8.31.2008

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Is anything going to happen in St. Paul?

If nobody is going to be there, I'm heading back south to meet up with some classmates.

Interview with the DailyPage on Gustav, etc.

Watch Madison's The Daily Page for an upcoming piece - I just did an extensive email interview about NOLA, the hurricane, and evacuating with Kristian Knutsen.

Hurricane Gustav - Photos from my Saturday Evacuation of New Orleans







How someone got to this blog

- the following Google search term:

"will other universities take displaced tulane students after Gustav?"

I don't know.

Gustave now anticipated to make MONDAY morning landfall

This is not good.  Not good at all.  

The unexpected speed of the storm across the Gulf narrows the already small window for remaining evacuation.  The city of New Orleans itself may now directly experience Category 4 or 5 winds.  And the West Bank's flood protection is incomplete.

Hang in there, guys on Delgado!


Evacuation Update: What in the world? Stuck in the Middle of Two.

McCain and Palin won't be at the convention...but are heading to the Gulf Coast instead?

I don't know if that's a good idea.  How is everything supposed to work out with the pre-planned convention?

I'm in St. Louis after a grueling day of traveling up from New Orleans, intended to be on my way to cover the Minnesota convention hoopla since I figured I couldn't do anything around New Orleans once curfew and mandatory evac. went into effect (and we have no class by official edict until Thursday)...but if the Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates aren't even going to be there...?!?

I'm no longer certain what I should do.  I don't know now if I should just turn-around and head down to where I saw the sun rise ominous and red over the cypresses  to meet up with other Tulane Law students hunkered down outside New Orleans (or elsewhere in the South) or continue on to the Twin Cities.  Or follow McCain and Palin in Mississippi tomorrow.  Or just go home to Wisconsin.  Or simply stay put.

I packed what I thought was enough in my car yesterday morning, sweating through several times over in the dark carrying it all downstairs.  Great grandpa's accordion.  My Zulu coconut.  Passport.   Laptop.  Etc.  But now, if the hurricane's as bad as they're saying, I'm concerned for the actual structural integrity of my apartment, which is on the second floor of a house located Uptown at just about sealevel.  I realized as I drove I left behind my old laptop with lots of photos and data on it, as well as actual photos, books, clothes, and many financial documents.

I have one friend who I know is still in the city, and given a connection, is slated to stay through the entire thing, come hell or high water.  Or both, as it appears.  Stay safe.

8.30.2008

Gustav Evacuation Update - In St. Louis

What a crazy, sweaty, long day.  Finally here with a friend.  But it's hard to unrivet my attention from NOLA.


I saw convoy after convoy of ambulances driving south all day long.  And flatbed trucks loaded with mobile field generators.

To my friends still in New Orleans, I'm thinking of you unceasingly.

Lots of Louisiana license...

Lots of Louisiana license plates on the highway today as I'm heading north, just north of Canton, Mississippi. Traffic jam on I-10 broke up about halfway out to Locua(?) and things have been smooth ever since. Lots of armadillos and alligators dead on the side of the road as we're heading north. listen

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Okay, so scratch(?)...

Okay, so scratch(?) that left(?) post, traffic is going along at it's snail(?) space, pretty back up. Just as you're getting out of New Orleans and just past Kenner, going out across the Marches(?) on the Coast Way, Icon(?) West. listen

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I'm driving in Kenner(?)...

I'm driving in Kenner(?) and traffic going westbound on Interstate 10 has been pretty smooth this morning but we've come to a complete stop. It seems there's an accident near Loyola Avenue. Otherwise, seems like traffic has been pretty much normal. Since be(?) just(?) this accident not really storm related traffic buildup at a choke point or anything like that. listen

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It's Time

Time to get the hell outta Dodge.

I love you, NOLA.  Be good.  And kick Gus in the groin.

I'm traveling to the North country fair...

8.29.2008

Gas Shortages in NOLA

A few friends showed up after a lovely freezer-clean-out-dinner over at the home of my classmates, Chris and Kristen.

They reported the fact that they could find only a single gas station, after some searching, that still had gasoline tonight.

I have just under a full tank, so, barring anything major, I'm rolling out before sunrise.

Facebook Friend Reactions to Palin

UPDATE: Here's another one, far less pc, that would fit in the first category - 

Facebook Friend E
: is enjoying the prospect of Biden raping Palin in the VP debate. (Is that offensive?). Miami for hurrication.

****

A number of liberal to moderate male friends in their twenties:

Facebook Friend X thanks John McCain for making a ridiculous decision.

Facebook Friend Y well hey if McCain is elected and dies somehow, and Palin totally fails and resigns, Nancy Pelosi is Pres! Thanks, Republicans!!!

Facebook Friend Z to McCain: Who??

Facebook Friend Q wonders why in the world McCain has put "the former mayor of a town of 9,000 with zero foreign policy experience a heartbeat away from the presidency."


A number of moderate to conservative female friends in their twenties:

Facebook Friend A:so proud that my candidate wants a powerful, astute woman on the ticket because she's the right person for the job!!

Facebook Friend B
:thinks her vote has just been secured

Facebook Friend C:says woooo Sarah Palin!!!!

Facebook Friend L:wishes she could have seen the faces of liberals across the land when they found out about MCCAIN / PALIN 2008!!!!!


And male liberal to conservative friends in their twenties:

Facebook Friend H: is really excited about the VP pick....wise move.

Facebook Friend I:hearts Sarah.

Facebook Friend J: is intrigued by Sarah Palin.

Facebook Friend N:
is SARAH PALIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


*Seemingly, no female liberal friends of mine have commented on Palin.

Palin Drone

The student blogger behind Sarah Palin's meteoric rise to prominence.


Torn

Everything is now the debate between the veterans who say don't worry, ride it out - and the dotted lines, the prospect of horrific traffic.

I'm eating everything in the freezer.

Bam - It's Palin for Veep

She's not Bobby Jindal, but Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is exactly the same sort of X-factor addition that I said McCain needed on his ticket to stand a chance in the face of an acidic generic Republican ballot.

This changes things up.

McCain needed to take a risk, and he has done so.  This pick, at least symbolically, represents far more of a concrete commitment to change in American politics than Obama's selection of Joe Biden.  The word "maverick" bubbles back up through the murkiness of what has become candidate McCain.

And what an election, geographically speaking - the top four slots consist of people born in Hawaii, The Panama Canal Zone, Delaware, and Alaska.  Who'da thunk it?  The first state, the last states, and the non-state will lead us on.  How American!

UPDATE: The talking heads are talking disapprovingly about "one helluva risk" and "wow, that locks up three electoral votes in Alaska."  How short-sighted.  Picking a female running mate transcends any geographic considerations - it's about the chatter, it's about the renewed interest, it's about getting to know Sarah Palin.

UPDATE:  My mistake; Palin was born in Idaho.

Alone in my house in New Orleans

My roommate Ian left for Texas after the Obama speech last night.  Dave left for a hotel room with people in Birmingham.  And that leaves me.

