of the doubt as to being a natural citizen born in the United States.

I'm admittedly not yet an expert on these matters. But here's a sampling of some of the language that reinforces the notion that, if we accept McCain was born in the United States prior to 1941, he meets the second requirement of the Fourteenth Amendment for natural-born citizenship: he was certainly subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. This from the 1903 Panama Canal Treaty:

# Article 3
# The Republic of Panama grants to the United States all the rights, power and authority within the zone mentioned and described in Article 2 of this agreement and within the limits of all auxiliary lands and waters mentioned and described in said Article 2 which the United States would possess and exercise if it were the sovereign of the territory within which said lands and waters are located to the entire exclusion of the exercise by the Republic of Panama of any such sovereign rights, power or authority.

and the the 1977 treaty ceding control of the Panama Canal Zone to Panama, which indicates U.S. law still controlled in the zone even during the transition of control:

5. The courts of the United States of America and related personnel, functioning in the former Canal Zone immediately prior to the entry into force of this Treaty, may continue to function during the transition period for the judicial enforcement of the jurisdiction to be exercised by the United States of America in accordance with this Article.

6. In civil cases, the civilian courts of the United States of America in the Republic of Panama shall have no jurisdiction over new cases of a private civil nature, but shall retain full jurisdiction during the transition period to dispose of any civil cases, including admiralty cases, already instituted and pending before the courts prior to the entry into force of this Treaty.

7. The laws, regulations, and administrative authority of the United States of America applicable in the former Canal Zone immediately prior to the entry into force of this Treaty shall, to the extent not inconsistent with this Treaty and related agreements, continue in force for the purpose of the exercise by the United States of America of law enforcement and judicial jurisdiction only during the transition period.

That leaves the third part of the 14th Amendment's standard - "are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside." Does that simply outline the present citizenship of the person at the present time (Arizona for McCain)- or require, by implication, that the person be born in a U.S. state or a territory that becomes a state in order to qualify as natural-born?

I tend to think the history surrounding the qualification of Article II, Section 5 - scant, but seemingly centered on a letter from John Jay to George Washington - was largely to prevent foreigners from controlling the government. In the end, is John McCain more like an American or a foreigner by dint of his birth?

To me, after what has turned into far more than a cursory glance (!), the bulk of the evidence seems to lean toward permitting McCain's Canal Zone birth to qualify as meeting the natural-born citizen requirement for purposes of ascending to the Presidency of the United States.

Off Camera


Sheboyganite In the South

A new blog takes the stage as Joe L leaps into the blogosphere.

Joe, as you may recall, provided some great correspondent coverage of the South Carolina Primary for this blog a few weeks ago.

William F. Buckley, Jr. Departs

According to NRO's The Corner. (HT/Mac)

Nevertheless, to quote a phrase I picked up while doing an honors Journalism paper on coverage of the man's rollicking 1965 campaign for Mayor of New York City, I think it would be prudent to "Demand a recount!"

Forget flying cars

In the future there will be automated killer robots. Looks like it's time to order that robot insurance early to lock in those low rates.

But seriously, in the article it quotes military leaders as saying they will make for a "risk-free war." Isn't that creepy? Sure, I want as few people as possible to die unnaturally, but what's the point of fighting a war if it's fought by robots? It would be as meaningful as watching a Super Bowl played by robots, or heck, just broadcast some people playing a football video game.

Moreover, the great cost of war in lives and destruction is the biggest deterrent against frequent and trivial warfare. If war didn't cost anything--say, anything more than the cost of an Olympics, just a few billion and none of our lives--then we'd be waging war all the time.

If anything, war robots will lower the cost of violence, making it more widespread.


A change in the weather

As February grinds to a close, the insurgent Spring is already asserting itself against the icy grip of a winter that has brought more mud than snow. High blue skies and gentle breezes give way to cold snaps that send us back to our wood-stoves and scarves; the change in the weather has heralded a change in the flow of electricity as well: where it used to go out between about 11 or noon and return around 2 or 3 in the afternoon, it now is wont to stay on all afternoon. The trade-off is that it is more likely to kill out at night for a few hours at a stretch.

After a grey Wednesday afternoon, the wind kicked up in the evening, and the power went out. I read by the light of a wind-up flashlight, while Agaetis Byrjun kept a weird accompaniment to the whining and screaming wind that tore down the main street. The glow from the window of my stove, fed now primarily with the shells of nuts gathered here during the autumn, illuminated the table on the opposite wall of my room. Headlights from the occasional Lada cast long, ominous shadows on the white outer wall of the house across the street, where an old lady sells "Zaqatala bread" from her window during the day. The shadows fled darkly or rose and lingered before the oncoming calamity of a Soviet machine or an ancient tractor, which passed like theives scurrying out of a spotlight. As I made my way downstairs to the outhouse, candle-light glowed softly behind the curtains of the family room downstairs, and the full moon's light was gauzy through a curtain of cloud. The natural dark, driven off no longer by the feeble power that is the creation of man, brought an odd quietude to the village; neither dog nor rooster seemed to stir. The lights came back on well after midnight.

Saturday dawned bright and clear, with a high, soft blue sky and no clouds. By afternoon it must have been 60 degrees, and I set up a chair on my porch, playing Miles Davis and reading a history of the Spanish civil war.


Ray Nagin Unplugged - & Unhinged

"I'm a fairly high profile person..."

The good Mayor rants, attacks blogs, berates the station he's on, threatens - on air - to "coldcock" somebody, and generally leaves the news hosts dumbfounded.

Here's the link to the video. (HT/Alex G)

He's particularly - and absurdly - ticked about the fact that this picture, which we posted in a light-hearted manner, was widely circulated. He raves about the evil of media releasing one of his old schedules (Back in Madison, Mayor Dave doesn't seem to have a problem with his schedule up on the web).

How strangely paranoid. And highly unprofessional.

