Night in Madison

My new top music of 2009

I've always got my ears open for new bands and music that I haven't heard before. Here are some bands I heard for the first time in 2009 and have since gone into my permanent rotation.

Top 5: Anathallo, the Knife/Fever Ray, Nomo, Shearwater, Vampire Weekend


About the would-be bomber

Marc Lynch makes an important point:
The Arab media's indifference to the story speaks to a vitally important trend. Al-Qaeda's attempted acts of terrorism simply no longer carry the kind of persuasive political force with mass Arab or Muslim publics which they may have commanded in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.   Even as the microscopically small radicalized and mobilized base continues to plot and even to thrive in its isolated pockets, it has largely lost its ability to break out into mainstream public appeal.  I doubt this would have been any different even had the plot been successful -- more attention and coverage, to be sure, but not sympathy or translation into political support.  It is just too far gone to resonate with Arab or Muslim publics at this point.
Sometimes not caring is best, it seems.

Multimedia message

Exploded dumpster at bremer mfg st. Anna

One reason to be thankful the Dems are in control; or, "federalism and local control be damned, I want that blasted snow gone!"

Senator Glenn Grothman doesn't think much of local control:
He wants Wisconsin's Department of Transportation to set standards for the city of Madison. As 27 News has found, that's created a flurry of debate.

Glenn Grothman, a Republican Senator from West Bend, says, "The city of Madison really isn't up to the job."
Firstly, it's terribly sad to see Sen Grothman, who, as a Republican, should theoretically be championing the ideas of small government and local control, putting forward a bill that would extend the power of a non-elected group of bureaucrats at the state level. That's an abrogation of what the Republican party stands for, and he should be ashamed of himself.

Moreover, for someone who flaunts his association with the Tea Party movement, it's a terribly cynical move. The Partiers are opposed to exactly this kind of legislation, and they'll need to call Grothman out on his statist tendencies soon or lose a certain amount of legitimacy on their primary issue: keeping control of government to the most local level, and preventing its powers from expanding, especially into the hands of "czars" and bureaucrats. Anything less than condemnation on their part for this move is base hypocrisy, and should be equally condemned.


Bomb Threat at the Wisconsin State Capitol

Three members of Letters in Bottles happened to be roaming downtown Madison.  Police outside the capitol building tell us the building is closed off - and they can't tell us why.  The news crews, though, have said a bomb threat was called in and nobody was hurt.  State Senator Glenn Grothman was seen wandering amongst the news vans in a red winter coat.

UPDATE:  4:41 p.m.   After seeing the Chief Justice here at the Capitol Square Starbucks, we were just told to evacuate the building - they're clearing all the buildings around the Square, apparently.  I hope everything is okay...


In the Past 24 Hours

1.  I sat down for a great chat with Representative Brett Davis, candidate for Wisconsin Lieutenant Governor.  A full report will follow at some point soon.

2.  I ended up playing an impromptu live show of sorts at one of my favorite taverns of all time, Sessler's Meeme House, when Val, the 90 year-old bartender and proprietor, started talking about how her husband used to play accordion in the bar.  Highly appreciative crowd.  Pure joy.

3.  I caught up with a relative and friend who recently landed a gig directing Shakespeare plays at Plymouth Plantation in Massachusetts.  Sounds quite interesting.

4.  I played sidekick to the historian of Kiel, my dear friend Ed M.  Just like old times.

5.  A certain football team from Green Bay won a game.

Fun times.

A Visit to Henning's Cheese Factory

Kiel, my hometown, is also home to one of the finest small cheese factories - Henning's Cheese.

I stopped out on Christmas Eve morning, and I found the factory's new store and museum rather enthralling.  Both were full of people milling about, chatting, sampling a wide variety of cheese (and some Door County plum wine) and viewing the exhibits of historic cheese-making implements.  Large viewing windows also permit visitors to watch the actual cheese-making process unfold in the factory itself.

A few limited edition cheeses filled the coolers - including Blueberry Cobbler (surprisingly good!), Peppercorn, and a caramel flavored cheese.  When I added the cajun cheese curds to my pile of potential purchases, I had to stop and reassess - I had too much to carry.

The store and museum were recently featured on the Today Show, and Kay S reported that business picked up briskly in the two weeks that followed.  If you're ever in the area, stop by for a real treat - or order online.


Oh Yeah

Don't forget. 

Under cover of garland and tinsel, the health care reform bill passed.

As I noted back in November, it's time to get more involved in politics:

I oppose passage of the health care bill.  And if it passes, I'm going to have to start getting much more involved in politics.  This legislation would take us down the wrong path.