The weather's deceptively beautiful here this morning as I sit in the sun room, tv on, waiting for the McCain Veep pick, the talking heads chewing the cud accumulated from last night's Obama speech (which I will say straight up was, in sum, a great speech).  Born Ruffians is blasting.

Anyway, talk of a mandatory evacuation looms.  The officials and papers say tomorrow.

In light of that, I'm about to start packing.  I would much rather stay, if at possible, and report live until I'm not able to do so.  But, if the government is going to force me off my leasehold against my will, I might as well jujitsu this whole black cloud into a silver lining.  And head north.  I've had offers for a place to crash from many friends, and I thank them all.

I think I'll go to Minneapolis.

A NOLA Snapshot

This NYT journal article captures the present schizophrenic state of the city pretty well.

8.28.2008

'Obamagator'



Along with a few boarded up windows, St. Charles Avenue was sporting this lighted, homemade 'Obamagator' tonight.

GOP May Delay for Gus?

Really?

Is this a sign that long shot Jindal's getting the VP slot, i.e. can't be missed?

A Timely Refrain



Well?

Tulane Law Gustav Week Hub

Here's the new facebook group to keep in touch and keep abreast of Hurricane Gustav developments.

Flights Out

Travelocity now has a series of deals on flights out of New Orleans.

Tulane Closing Early Friday, Classes to Resume Next Thursday

This just in, a mass text from the University:

"Tulane University will close Friday, Aug. 29 at noon."

It really is quite eerie - three years to the day after Katrina.

UPDATE: This from Tulane President Cowen -

Based on what we know today, the university will resume normal business operations on Wednesday, September 3, while classes will resume on Thursday, September 4.

If circumstances change, updated information will be posted on http://emergency.tulane.edu and on the Tulane Alert Line at 1-877-862-8080 or 504-862-8080. You will also receive a text message.

Tulane also has buses leaving from the Reilly Center at 9 a.m. on Saturday bound for Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi, as the dorms are shutting down.

Classmates have been chewing tentatively on timelines and destinations. I've heard Little Rock, Shreveport, Baton Rouge, Nashville, Jackson, Houston, and, as I said earlier, my roommate has a place reserved now in Birmingham.

Mrs. Elsas downstairs is scheduled for a Sunday evacuation by her son to his fortified, generator-backed home north of Covington on the North Shore of Pontchartrain. The biggest concern seems to be when to leave - date and time of day - to avoid complete traffic gridlock on the causeways.

One of my classmates suggested I drive with him up to the Twin Cities to catch the GOP Convention hoopla. And the Rage Against the Machine Concert. And Ron Paul's Liberty convention. Tempting. But again, this whole thing may fizzle, and it would be one long drive back.

Russian Isolation Deepens

"The most miserable outcast hugs some memory or some illusion." - Conrad

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization rebuffs Russian attempts at solidarity, refusing to condone Russia's moves in the Caucasus:

Criticized by the West, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Thursday asked China and four ex-Soviet nations to sign a declaration of support for Russia's role in the conflict in Georgia.

But Russia's hopes of gathering support were dealt a huge blow when the five countries denounced the use of force and called for respect for every country's territorial integrity. The joint declaration from the Shanghai Cooperation Organization deepens Russia's international isolation.

Medvedev had appealed to the alliance -- which consists of Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan -- for unanimous support of Russia's response to Georgia's "aggression."

It makes sense. The 'stans don't want similar Russian incursions into their own nations, which seem far too analogous to Georgia - former Soviet republics, energy resources, etc. And China likely doesn't see anything to gain, as it would only strain relations with the West without a corresponding benefit to its national interests.

Note from the Dean

Here's the Tulane Law-specific emergency website set to function in the event the tulane.edu sites go down.

As the Dean, in good form, notes: "While not thrilled by this little distraction, we nonetheless are prepared for whatever may happen to blow our way."

Fortunately, it appears the storm's projected track has shifted slightly west in the night.

Pore v. Pour

Since I'm doing a lot of it lately, I got to wondering which of two homophones is the proper designation for sitting at a desk at night while intently combing through many pages in books. Pore or pour?

As I suspected, the proper word is 'pore.' As in: "Ian pored over the mass of notes in advance of the next day's Torts class."

I've definitely seen a few instances along the lines of: "....Xavier was pouring over a hefty old tome in the wee hours of the morning..."

Photos, Republic of Georgia


8.27.2008

Waiting for Gus

A man passed by on the sidewalk tonight on Magazine Street. He had three red jerry cans of gas in his little red wagon. Interesting, I thought. And a little eerie.

Only tonight did I learn there's a thing called "mandatory evacuation." That's not appealing to me, as I'd rather stay. Unless a Category 4+ storm is barreling down directly for New Orleans or the immediate environs. As of the 11 p.m. NOAA projection, Gus is theoretically poised for a direct hit on NOLA at about 10 p.m. Monday night after making landfall somewhere in Plaquemines Parish.

I filled up the car yesterday, and I stocked up on non-perishable food and beverages today. One of my roommates just booked a hotel room beginning on Friday up in Birmingham, Alabama - the closest city he could find with vacancies (I think he wants to flee only now that he knows Mayor Nagin is flying back from Denver).

Friends discussed the joys and depravities of contraflow traffic on the interstates and causeways. The Maritime Journal advised its new members to take all of their work and their Bluebooks with them - as the Journal published even during the 'Katrina Semester.'

Even as we keep in mind that this hurricane may not even make landfall in Louisiana next week, it's hard to not prepare, especially after the Governor calls a pre-storm emergency. I know a number of law students still haven't received their financial aid and, as I can attest, are barely scraping by...and will likely have almost no cash on hand just as evacuation or the storm arrives. I also still need to figure out how my elderly downstairs neighbor, Mrs. Elsas, is planning to evacuate.

It's going to be interesting. I have summer associate interviews with local firms slated for multiple days next week. I have various classes, activities, and projects underway. But all of that will quickly take a backseat to more pressing priorities. So, if it does come down to leaving, here's hoping all the downsides are counterbalanced by an adventurous "evacation."

Gustav Considerations

In the face of panic, Varg over at the Chicory urges calm in Crescent City until the weekend.

And he lays out sound reasons.

Maritime Law Journal

Tonight, the latest crew passes the mounted ship's wheel through the door of the Tulane Maritime Law Journal.

Having written onto the journal - the only one of Tulane's six journals subscribed to by the U.S. Supreme Court - earlier this summer, I'll be a part of that crew. And I'm pretty excited.

Tulane is, after all, widely recognized as the premier school for Maritime Law in the world. After working on a number of intriguing Maritime/Admiralty matters this summer during my externship with a federal judge, I selected the Maritime Law Journal as one of my two options during the write-on season. I subsequently signed up for the course Admiralty I, which held its second class of the fall semester today.

I continue to find the very historic, esoteric, but relevant body of law interesting. As I wrote to one of my friends when we found we had both made it onto the journal, "And so begins the era of non-stop nautical puns." I'm positive that our work with the journal will be both worthwhile and memorable. For now, it's time to shove off.

Mass Text I Received this Morning in Class

"Tulane is monitoring TS Gustav and is ready to act should the need arise. Visit emergency.tulane.edu or 877-862-8080 for more."