"You can come with that foolishness if you want, but you gonna see a side 'a Ray Nagin that you hadn't seen."

Parsing SCOTUS Judicial Activism

Shark and Shepherd elucidates an interesting, albeit unstartling point about U.S. Supreme Court "judicial activism" in the modern context.

Highlighting the activist nature of "judicial conservatives" has become a favorite tactic of those critical of the conservatively inclined Rehnquist and Roberts courts. Professor Geoffrey Stone, who spoke here at Tulane last fall, expressed his concern with what he perceived as the activist nature of justices Roberts and Alito, which seemed especially troublesome to him in the wake of his noted support of Roberts during confirmation.

As Dinesh D'Souza anticipated in Letters to a Young Conservative, the more recently confirmed conservative justices, I estimate, perceive the need for activism of one sort to upend the deleterious effects of what they view as decades of judicial activism in the opposite direction.

Somewhat heartening to me, and certainly intriguing, amdist this blizzard of judicial activism is the distinction highlighted by Shark and Shepherd:

the "conservatives" were far more likely to strike down federal laws while the "liberals" were more likely to strike down state laws. This is what you'd expect but it tends to illustrate that the debate around "judicial activism" is not really about striking down legislation.

Combining a belief in states as legislative laboratories and a general belief in limiting the power of the federal government, which I believe has expanded beyond its appropriate scope, the "conservative" brand of activism comes off as somewhat more tolerable.

The debate should not devolve to one that is entirely about a choice between lesser of two activisms, though. Justice Rehnquist provides a different model from the options presented by his colleagues, one seemingly inclined to deference across the board:

With the exception of Chief Justice Rehnquist (who was markedly less inclined to strike down legislation), Kerr reports that all of the Justices voted to strike down legislation between 57 and 67 times.

And, as Rick notes, the audacity of legislatures, or the lack thereof, plays an important part in determining how a justice will be forced to paint himself or herself. Like this rather strange, conflicted self-portrait of Scalia.

Fiscal Wake-Up Tour!

It's rockin' and rolling into town this Wednesday evening as part of the Union's Distungished Lecture Series. David Walker, the Comptroller General of the U.S., is going to be speaking at the Memorial Union about the country's financial outlook.

Maybe you heard, but he's going around the country trying to make people aware of the coming financial problems since Washington and the politicians aren't listening. I happened to link to a news segment on him on Friday. Basically in the coming years, healthcare and retirement spending is going to consume the federal budget. Social security is expected to go bankrupt in 2040, when today's college aged people will be in their mid-50's and have paid their whole lives for nothing.

I see on the DLS' schedule, Richard Dawkins is coming in March. I'd like to go to both of these, but I'll have to see depending on the homework situation.

"it bares its bright orange teeth and lets out a growl"

A part-time job, perhaps?

Where's Harry Lee when you need him?


Step right up! Get your Gorlov Helical Turbines!

Race and the Race

Will this...

...lead to this? This guy's seemingly given his blessing.

Or maybe even this, since that is looking less likely?

UPDATE: Or, of course, this?

SNL, Huckabee, Republican Superdelegates

During the delightful Huckabee clip on Saturday Night Live, the lingering candidate is told that superdelegates only matter in the Democratic race:

But what about the Republican Party's "unpledged delegates" that, while fewer in number, seem highly analogous? SNL, it seems, was technically right in name, but not entirely in substance:

Although the national Republican Party does not have these superdelegates, 123 members of the Republican National Committee are free to vote for any candidate at the GOP convention this summer in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Of those, 26 have already expressed support for McCain and three for Huckabee.

At the rate things are going, they're beyond mathematical relevance and into "miracles" territory.

But it would still be nice to know how the convention and nominating structures for both parties work, now that their more arcane features seem to be oozing out of smoke-filled rooms into the sunlight day by day.

And here I thought SNL's Weekend Update set the bar for news.


Who'd have guessed Minnesota?

Their bars figured out a clever way around the state's smoking ban:

Dozens of bars are expected to stage "theater nights'' this weekend in which patrons are dubbed actors. The law, which went into effect in October, permits performers to smoke during a theatrical production. "Two weeks ago, we had one bar doing this,'' said Mark Benjamin, a criminal defense attorney who launched the theater-night idea. He estimates 50 to 100 bars could be on tap for theater nights this weekend based on phone calls, e-mails and requests for the how-to-stage-a-theater-night packet that he's devised.

Lisa Anderson, owner of Mike's Uptown bar in Hill City, said that last Saturday she staged a "theater night" and packed in four times the usual crowd that has come in since the smoking ban took effect.

State of the Black Union Flap

The State of the Black Union convention is underway down at the convention center here in New Orleans.

Strangely, Hillary attends and Barack does not.

While I would tend to say non-attendance by Obama helps him retain his claim to have transcended race, this particular move makes it appear as if he's let himself be outflanked.

We're not very far from Texas, and now he has some explaining to do.

Movie Shoot In the Neighborhood

There's a movie shoot in progress in the immediate neighborhood. It seems to be centered on Lusher Charter School a block from my house.

According to one of the NOPD officers stationed in his car to block off the roadways, it's the movie "Cirque du Freak" which they say is "like Harry Potter" - although I'm not so sure that's entirely apt.

Tulane Applications Up 99% Over Last Year




After the Rain

February Foliage

Backyard goes bayou

St. Charles Avenue

Down in the Irish Channel

Wet in the Warehouse District

Audubon Park

Friday Reads

Here's some bits and pieces:


Hillary Bats Last

And, in my opinion, hits it out of the park.

Clinton's final remarks were masterful - and looked like the polar opposite of the "what is your biggest weakness" flap she lost to Obama earlier in the campaign.

The Xerox moment, though, seemed weak and canned. And it certainly didn't play well with the Austin crowd.

Best moment: Obama noting that China was filling the void left in Latin America by the U.S. focus on the War in Iraq.

