11.30.2008

Two bits of little-heralded good news

1.) Pakistani domestic spying is ending:
Sources in Pakistan suggest the implications are entirely domestic and will have little bearing on Pakistan's foreign policy or the ISI's role in the counterterrorism effort, but Western experts note that the change comes as Washington has been privately urging Pakistan's new government to rein in elements of the ISI that allegedly have links with Islamic militancy.

Critics maintain that Pakistan's military leaders most often used the ISI's political wing against the civilian leadership of political parties. Indeed, within Pakistan, the implications of the move are seen as being almost entirely domestic.


2.) Afghan poppy crops have taken a pretty big hit:
The BBC's Rob Watson says that the decrease in poppy production is a rare piece of good news from Afghanistan.

"The opium flood waters there have started to recede," the UNODC report said.

A little groove on a snowy Sunday

Apropos of wet snow:





I've been digging the YouTube channel set up by Minnesota Public Radio all weekend -- go check it out.

Former Soviet link-o-rama

+The propagandists say the West is attacking the Russian middle class, and that's good for Putin:
The meme of Russia's nascent bourgeois having their middle class dreams dashed by the West's financial malfeasance is convenient for a couple of reasons. It lets the Russian elite off the hook for their own mismanagement and for failing to diversify an economy dangerously dependent on high energy prices. And it adds a new melody to the regime's ever-present xenophobic mood music at time when the Kremlin appears to be preparing the ground for Vladimir Putin's return to the presidency.


+Maybe they're just afraid of our chess players:
The United States’ status in the global chess hierarchy is rising, while Russia’s once dominant position is waning.


+Russia and Venezuela will hold joint naval exercises soon:
It's widely seen as a demonstration of Kremlin anger over aid delivered by U.S. warships to Georgia after its fighting with Russia. Russian officials deny that.


+It looks like the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty are getting kicked out of Azerbaijan:
[E]nding the broadcasts would also send the wrong signal if Azerbaijan has a desire to strengthen U.S.-Azerbaijani relations with President-elect Barack Obama.


+Ukraine is starting to pay back a bill it owes to Gazprom:
The row over payment erupted just as Russia and Ukraine were about to negotiate the price for gas supplies next year.

In the Headphones

Besides the silence, there is this. 

Spot On

Columnist Dennis Byrne looks at the numbers and puts the federal government's response to the financial crisis in full, harrowing perspective:

In just eight months, we have made a fundamental change in our financial system and our form of government, without much debate or with, I dare say, no foresight. I'm glad I don't have to make these kinds of decisions, but I can't help think that we have lost something in our national character; we have become so fearful of the present that we are willing to mortgage our future, to risk the kind of calamity that could far surpass the present one.

Hillary's Emo Problem

Remember that Arcane Topic Alert I issued six days ago?

Well, the LA Times and the Chicago Trib have finally picked up on what's eating Hillary Clinton - the Emoluments Clause meme.

11.29.2008

The CBD - In 1851












Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Random Fandom

The page is one year old, but we haven't plugged it until now:

An Evening at Mosca's

Last evening, I had the pleasure of a meal with friends at one of my favorite restaurants in the New Orleans area - Mosca's.

Going to Mosca's is an experience.  Driving across the Mississippi on the old Huey P, one eventually comes across a small, unpretentious white building alone in the woodlands in rural Avondale .  Inside, the warmth of the people and the food in the simple surroundings hit you immediately.

As Fodor's review put it, the various platters laid before you tend to "approach the summit of Italian-Creole cuisine."  While the chicken a la grande is delectable, the true prize on any table is 'Oysters Mosca' - a rich, incomparable dish that approximates a savory oyster pie.  The restaurant holds a highly coveted James Beard Award for being an American classic.

My friend Lisa is the daughter of the proprietors, and it's always nice to visit a bit with her parents, who continue to run the establishment with the simple recipe for success crafted by Lisa's grandparents, who began the venture back in 1946.  There's plenty of Frank Sinatra in the jukebox and a few picture of race horses on the wall.  While the prices are commensurate with the quality of the food and the atmosphere, I would highly recommend you take a trip across the bridge one evening.  It's a wonderful little place.

Here's more on the restaurant, the family, and the recovery after Katrina.

200 Years of Civil Codes in Louisiana














Last week, Tulane Law hosted an international colloquium in celebration of the bicentennial of the first civil code in Louisiana.  I happened to catch the opening speech on divergent legal conceptions of property as various comparative law experts from around the world arrived.

Uniquely among the American states, Louisiana's law developed beginning in 1808 along the lines of Continental code-style law with Roman, French, and Spanish influences, as opposed to the English Common Law heritage that holds sway in the rest of the states.  

It gives students at Tulane Law an interesting option: in their first year, students can choose whether to pursue a Common Law track or a Civil Law track, depending on where they plan to practice.  Interestingly, a sizable majority of students select Common Law, although it seems a noticeable number of students drift toward Civil Law as their attachment to New Orleans grows over the course of three years.

11.28.2008

"sustained non-lethal resistance"

Pirates take another tanker.

How about some lethal resistance to pirate hijackings? 

I don't have much sympathy for maritime security guards that employ only non-lethal force before jumping overboard to escape a pirate takeover.  To me, any vessel traveling on the high seas of the Gulf of Aden or off Somalia assumes the risk of capture these days by moving without the ability to repel pirates with full lethal force.

Staggering

David Brooks makes me feel a little less lonely in my jeremiads against ballooning federal spending and loans.  He puts the recent outlays, now over $8 trillion, into perspective:

If you add up just the funds that have already been committed, you get a figure, according to Jim Bianco of Bianco Research, that is larger in today’s dollars than the costs of the Marshall Plan, the Louisiana Purchase, the New Deal, the Korean War, Vietnam and the S.&L. crisis combined.

Is all this money doing any good?

Thank you.

He suggests a number of ways to reinvigorate the American economy, including infusing federal cash into state universities.  While there is already a significant research investment by the federal government in various state university programs, I think Brooks' suggestion needs to be a bit more narrowly tailored.  

To serve the dual interests of federalism and increased science and technology expertise to retain a positions of international leadership, any federal financial incentives need to be tied to specific needs in math, technology, and science.  Building on the concept of the Barry Goldwater Scholarship,which matches federal fiscal incentives to individuals pursuing crucial careers, seems like a good idea to me.

When Life Hands You Lemons

















Just keep walking toward the law school.

While the tryptophan washed over you...