Just a bit ominous...

As my classmate Adam D points out, the name 'Gustav' means 'staff of the gods'...

Why am I not talking about the convention?

Well, what should I talk about?

Chris Matthews' strange scraps of peroxide flapping wildly in the Rocky Mountain wind and Keith Olbermann's patent Cincinnatus-referencing-Rush-Limbaugh-of-the-Left advocacy as a self-appointed organ of the Democractic Party?

Tears when the lady in orange spoke ardently, mechanically - and probably realized that, in concert with her husband's appearance tonight, she's keeping the focus from actually returning wholly to Obama as his poll numbers slip...thereby advancing her goal to run again?

Michelle Obama's strange - but probably emotionally effective - purposely-halting-now-and-then speaking style, and the awkwardly staged Daddy-beam-in on Monday night?

Teddy, the lion in winter?

The general anxiety?

Boondoggled

The federal government strikes again, making for a classic Post-K vignette.

Showdown

8.26.2008

Hurricane Gustav Hypothetical


Hurricane Gustav hits New Orleans. Universities and colleges are shuttered for an extended period of time.

Would schools nationwide take in an exodus of displaced New Orleans students as they did in the wake of Katrina?

Personally, I don't think they would. Or not as many would be so inclined. And I'm fine with that.

In a way, we had adequate notice of the storm and flood possibilities. And we decided to matriculate nonetheless. 'Assumption of the risk' comes to mind.

So there is a Hurricane Futures Market...

I was talking with my classmate Thad in the hallway about Hurricane Gustav and the likelihood it will hit Louisiana (Mr. Moses across the way hopes it hits Lake Charles).  I wondered aloud why we don't use the wisdom of crowds contained in futures markets to predict likely hurricane landfalls.

A Taste of Rising Tide III

Over the weekend, I finally got out and met some NOLA bloggers at the Rising Tide III Conference.  

I was a bit trepidatious, as my blog is not solely focused on local New Orleans affairs, is not a native blog, and didn't go through Katrina or the first year of aftermath.  But, as someone who loved throwing blogger roundups in Madison, I figured I'd give it a shot.

And it was fun and lively.  Things kicked off on Friday evening down in the Marigny in the dim spaces of Buffa's Lounge.  Who did I run into?  The behatted Varg from the Chicory, Kelly Leahy, whom I knew of from Blogging New Orleans, Dangerblonde.  At one point, lovely local blogging hero Karen Gadbois of Squandered Heritage sat smoking across the table over tamales, talking of her pivotal role, along with Sarah Lewis, in breaking the NOAH scandal here in New Orleans.  And the protest rally outside Nagin's award ceremony at the Ritz-Carlton.  Good stuff.

Saturday's panels at Zeitgeist on Oretha Castle Hailey extended beyond my brief attendance, but I did enjoy the blogging panel I did get to see.  The eloquent Eli Ackerman of We Could Be Famous joined local newsman Lee Zurik and other Gambit bloggers in commentary on blogging and media and their ongoing intersection.  As a blogger with Journalism School training, I found it good food for thought.  I sat at the same table as Kelly and Maitri of Vatul Blog - who turns out to be the University of Wisconsin Alumni point person in town.

Overall, the blogging community that turned out for the weekend proved itself a very colorful crew committed to its city and true to independent blogging.

Gnats, a Dragon, and the Bear

Now this, while I disagree with much of it - especially its tone, is worth a read.

Here's the choice language that I do find salient, the point I wish I had been better at articulating over the past 6 years since I wrote a draft editorial with a similar point for my high school paper (although I did try):

Has the West misjudged the fault line of an impending conflict? Its global strategy under George Bush, Tony Blair and a ham-fisted Nato has declared the threat to world peace as coming from nonstate organisations, specifically Al-Qaeda, and the nations that give them either bases or tacit support. Western generals and securocrats have elevated these anarchist fanatics to the status of nuclear powers.

And here's the money quote:

Terrorists, wherever located and trained, can certainly capture headlines and cause overnight mayhem, but they cannot project power. They cannot conquer countries or peoples, only manipulate democratic regimes into espousing illiberal policies, as in America and Britain. By grossly overstating the significance of terrorism, western leaders have distracted foreign policy from what should be its prime concern: securing world peace by holding a balance of interest - and pride - among the great powers.

While I'll admit I often dismissed Russia from the geopolitical equation too swiftly in its seeming weakness over the past decade, I certainly felt Jenkins' thesis applied to a rough 'War on Terror v. China' duality.  Did the West overshift its focus?

To put it metaphorically, the United States largely ignored the dragon as we swatted at terrorists, comparative gnats, vicious as they were.

8.25.2008

Gretna Boys



'Nuf said.

"Is college still worth the price?"

Money Magazine takes an in-depth look at the numbers.

Mardi Gras 2009 - A Little Closer

As in, a little farther Uptown.

It sounds like Le Krewe d'Etat and a few other parades will start rolling from Jefferson Avenue this time around.

Green Wave Roll On

Tulane Law is back in session.


In the wake of war, little ethnic tension

"It just happened all of a sudden, out of nowhere."

Nudar, an elderly Georgian resident of Gori, is telling me how the war started, when his equally elderly neighbor cuts in. Unlike Nudar and his family, she stayed in Gori for the duration of the bombing.

"No! There were problems, Ossetian provocation. They killed police officers."

Others echo her sentiment, blaming the war on Putin or "Russian politics." "Russian politics started this. The Russians are good people, but their politicians are bad, aggressive... The demonstrations [of early November] were Russian provocation," says Timur Kantaria, an ethnic Georgian reservist from Sukhumi who stayed in Gori during the bombing. Others go farther back: "The Russians began this in 1991," says an Informatics professor who asked not to be named.

Whether blaming the Russians or the Ossetians, or even, in rare cases, Saakashvili himself, residents of Gori and Tbilisi are clear on one thing: they do not hold a grudge against Ossetians or Russians as people. This is about great power politics, they say, not ethnic rivalries.

Serafina Miladze is one example. A Russian resident of Gori, she is heartbroken at the damage done to her apartment. "I lived here for 50 years. I remember World War Two," she says. "I don't know if anyone came to offer help [to repair the apartment - many residents reported being told that the government would provide funds and assistance in rebuilding]. But nothing can fix my heart."

Mrs Miladze is not afraid of ethnic tensions, or of reprisals against her for the Russian invasion. As I met her, ethnic Georgian neighbors were comforting her and tentatively sweeping at the rubble in her apartment.

Nor is Marina Geoshvilli worried: she re-opened her corner store on Saturday morning. Her neighborhood is mixed, and she's always gotten along well with everyone. "They all know me here," she says.

Mr Kantaria's wife is Ossetian, and will return to the city soon.

"We lived alongside the Ossetians -- there are many in this city. We lived peacefully," says Nudar's neighbor, after telling me about the Ossetian "provocations," and makes it clear that she bears them no ill will. She seems bewildered that such a thing could happen, but bears no resentment against any of her neighbors, regardless of ethnic background; they are all in the rubble together.