Ann Coulter isn't completely crazy

She's still able to make a good point from time to time:

By prohibiting speech by anyone else, the campaign-finance laws have vastly magnified the power of the media -- which, by the way, are wholly exempt from speech restrictions under campaign-finance laws. The New York Times doesn't have to buy ad time to promote a politician; it just has to call McCain a "maverick" 1 billion times a year.

It's ironic how trying to make all people's political voices equally loud, spreading the "speech" power around, actually silences the people while strengthening the media's power.

I probably should have titled it something else since I don't really think she's crazy--rather she's a smart woman who's strategically picked her market.

In case you're wondering, I had two of her books in high school, but grew out of that stuff during my freshman year of college. Incidentally, that same year my roommate took one without me knowing and managed to get Al Franken to sign its cover page. So I got that going for me...


Playing With Fire

Serbs start the U.S. embassy on fire in Belgrade.

Re-lighting of the powder keg?

Speaking of Superdelegates...

Ask the youngest one - also a Wisconsinite - a question here.

[Jason] Rae will join us live from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on Thursday, February 21, at 3 p.m. ET. What would you like to ask him? Send your questions as comments below, or – better yet – send in a question on video to I-Report.

Speculation on a Superdelegate

As I've known for some time now, one of my old classmates, Awais Khaleel of Kenosha, Wisconsin, is an uncommitted Democratic superdelegate. We were in the same discussion section for Professor Donald Downs' First Amendment course.

Like me, he's a grand old 23 years of age.

While the interview I had hoped for doesn't seem to be shaping up, I'm going to go out on a limb and pin Awais - while he was photographed in the crowd behind Bill Clinton during his visit to the UW campus - as an Obama guy in the end.


He's young, he's living in a Wisconsin victory paradigm and a UW environment of fervent Obama support, he's politically savvy, and he's a liberal Muslim who calls Kenosha home - a unique life experience, no doubt, that I think would help him to identify with Obama (not necessarily because of a specific racial or religious connection, but because of the "non-traditional" life story).

I could see him being upset with the idea of superdelegates contravening the will of Democratic primary voters. I'm also guessing he sees Barack as the ipod and Hillary as the walkman.

Moreover, I think Awais' general congenial demeanor, which I won't attempt to quantify here (as I probably couldn't do it accurately), lines up far more closely with what I've seen from Obama than from Clinton.

That's my two cents as the prospect of a Clinton comeback - and Khaleel's sudden relevance - look to be slipping away.

Dear Tulane Student Government

When will we learn of the fate of the referendum on referendums?

How will we learn the fate of the referendum on referendums?

Was there actually a referendum on referendums?

And will you answer my e-mail in regard to the referendum on referendums, Mr. Jered Bocage?

*Hypothesis: Perhaps the referendum on referendums passed, and the student government used its newly acquired power to amend the student government constitution without student body approval to change the document to bar the posting of electoral results.

CNN to Blogger: Walk the Plank

But the blogger's treading water, raging at the ship that's leaving him in its wake, frigate-birds floating overhead:

Since those earliest days, I've come to understand that the libertine, pirate ship mentality I found so seductive during my time in a rock band is pretty much a staple of most newsrooms, particularly at the local level. What's more, it's accompanied by a slightly better paycheck (although often only slightly).

Over the past several years though, something has changed. Drastically. And I'm not sure whether it's me, or television news, or both.

A New Orleans attorney, who alerted me to the story, muses about whether law is the best solution to the problem of a rogue blogger employee:

I think this may be a case of applying the law to exacerbate a problem, rather than to control (which is often impossible) or diminish the problem. I guess what I'm saying is that maybe the legal angle to this story is a big part of CNN's problem.

And perhaps CNN will find that having an employee handbook (which may have been tweaked after consultation with high-priced lawyers) isn't turning out to be the great weapon that they had hoped it would be. But, just as news companies rarely point the camera at themselves, lawyers rarely advise clients to consider the negative fallout from using the law to solve a big problem. Lawyers, like journalists, have self-interests that sometimes override their supposed allegiance to the people they serve.

Here, it does seem CNN's decision is a little less than wise. Rather than work out an agreeable arrangement, it decided the best way to tango with a blogger is to cut the cord and put up a great, silent wall:

A few minutes later, I was off the phone and out of a job. No severance. No warning (which would've been a much smarter proposition for CNN as it would've put the ball effectively in my court and forced me to decide between my job or the blog). No nothing. Just, go away.

Right before I hung up, I asked for the "official grounds" for my dismissal, figuring the information might be important later. At first they repeated the line about not writing anything outside of CNN without permission, but HR then made a surprising comment: "It's also, you know, the nature of what you've been writing."

Now, the nature of CNN's business, providing objective news, makes the handbook's proscription a bit more reasonable than it might be for a different industry. The value of the company's product could more easily be called into question in light of openly biased public expressions of an identifiable employee in the same vein as CNN's business - namely, providing news and news commentary. A mechanic who posts polticial stances on Huffington Post does not call the value of the oil changes he provides into question as easily as the politically outspoken blogger does with political news content he helps provide through CNN.

The blogger here, Chez, is a rather blatantly rebellious person, as evidenced by his post's bloggers-against-the-machine concluding lines, although he succeeds in making some bitingly accurate jabs at CNN content. But what about the individual's right to political self-expression on his own time? What about the vagueness of the handbook terms? What about the growing prevalence of blogs generally?

As someone genuinely interested in the law of blogging with respect to employment - in large part out of self-interest given my own situation - this case is fascinating. I've gone from thinly veiled pseudonym in the blogosphere to backing my content openly with my name. I think it makes people more responsible for what they say and improves both the tone and level of debate and commentary, even if it personally circumscribes (by my choice) my latitude of expression.

It's unfortunate that such a healthy practice proved to be a major component in the downfall of one former employee of CNN.