Something noteworthy happened in Iraq.

11.27.2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Cranberries, anyone?



It's especially tough to be away from family on Thanksgiving. But fortunately, I'm heading over to a good friend's house near Bayou St. John for a traditional meal today. Wedged in between more studying, of course.

Have a good one, wherever you are, and eat some pumpkin pie for me.

11.26.2008

In memoriam

I just found out that Brent Hurd has died while in India.

Brent was a fascinating man; although I only knew him briefly while in Azerbaijan, his force of personality, unbounded curiosity, and massive energy meant I always looked forward to seeing him again. He was one of the most positive people I have ever met, and brought light into sometimes dark days in a place that had its very difficult moments.

I know that Brent had this impact on so many others as well. Rest in peace, Brent -- you lived a fine life.

Name That Tree #4

















Have at it.  We haven't done one of these in a while.

On the New LSU-VA Hospital

After yesterday's press conference setting the matter in stone, 70 acres of Lower Mid-City will be razed to make way for the new joint hospital complex.  The City Council has already allocated $79 million to pave the way for what is expected to be a $2 billion investment in the heart of the city.

I had been debating the various hospital sites and projects off-line with a number of friends, but I never ultimately posted any of my draft posts.  I would've liked to see a refurbishment of Charity Hospital in the mix.  And I don't believe the state did enough to mitigate the harm that will come from having to displace many families and businesses in the neighborhood.  I also thought the Lindy Boggs site would have made sense.

But now the decision has been made.  As the project moves forward toward anticipated completion in 2013, I've decided to shift gears.

My goal: Save the Dixie Brewery.


The building is architecturally significant, it's historic and unique, and it's feasible to carve it out of the proposed demolition because it is located in a portion of the proposed hospital complex footprint farthest from the River, near a corner of the planned development.

One idea:  move the Deutsches Haus and German Cultural Heritage center into the lower levels of the Brewery building itself (perhaps put high end condos into the upper tower of the brewery, a restaurant or bar at the top).  While the old brewery is in tough shape in some parts, it's worth saving.

One of My Favorite Cases

I think this one gets "best of the semester" for its facts alone.

Provost v. Huber, 594 F.2d 717, 1981 AMC 2999 (8th Cir. 1979).










Absolutely bizarre.

Rockin' the house

Sulco, my brother's band, will be playing their annual pre-Thanksgiving show at Cannova's in downtown Neenah today. All the cool kids will be there! (Or, well, I'll be there, anyway.)

Dig 'em:






Show starts at 9.20.

11.25.2008

I, for one, welcome our new libertarian overlords

Think the libertarian movement is still the right answer? The fine folks at Reason will do you one better: the libertarian movement is poised for historic gains.
We are in fact living at the cusp of what should be called the Libertarian Moment, the dawning not of some fabled, clich├ęd, and loosey-goosey Age of Aquarius but a time of increasingly hyper-individualized, hyper-expanded choice over every aspect of our lives, from 401(k)s to hot and cold running coffee drinks, from life-saving pharmaceuticals to online dating services. This is now a world where it’s more possible than ever to live your life on your own terms; it’s an early rough draft version of the libertarian philosopher Robert Nozick’s glimmering “utopia of utopias.” Due to exponential advances in technology, broad-based increases in wealth, the ongoing networking of the world via trade and culture, and the decline of both state and private institutions of repression, never before has it been easier for more individuals to chart their own course and steer their lives by the stars as they see the sky. If you don’t believe it, ask your gay friends, or simply look who’s running for the White House in 2008.

I'm skeptical -- the smoking bans and bailouts (indeed, both of the 2008 candidates were more than happy to throw massive amounts of money at our current economic problems), domestic spying and gay marriage bans are broadly popular; moreover, the "Chinese model" of free trade but severely restricted civil and political rights is worryingly popular in the second world.

But the comparisons to the 1970s is interesting, and worth considering. There have been dark days before, and freedom is greatly on the increase.

Daniel Plainview Arrives in Uptown

Spending Watch

FYI: It's difficult to fathom, but the Fed throws an additional $800 billion of government funds into the breach today.

Iceland gets Violent

The people get angry at Althingi. 

TLS Code of Professionalism - Up for a Vote Today

Yes or No?

At this point, I'm leaning toward voting NO.  Admittedly, I have not had sufficient time to review the old and the new versions of the Honor Code (Code of Professionalism) side-by-side in the depth I would like.

I was asked to serve on the body that drafted the proposed code.  I agreed to serve on it.  Then I was never contacted.  So that's one knock against the new document.

Additionally, I have a number of questions:

1.  Why is there a need for a new Code?  Nobody has explained this to me.

2.  Who drafted this revised Code?

3.  Why has no one who supports the document summarized and disseminated the various ways in which the new document changes our Honor Code paradigm?

4.  What is the standard required for passage?  A majority of all current students?  A majority of all those voting?  Is there a minimum percentage of the student populace that must vote for passage to be legitimate?

5.  Why are we voting on this on the day before Thanksgiving Break, in effect, when many people are gone, leaving, or about to check out?

I did manage to scan the proposed Code last week for a bit, and I looked at is again this morning, briefly.  While most of it seemed rather innocuous, much of the language seemed quite vague and broad.   Here's one passage that stood out to me as troubling:

This is a violation of the proposed code - 

Utilizing or referring to any material in any location or at any time the use of which has 

been specifically forbidden by the professor, administrator, or student(s) in charge; 


What does that mean?  Is this not drastically overbroad?  In charge of what?  You can't "refer" to something "in any location or at any time"?  I think the intention is to stop students in LRW classes from talking about projects...but the provision's text is not narrowly tailored to fit such instances.

I get the general sense that the new Honor Code is being rammed through.  And that's yet another reason that has me leaning toward a vote to fail passage of the document.

"one part wood, one part white dwarf star"

Extreme beer.  Superb writing.  Worth it.

Not a Gargoyle
















11.24.2008

The Budget "Shortfall"

I finally got a free moment to look at the DOA's preliminary budget numbers for the 2009-2011 biennium, and once again the political leaders in Madison miss the point.

It is certainly true that the battered economy has made a bad situation far worse, but it is in no way the cause of the $5.4 billion deficit. The economy didn't send the deficit to that level, irresponsible spending did.

When you look at the agency requests for the next two fiscal years, government spending increases by more than $2.3 billion! We know that economic times are tough to say the least, yet government bureaucrats are requesting massive increases in spending. This is the biggest problem we are facing at the state level - spending beyond our means.