There is one fear: that the Russians will come back. "Everyone believes the Russians are coming back. I think they may return," says Mr Kantaria. "Look what they did in Chechnya... [Sergo] Ordzhonokidze gave Sochi to Russia. Russia wants all of Georgia."

Nudar's daughter Laura brings up this fear over a lunch of sour djunjuri salad and bread. "The Russian soldiers were not bad -- they just stood there. They were not aggressive. But there were six tanks in the village [to which she and her family fled when the bombing started]... [but] the first bombs landed on a first aid station. There was no first aid after the first strikes."

For many, the recent war reaffirms their desire to join NATO. "The young people all want NATO. Only the old people, who lived during communism, don't want it. They say, 'Communism, communism.'"

But despite the fears, rebuilding has already begun, and people continued to flow back into the city well into the evening. Nudar's family offered to take in a neighboring family who had lost everything. Others did not know where they would stay, but were unwilling to leave any more. Government aid is on its way, and despite uncertainties, life is beginning to flow back into the rubble of Gori.

In Gori, coming together in the rubble

Russian troops and tanks pulled out of most of Georgia on Saturday, and on Sunday I joined the stream of refugees returning to Gori, one of the focal points of the short war between Russian and Georgia, as they began picking up the pieces of life amid the rubble left behind.

There was a sense of trepidation in the air of the capital on the eve of the mass return to Gori. George, a restauranteur and hotel owner in Tbilisi, told me Saturday night that he doubted much would be going to the city, except for the large busses of refugees. Public transportation to Gori was light, but not difficult to come by, however; nor did the drivers seem worried about going to the city. But not all were so calm.

"I'm not going back yet," said Zaza, a boxing coach from Gori who was going to another nearby city to see his son. He wasn't sure the Russians were gone for good, and also feared reprisals from the South Ossetian population.

However, a steady stream of old Ladas with bags of belongings lashed to the roof, beat-up vans filled with matresses and chairs, and large yellow busses donated by Holland to carry refugees from their temporary settlements in and around Tbilisi went toward the newly-freed city along the Tbilisi-Gori highway throughout the day. The fields alongside the highway seemed to glow, and apart from a few tank tracks pointed out to me by Zaza, there was little sign of the war that had just ended until we reached the outskirts of Gori itself. Here there were patches of ash and burn marks in the fields, and two troop transport trucks with cloth canopies still stood on the side of the road. Groups of Georgian soldiers in the backs of pickup trucks stood near the entrance to Gori, and others accompanied busses to outlying villages.

We entered the city through one of the hardest-hit areas, apartments that had been hit with the first bombs dropped here. Teams of orange-jumpsuited workers cleared glass and depris with brooms; in the center of town, people were already at work removing shattered windows and replacing them. By the end of the day, one bank had repaired its row of windows, and others had begun their renovation.

The yellow busses brought their loads of refugees, some bearing large bags, others little more than the clothes on their backs, to the central square; they unloaded under the watchful eyes of a gigantic statue of Stalin and TV cameras. There were hugs and kisses as neighbors met again in the crowded main square or along residential sidewalks covered in shattered glass. Many of the refugees walked warily, getting their bearings and taking pictures on their cell phones. Older residents sat dejectedly on benches, nodding to old friends.

Nudar, one such long-time resident of the city, brought me back to his house to meet his family. They were among the first wave of returnees, and their house had remained intact. They treated me to djunjuri, a sour salad, and bread and cheese, and told me over glasses of homemade wine about their plans.

"There is no work right now," lamented Laura, Nudar's daughter. She had worked as a medical technician before the fighting, but wondered what work she could get now that one of the hospitals had been destroyed.

Others were more positive. Marina Geoshvilli, an ethnic Ossetian, had opened her store and been working most of the day. "I haven't had any problems," she said. "Everyone in the neighborhood knows me." Juices were selling best, she said, but there wasn't much in the way of fresh foods. "I'm just selling what was here before."

Timur Kantaria was similarly optimistic about his chances. A reservist who was not called up before the fighting ended, he thought he would be able to get some business going again soon. "I lived a criminal life," he said. "But Saakashvili helped, he turned the economy around."

Help was being quickly prepared for the returnees. The chess school downtown had been converted into a Humanitarian Aid station, and was filled with young families waiting listlessly for food. The chess school teacher, Guram, was pleased at how quickly the Georgian government had moved. "The president and the Governor [of Gori] have helped a lot," he said.

Cleaning crews and first aid vehicles were also dispatched to the outskirts of town. Crews had stayed in the city throughout the bombing, and were now helping to clear out bombed apartments and remove rubble. Men like Zaza Gulieshvilli, the 64-year old head of one crew, and Zaza Badriashvilli, who was still on the job despite a bandaged arm from a wound received during the bombing, were staying around to give what assistance was needed. "I saw [the bombing] with my own eyes," said Gulieshvilli. "Now I'm helping renovate."

The future is shaky in Gori. "What will become of us now? No one knows," said Nudar's daughter. But the reconstruction is beginning, and aid is beginning to flow.

8.24.2008

Questing for Summer Associatehood

Music Tonight at Bacchanal?

I'm waiting for word from Charles on whether the show will go on this evening. More later.

UPDATE: Cancelled.

Today's Reading

Alas, reading for class resumes!

Luckily, I've been paging through the assignment for this semester's "fun" class - Foreign Affairs and the Constitution.

The selection for tomorrow focuses on the Pacificus/Helvidius debate of the 1790s on the roles of the Executive and the Legislature in determining foreign policy.  Let's just say Hamilton and Madison donned pseudonymns and waged an eloquent written skuffle, Madison picking up the quill only after Jefferson's insistence:

"For god's sake, my dear Sir, take up your pen, select the most striking heresies, and cut him to pieces in the face of the public."

The debate has continuing relevance.  Madison speaks at length about the Treaty power in the U.S. Constitution, which is still being untangled, as seen in the recent Medellin case (Madison would likely disagree with the Roberts Majority, insisting that Treaties, straight up, are the "supreme law of the land" as well as rulings flowing from them, that Congress had already granted its imprimatur).

Truckin' on a Mac

Bowing to the advice of commenters on and off this blog, I purchased a MacBook yesterday.

What ultimately brought about my conversion?  Well, the number of PC loyalists-turned-Mac-acolytes I count as friends, for one.

Even though I had to buy Microsoft Office Suite separately, I was drawn overwhelmingly by the multimedia options - movies, music, photos, podcasting, and audio recording all seem to have new possibilities.  And those will no doubt spill over into the blog.

It is uncertain how many decades will pass before I cease attempting to ghost right click.

Sea Point: The Changing Face of Gulf Ports

I caught a local television interview this morning with Jim Amoss, Jr., the man behind a colossal undertaking to re-shape Louisiana's Gulf and Mississippi port business. He was talking about his pet project, Sea Point.