That's one short flight for a missile...one giant leap for U.S. anti-satellite measures -

as far as a signal to competitors:

In January 2007, China used a land-based missile to destroy a 2,200-pound satellite that was orbiting 528 miles above the Earth. The impact left more than 100,000 pieces of debris orbiting the planet, NASA estimated -- 2,600 of them more than 4 inches across. The U.S. agency called the breakup of the Fengyun-C satellite the worst in history.

China, however, is among a host of countries who are monitoring the U.S. satellite kill shot. It is "highly concerned" and has expressed its reservations to the United States, according to a report in the state-run Xinhua news agency.

I'm highly concerned about China being highly concerned.

And Russia will, no doubt, claim the South Pole in retaliation.

Medical Diplomacy in Africa: A Positive Side Effect

President Bush's efforts at what Tommy Thompson liked to call "Medical Diplomacy", on the surface, cost far too much for my tastes.

But the apparent goodwill being generated by the efforts among African nation, as evidenced by Bush's trip around the continent, is a positive step beyond the good will and improved regional health.

It makes the U.S. look attractive on a continent where China has made significant geopolitical inroads in places like Angola, Zimbabwe, and Sudan - the latter relationship highlighted most starkly by Steven Spielberg's recent protest withdrawal from involvement with the Beijing Olympics (which is very much in line with what I've been saying on Darfur for years).

When viewed through the lens of comparing the competitive soft power of superpowers on the continent, it's a potential benefit to America's standing in the world.

Mistissippi Night


The Economist Takes A Glimpse, Nay A Swipe At Wisconsin

And finds it lacking:

All in all, a pleasant but dull place it would seem.

Dull? There's a litany of reasons why that's inaccurate. I'll chalk the miconception up to the current hibernation-inducing Greenlandic conditions I've heard so much about.

But beyond the whiff of a slur, the article paints a rather nice little vignette of "the perfectly purple state.”

It makes me very content - and just a bit proud - to call the microcosm of America my home.

Wisconsin Presidential Primary 2008

Will the weather conditions hurt Obama or Clinton more?

I'm going with the latter. All those gaggles of college students will probably plow right through the snow on the way to the polls.

But I think Clinton stands a very real chance, as several polls have shown. This, too, might be crucial in light of WEAC's strong political mobilization function in the state.

On the GOP side, I think Huckabee will come very close, but ultimately fail to overtake McCain - math trumps miracles at this point, methinks.

A Toast to You

Let's agree that there is a heaven and a hell. A young man dies and passes into that mysterious realm beyond life. As he walks into the light, he sees two lines, stetching eternally off into the light. But there is no sign, no clue as to which goes to heaven and which goes to hell. So he stands there for a moment, looking around, trying to discern which line he should join.

As he stands there, looking about himself in confusion, he spies an old man, with a full white beard and slightly tattered clothes, sitting in a corner off to one side. The young man goes over to the older man and asks, "Uncle, you seem to have been here many years. Can you tell me which line goes to heaven?"

The old man replies, "Son, it does not matter. Here I have a full jug of wine, some bread, some cheese. Come sit with me and share my repast, and we will enjoy each other's company."

So the young man sits and drinks, and he and the old man talk, trading stories over the wine. But soon enough, the wine jug is emptied, and the young man becomes dispirited again. "Old man, thank you for your kindness. Now please - haven't you seen some clue as to which line goes to heaven? Can't you help me?"

But the old man only smiles. "Son," he says, "it does not matter. For you see, every time your friends and loved ones drink to your health, our jug shall be refilled. So sit down again, and enjoy."

So here's to your ancestors and loved ones.


Law School - The Musical

1L, set to music. [caution, a little rough language, kids] (ht/Dave J)

At least things are looking up for 3L. [same warning]

Just Another Day in NOLA

Foreign policy & independent Kosovo

Kosovo declaring independence is a good thing. I'm glad that they've managed to throw off a government they didn't want and are going to form a democratic republic. Our founding documents are based on the noble principle that a government's legitimacy to govern comes from the consent of the governed--you can't force government and boundaries on people that don't want them.

The U.S. and the E.U. through NATO are the major backers of their declaration and will likely recognize them soon. I hope our government has thought this through and the benefits for us are worth the costs, being for the near future that we've created a country that will be dependent on us for defense in Russia's front yard.

Moreover, if we care enough about a little area in Europe, this sets the precedent that we'll be likely to support anyone who's seeking independence. Independence is a blurry topic. What makes a country a country? What are the qualifications? What about the country that loses area and population? Shouldn't an independent country be able to stand on its own? A precedent is being set with far-reaching consequences for Americans without most Americans even aware of these places existing or what their situations are.

How do we decide which areas we'll support?

In the past we've looked the other way on Russia's crackdowns on Chechnya. Aren't we supporting self-determination? Taiwan's itching to be a full-fledged country, but the last thing we need now is a war with China. Why have we decided that Iraq should stay one country? What do we do if Vermont, Hawaii, or any other areas try to break away and get their own independence?

Looking at the course of history, the countries of the world evolve just like plants and animals: they come and go as well as grow and shrink. Rome, for example, came onto the stage and was better adapted to the world at that time than the existing countries since it displaced and took over its contemporaries. A few centuries later, conditions had changed and it went extinct as other countries and systems took its place. Just as easily, Rome could have sprung up and by happenstance the Gauls or the Carthaginians had a better system and Rome became just another city in some other empire. For every country and system that made it, there are hundreds that didn't.

For the way things are, there's a natural equilibrium. All the time countries will spring up and new configurations will be made and if they are meant to be then they are, otherwise they aren't and a better arrangement will come about.

The U.S. can't be everywhere and everything to everyone. It costs a lot, economically, militarily, socially, and diplomatically, to artificially tip the scales in ways we think they should be and maintain things that wouldn't be otherwise. We are powerful enough to be the world police, but we should only do so in extraordinary circumstances.