I realize that we have a commitment to funding education and funding basic infrastructure - not to mention unemployment benefits - but the line has to be drawn somewhere.

Our legislative leaders face a very important decision - do we raise taxes, continue to play budget shell games and raid the transportation fund, or do we say that times are tough and we need to do without some of the programs we currently have? We need to cut spending, but my bet is the legislature will do the former, just take Senate-Majority Leader Decker's response to the DOA's report:
“The new budget numbers are disappointing, but not surprising given the state of the national economy. States across the nation have been bankrupted by Bush Administration policies that drove up fuel costs, shipped good-paying jobs overseas and sent money that should have been used to spur job growth by rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure overseas to an ill-conceived war. The least President Bush could do before he leaves is to get on board plans to send relief to the states.

Our state was on track to closing our gap before the national economic storm hit us. Now we must take further action. We will need to tighten our belt even further, but we must also do what we can to put people to work now. The best way out of this is to mirror the efforts at the federal level to stimulate the economy by protecting the jobs we have and creating new jobs. Growing our way out of this is the only way to move our state forward.”
That is the whole statement. No edits. Rather than actually talking about really cutting programs and trimming the fat, Sen. Decker blames the whole thing on the Bush administration. Now, President Bush has certainly made mistakes on the economy - as LIB has consistently pointed out - but this is absurd.

The current budget mess is largely Sen. Decker and his colleagues' fault. The economy has made it worse, but the underlying problems have been there for a while. Rather than take responsibility he passes the buck and shows a complete lack of leadership and seriousness about the budget deficit.

The state borrowed money at amazing levels in order to help "balance" or "repair" the last several budgets, yet all that did was add to our mandatory spending in debt service. Also, as I mentioned above state agencies are requesting $2.3 billion more than this year. If we hold fast on our increases the deficit drops to $3.1 billion. Still a large number, but a lot smaller than before.

To get the rest of the way we need to cut spending. I know it isn't popular, and a lot of special interests may get mad, but we don't have a choice at this point. Raising taxes hinders a potential recovery and we cannot afford it, so we have to cut.

I have not yet had the time to look through the full 188 page report, but I am certain we can find significant amounts of money in programs that are not necessary. I know that previous requests for the Stewardship Fund have totaled more than $120 million for the biennium. While I am all for the preservation of natural land and wildlife habitat, I think that such a large appropriation designed solely to purchase land is a luxury that we cannot afford at this time.

I'm sure there are other areas where we can save money as well, and as I get the chance to read the full agency breakdown I will share them with you all.

This is going to be tough for a while and I know there will be resistance to actually cutting spending - just look at Senator Decker's comments - but it has to be done. We are all hurting and struggling to make ends meet. Government should not be exempt from having to work this less. If we are serious about fixing our budget problems and creating jobs we will start to make cuts.

If not, this will only get worse.

Is Hillary Clinton "Invalid" - ?

Arcane Topic Alert: Eugene Volokh muses about whether the Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution bars Senator Hillary Clinton from being appointed Secretary of State by the President-Elect.

Some suggest historical precedents for various "fixes" to the quandary.   But others suggest those fixes won't work in the present case.  

Intriguingly, Sen. Robert Byrd (and supposedly Justice Breyer) opposed Nixon's "Saxbe Fix" back in the 1970s.   And, just for fun: Definition and etymology of Emoluments.

Unending Spending

Oh, you know...$700 billion here, $700 billion there.  Meh.  Change.  Chump change.

I ask again, where does it stop?  As the link above notes, President-elect Obama anticipates a massive government stimulus plan early in his administration.  The stock market soared today as the federal government provided tens of billions of additional dollars for Citigroup.  President Bush, after supporting the initial bailout, then extolling capitalism at the G-20, supported the Citigroup measure and "warns us" unending-War-On-Terror-style that additional bailouts are coming down the pike.    

The federal government has now put itself on the line for $7.4 trillion in aid to various entities altogether in this crisis.  Bloomberg notes that only the paltry $700 billion plan, out of that total sum, was actually approved by Congress.

That's absurd.  That's wrong.  And that's fundamentally at odds with the concept of a limited government under our Constitution.  I, for one, care.  We are sliding down the slippery slope.  We are permitting our government to act as if it is truly a unitary government.  And far too few people seem to care about more than merely stabilizing the market.

Here are three columns and three choice quotes questioning the constitutionality of the bailouts:




---
"I can find no warrant for such an appropriation in the Constitution, and I do not believe that the power and duty of the General Government ought to be extended to the relief of individual suffering which is in no manner properly related to the public service or benefit."
-- President Grover Cleveland vetoing a bill for charity relief

"I cannot find any authority in the Constitution for public charity. [To approve the measure] would be contrary to the letter and spirit of the Constitution and subversive to the whole theory upon which the Union of these States is founded."
-- President Franklin Pierce's 1854 veto of a measure

"Charity is no part of the legislative duty of the government."
-- James Madison, speech in the House of Representatives, January 10, 1794

We're Number One

In the 504. 

Ouch.

A Russian stalemate

Don't expect the Russia-Georgia conflict to change much any time soon:
The EU's dilemma will come to a head in the weeks before the bloc's next summit on October 15-16. Poland and the Baltic countries, backed by Britain, argue that the EU must choose values over interests. In practical terms, this will mean a freeze on all cooperation with Russia until it goes back to the pre-August status quo in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Pointing out that such a turn of events is extremely unlikely, France, Germany, and most other western EU member states want cooperation with Russia to resume, leaving only verbal pressure on Moscow to back down.

Both camps believe vitally important issues are at stake. The longer they remain divided, the more difficult it will become for the EU to maintain its front of political unity.

In light of Russia's vital role in Europe's energy supply, the EU will need to not only take Russia firmly in hand, not backing down to Russian aggression; it will also need to bolster Ukraine as a strong positive example and look toward using that country as an alternate, and more secure, route for oil and natural gas into Europe. To be able to stand up to Russia, Europe will need as much armor as it can get.

Packers at Saints Tonight

Are you ready for some Cheesehead on Fleur-de-lis action? 

One Sconnie classmate here is shrugging off exam prep and heading to the Superdome.  I wish I could join him.

A New Blog On the Horizon: University and State

Crewed by a band of Badgers and recent alums, the new blog strikes me as a veritable "Obama's cabinet" of campus elite (and while the latter term derives from some pseudo self-anointing, it's nonetheless relatively apt).