Intended to capitalize on the expansion of the Panama Canal in 2014 to permit larger vessels, especially container vessels from Asia, Sea Point would change the local port dynamic.  A remote port with no rail or truck connections of its own, Sea Point would essentially be a node at the mouth of the Mississippi near Venice. There, large oceangoing vessels would dock and unload their containers. The containers would then make the additional 89 miles up the river to New Orleans - if they were headed to that port - by smaller, slower barges.  See a simulation of the process here.



View Larger Map

While the Port of New Orleans seems a bit leery of the project from the president's comments in the piece linked above, the idea seems crucial to maintain some Louisiana leadership regionally in the face of dramatic maritime cargo changes just around the corner.

According to Amoss, Sea Point is set to begin construction before the end of the year.  It sounds like an incredibly interesting prospect.

The Steamboat Houses















Recently, I stumbled across the magnificent "Steamboat Houses" down in the Holy Cross neighborhood along the Mississippi. Wow.  



8.23.2008

CNN Fact Check

"He [Biden] voted for the authorization to invade Iraq, but conceded afterward it was a mistake. Obama voted against authorization — and that gap might give Republicans something to highlight. Watch a former White House official weigh in on the Biden decision."

Oh?

How, exactly, did Obama vote against authorizing the invasion of Iraq when the invasion took place in March of 2003 - and Obama didn't even win his U.S. Senate Race, much less assume that office, until fall of 2004?

Obama, admittedly, has been a more consistent opponent of the war than Biden. Still, the media needs to be careful in attributing more to the presidential candidate than he factually deserves.

Window or aisle?

This came up in conversation recently.

Window seat or aisle?
Window
Aisle
pollcode.com free polls

Faydar














Hmmm...veering back into the Gulf, it looks like ambling old Auntie Fay may yet pay us a visit. The tropical storm watch has been issued.

This could get interesting; I have two roommates slated to fly in tomorrow, and classes begin Monday.

The Biden Pick

My chief question: How does this shape McCain's VP pick? Or does it?

Adding another Senator to the equation seems unwise to me - I think this guarantees McCain picks a governor.

Looking for a soul to steal: Live from Georgia part 1

In the cuble confines of a crowded and hip-looking Internet cafe on Rustaveli Street, the main drag in Tbilisi, I'm trying to gather my first impressions of a country that's been so often in the news lately.

A gaggle of high-school girls giggles and gossips downstairs. Two young boys are playing Counterstrike, the absolute game of choice for this part of the world, next to me. The girl at the desk asks to switch from Russian to English, and doesn't have change, so I have to go down the street a bit and buy a notebook (something I needed anyway) to break a 10 Lari bill.

My ride here was a study in everyday life in wartime, or just after. The marshrutka, or minibus, that runs every morning from Zaqatala to Tbilisi is usually fairly full, if not packed. Zaqatala has a large minority of ethnic Georgians, and cross-border travel is common enough to be totally unremarkable.

But today I am one of six people headed north, including the driver, his assistant, and the assistant's son. My riding companion is Makho, a bluff, jovial peasant who splits his time between Georgia and Azerbaijan. "Things have dropped off," he says when I remark on the low turnout for the ride today. "They're afraid."

Indeed, Azerbaijanis have good reasons to worry about the warfare on their border, and not only because of the signal Russia is sending the entire Caucasus region. Refugees have been coming across into Azerbaijan in fair numbers, a rumor Makho confirms for me. It's natural enough that many should come visit relatives in Azerbaijan until things blow over, but that situation could become more slippery if they have to stay.

The result of the war, at least on tourism in Tbilisi, seems to be a mixed bag. One hotel proprietress says it's been hard lately, and the four rooms she has to let look cleanly empty on a Saturday afternoon -- no bags or other tourist detritus left behind to indicate the place is being lived in. On the other hand, my taxi driver seems unperturbed, saying the tourists haven't left, that the fighting didn't get close enough. I find this difficult to believe, but happy taxi drivers are a good sign in a tourist city.

Makho and the driver's assistant, Zaur, are postive about America: "Without American support, there would be no Georgia today," says Makho to me. Most Georgians are strongly pro-McCain, the candidate who has been most vocal in his support for the embattled democracy, but Makho thinks that either candidate would continue to support Georgia. Zaur's son, a sandy-haired middle schooler, asks me why there aren't American soldiers fighting the Russians here now, and Makho jumps in: "It would be World War 3!"

So far I have not found it difficult to get around the city using Russian -- everyone here that I've met speaks it fluently, and there are no qualms about using the "language of the enemy," as it were. Nor have I detected a huge amount of raw emotion behind discussions about Russia. My cabdriver from the American embassy was happy to talk about the war and Russia, but was good-natured about it; nothing like, say, the way Azerbaijanis discuss Nagorno-Karabagh. "The Russian politicians don't understand politics, they only understand war and occupation," said the cabbie, in a congenial tone, as if explaining the nature of a rainstorm rather than a political phenomenon. "They want their old power back, the Soviet Union. But they can't have it, so they get angry and lash out." Back in the marshrutka, Makho had taken the same view of a newly-expansionist Russia.

Views are slightly more divided on the topic of Mikheil Saakashvili, the Georgian President. The Georgians I've spoken with so far all agree that he's a democrat and has changed the country for the better. But Makho blamed him for the war: "Saakashvili's a pedophile," he exclaimed, bursting into a hearty peasant laughter. "I say this because the Americans told him not to start anything with Russia. And he started something with Russia."

Wherever the roots of the recent war lie, the result has been clear, and the brute force of the Russian Army made apparent. In the next few days, I'll be exploring the aftermath of the war, seeing firsthand how Georgian life continues as it picks up the pieces. Stay tuned.

8.22.2008

LIB in the News

The Wisconsin State Journal publishes a piece by Kiera Wiatrak on student blogging at UW-Madison, and a few of my observations make the cut.

I must say, it's pretty solid.

I'm not certain if the piece is a long-delayed response to my much-debated post from about a year ago decrying the lack of mainstream coverage of student blogging, a gripe picked up and amplified by Danny Spirn of the blog Critical Badger.

At any rate, my only qualm with the article is that I'm characterized as a contributor to the "Madison blog" LIB "despite" going to law school. While I'm very glad I was consulted for the piece which appears in a Madison newspaper, I don't think LIB is really based in Madison. It simply started there. And now it's grown into a different entity altogether. Contributor Steve S, for example, will likely be posting live from the nation of Georgia in the next few days.

Welcome, any State Journal readers out there - feel free to look around. And be sure to comment by leaving a bottle on the shore of any post.

Afternoon, Garden of Good and Evil

The Debates. Distilled.

What a monumental task.  James Fallows of The Atlantic goes the distance:

Recently I did what no sane person would: I watched the entire set of presidential primary debates, in sequence, like a boxed set of a TV show. In scale this was like three or four seasons' worth of The Sopranos.

Talk about a political junkie's dream. Or nightmare. (ht/OOTM)

The Democrats had 26 debates, nearly all more than one hour long, and all but one of them with both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. The Republicans had 21, if you count the session for which a single "debater" showed up. That was the NAACP forum in Detroit, which all eight Democrats but only Representative Tom Tancredo of the Republicans agreed to attend. I had seen only two of the debates in real time because so few were carried internationally. Those that were available in streaming video were too slow and jerky to be watchable in China, where I've been living. (It eventually took more than two weeks of round-the-clock Internet downloading to collect all the files.)