...And to all a Good Night

Here's hoping your Christmas was merry and bright.

Wisconsin: Home of the Snowmobile - and the Servais Antique Snowmobile Museum

Sarah Palin may call them "snow machines," but in the land of their birth, we call them by their rightful name, the name they've borne since the 1930s: snowmobile.

Odd Wisconsin History takes a brief look at the genesis of the snowmobile in the 1920s in the northern part of the state.  The post mentions a number of museums Up North that display historic snowmobiles.

I just wanted to note that my grandpa Francis maintains what many visitors have described as the largest collection of antique snowmobiles in existence in Champion, Wisconsin.  At what's been dubbed the Servais Snowmobile Museum, he has over 220 snowmobiles organized by year and make in his old dairy barn, most dating from the 1960s and 1970s when they began to enjoy widespread commercial popularity.  As I know from personal experience, it's a chore to move them around at the holidays any time Grandpa makes a trade or makes a new acquisition.  But it's well worth it - the collection is pretty impressive, and it's interesting to trace the development of the snowmobile form in Arctic Cat, Polaris, Ski-Doo, and a host of other more obscure brands.

Grandpa also has a good number of gimmick snowmobiles back in the silo room - an "electric snowmobile" with a long, long cord; a propane powered snowmobile with tank in its hood; a stretch limo extended snowmobile; and a "jet-powered" snowmobile that you'll have to see for yourself.

I've never been to the snowmobile museums in Eagle River, St. Germain, and Sayner, but I've heard from people who have been...that Grandpa's museum is more comprehensive and has more snowmobiles overall.

If you know of anyone who has an old snowmobile (pre-1975) who may be interested in displaying it at the museum or donating it to the museum (or even trading), just get in touch.

Multimedia message

Sheboygan riverfront


The Top 100 Songs of the Decade

Inspired by Steve S, I present what I found to be the top 100 best songs of the Aughts.  Yes, it's a subjective list.

Some songs were moving.  Some were crazy and creative.  Some got me dancing in spite of myself.  Some marked memorable moments, people, or places.  Some made for amazing live performances.  Some broke new ground.  Some traced the continuation or fall of a giant.  Some denote a particular movement or genre that came to the fore.  All of the songs listed here wove themselves into my overall conception of the decade.

100. Rainbow Warriors - CocoRosie
99.  Volcano - Damien Rice
98.  Half Moon Rising - Yonder Mountain String Band
97.  Three More Days - Ray LaMontagne
96.  Scythian Empires - Andrew Bird
95.  Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue - Toby Keith
94.  Roll Out - Ludacris
93.  News - Jack Johnson
92.  Elevation - U2
91.  Go It Alone - Beck
90.  New York I Love You - LCD Soundsystem
89.  Stiff Upper Lip - AC/DC
88.  Rebel Rebel (Bowie cover) - Seu Jorge
87.  Something of an End - My Brightest Diamond
86.  Icky Thump - White Stripes
85.  Tunnels - Arcade Fire
84.  Coldplay - The Scientist
83.  1234 - Feist
82.  Last Night - The Strokes
81.  Can't Stop - Red Hot Chili Peppers
80.  Devil's Dance Floor - Flogging Molly
79.  Don't Know Why - Norah Jones
78.  Empire State of Mind - Jay-Z, Alicia Keys
77.  Nantes - Beirut
76.  You Love Me - Devotchka
75.  Haiti - Arcade Fire

Roundup: "what does it mean?" edition

+Mark Neumann has hit 5000 followers on Facebook; Walker is close behind.

+A French connection on Iran sanctions?

+A two-hour trial for a Chinese dissident.

+A buzz on Twitter


Milwaukee Stands Up

I have to agree with this assessment by Shepherd Express about the revitalization of Milwaukee in the past decade, especially the anchor development, the iconic addition to the Milwaukee Art Museum:

Officially, its name is the Quadracci Pavilion. But Milwaukeeans simply—and proudly—refer to it as “the Calatrava.”

It’s hard to imagine Milwaukee’s shoreline without the graceful white wings, lake-reflecting windows and grand gardens of Santiago Calatrava’s design. But it didn’t exist a mere decade ago. After years of planning, the addition was opened to the public in 2001 and has since become the symbol of the city.

Not only has the Calatrava beckoned and awed Milwaukee Art Museum visitors, but it’s also had a huge influence on other structures, like the neighboring Discovery World and the Sixth Street bridge. More importantly, it’s raised Milwaukee’s spirits. If we can host world-class architecture, then surely we rank with other great American cities that may be bigger or wealthier or warmer. The Calatrava just may be the thing to help Milwaukee shake off its low self-esteem, stand up a little straighter, and demand more respect and attention from its peers.