Contributing luminaries include, among others: LIB alum David L, bloggers Danny S of Critical Badger, Eli L of Kathmanduma, Alec L of Eagle and The Bear, and the lovely Suchita S, lately of Manhattan.

What is the seven-person, CSNY-style supergroup blog all about?  

"a space for a few of us to ramble, discuss and debate our experiences during and after our undergraduate careers at UW-Madison"

While that's broad enough to encompass a great deal of latitude, I hope it's also enough of a focus to generate content in the long run.  But with a bevy of good writers leading interesting, ascending lives, it shouldn't pose too much of a problem.

Also, if this is University and State, are we talking of two things that run parallel, but never intersect?  What are they - reality and life in Madison?  School and the world beyond? Although...if one counts Gorham, they do intersect.  Perhaps this blog represents seven friends catching up at Jamba Juice.  Or Badger Liquor.




Finally, a few words about the blog's header: well done.  Crisp.  Clean.  The white pediment of Bascom floating cloud-like in the pristine blue.  Evokes this sound.  Inviting.

"I would say I wanted to breathe the air of Mexico at the airport."

A Japanese man has decided to stay in an airport, in a country where he is not a citizen.

What would prompt one to put up in an airport? There's that Tom Hanks movie where he plays an immigrant stuck in an airport. An Iranian man got stuck in Charles De Gaulle International for real. But why choose to live in an international terminal?

I've spent almost obnoxiously long stretches of time in the Istanbul airport, whose international terminal isn't very bad at all. Chicago would probably be decent. Which airport would you choose to stay in for a few months?

11.23.2008

Mmmm, Nummy

Rocks that eat global warming for breakfast. 

In the Headphones

It keeps me from remembering I'm presently on the 5th floor of a library with a slightly sour attitude.

A Promotional Video for Milwaukee?

I don't think it's real, but it's well done and hilarious:



The Look Around You vibe is strong in this one. And come to think of it, it doesn't really look like Milwaukee. Could it be an attempt at a viral advertising campaign?

"The homeless can be coaxed indoors but not forced unless their life is in danger."

What, are homeless people another species?

The button on this piece seems to think it's advising people how to get ptarmigans to enter a spruce grove based on many years of painstaking observation in the wild.

GOP '12, Jindal, and the Numbers

Is it just me, or do the numbers show Bobby Jindal well poised for a run in 2012?

















While Jindal currently has slightly more detractors among Republicans than supporters, he alone, of possible viable contenders involved in the survey, has 30% to grow into over the course of the next four years.  And the poll doesn't show his similar unfamiliarity among independents - where, I think, he has the potential to make up massive ground over Palin.

Crist and Graham have prohibitive negatives.  Jeb Bush: felled by his brother.  I think it's safe to say Giuliani is out of the running.  Gingrich likely is, too, although some monumental event showing the value of intellect might pull him back into orbit.

Such an event would also be necessary, I think, to knock Sarah Palin off her high perch.  But she will likely have the most intense media spotlight trailing her for the next four years, probing for faults.  Like this.

As for Huckabee and Romney, they're up there.  But much of the right and center of the electorate knows everything about them already.  I think the roughly 30% opposed to each man is likely pretty hardcore opposition.  That brings up another factor about Jindal: I'd wager his opposition numbers are primarily by vague default from the fact that most respondents had more high-profile favorites higher on the list.

That leaves Petraeus.  Too much could happen in too short a time period in Afghanistan for me to say how he factors into the picture in the next few years.

While the poll is one poll taken years before the race in question, it is at least provides some data to frame the chatter moving forward.

Dial

11.22.2008

The GOP needs to become the liberal party

Armin Rosen, writing at Commentariat, has a few excellent ideas about where what he calls "conservatism" needs to go. But his first point is dead wrong, and he spends the rest of his column proving it.

What he calls conservatism is actually the Republican Party. It's a crucial distinction, and one he misses to his detriment. It's the Reagan-era GOP "big tent." It's not, necessarily, "conservatism."

Keeping this in mind, let's look at his ideas, skipping the first for now.

DON’T GIVE UP ON SOCIAL CONSERVATISM. BUT DON’T EMPHASIZE IT EITHER.
This is an essentially liberal idea: religion has a place in our society, but it isn't the overarching factor. The GOP, in its liberality, is able to talk to religious conservatives -- there's no need to scorn the religious. But they shouldn't be allowed to force their views on others -- marriage is a fine religious institution, but as far as the government is concerned, Rosen is exactly right: "it would ... mean dropping this absurd crusade against same-sex marriage altogether–while, perhaps, emphasizing the importance of traditional values in non-traditional family settings."

That should be the extent of religious participation in policy: we don't need to be so far left as to discount the religious, but the religious right does not have the right to enforce its religious views on the population at large. Which is a fine segue into:

DUMP THE DRUG WAR.
Small government, anyone? This is one of the crucial ideas of the Republican Party, and perhaps the one it has most blatantly forsaken. Telling the American people that this crusade is just as ridiculous, and ineffective, as that against booze, would be a grandiose and meaningful way of saying, "there are things the government shouldn't do. Here's one. We're working on the rest."

The last two of Rosen's provisions are more short- and medium-term strategy, and don't really bear in here. But his throwaway closer, "Also important: rehabilitating the free market, championing infrastructure reform, countering eco-hysteria while providing moderate yet effective energy solutions (plug-in hybrids, cap-and-trade, nuclear power, bicycles, congestion pricing…)," is also a big liberal cornerstone: it's based on respecting science and championing the free market.

I think he's confusing, in the same way he confused "conservatism" with "the GOP," the terms "liberal" and "the Democrats." It's a dangerous mistake to make, and does a disservice to the real ideas out there.

Salon wants to take back "liberalism" -- but the GOP is closer, and is the rightful heir to the title for reasons Salon lays out:
Because liberalism refers to a particular kind of social order, and does not depend on any implied relationship of the present to the past or future, liberals can be either progressive or conservative, depending on whether they seek to move toward a more liberal system or to maintain a liberal system that already exists. For that matter, liberals can be revolutionary, if creating or establishing a liberal society requires a violent revolution. Liberals can even be counterrevolutionary, if they are defending a liberal society from revolutionary radicals, including anti-liberal revolutionaries of the radical right like Timothy McVeigh or Muslim jihadists.

The GOP, in its true form, is very much an ideological defense of a liberal society against overreach. Let's get it back there.