Veepstakes!

The sharks are in a furor, circling ever closer, and there's plenty of chum in the water.

It's Raining

Turn on the music. Then proceed with the post.



The old, emaciated bluesman in red talked with three fans, his voice gravelly beyond Tom Waits. Then Coco Robicheaux called up a shot from the barkeep with a silent hand signal, his eyes unseen behind everpresent shades. Sharks thrashed in some alien blue on a small tv in the corner.

We sat at The Apple Barrel bar drinking mildly overpriced Miller High Lifes in the heat. The show was supposed to start at 10 p.m., and it was clearly about 11:00. Perhaps we should go back to the Spotted Cat, I thought. But the blues jam guitarists were finally gravitating toward their seats up front in the dark, swirling, eccentric funk that filled the cramped space.

With a brief intro to "West Bank Mike" by fellow bluesman Marc Stone, they were off. Joined now and then by a wailing, almost-hip hop harmonica, the duo jammed through a number of songs as the crowd flowed in off the street through the open door. Our stools suddenly looked like great investments.

And then she started singing. Her friend told the barkeep she had been born in New Orleans, but had moved away - and didn't even know what the Marigny was. She had pestered the musicians repeatedly, and they didn't seem to keen. But now, the lady in the white and black dress with a red belt introduced herself as Debbie. I prepared to cringe.

What followed, though, made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end for a good reason. Debbie, the random prodigal daughter bar-goer, belted out an absolutely incredible version of "It's Raining" by Irma Thomas accompanied perfectly by the boys on guitar. She had a beautiful voice.

Concluding, the bar erupted in applause and the musicians on the bill looked at one another as if to say "Wow. Good call on letting her sing." And then, two songs later, Debbie and her friend were gone, swept back out into Frenchman Street, our bottles almost empty now in their pools of condensation.

Rising Tide III

The third post-K NOLA blogger conference gets underway this evening. 

I hope to stop by for a bit, although time is utterly precious as class approaches.

ht/LC

8.21.2008

Buyer's Remorse, The Convention, & a 'Whip Team'

 
Obama's failure to open a wide enough gap and mollify firebreathing Clintonistas could yet make the Democratic Convention more firework-filled than one would imagine possible in the modern pre-packaged, vacuum-sealed world of scripted pageants.
 
Even with Clinton's new 'Whip Team' on the floor trying to keep from embarassing Obama.
 
Or what if the 'Whip Team' is actually infrastructure for something else...Clinton's clandestine band of supporters preparing to whip her supporters into a frenzy at the last moment...

Pirates On Rampage in Gulf of Aden

Prayers of Steel
























Prayers of Steel

Lay me on an anvil, O God.
Beat me and hammer me into a crowbar.
Let me pry loose old walls.
Let me lift and loosen old foundations.


Lay me on an anvil, O God.

Beat me and hammer me into a steel spike.
Drive me into the girders that hold a skyscraper together.
Take red-hot rivets and fasten me into the central girders.
Let me be the great nail holding a skyscraper through blue nights into white stars.

Bush Visit to Jackson Barracks, Lower 9th Ward




Yesterday, with a rare bit of freedom left before the storm, I went down to the Lower 9th Ward with my friend Jake to observe President Bush's visit to New Orleans at Jackson Barracks.

Well, not only could we not get into the list-only event at the Barracks, which is massively under construction, but we weren't even allowed to stand along the roadways leading into the place. MPs were stationed at every intersection around, including one corner on Delery where we ended up standing for a bit with New Orleans City Council Vice President Arnie Fielkow, coat over his shoulder, who was also trying to get in. I introduced myself as a fellow Badger-by-birth.
He and the director of Catholic Charities couldn't seem to get permission to enter either. Although they supposedly had been called by the White House. Arnie didn't confirm or deny whether he was running for mayor when asked by Jake as we left. But he was personable, and I wouldn't be surprised if he ultimately made it into the event after working the phone for a while.

We saw the helicopters fly over the Quarter as we headed back Uptown.


Interestingly, for as much of a beacon of recovery as the Barracks may be, it sits surrounded by some of the worst Katrina wreckage and blight still visible in the city and in St. Bernard Parish.

'Obushma'

Althouse narrowly avoids breaking her pledge of cruel neutrality in the '08 election.

8.20.2008

No Keynote for Jindal

Unless Bobby's getting the VP slot, that's a bad move on the part of those running the GOP Convention.

Giuliani, regardless of any national security chops, had his chance. Jindal is the future of the party, if anyone can be said to hold that torch.

A Bearish Outlook

Let's talk about Russia.

Or, let's look at Russia's talk:

"If Poland allows elements of the U.S. missile shield to be placed in its territory it will expose itself to a strike ... and that's a hundred percent sure," threatened deputy head of Russia's General Staff Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn.

Ok. It would be one thing if Poland was deploying U.S. missiles in its territory. But to deploy defensive missile shield emplacements? Even if they are intended to defend Poland from a Russian attack, rather than the West generally from Iranian attack, how can Russian in effect guarantee a strike on Poland as a result?

That is bald belligerence. It's difficult for me to see the logic. The defensive nature of the project, even if it upsets the existing missile balance status quo, puts Russia in a bit of a bind. Or at least it should.

Russia's veiled threat to respond in a form beyond diplomatic protests is frighteningly bellicose talk. And, as with many of Russia's rhetoric and actions lately, I don't see much of an underpinning for it - The Economist rightly called most of the nation's excuses 'perfunctory attempts to justify the invasion.' Unless there's some sort of domestic situation, in a two-level game sense, that Putin and Medvedev are seeking to win through saber rattling, it's difficult for me to empathize in any way with Russia's actions.

I certainly don't buy the explanation - which does border on the bizarre -that the invasion of Georgia was justified in that it was a geopolitical counterweight to Kosovar independence and better conducted than U.S. action in Serbia. Even if Georgian forces made the first recent unwise move in South Ossetia, Russia's response certainly seems to exceed what was necessary.

Cutting off all ties with NATO. Signing a ceasefire on Georgia and then failing to abide by it. Threatening a strike on a nation it, despite what it seems to think, does not have satellite control over. These are not signs of a power worth working with.

NATO seems to have had a purpose after all.

Landscape, Eastern Wisconsin


















City eyes town. Creeping duplexes meet corn. American flag, dairy farm silos, the new Lutheran church. Anticipatory street lights. Cemetery Road, the road they tried to rename (cemetery isn't appealing). Rolling glacial hills.

Rethink the Drinking Age

I concur.

The current arrangement breeds contempt for the law and treats adults like children.

I'm glad to see college presidents coming forward with this suggestion - they, better than most, see the absurdities of a 21 year-old drinking age play out on their campuses.

8.19.2008

Kudos to Borders

In my entire year here in New Orleans, I've watched as the grand old mortuary at the corner of St. Charles and Louisiana Avenues has leaned slowly toward renovation - and rebirth as a Borders book store. The final touches must be getting close, by the looks of it.