Milwaukee is back in play, so to speak.  I think the city's reputation nationwide has improved significantly in the course of the decade.  I hope the city retains as much of its amazing cream city industrial heritage as it can even as it reinvents itself - the Historic Third Ward and the Menominee Valley are good examples of how re-use can retain identity.  Revitalizing the Pabst brewery acropolis, too, was a great move.


"Graffiti of graffiti paint,

a smiling piece of cement, a posh entrance for a cat, a house that has a crayola color scheme and a home emblazoned with the warning 'Looters will be shot'"...

Encapsulating the Aughts

What's your word for the decade in politics?

Waves of dark matter

And who would be the one to decide its true location?
Alas, to celebrate would be premature: The reported results are intriguing, but less than convincing. Yet if the two pulses observed last week in Minnesota are followed by more signals as bigger detectors turn on in the coming year or two, it will provide serious vindication of the power of human imagination. Combined with rigorous logical inference and technological wizardry—all the things that make science worth celebrating—scientists' creativity will have uncovered hidden worlds that a century ago could not have been conceived.

The clean fad

France’s Henri IV was famously filthy, “stinking of sweat, stables, feet and garlic”. Upon learning that the Duc de Sully had taken a bath, the king turned to his own physician, André du Laurens, for advice. The king was told that the poor man would be vulnerable for days. So a message was dispatched informing Sully that he was not to go out, or he would endanger his health. Instead, he was told, the king would visit his Paris home: “so that you come to no harm as a result of your recent bath.”
I've always been a bit persnickety -- I hate getting myself gunked up with mud, say, or grease. But perhaps strangely, a bit of basic dirtiness has never bothered me tremendously. Maybe it comes of travel: even before I got to Azerbaijan and the pipes in my village froze up for the winter and every bus ride was ripe, missing a shower never left me a trembling heap of fear. It turns out, that's not necessarily such a bad thing:
Has the persecution of dirt, however, gone too far? Some immunologists believe that children now growing up in hyperclean, sterile environments are failing to develop immune systems properly because of inadequate exposure to bacteria. This idea, known as the hygiene hypothesis, is a possible explanation for growing incidences of eczema and other allergic diseases in rich countries, which are rare in poorer ones. Various studies have shown that children growing up with older siblings, who bring germs into the house, or on farms, where they come into daily contact with animals, muck and unpasteurised milk, are less likely to develop hay fever or asthma, though the scientific evidence is not conclusive.

A recent experiment by dermatologists at the University of California, San Diego, suggests a molecular basis for the hygiene hypothesis. They found common bacteria living on the surface of skin that can help wounds to heal by releasing a special molecule to stop outer-skin cells getting inflamed. Bacteria-free skin, in other words, may provoke inflammation and slow healing.

Pregnant in Iraq

A few of my friends and I have discussed the U.S. military policy of penalizing female soldiers on active duty overseas who get pregnant.  Some support it, some think it's abhorrent. 

While the policy may make civilians uncomfortable, as it deals with a person's reproductive rights, I think it's permissible when weighed in the balance.  Importantly, the policy does not penalize those women who get pregnant due to sexual assault.

The policy deals with a soldier's ability to perform her duties in the end, and if that ability is compromised by an individual's consenting choice while in the field, then I think it's subject to penalty in the military setting.  That's especially true in an overseas war zone where lives depend on each individual soldier to perform given duties adequately.

More interesting to me is the overall package of restrictions placed on U.S. troops in Iraq over the course of the conflict in an effort to avoid offending Islamic tastes.  From the soldiers I've talked to who've served Iraq, this is the first "dry war" (except for the Super Bowl) and alcohol is not the only thing off limits:

The memo outlines a long list of behaviors that are prohibited, from gambling and using drugs to behaviors that would offend Iraqis, such as entering a mosque or religious site unless "required by military necessity."


A Trip Home, In Photos

On Friday, the sun having finally returned to New Orleans, I went down to the French Quarter to play my accordion in Pirate's Alley for a little extra gas money.  On Saturday, I set out for Wisconsin.

In the end, I drove every last mile of I-55 from its genesis over pylons driven into the swamp outside of LaPlace, Louisiana to its terminus at the frigid shores of Lake Michigan at Chicago's Lakeshore Drive.  It was just the catharsis I needed.

I made a few stops along the way.  Photos and captions after the break.


Nola by Car

A new photo blog arrives.