Forget-Me-Not

A new Congressional report by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission outlines the nature and extent of China's space and cyber warfare activities.  The portion on cyber warfare, linked, is especially sobering.

One of more grave aspects of the report is this conclusion about the conundrum faced by any nation targeted by cyber attacks:

Retaliating kinetically may be seen by both the nation against which a retaliatory strike is executed and, importantly, by other nations and multilateral organizations as both unjustified and escalatory. One reason this may be viewed as unjustified is because there is no clear consensus on when a cyber attack constitutes an act of war.

The U.S. needs to develop and propound a legal framework for response to a cyber attack that does not leave us hamstrung at a crucial moment in the face of a threat. Only when a majority of the international community agrees on a basic set of benchmarks of what evidence of cyber attack activities justifies a conventional military response will the U.S. have confidence that its response options are sufficient and justified in the event of a critical cyber attack. Why risk appearing rash if one can avoid it?

While international opprobrium alone should not bar a full U.S. response to a cyber attack, frank discussion of the challenges of this new paradigm of conflict is essential to prepare countries for whatever situations develop down the road. For the U.S. to retain a broad range of action that nonetheless looks legitimate in the eyes of the world, foreign leaders and populations need to be put "on notice," in effect, that unconventional conflict may play out along new trajectories. In the wake of the era of the Bush Doctrine (its definition refined post-Palin), sensitivity to the appearances attending a conventional response to an otherwise intangible cyber attack is crucial to prevent additional hostility to U.S. foreign policy.

In the meantime, the U.S. should beef up its cyber defenses. In my opinion, it should also consider the high stakes parallels of nuclear warfare as it develops appropriate cyber warfare strategies and doctrines. For the stakes are high indeed.

The good fight

Al Jazeera looks at one very brave Egyptian woman, Amal Soliman:
Well, I took my husband with me because I was afraid I would be made fun of, which I was.

When I applied the man at the desk laughed openly at me and said that is was just not possible.

He imagined I would go home and forget about it, but instead I argued and told him that I had studied Sharia Law and I know it is an administrative job.

Though the clerk refused to accept my submission, I turned to Ibrahim Darwish, head of the local magistrate in Zagazig for his opinion.

Darwish was puzzled; he said there was no precedent for this situation so he did not know what to say. I took that as a sign that there was a small window of opportunity.

I then consulted Khaled el-Shalkamy, the head judge of Zagazig's family court.

I told him it was my right to be nominee as I was extremely qualified.

I told him just to accept me and let the other people involved in the selection process do the rest.

This is how change happens.

"Non Sibi Sed Suis"


Ye olde motto.

Kangaroo Court

In session, at Tulane and Broad.

11.21.2008

A Good Hard Look...

...at whether Congressman Paul Ryan is putting his money where his mouth is...or putting it somewhere else. Like the coffers of the Big Three.

Mentioned increasingly as a rising star in the GOP as of late, I see his shine growing rather dim if he continues on this path. These are not the positions of a standard-bearer for a party that needs to divorce itself from its current president and distinguish itself from its soon-to-be overwhelming opposition. Fiscal conservatism does not entail support for both the initial government bailout and now, seemingly, the prospect of additional bailouts.

NOLA Murders 2008

An interactive map.

Man...quite a few red spots dot the landscape...

Wizardry

You're sending a cheese basket?

Well, if you are, here are the two best places to get your holiday cheese from - bona fide small town Wisconsin cheese factories:

Henning's - A cheese factory in rural Kiel on Ucker Point Creek Road (excellent cheese curds).

Renards - The Door County cheesemakers who live next to my grandparents' cottage on Green Bay.

Both companies take orders online for airmail shipping.

11.20.2008

Live from the Maritime Journal Suite

Page read!

Why is California special?

Elyas Bakhtiari over at the Moderate Voice asks why California's Prop 8 got all the attention, when there were similarly important and repressive measures on other states' ballots:
There’s something about the intense focus on Prop 8 that bugs me, though. I agree with the principles, but I can’t help but wonder if we’d seem the same passion for gay rights if Prop 8 hadn’t passed. What about Prop 1 in Arkansas, which essentially banned gays from adopting, or Prop 2 in Florida and Prop 102 in Arizona, which also banned gay marriage? These equally-repressive amendments have been all but overlooked by liberals outside of the respective states. I understand the symbolism of Prop 8 and the unique circumstance in which gay marriage had previously been legal in California. But I’m also a bit unsettled by liberals’ indifference to the rights of gays in the “flyover” states. If we’re talking about a civil rights issue, shouldn’t the amendments in Florida, Arkansas, and Arizona be just as offensive as the one in California?

I suspect it has something to do with the fact that California had actually seen the legalization of gay marriage, and thus had the bigger emotional pull of possibly taking a major step backward. The bigger the trench, the more recently it's been taken, the more necessary it seems to hold on to the gains made.

Ladder Match - The Electoral College

To keep or not to keep?

The New York Times slashes and burns, trying to tie the thing to racism, George W. Bush, and rural bumpkins.  Even states are against it - creatively seeking to render themselves irrelevant, as we noted this summer.

But don't forget this defense of the institution, which I highlighted some time ago.

Finally, if this is a ladder match, is the electoral college the ladder?  Is the presidency the title belt?

Motivators?

The oil game is a dirty one, and the West has made its share of bargains with thugs to keep the crude flowing. Now China, perhaps driven by piracy in the Straits of Malacca, is looking to make a deal with one of the nastiest devils out there -- the Burmese junta:
The pipelines would cut shipping time and costs for journeys by sea through the Malacca Straits and secure access to energy supplies.

A Chinese Communist Party delegation to Burma has also lauded the closeness of ties between Beijing and Rangoon.

China is a major importer of Middle East oil. Burma also has rich energy reserves and is exploring for more in adjacent seas.

Will this encourage Burmese sabre-rattling over exploration?

Since Brad seems to have taken a bit of a pause...

...here's some more pirate stuff: a live piracy tracker mashup using Google maps. The heavy concentrations of attacks are on predictable choke points: the Horn of Africa and the Malacca Straits. But pirates are hitting as nearby as Port-au-Prince, where pirates apparently boarded a cargo vessel in June before being driven off by the crew.


(via the lovely BLDGBLOG, which you should certainly go check out)

Update: this'll teach me to post before reading the ol' blog -- Brad isn't off his game at all. Carry on, carry on.

Who needs a Letter of Marque...

...when you've got a Blackwater anti-pirate vessel for hire as your ship is sailing off the Horn.