Assuming our country is going to be around for centuries, we should focus on making as few enemies as possible. If Kosovo, Tibet, Taiwan, or Chechnya want to take a shot at being independent, we should neither hinder nor explicitly help because Russia and China and other big countries will be around just as long as we are. If we get the reputation of helping fragment other countries, what are we to do when the chickens come home to roost? Who's to say if in a century or two, some big country starts aiding separatist movements in the U.S.?

By interfering in the world we make all sorts of double standards and put things out of whack. Take the Middle East, where we've spent billions and been involved with several countries. I read Imperial Hubris over winter break and it basically said that the terrorists are fighting us because we're over there. So we respond by more fighting over there. We're attacking the attackers who are attacking attackers. It just spirals even more (check out this video). It doesn't make sense.

As the founding fathers planned, we should be a lighthouse of freedom shinning out into a chaotic world, remaining neutral and friendly to all, insulated by two oceans and weak countries. All we'd need is a decent navy and air force. We can sit here and trade with others without spending our lives and wealth to mess with other countries' business. Instead we've spent trillions on Iraq, for what? For $400 billion we could have converted the country to solar power in 40 years.

Like I said, I'm happy for Kosovo's independence as long as they, by themselves, are completely independent.

Do endorsements matter?

I swear I felt the Earth move last week when Mayor Dave announced he's endorsing Obama. Or how commendable was it when Tommy Thompson showed his knack for risk taking by defiantly endorsing John McCain last Wednesday?

Sure politicians like to talk about themselves and the news likes getting stuff to report, but does anyone base their vote on who endorses whom? I'd say no. Take John Edwards. He had tons of endorsements, from pretty much everything from here to Stalingrad and he sure went nowhere.

Part of it's associating celebrities with candidates in voters' minds. Tough guy Chuck Norris sells exercise machines and Mike Huckabees. Therefore, Huckabee is a tough guy and was really cool three years ago. Billy Mays probably would support Rudy because they both use a relentless in-your-face single tagline style to sell. I'd bet Ron Popeil would endorse Fred Thompson because you can set him and forget him. Just like an infomercial product, after much tv hype he turned out to be a dud.

More close to home, democratic voters might be encouraged to vote for Hillary if they hear that after kicking the tires, our belov'd congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, has certified Hillary to be a genuine non-lemon (guaranteed to 10 meters of water). By endorsing, these local people also act as representatives to us of the national campaigns, since we've probably seen more of them than the national politicians.

But is it good for us that our politicians could get divided amongst themselves? While Lt. Gov. Lawton also supports Hillary, Gov. Doyle endorses Barack and they're both out campaigning. Gov. Doyle likes Barack so much, that he's been out campaigning in Kansas for him. Some Wisconsinites may think "well if he's good enough for Gov. Doyle, that's enough for me!" but I'd be surprised if any Kansasians even know who Doyle is. Besides, don't we need our governor, here governoring?

As a voter, it really isn't a good idea to vote by endorsements. The incentives for organizations and other politicians are different than the motivations for an individual to vote for a candidate. Instead of trying to pick the best person for the job, organizations are trying to collect some pork while politicians are trying to climb the ladder as well as potentially get a spot in a future administration. Or at least a vacation to Kansas.

While I'm on politics, since about the last week, there have been a bunch of political ads on the local stations, nearly one per commercial break in the evenings. They've been at least 80% Obama positive ads and the rest are Clinton ads attacking Obama for not debating in Wisconsin. I think she's not trying too hard and instead focusing on Texas, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.


Dave Obey - Getting It Wrong

"Independents are by their very nature the people who have the least depth and exposure to what the candidates are doing and saying. That's why they're independents," said Obey, who argued that McCain's support in the primaries among independents who don't like the war shows that "people voted for him without having a clue about what he stands for."

Really? I would argue the exact opposite holds true for many independents.

In fact, I hope some independents are outraged by the diss.

A good portion of the independents I know are engaged, discerning, and informed people who know politics, politicians, and policies all too well. They truly have to agonize over a lesser-of-two evils choice because no candidate or party fully aligns with their beliefs. They are not blind, sign-holding, cookie cutter followers.

As for McCain's popularity with independents, it's been well established that voters realize McCain's stance on the war full well and support him nevertheless because they align with the candidate on a bundle of other issues important to them.

But here’s the punchline: McCain’s resurgent campaign for the Republican nomination is, for now at least, being fueled by support from voters who say they are against the war—not the party base that supports it.

In New Hampshire, 21 percent of voters in the Republican primary told exit pollsters that they “somewhat disapprove” of the war. But 49 percent of those voters cast ballots for McCain—more than twice the total of any other candidate. Another 14 percent of the New Hampshire G.O.P. electorate said they “strongly disapprove” of the war. But McCain was their first choice as well, with 38 percent. (Ron Paul got 26.).

On the flip side, the 25 percent of G.O.P. voters in New Hampshire who said that they “strongly approve” of the war sided with Mitt Romney over McCain by an astounding 44 to 23 percent margin. [...]

It’s not like McCain has been trying to keep his opinions on Iraq quiet. His support for the war, and his harsh personal characterizations of its critics, feature prominently in his stump speech and are among the first things he mentions in debates and television interviews. And his record in the Senate, where he has bitterly (and successfully) fought every effort to force a Congressionally-mandated end to the war, should demonstrate clearly to Republicans that he means exactly what he says on the subject.

Some voters who are against the war are certainly well aware of where McCain stands but are siding with him anyway because they think that other considerations—whether McCain’s stances on other issues or his general leadership character—outweigh the war. The fact that ever other Republican candidate also professes support for the war—except for Paul—makes this decision a little easier for anti-war voters.

Sorry, Congressman, I don't give your analysis much credence at all.

And the war, generally, is continuing its slip from a position as the overriding electoral issue of this cycle.