A Few More Feathers in Freret's Cap

Du Mois Gallery premieres on January 9, 2010:

Du Mois Gallery will host the premiere exhibition on January 9th 2010 as part of the revitilization in the heart of the Freret commercial corridor.

Nestled in the early 20th century shotgun is 600 square feet of space ideal for small individual exhibits or group shows. Du Mois aims to be a local gallery for local talent rotating work on the second Saturday of each month.

Du Mois is a contract gallery and has the cultural district designation allowing artists to sell work tax free. If interested in exhibition or for more information please contact dumoisgallery@gmail.com.

I think this is the little (but long) shotgun two houses up from Cure on Freret (across from Crescent City Comics).  I noticed the front of the building was painted a pastel sky blue recently.  An art gallery will be a great addition to the street.

In other news, I've heard the tall "Goldbrick" structure next to Freret Paint that has now been changed into a sleek, modern, three-story white building will house the gallery and living space for Brottworks, glass artisan Andrew Brott, whose studio is currently located  in the blue building next to Las Acacias Supermercado.

Sunrise in St. Louis

Thanks to the hospitality of Tim S, a long time friend of the blog, I got to know a new corner of St. Louis on the way home.  Benton Park, which is chock full of brick homes on the rebound, is just a stone's throw from the Budweiser factory.  Cold, cold, cold - but quite impressive and livable.


A Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with a Single Turn of the Key

I'm heading back to Wisconsin for the holidays by car today.

At least I have a rear window this time.


The seasonal war

Slate claims the "War on Christmas" is over:
The debates that have raged in years past—"Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays"? "Christmas tree" or "holiday tree"?—have largely quieted down in 2009. While it's impossible to quantify, there are plenty of pseudoscientific indicators to suggest that, yes, the war on Christmas, with or without quotation marks, is over. Or at least in cease-fire.
I suspect it's more a cease-fire -- call it the modern-day Christmas Truce -- but Wisconsin's Capitol Rotunda would seem to bear out the idea of a lull in the fight. The Isthmus doesn't have any mention of the seasonal tilting match between atheists and bible-thumpers after 2007, except a mention of tree ornaments last year; the only mention in the Badger Herald of Christmas trees this year is in an article about an exhibition about Christmas trees past.

Edit: buried at the bottom of Isthmus's search results is an article from today profiling the co-presidents of the Madison Freedom From Religion Foundation. But I don't think that disproves the idea of a lull in the fight -- if the FFRF was really still in the fight, I'd have expected more headlines about the tree sometime in the last two years. If our holiday wars are reduced to talking about people, rather than symbols, I think we're OK.

Saints City, America's City

ESPN actually succeeds better than most in capturing "the soul of the city" of New Orleans through the prism of 13-0.

The myth of Reform, or: How did this man win a Nobel Prize?

Apparently Paul Krugman is all for mediocrity being enshrined in law. By his own admission, the Senate health care bill falls woefully short of his expectations, but it is apparently better than nothing, so we should pass it. He also takes a rather cheap shot at Sen. Lieberman for opposing the bill out of "sheer spite."

Right. Because no one could ever take a principled stand against a new massive government program that could bring us to financial ruin. It has to be because Harry Reid or Chuck Schumer didn't get Joe a Hannakuh gift.

Moving on, though, Krugman shows a complete lack of understanding on even the most basic of economic principles. Again, leaving those of us at LiB to wonder how he received a Nobel Prize in ecomonics at all. Mr. Krugman asserts that the health care bill must be passed because "it would prohibit discrimination by insurance companies on the basis of medical condition or history." Also, "the bill would provide substantial financial aid to those who don't get insurance through their employers, as well as tax breaks for small employers that do provide insurance."

Two things: First, for all the talk of how great the pre-existing condition clauses are, no one is talking about the fact that premiums - the cost of health care in general - will skyrocket. It's basic economics. This requirement will cost more money to the insurance companies and they will pass the cost on to us. Second, of course there are huge amounts of financial aid! With the increase in premiums it will be the only way for many people to afford private insurance in the first place.

But Krugman's logic gets worse. He claims that we will pay for this "with the first serious effort ever to rein in rising health care costs." That's it. He doesn't say how that will happen or the result of reining in costs - which will be rationing of one kind or another. He simply decrees that it will be done.

Krugman also suggests that we need not worry about any imperfections in the bill, because - as history shows - "social insurance programs tend to start out highly imperfect and incomplete, but get better and more comprehensive as the years go by." Really? He cites Social Security as an example - a program that will be bankrupt long before anyone under 35 ever gets near retirement. What about Medicare and Medicaid? Some estimates put those programs in bankruptcy within 10 years. The history of social insurance programs is one of fraud, waste and abuse - not to mention massive bureaucracy and expansion - not one of efficiency and improvement.