11.19.2008

From the Redwood Forests...

The California Supreme Court agrees to hear an appeal challenging Proposition 8. 

As I've stated, this move is a potential double-edged sword for the court and the gay rights movement as far as tactics are concerned.

If the court does decide for the plaintiffs, striking down the measure, I merely ask that it cite the Proclamation of Independence from the founding of the original California, the 1846 Bear Flag Republic :

The Commander in Chief of the Troops assembled at the Fortress of Sonoma gives his inviolable pledge to all persons in California not found under arms that they shall not be disturbed in their persons, their property or social relations one to another by men under his command.

Fixing the WI Budget Gap?

Precisely. 

It's about spending.

Scratch that Mother Ship


11.18.2008

Fighting Pirates: Letter of Marque & Reprisal, Anyone?

Who's with me?

Ok, so I bring up the seemingly fanciful idea of going to fight pirates under a Letter of Marque and Reprisal.  What sort of legal background hurdles actually stand in the way of a private individual hellbent on heading to the high seas off the Horn of Africa?

Interestingly, Ron Paul introduced legislation in 2001 to authorize the seemingly moribund concept of Letters of Marque and Reprisal against Osama bin Laden.  He sought to use Congress's Constitutional authority to grant the President the power to authorize private individuals to pursue bin Laden under such Letters.  He pushed the bill again in 2007.  Here's the text.

Congress also has the enumerated Article I, Section 8 power to "define and punish piracies and felonies committed on the high seas" and the power to "make rules concerning captures on land and water."

While the U.S. refused to sign the 1856 Paris Declaration by which signatories agreed to cease issuing authorization to privateers, it basically respected it during the Civil War and the Spanish-American War.  However, during World War II, the U.S. Navy granted a Letter of Marque to an anti-submarine airship in the Pacific.

Today, it seems unclear whether international legal norms over time, rooted in the Paris Declaration and the subsequent 1907 Hague Convention, would constitute sufficient customary international law be found to hold privateering illegal in the eyes of a U.S. court.  It appears to be illegal under U.S. Code for a U.S. citizen to "cruise" as a privateer against U.S. citizens and their property.  But I haven't researched in depth about how the Congress would actually go about granting a Letter of Marque and Reprisal under the present legislative paradigm.

ADDED:  A little bleg - Can privateers be authorized against irregular pirates or are letters of marque limited to authorizing capture of vessels connected to a specific foreign power party?

ADDED:  Does a private individual even require authorization in the form of a Letter of Marque and Reprisal to "cruise" as a privateer against non-state-backed pirates on the high seas?  Or can anyone capture them at any time?  One learned treatise observes:

"International law authorizes the capture on the high seas of pirates at all times [...]."

But there's the UNCLOS treaty...which the U.S. has not signed, but might be held nevertheless as customary international law binding in U.S. courts.  From Part VII, Article 107 0f that treaty on the law of the sea (indicating a need for authorization by a state for private individuals to capture pirates): 

Ships and aircraft which are entitled to seize on account of piracy

A seizure on account of piracy may be carried out only by warships or military aircraft, or other ships or aircraft clearly marked and identifiable as being on government service and authorized to that effect.

A Challenger for Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson

Judge Randy Koschnick enters the race. 

Why doesn't his press release mention where he went to law school?

It's not everything, but it seems like a glaring factual omission for an initial introduction.

UPDATE: KB sends this, which contains the answer.

Summer in The City

I've decided to accept a job offer with a law firm in New York City next summer.

While the decision was rather agonizing, I'm looking forward to a three-month experience in Manhattan.

Where do pirates come from? Where do they go?

The pirate haven of Eyl - in Somalia's Puntland region.

Here's a rare report from the city  by the BBC.

Cabinet-Level Obamacons

The Wall Street Journal speculates. 

Accurate?  Additions?  Critiques?

Will targeted cabinet appointments help the new president poach the handful of moderate Republicans in the Senate on key issues?

11.17.2008

Twizzler

Where the oil flows

A summit in Baku may decide the fate of European energy:
The Caspian Basin's massive potential as an energy supplier is well-known, but nearly two decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union there are still only a few routes for bringing energy resources from the region to Europe.

One traditional and well-established route goes through Russia, with new but far from sufficient avenues traveling through the Caucasus and Turkey (the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline and Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas pipeline).

Changing the existing setup is the focus of the Baku conference. Russia was invited to attend the conference, but according to U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Mathew Bryza, Moscow "chose not to show up."

This is perhaps a result of the nature of this discussion, which is expected to center on finding ways of getting Caspian oil and gas to Europe while circumventing Russia.

Officials from Bulgaria, Hungary, Estonia, Lithuania, Poland, and Ukraine, all either former Soviet satellite states or former Soviet republics, are in attendance. Some of these countries received good news when Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev addressed the summit touting the possibilities of the proposed Odesa-Brody-Plotsk-Gdansk oil pipeline.

In a talk last Saturday at the Council on Foreign Relations, Medvedev mentioned a new Russian idea on how these resources should flow:
We even worked out a special energy security concept which was proposed to our partners and the G8 summit in St. Petersburg. What's the essence of this strategy? It's the opportunity to create a new equal system of energy security where interests of all participants in the energy chain are well-balanced: countries and companies which produce oil and natural gas, as well as other energy products; transit countries; and consumer countries. This may be the most complex problem. But that's the essence of the strategy, because the existing regulation is not sufficient, in our opinion, and in some cases it's not beneficial to the Russian Federation.

It's not quite clear what he means by this, although presumably he'd like to see more piplines going from the 'Stans through Russia.

The real issue here is gauging Russian intentions -- we can't be sure, at this point, whether or when Russia would again turn off the gas to Europe.

There are to important things to say about this. Firstly, it looks from Medvedev's proposition that Russia wants to see higher gas prices, and that prospect should be worrying for European leaders. While I don't like routing gas and oil supplies through the Caucasus -- it encourages bad behavior in Azerbaijan and makes Georgia a greater flashpoint than it needs to be -- but I'd rather use the Caucasus routes that give Russia less of a chance of arbitrarily throwing its weight around.

Concomitantly, routing oil and gas through the Caucasus encourages good Russian behavior. With the pipelines close but out of reach, Russia will need to deal with these countries on a moderately more level field. Sabre rattling with Georgia is a public display of bad faith; working with the Caucasian countries (and, notably, Ukraine, should the proposed new pipeline be laid) would be a symbol of good faith, and the basis for further relations. It could act as a very public litmus test for Russia's trustworthiness as a responsible global player.