Sunday Night Special

Grab a sazerac, sit back, and enjoy Professor Longhair's classic New Orleans piano tune, Tipitina.

Or, if you're a classmate, down another Coke and keep digging away on Westlaw.


Inspired by?
A. Star Wars
B. 1960s Berlin
C. U.S. Army
D. Nepalese crop guarding towers
E. George Orwell
F. Traditional New Orleans Mardi Gras kiddie parade ladders

Can you envision Obama...

doing this?

On Christmas Eve 1968, a church service for the POWs was staged for photographers and film cameras; McCain defied North Vietnamese instructions to be quiet, speaking out details of his treatment then shouting "Fu-u-u-u-ck you, you son of a bitch!" and giving the finger whenever a camera was pointed at him.[63] McCain refused to meet with various anti-war peace groups coming to Hanoi, such as those led by David Dellinger, Tom Hayden, and Rennie Davis, not wanting to give either them or the North Vietnamese a propaganda victory based on his connection to his father.[47]

Or Hillary? Or Huckabee, for that matter? Ron Paul - maybe.

As much as I don't want personality and character to override policy concerns in this presidential cycle, it's an interesting window into the core of a candidate.

And then there's this additional factoid from the McCain wikipedia entry that he should be playing up in Wisconsin as the February 19 primary approaches:

Although McCain was badly wounded, his captors refused to give him medical care unless he gave them military information; they beat and interrogated him, but McCain only offered his name, rank, serial number, and date of birth,[46] and then his ship's name, squadron's name, and their intended target[48] (disclosing this information was in violation of the Code of Conduct, which McCain later wrote he regretted, but in practice was of no military value to the North Vietnamese[49]). Further coerced to give the names of his squadron members, he supplied the names of the Green Bay Packers' offensive line.[50][48]

Kosovo Independence: Guest Account, Reflections

"The celebratory [ethnic Albanian] sedans are passing through the Macedonian part of town, which might be seen as provocative taunting."

Some fascinating perspective on Kosovo's independence as seen on the ground from our man in neighboring Macedonia:

"Teaching High School Enlish in Balkans is more fun when ethnocentrism and geopolitics stays out of the way...Today, Kosovo has declared its independence and the Albanians here in my Macedonian town are in turns jubilant, ecstatic, humbly proud, and smug. It makes no difference that everyone in town --Macedonian, Serbian, or Albanian -- is a Macedonian citizen; if you're an Albanian today is terrific and if you're a Slav it isn't. We're quite close to the Kosovo border, and the tension definitely spills over, as it has for years now.

"In the past 10 years, Macedonia has only narrowly avoided civil war, relying on UN soldiers to calm a 2001 conflict. Hotheads in the Macedonian majority accuse the Albanians of being mafia-prone or scheming to break away and form an oxymoronic "Greater Albania." Both sides deface the others' houses of worship. (Between all the nationalism and religion, you'd think they'd overdose on dogmatism.) Things have been better recently, but many people fear that Kosovo's independence will turn quiet prejudices into familiar violence. As Mirjana, my teaching counterpart tells me, "I don't know what to say except may God save us. I'm a bit scared, you know." Then again, Mirjana is an very jittery and diffident woman; I'd expect her to say something like that.

I'm hoping that the people in my unhappy little Macedonian town will conclude that Kosovo is not worth fighting about this time around. With an unemployment rate of ~35% and shambolic public services, this point should be obvious. There's no shortage of humane, intelligent, thoughtful people here, but the crazies of recent conflicts don't seem to have gone away, either. Albanian celebrations are planned in the town center tonight...I'm hoping that they're tasteful and reconciliatory and muted..."

"We saw a shabby cavalcade of 9 cars, each packed with intense-looking young men, making rotations around the block, drivers shouting and honking and waving flags. (The US is likely to be one of the first to recognize Kosovo, so you see its flag, too)."

* * *

For me, talk of Kosovo brings back a number of memories. Most vivid is the arrival of Antigona M, an ethnic Albanian Kosovar refugee, in my high school biology class during sophomore year. She had long, raven black hair and a reserved, haunted demeanor - you could tell she had witnessed some unspeakable things.

I was assigned to help her as best as I could to make sense of the class, which proved immensely difficult - she knew almost no English, and we struggled daily with an Albanian/English dictionary. At points, my attempts to convey biological concepts in stumbling language and harried page flipping made both of us laugh.

She was always trying to downplay her family's Muslim faith, talking only occasionally about their trips to a mosque in the Fox Valley, which must have seemed a difficult proposition to maintain in the Christian stronghold of eastern Wisconsin - and the fact that the local Catholic church was instrumental in helping them set up a new life in small town Kiel. The irony of the religious landscape in their sanctuary must had a rather dark tinge to it coming on the heels of the family's escape.

Antigona gradually adapted to her new environment - clearly divergent customs, norms, and even clothing styles had to be bridged. But she was always smart, despite being quiet. Last I heard, she was working as a successful hair stylist in Appleton. Sadly, her younger brother recently passed away.

Her father, I can still recall, would often drive his bicycle around town after the family's arrival, a small American flag fluttering off the back of the wire basket.


Guest Post: Obama in Eau Claire, Wisconsin

A guest post, courtesy of Tom S up in the Arctic wastes of northern Wisconsin:

By the time I got in line (about 10:30 am), there were already about 1,000 people lined up. I asked someone at the door what time people started to line up, and she said it was around 6 am. The doors opened around 11, but it wasn't until about 12:15 that I finally got inside Zorn Arena. The arena's capacity is around 3,500, and they made an announcement that some people were not able to get in and had to listen from outside. An older gentleman who was behind me in line said that the Zorn has the largest capacity in the area as far as he knew.