While the new store is opposed by a number of local book stores, I think the differing establishments serve different niches and populations. I'll still go to McKeown's Books and Difficult Music for a used copy of something a little esoteric or classic (like my current read).

Borders deserves a big pat on the back for its work to accommodate local historic preservation concerns - especially in light of the property's legal code status:

Despite its longtime presence on St. Charles, Bultman comes under the purview of the Historic District Landmarks Commission but has no architectural historical landmark status that prevents its demolition.

Converting the site to a Borders requires no variances or approvals for the project, but Stirling said he knew that saving the building -- at least its exterior -- was a sure-fire way to garner support, particularly on a St. Charles corner that was rapidly deteriorating. His strategy seems to be working.

Walter Gallas, a local representative of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, supports the deal.

That voluntary effort at historic preservation is heartening - individuals paid respects in the funeral parlor to luminaries such as Jefferson Davis for over a century. It's great to see that the classic pillared facade and live oaks will continue to grace the notable corner.

Borders has been facing some trouble this year, but supposedly, it won't affect the opening of the new store. In fact, the company is billing the location as an enhanced 'concept store' as of this summer. I look forward to the grand opening later this fall.

The Federalist Society Debates Same Sex Marriage

That ought to be interesting.

TS Fay still may...

2nd Congressional, NOLA DA Debate Tonight at Tulane

Congress District 2 and Orleans Parish District Attorney Debate

Tuesday, August 19
FREE!


The theme of the debate will be "3 Years After Katrina." Candidates for both offices will debate where our city stands three years after the hurricane. For more information contact Andrew Sullivan at the Broadmoor Improvement Association at (504) 309-2571.

Kendall Cram Room at Tulane University, 2nd Floor of the Lavin Bernick Center (McAlister b/w Freret)

Dates:

  • Tuesday, August 19, 2008 @ 6:30 pm

Where I Rose in Spanish Harlem


Review: An Enemy of the People

Last night, I went to see Henrik Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People with my friend Kristen S.

Oddly enough, I had never before seen an Ibsen play, and I had only read An Enemy of the People of all his plays. The Arthur Miller adaptation, from the 1950s, toned down some of the high-minded language of the 1882 original, but otherwise made the production more palatable.

The Cripple Creek Theater put on a great show in a tiny old parochial school gymnasium on the very north edge of the Quarter. We got last-minute balcony seating on the narrow ring that held the basketball hoops and surrounded the scarred wooden floor. As Kristen noted, it was like we were kids looking down on our parents arguing about something we shouldn’t have overheard.

Above all, the play moved along with great energy. Dr. Stockmann, played by Donald Lewis, came off as a bit over the top, failing to step down from the rather breathless, bombastic delivery at any point. Dynamically, he was one of the few drawbacks in the production, never varying from a strong forte throughout. While perhaps appropriate for the final third of the play when the good Doctor is beset on all sides, it came off as excessive (even if Ibsen purposely set him as comically tragic in his resolution). Compared to my reading of the character, Lewis pushed his persona beyond a borderline empathetic, Job-like sentinel of the truth too far into the realm of potential actual delusion.

The mayor of the small Norwegian Town, the doctor’s brother Peter Stockmann, came off perfectly as portrayed by Ron Reeder. His driving, sneering, too-close-for comfort approach fit the role and expertly utilized silence for its impact.

Hovstad the newspaper man, played by Liam Kraus, also anchored the cast. He seemed genuine and complicated in his interactions with other characters. Blake Baudier’s Captain Horster was strangely amusing in a dry, halting, Will Ferrel sort of vein. The Stockmann children, played by Monica Harris and the Pitre brothers, all did well.

The production’s brilliant use of scene change vignettes with dialogue and hints of humor produced a seamless pacing. The town drunk was especially fun to see stumble in and out.

But it was the town meeting scene and the mob scenes that brought home the tension of the piece. With actual rocks flying through glass and crazed shouting castmembers standing amidst the audience, the scenes of heightening tension as the Norwegian town turns on its possible savior were terrifying for their familiarity for their possibility. The eerie final scene - Dr. Stockmann, his huddled family, and the Captain standing at the broken window, the people howling for blood outside - raised a few hairs on the back of my neck as the darkness swallowed up the scene.

One of the most interesting aspects of the entire play was the double entendres provoked by the presence of black actors. At one point, Petra enters the home, saying something to the effect of “...I’ve been out slaving...” While otherwise wholly innocuous, when spoken by an African American - likely uncontemplated by Ibsen himself - the lines took on an electric quality. The mayor, too, asked Lewis, who is black - “Why do you always have to be so colorful?” It was absolutely dark and disturbing at that point in the feverish filial feud.

Overall, the piece centered on timeless tensions of the conflict of majorities and stability with the individual and the truth.

Along Came a Zephyr

How does one steal a 120-foot wind turbine?

8.18.2008

McCain in Town

He's here in New Orleans tonight, and he's slated to make another go at a visit to an offshore oil rig tomorrow.

Cyberwar

Russian-based cyber attacks hit Georgian web infrastructure (Kremlin-order or not). Here's the best analysis of what happened.

Georgia gets cyber war allies
(and turns to Blogger for web communication).

Official Georgian sites are still largely inaccessible.


The U.S. is at risk of cyber attacks and yet...

The U.S. Air Force suspends the U.S. Cyber Command
.

Meanwhile, China's 'cyber militia' bides its time.

Favre's Fall From Grace


ht/Andy B

'The single best thing written about John McCain'

If you haven't read 'Up Simba!' by Rolling Stone's David Foster Wallace, give it a shot.

The piece unfolds as his entertaining, bluntly written, unlikely-as-hell, embedded account of John McCain's push in the 2000 GOP Primary. I really don't know how it escaped my attention before now (thanks, Eric L, for the copy), and I concur with this blogger's assessment of the piece's renewed value today.

It's difficult to say whether the insights of the piece show us what we have before us as a candidate or what we no longer have. Either way, it's a unique, free-wheeling look at McCain that's valuable heading into the 2008 election.

*The piece - almost novella-length at 59 pages - is available as an e-book. And, unfortunately, that's about the only version I can find.

Work and Play

Wiley Speaks

Post-chancellorship, John Wiley spins the term pointy-headed intellectual into his own missive against political ideologues in the Wisconsin and national governments.

NOLA Gig Announcement

When: Evening, Sunday, August 24, 2008
What: Broken Smokes Show
Time: 6-9 (band gets underway about 6:30ish)
Where: Bacchanal, Poland Avenue (map)
Who's Invited: You

Broken Smokes
, a band led by my classmate and friend Charles Smith, will alt-indie-lofi-rock Bacchanal down in the Bywater this Sunday evening, August 24, 2008.

The Sunday evening shows at Bacchanal are lovely - a backyard jungle of tables and torches in the shadow of giant Naval re-supply ships, wine and cheese if you like, some great music, and a guest NOLA chef stirring up trouble with a few specialties (the chef from Iris proved himself last time).

I'm already signed on - what better, more relaxing way is there to spend the eve of one's return to the rigors of law school!