Talking the talk


Russia's President Medvedev is lately making noise about holding talks with president-elect Obama and backing off Russia's aggressive stance towrad the West:
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said that a "crisis of confidence" exists between Russia and the United States but that he has "great aspirations" for the incoming Obama administration.








It will be important for Obama to meet with Medvedev, but he must bear in mind that Vladimir "Pootie-Poot" Putin remains the true power behind the throne. Russia is still a wily beast, ready to strike at any target of opportunity, especially to the expense of weak neighbors nearby.

Thoughts on the Legal Challenge to Prop 8

I just saw a friend's facebook status urging the California Supreme Court to overturn Proposition 8.  Interesting, I thought.  That could be quite a double-edged sword.


Things to ponder:

1.  What is the legal nature of the result of an initiative under California law with respect to a court's ability to overturn it?  It seems to be more than statutory, but less than constitutional.  At any rate, it's a somewhat unique creature.

2.  If the measure is effectively a constitutional amendment, as Prop 8 opponents argue, doesn't that also argue against it being overturned by the state supreme court?  Constitutional amendments can be used to override court rulings - see the 11th Amendment, the 13th Amendment, the 16th Amendment, etc. in United States constitutional law.  Still, there is likely less process employed in getting an initiative passed - making it easier to impact rights than with the process required of a constitutional amendment - and that could be the sticking point.

3.  Does overturning the ruling of the State Supreme Court that permitted gay marriage in the state require a lower bar than a constitutional amendment because the right to same-sex marriage is not actually enumerated explicitly in the text of the state constitution?

4.  Will the court consider prudential concerns involved - namely the risk to its reputation - in overturning a plebiscite supported by 52% of the voting citizens of the state on a matter of heated moral controversy?  But one that involves individual rights...

5.  If gay marriage proponents continue to embrace the idea of overturning Prop 8 via the judiciary, will the move backfire if the court ultimately agrees?  Will it cause, as the illegal granting of gay marriage licenses did several years ago, increased hostility to gay marriage by some parts of society - not to mention further legal and legislative retrenchment across the country?

---

Personally, to achieve some permanence, I think the best move for the gay rights movement in California would be to admit short-term defeat in the Prop 8 battle.  It should refrain from overtly wielding the courts as weapons.  But it should recognize the encouragingly slim margin - and move on to a push for a full-blown constitutional amendment that positively enshrines the right to gay marriage - or some more beneficial conception of marriage - in the state constitution.  Then get it passed in 2010 (or the next possible election given whatever timelines are in play).  That's a positive action that follows an established, evolutionary, law-making process, as opposed to a quick, revolutionary, judicial revision.  That's probably not satisfactory or just in the eyes of many, but that's when things would truly achieve some sense of legal and political normalcy.

Perhaps that's the Booker T. Washington approach to the social/cultural/moral issue (as opposed to the W.E.B. DuBois), but I think it's the sound approach if a group wants to win the war, not just some battles.  

Rebuilding the clock takes longer, but it's the only way to stop the pendulum from swinging.  Or at least from wrenching back and forth excessively.

Which Road do we take?

We face perhaps the greatest economic crisis of our lifetimes, record deficits at state and federal levels and -put mildly - uncertainty around the globe. We need strong and effective leadership to get us through these times, but to whom do we turn?

There are two roads down which we can go. One road's destination is clear; it leads to ever-expanded government and ever-higher taxes. The other road's endpoint cannot be seen because no one has yet mapped its course. If someone does not blaze the trail and show us where that road leads, we will have no choice but to go down the road we can see.

As I see it, that is the political situation in the United States and in Wisconsin at the moment. Despite the flaws in the plans of liberals like President-elect Obama, Speaker Pelosi, Governor Doyle, Sen. Decker and Speaker-elect Sheridan; the fact is that they are presenting a plan. If Republicans do not find leaders who are willing to stand up and present a forceful, thoughtful alternative to the Democrats we will face years of unchecked government expansion and intervention.

The pundits are arguing over the proper definition of conservative and whether or not the Republican Party is dead. My question is what does it matter? The Party was founded on the basic principles of liberty and has adapted to meet each new crisis the nation has faced. We cannot apply the solutions we used yesterday to the problems of today because the problems are not the same. So to should the GOP adapt today. I am not suggesting that we abandon the principle of free-market economics, strong national defense and personal and religious liberty; rather I am suggesting that we return to them and apply them to our present situation.

We have leaders, Paul Ryan and Bobby Jindal leap to mind immediately. We need to listen to them and adapt our beliefs to the current conditions. This is not the 1970s, Barack Obama is not Jimmy Carter and no one - at least not that I see - who ran for president this year in the GOP is the next Reagan. We cannot sit and wait for the Democrats to make mistakes. We need to look forward, not back. Take inspiration from our great leaders like Lincoln, TR, Eisenhower and Reagan, but do not expect to do the same things they did.

I am a conservative, but I am first and foremost a Republican. The Party of Lincoln and Roosevelt stood for great ideas and principles. It has not always done so in the last several years, and I will not sit idly by and let irresponsible politicians and pundits destroy it.

We need an internal revolution to cut out the corrupt and ineffective members of the Party who have become too comfortable in power. We need to map out that second road and bring the Party and the American people with us. I'm ready to go down that road. Is anyone else ready?

Somali pirates take a supertanker

This is getting out of hand.

The oil supertanker involved was seized 450 nautical miles off Kenya in the Indian Ocean.

This is far beyond the limits of territorial waters, where pirates could even attempt to use the facile argument of protecting local fishing and other marine resources.  Or defending the coast as a sort of militia or coast guard.  So, if they are captured by a foreign power, it is questionable, as hostis humani generis  - 'enemies of all mankind' - whether they would be able to rely on Geneva Convention protections.  Piracy is one of the oldest international crimes - and it has been universally condemned since time immemorial.  It is also one of the oldest crimes based on universal jurisdiction - meaning a capturing power can have the pirates tried almost anywhere.

One has to wonder when the ports or regional fiefdoms along the Somali coastline that harbor the pirates will finally come under attack my some major power or powers - under a theory of responsibility along the lines of the Taliban providing a safe haven for al Qaeda.  That's a theory similar to the one that prompted U.S. actions in the Barbary Wars over two hundred years ago off the coast of North Africa.  Here, there seems to be less of a political connection between local rulers and the pirate actors, but having a safe port is a rather crucial prerequisite, it would seem, to perpetrating further attacks.  