The crowd was dominated by college students, though the event was open to the entire community and I saw plenty of young families as well. The crowd was fairly energized, though I wouldn't say that it was overwhelmingly made up of strong Obama supporters. I think lots of people might have come out of curiosity. The only other campaign visit in this area of the state was Chelsea Clinton earlier in the week. Overall, I would say that the campus climate regarding the campaigns has been pretty lukewarm, especially in comparison to a place like UW-Madison.

Mr. Obama took the stage a little after 1 pm, and spoke for about 45 minutes. His speech was for the most part general campaign rhetoric, and he did not go into much detail about specific policies he would implement. Three issues that he did go into some detail about were health care, education, and energy; but for the most part it was a standard campaign speech that could have been delivered anywhere in the country.

Some final miscellaneous notes:

-By my count, he mentioned Senator Clinton 5 times. He made no mention of the Republican candidates; however he did make several remarks about the current administration (including some funny comments on the recent revelation that he and Dick Cheney are "cousins").

-Several times he drove home the point about being an "outsider" in Washington, and how that is what the country needs. Isn't it funny how that was one of President Bush's main points back in 2000?

-I was definitely impressed by Mr. Obama's speaking abilities, though I can't say that I was "blown away." His strength today was his very easy-going and relaxed manner on stage, which produces an "everyman" effect. He scored big laughs with jokes about shy Republican supporters who whisper to him at campaign stops, and also about the Chicago Bears' disappointing season.

Delegatia: Bamboozled on the Bayou

Caucus. Primary. Convention.

The dust finally appears to settle in what Mike Huckabee termed Louisiana's "goofy" presidential primary system.

In the end, Huckabee seems to have a personal basis for the pejorative term, but the comment probably hurt him, if anything, at today's pivotal state convention.

Despite garnering a 43% plurality in the February 9 Primary election, Huckabee's opponent, John McCain, will ultimately get the support of at least 35 of the state's 47 GOP convention delegates:

In Louisiana, Republicans meeting Saturday in Baton Rouge selected 44 of the state's 47 national GOP convention delegates.

Of the 44 delegates selected, 32 told the Associated Press they will back McCain, while three are uncommitted. Another nine delegates were unavailable.

Louisiana's Feb. 9 presidential primary would have pledged 20 at-large national GOP delegates had a candidate received at least 50 percent of the ballots cast. With Huckabee winning with 43 percent and McCain right behind with 42 percent, no at-large delegates were awarded.

Also, three party officials, all McCain supporters, are automatic delegates to the national convention.

Republicans at caucuses around the state cast ballots Jan. 22 for delegates and alternates to Saturday's state convention. McCain won those caucuses, giving him the advantage over Huckabee at the state convention.

In the face of the Louisiana's systems quirks, Huckabee's derision has been taken as anything but jest by some local conservatives.

And You Thought "Subprime" Was Bad...

Say hello to the latest esoteric term on its way to household ubiquity - "default credit swaps".

Time to Get Tortious!

In organizing my notes, I came across this sample of one of my more unorthodox means of studying for my Torts exam last semester...warning, there are many inside references.

It's funny, though, what the mind will turn to after hours in the cold despair of a law library carrel in December.



The Empty Suit With A Silver Tongue?

1. A broadside of critics are beginning to fire salvo after salvo at the airship Obama, looking to deflate it:

"A blank canvas"

"Speeches not solutions"

"The Platitude Salesman"

"Cult of Personality"

"mysterious Obama magic"

"a metaphysical force"

2. Will the criticism stick?

The crowds continue to show up for Obama, and reporters continue to be awed and overwhelmed by the experience. And he's specifically, overtly attempting to counter the perception.

But then again - does Obama's target core of visible, vocal, infectious support really need more than an experiential high at a rally to have their sustenance? Details - what details? He says together they can change the world(and he supposedly draws a well-educated crowd) but first consider how much they know about it:

" a 2006 National Geographic poll that found nearly half of 18- to 24-year-olds don’t think it is necessary or important to know where countries in the news are located. So more than three years into the Iraq war, only 23 percent of those with some college could locate Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Israel on a map."

And, while probably seen as desperation based on the latest Texan poll, the criticism is coming from fellow Democrats right along with the Republicans.

I don't think the criticism of vacuousness will stick. A large swath of the electorate is too much enamored with what they perceive as the perfect eloquent, articulate antidote to George W. Bush to care what he's saying. Or if he's saying much of anything at all.

Update: By request, some additional contrary Texan poll indicators.


Zulu in a Sousaphone

Superdelegates Get Cash?



The remaining uncommitted Democratic superdelegates.

"Money can't buy friends. But you can afford a better class of enemy." --Lord Mancroft

Now That They're Dancin' in 'Scansin...

Immerse yourself in the minutiae of the February 19, 2008 Wisconsin Presidential Primary.

Power Grab

The student government at Tulane made a bald move to consolidate power, offering this amendment up to voters during an online election ending today at 5pm:

Referendum on Referendum Process

The Associated Student Body has voted to present one item to the student body in referendum related to the amendment procedure for the ASB, USG, and GAPSA constitutions. Currently, all changes to the governing documents of student government constitutions require approval by the student body affected by the change.

The Assemblies have decided that, unless it is in the interest of the entire student body to consider the matter, changes to government constitutions will no longer require a referendum. This change is intended to allow the bodies to make necessary internal changes without burdening the general student population with the technicalities of the governing documents.

The amendment includes a specific exclusion for any changes to the student activity fee; that authority still remains with the student body. The full text of the changes is copied below.

Are you kidding me?

Eliminating the need for amendments to be ratified by the electorate or representative groups of the electorate (along the lines of state conventions)- effectively gives a legislative body the power to change founding documents at will. That means the documents are really no longer constitutions. There are things called bylaws and statutes that fill the role of more malleable rules for the details of efficient governance.