For more on Broken Smokes and Sunday evenings at Bacchanal, see my earlier post lauding the concept.

8.17.2008

On Mr. Phelps And His Golden Achievements

Michael Phelps' feat - besting Mark Spitz by winning 8 gold medals in the span of a single set of games - is truly Olympian. Clearly, he's a dominant athlete within his sport, and he's a welcome representative of the United States in Beijing.

But before the apotheosis of Mr. Phelps fully unfolds, I think it's worth taking a step back and looking realistically at his achievement, contextualizing it, if you will.

Isn't part of Phelps' prowess due largely to the way swimming happens to be divvied up into unique events worthy of a gold?

What if some other sport were sliced as thinly as swimming? Sure, it happens to be that way in track and field, and it's difficult, perhaps, to find an individual who has been quite as dominant across the track and field spectrum as Phelps has been in his aquatic arena. (Maybe Jim Thorpe is an exception?) But most of the other sports provide fewer opportunities for gold within the confines of the same general sport.

What if basketball was, for the Olympics, pared into individual events - free throws, threes, dunks, artistic dribbling, and a number of medleys? Yes, an individual, to be as dominant as Phelps in the gold medal count, would have to be multi-talented and incredibly fit. However, there are arguably individuals in a number of team sports who exhibit excellence in a variety of aspects of their particular sports. Yet they are, if their team succeeds, only rewarded once for those various facets of excellence.

I'm not trying to denigrate Michael Phelps or his accomplishments. He, his results, his enthusiasm (and his diet) are highly impressive. But I think it is crucial to recognize that the jewel of swimming is cut with many sides, making it appear to shine all the more brightly.

In Command


8.15.2008

25 Miles from Tbilisi

This is not good.

So many questions circle the Caucasus like vultures...

What exactly is the U.S. able to do to back up the President's repeated calls for Russian withdrawal? Will Secretary Rice be captured? What are the actual U.S. interests in Georgia beyond not allowing Russia to gain the upper hand there? Is this whole fiasco due to NATO's overexpansion after its purpose had died? Will Saakashvili stop being so wanton with his words? Does Russia care at all about its international image? Is the U.S. position doomed in the unfolding scenario due to its own foreign affairs hypocrisy?

Jury Nullification or 'Those Damn Smart Jurors'

Here's an interesting little story about a judge's recent decision to eliminate a juror who raised a legitimate - and quite astute - question during deliberations in a trial.

As someone who's long been interested in the concept of jury nullification (I did an honors paper on the subject for Professor Donald Downs in college), I found the case quite intriguing. The vignette outlined at the link above demonstrates how the jury process in America, for better or for worse, has been increasingly circumscribed.

The debate over whether juries should be "fully informed" of their right to nullify the law, as well as find the facts, is also a bit heated.

I'm in favor of the jury being a sort of luck of the draw. A random sampling of peers from one's area should be just that - random. If it happens to include someone who's well versed in the law or just plain intelligent, that benefit or detriment should be in play as far as leavening the overall composition of the jury. Only if enough juries follow a similar course on a case-by-case basis throughout a jurisdiction does nullification really have much of a widespread effect.

Observing a death penalty voir dire this summer, I had similar thoughts about "death-qualifying" a jury in a capital case. Potential jurors must be able to impose the death penalty since it's a legally possible sentence that could result. Well, if you get some random citizens who refuse - or a citizen - shouldn't the accused have that benefit? Essentially, if a juror refused to consider a death sentence, it's a form of jury nullification - one that, like the story linked above, represents a present-day move by judges to nullify nullification.

Virgie


What ever happened to The Mendota Beacon?

Does anyone know?

The Dollar Creeps Upward

 
ht/Drudge

8.14.2008

Life and Death



















Photo courtesy of the incomparable Victor Broccoli.

Reputation & Repudiation: Tulane & Tulane Law Review

I've posted a few times on the controversial piece in the Tulane Law Review by Professor Vernon Palmer regarding the influence of campaign donations on judicial outcomes in the Louisiana Supreme Court.

As I speculated
, the firestorm of negative backlash to the article, its methodology, and its conclusions seems to be creating some unfortunate blowback for Tulane Law and, specifically, the Tulane Law Review.

Here's a piece reporting on yesterday's forum for Louisiana Supreme Court candidates in Baton Rouge. I also had a friend at the event. From both sources, it appears that the study was dismissed as hogwash and the school derided - with an alum even trying to defend his alma mater with a self-deprecating joke:

Referring to a review of the Tulane study by other researchers at LSU and the University of New Orleans, Kimball said the article is riddled with errors.

She referred to it as “garbage.”

Judge Roland Belsome of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeal told the audience he agrees with Kimball’s assessment of the Tulane article. He labeled it “inaccurate” and “insulting.”

Belsome then drew waves of laughter by adding: “I’m the only judge up here who graduated from Tulane.”

Granted, some of the chief detractors are the targets of the study, so derision would make sense. However, I heard more agreement this summer in the local legal market with the criticisms of the piece than agreement with its methodologies and conclusions. The sticking point for many I've discussed the piece with seems to be the overall shoddiness entailed - basically, the elementary error of failure to check cites.

More importantly, I think the criticisms, unfortunately, lay out a pretty extensive and involved case. The article has become a blemish, and all those institutions and individuals responsible would do well to be cognizant of its failings moving forward.

A Ride Along with the Harbor Police

He whipped the radar gun up and fired at the silver Camry speeding past. It whined. He screeched to a halt at the first light in Bywater and u-banged, headed for the St. Claude Bridge. We caught air as we launched over the rusted, riveted monster into the Lower 9th Ward. The Camry wove downhill in and out of traffic. We pursued, siren now on. Finally, pinned in by our SUV and other vehicles that had pulled over, the Camry stopped under a live oak. And the good officer got out. 58 in a 35 zone.

It was just another day in the life of The Harbor Police.

Today, as an experiential part of our judicial internship, we rode along with a veteran officer in the local harbor police. It was eye-opening. With an interesting jurisdiction spanning Jefferson, Orleans, and St. Bernard parishes and a focus on the extensive port facilities that line area waterways, the harbor police have a fascinating job, one full of variety and intimate, sometimes unseemly, glimpses into the life of the city.

We rolled through the container ports, the giant blue cranes towering overhead amidst the mountains of containers. We responded to a call at the old wharf where the 'chicken boats' were unloading frozen fowl - a dispute between a stevedore and a security guard. We got the lowdown on criminal and international aspects of law enforcement related to New Orleans' cruise ship terminal. We even saw the fireboat's water cannon in action - a 375 foot range.

We heard horror stories of maritime mishaps. We figured out how the Coast Guard interacts. We learned about illegal immigration and drug realities in a port setting. We learned from a practitioner - to my dismay - that the local maritime law practice has "imploded" as of late. We saw the continuing oil spill cleanup buzzing along on the levee in the French Quarter. And we learned firsthand about the lingering aspects of Katrina as it impacted the port and shipping industry in the metro area.

All in all, we had one of the best guides to the city a person could ask for - period. What a day.