First a general uptick in attacks in recent years, then a cargo of tanks, now a massive shipment of oil seized far out at sea - the modern resurgence in piracy off the Horn of Africa is now clearly a significant threat to global trade.

UPDATE:  Where are they headed with this booty?  The 'heavily fortified' pirate haven of Eyl in Puntland.

Casus Belli

Assessing the GOP rift, the Economist snarkily identifies the GOP's decline as "death from the head down" - a loss of intellectual heft.

Still, while well-written, the piece reads like an atheist's fish-in-a-barrel attack on the most outlandish aspects and figures of a religion, rather than a true and effective attack on the underlying theology.

ht/FH

Senator Inhofe: Great Job!

Someone who can actually do something about the bailout finally might start doing something:

"It is just outrageous that the American people don't know that Congress doesn't know how much money he (Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson) has given away to anyone,'' the Oklahoma Republican told the Tulsa World.

"It could be to his friends. It could be to anybody else. We don't know. There is no way of knowing...''

"I have learned a long time ago. When they come up and say this has to be done and has to be done immediately, there is no other way of doing it, you have to sit back and take a deep breath and nine times out of 10 they are not telling the truth,'' he said...

"If we keep on nursing a broken system, then we can't expect to have a different result come later on,'' he said.

WELL, DUH!!! You'd think that they would have noticed these issues before they passed it into law, but at least someone in Washington is starting to think. I would have figured that the 535 people who's only job is to vote for all of the country on these things actually read what they're voting for or against before they vote, especially when it's these laws that are rushed through Congress, coughpatriotactcough.

Update: Thanks for pointing out that Senator Inhofe voted against the bailout. If he and a few others keep talking about it, the rest of them can't play dumb.

11.16.2008

An LIB Video - Protests at the GOP Convention


GOP Convention 2008 - Live From the Protests from Brad V on Vimeo.

Change?

More like...'reversion.'

A beautiful thought for a Sunday



Update: It's from Richard Dawkins' 2006 tv documentary, The Root of All Evil?. It's online, part 1, part 2; about 90 mins.

Mike H Returns to LIB

Mike H, a blog alum, returns soon to posting.  

A young veteran of the War in Iraq, Mike recently ran for Wisconsin State Assembly (and made a pretty solid showing despite getting called up for active duty with two months to go in the election).  He's keen to hash over the future of the GOP in the wake of the '08 cycle, and we're very glad to have him back onboard to join in the discussion.

Pipes

The Land of Milk and Honey Weiss

The NYT focuses in on drinking in Wisconsin, "an island of excessive consumption."

When it comes to drinking, it seems, no state keeps pace with Wisconsin. This state, long famous for its breweries, has led the nation in binge drinking in every year since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began its surveys on the problem more than a decade ago.

The author seems particularly dumbfounded by the idea of permitting minors to drink alcohol in an establishment if accompanied by a consenting parent or legal guardian.  

I, for one, have absolutely no problem with that concept.

Interestingly, the author fails to mention an additional feather in Wisconsin's green felt beer hall hat - its rank as the leading state in consumption of brandy.

UPDATE:  A friend from Louisiana seemed surprised by Wisconsin's approach.  

But that got me thinking.  In some respects, New Orleans is FAR more drinking friendly than Wisconsin on the whole...no bar time, plastic "to go cups" for drinking on the sidewalk, seemingly no end time for buying beer at night, drive-thru daquiri stands, and some notorious "high school bars."

11.15.2008

"Stop Paying Taxes!"

I happened to see that interesting declaration on a sign carried by two individuals in today's rally in support of gay marriage in Madison, courtesy of an Emily Mills photo in a Daily Page report.

I haven't seen that particular approach or line of argument in gay rights rhetoric.  By and large, the gay rights movement seems to benefit more from the government - at least segments of the judiciary - than from the electorate.  On both the state and federal level.

A refusal to pay taxes on moral protest grounds does harken back to Thoreau's opposition to the Mexican American War, however - as chronicled in his 1849 piece, "Civil Disobedience."

I'm not sure if the sign was directed at the federal government for keeping DOMA on the books or targeted at individuals in California living under Proposition 8.  Or in Wisconsin after the state's 2006 constitutional marriage amendment.

More Pics from Opening Day at the Track













"Rebuild the Party"

The GOP solicits input online on how to improve in the near future. 

Some of the observations and suggestions in the site's Plan for the Future are interesting - especially because some take a very sober view of the current GOP position of weakness.

The Gay "Enemies List"

Are you on it? 

Son of Paul

Word. 

Fair Grounds

11.14.2008

Jackalopes, Wordsmithery, and the Nature of Social Liberalism

Jonah Goldberg pumps out another column, this one seemingly slapping at the "Reformist" element in the GOP, of the two camps he identified earlier this week.

He says this:

Economically conservative social liberals are the “jackalopes of American politics,” in the words of the National Review Institute’s Kate O’Beirne. The press keeps telling us they exist out there in huge numbers, but when you go looking for them, they refuse to emerge from the bushes.

In fairness, many people do describe themselves this way. Most of the time we simply call them “Democrats.”


But, in parsing conservatism, he royally confuses the term 'socially liberal':

One objection is that “economic conservatism” and “fiscal conservatism” are different things. One can be socially liberal and fiscally conservative, in the sense that you’re only willing to constrain your statist do-goodery to the extent you’re able to pay for it. This is certainly an intellectually defensible position.

"Socially liberal" doesn't mean supporting entitlement programs.  It's not necessarily about statist do-goodersism.  I think, to a good number of people, it means applying the same fundamental libertarian/classical liberal hands-off concepts underlying economic conservatism in the market context to the social setting.  It's not a support of positive government actions in social affairs (e.g. entitlements), but less government intervention overall.  It's about faith in individuals to make social choices and self-reliance, not about funding government choices in social affairs.

It means not caring about certain issues and barring government meddling in legal topics like homosexuality, marijuana use, or abortion, for example.  Pulling back from government regulation in those areas is not going to cost the government more.  Perhaps Jonah would like to call such stances "social conservatism."  But that term clearly connotes the opposite in the present - namely, opposition to same-sex marriage, drug use, and abortion.

The type of things he seems to despise are the positions and outcomes of big government social liberalism.  I think he can't find many jackalopes because he doesn't know what he's looking for - there aren't many people who are economically conservative that nonetheless support his conception of social liberalism.