Additionally, no thanks to the Tulane Hullabaloo, which utterly failed to even do a story on the matter or give voters adequate notice. I don't even know what powers the student council has here. And I barely care. But I know it's using fees that form a mandatory part of my cost of education. And I'm rather peeved by its wanton disregard for its constituents as demonstrated by its decision to propose the measure at all.

I hope the referendum goes down in flames. Vote NO.

Firewalls, Seawalls, and a Valentine from Vlad

Mikey R, adventuring in Asia, makes a crucial blogging shift:

I’m already beginning to feel the effects of China’s internet censorship, and I haven’t even booked my flight out of Bangkok. Apparently, Blogspot (the site that hosted my travel blog) has been added to an expanding list of websites that are blocked by the Chinese government in what Chinese bloggers have termed, “The Great Firewall.” So I welcome you to my new travel blog (hosted by a site called Wordpress, this time), which I can happily access in Shanghai without breaking Chinese law. I’ve heard one can draw the attention of the censors by using banned words or phrases as well (bloggers have taken to using acronyms for the more popular banned phrases, which has even lead to the banning of certain acronyms), so this blog may one day find itself in the clutches of The Great Firewall, too. Until then, read and enjoy.

In other firewall news, Hillary Clinton pulls a page from the Giuliani playbook as she looks to make a final stand down at the Alamo.

When you're putting up political primary firewalls - or even worse, a "sea wall" as one commenter called it (perhaps mistakenly, but nonetheless aptly) - you're likely already done.

Although this anti-endorsement - a stiff-handed Valentines slap from Vlad himself - might help.

I'm not a big fan of him these days, taunting our sea wall. And I never was.

Caption Contest

Eliot Kamenitz, The Times-Picayune



Dry Dock

LIB sidles up to a berth. I hope to update the sidebar, description, and a few other structural aspects of the blog over the next week or so.

Some portions haven't changed since we arrived on the island. We've got gerbils running around in the html - it's a real timebomb that's due to be defused.

If you have any suggested links or new quotes for the subheadings under the title, shoot them my way.

Things change. Don't cry. Cue cleaning montage.

My penchant for whistling suddenly sounds more lucrative...

"100 Years" - The Gross Distortion of McCain's Comment on Iraq

I'm really growing weary of the shallowness of those who keep parroting, mocking the McCain phrase "100 years" with exlamations of disbelief and shocked disdain. Gasp - how could he say such a thing?

While an admittedly inadvisable turn of phrase on McCain's part, the words are being considered almost exclusively out of context and without any consideration of the underlying reality of U.S. foriegn policy that McCain is getting at (stripping away a lot of bs and basing his observation on U.S. historical and present day examples). Here's the actual clip.

His comment came in light of a distinction - he doesn't want the U.S. to be "mired" in Iraq for 100 years. He does think a U.S. military presence there in the long run - but seemingly not of the current size, though (based on the troop level decreases post-conflict in the examples he cites) - shouldn't shock the American conscience given our other analogous longstanding deployments elsewhere around the globe.

It's about reality, about the details. McCain's explication of the statement is anything but off the wall - it demonstrates a better understanding of U.S. military and global history, as well as Middle East politics, than I've seen from either remaining Democratic contender.

Having troops stationed in a relatively stable location versus a precarious, deadly one is an assumption inherent in the statement about troops remaining in Iraq for 100 years. A sustained presence with minimal casualities or, hopefully, no causualties, is worthwhile in his mind. I can at least see the logic there - and refuse to simply guffaw in shallow, dismissive, cocksure disgust like one of the tools in the latest viral Youtube clip. As dusk falls on the Bush era, the bar is apparently set quite low when it comes to making a substantive campaign policy critique - ironically, the oversimplicity of the left's critique of McCain mirrors the precise oversimplification at the root of many of Bush's errors.

In sum, as I observed earlier in the comments over at Hippie Perspective, responding to one "Blondie":

Your knee-jerk reaction to the phrase bandied about without any of its accompanying nuance or historical background is more disturbing than McCain's actual comment.

He pointed out that we've had troops in Germany (Edit: *actually Korea in the clip) and Japan since World War II. It's the same as many places - South Korea, Guantanamo and Puerto Rico since the Spanish American War of 1898. It is, as he says, an American hatred of casualties, not actual troop presence, that has long motivated and shaped our stationing of troops overseas.

Here's another example of McCain's claim to "straight talk" harms him just as much as it helps him. His comment is not palatable as a soundbite in the modern political context because people think it means McCain wants the same number of troops in Iraq with the same rate of casualties for a century.

It's a very shallow interpretation of his nuanced view.

Even Hillary and Barack, with their admission last night that they want to keep some force to protect the embassy, might require what amounts, in the end, to pretty much the same thing - a smaller but sustained presence.

If you want to disagree, even then, with the actual substance of what McCain said in context, go right ahead. Someone could do so from a Ron Paul Old Right perspective with ease.

Otherwise, don't just drop your jaw without looking at the context to see how the comment is anything but absurd.

Barack Obama will tell you what you want to hear. But the hurdles of military logistical and geopolitical realities would likely render his platitudes just that - platitudes. Both he and Hillary want to keep a minimal force of U.S. military strength to protect the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad in the long run, as Obama admitted at an earlier Debate. I would submit that's not necessarily all that divergent from the reduced force McCain has in mind, what he foresees being in Iraq for what may amount to 100 years. And I also haven't seen Obama or Clinton putting forward legislation to permanently pull existing deployed troops out of various non-Iraq nations (please correct me if I'm wrong - one might contort an anti-Guantanamo vote into such a stance).

If Democrats want to criticize McCain's vision, then they should do so in a less disingenuous manner (I actually think Obama would be up to the task if he chose to take the high ground and appeal to thinking people). I would expect the same standard of Republicans who would try to oversimplify Obama's healthcare plan as straight up socialized medicine in a critique.

For now, the McCain soundbyte is being presented in a vacuum. It's been dumbed down. And it's really getting annoying.