The Senate bill is a horrible piece of legislation that puts us on a path toward nationalized health care. It puts us on a path to government intrusion into what should be private decisions about our own health. It will not save money and will cost us more for insurance than ever before.

I don't care how it gets defeated, but it must be stopped.


On the event of the birth of Comrade Stalin

A few shots from the Stalin "House-Museum" in Gori -- the peasant house in which he was born, and his personal train car:

He was born December 18.

Searching for Egyptian Revival Architecture

I tell the story of the rare and eccentric Nineteenth century style and my successful search for it here in New Orleans after the break.

The First Amendment and Smoking Bans

The Colorado Supreme Court rules actors may not smoke onstage in theatrical performances under the state's smoking ban.

What a ridiculous finding.

The state-wide smoking ban is regrettable.  The failure to exempt theatrical performances is even more unconscionable.

I hope the U.S. Supreme Court grants cert. and overturns, presuming the plaintiffs appeal.

"make the GOP safe for smarties again"

Are you a "Whole Foods Republican" - or might you be?

I have to say this is a demographic I can identify with in a number of respects:

...independent-minded voters who embrace a progressive lifestyle but not progressive politics. These highly-educated individuals appreciate diversity and would never tell racist or homophobic jokes; they like living in walkable urban environments; they believe in environmental stewardship, community service and a spirit of inclusion. And yes, many shop at Whole Foods, which has become a symbol of progressive affluence but is also a good example of the free enterprise system at work. (Not to mention that its founder is a well-known libertarian who took to these pages to excoriate ObamaCare as inimical to market principles.)

What makes these voters potential Republicans is that, lifestyle choices aside, they view big government with great suspicion. There's no law that someone who enjoys organic food, rides his bike to work, or wants a diverse school for his kids must also believe that the federal government should take over the health-care system or waste money on thousands of social programs with no evidence of effectiveness. Nor do highly educated people have to agree that a strong national defense is harmful to the cause of peace and international cooperation.

Although it's not exactly spot on (and it makes me think I might be used like a "soccer mom" or "NASCAR dad" if I sign on), I think the stereotype definitely covers a core demographic the GOP needs to pursue.  It has the potential for outsize influence moving forward.  And it's one of the few hopes for the GOP to reposition itself in a way that's electorally viable in the long run.  It's one way for the GOP to loosen some of its dogmatic stances on social issues that will become increasingly unrealistic while maintaining a critical mass of core principles to rally a bigger tent around.  And the party is decidedly in need of greater intellectual firepower.

The concept seems roughly analogous to the earlier "Crunchy Cons" categorization from a few years ago.  At the University of Wisconsin, I saw what I could now call a crew of prototypical "Whole Foods Republicans" emerge in the staff of The Mendota Beacon - a group of vaguely conservative individuals who knew they were certainly not progressive liberals, especially by campus standards.  And yet all valued culture, intelligence, and open discussion.  They could stand life in an urban setting.

Will the GOP ever be able to contort itself from its present position to avoid turning this segment of the electorate off?  Perhaps.  About nine months ago, I would've said "no" based on Obama's "Obamacon" crossover appeal.  But much has changed since then.  And now, even if the Republican Party doesn't pursue Whole Foods Republicans, I'd wager that Whole Foods Republicans might begin figuring out how to influence the GOP to a greater extent, seeing no viable alternatives.

The next thing I need to ponder: how does this demographic fit into the current Tea Party-ascendant landscape on the right side of the spectrum?


The Rachel wars

Kim Jong-il has some friendly advice to his fellow citizens:
That was the report from official media last month. "To keep your hair tidy and simple ... is a very important matter for setting the ethos of a sound lifestyle in the country," reported Rodong Sinmun, a newspaper published by the Central Committee of the Worker's Party of Korea.

In other words, if you look like Adam Lambert, you may want to head for the nearest equivalent of Supercuts. No ducktails, no feather cuts, no mohawks, no mullets.
Will "Friends" reruns become the inheritor of the Voice of America? Will "Barbershop" become the next samizdat? Perhaps!


Finals are over, the semester moves on down the line.

Thank goodness!

That would make 2012 interesting

I have real respect for Joe Lieberman. We may disagree on certain issues, but his sense of personal integrity is tremendously unique today:
Lieberman said he wasn't sure which party, if any, he would represent in his next election.

"I like being an independent, so that's definitely a possibility," the Connecticut senator said. [...]

"I've reached the stage in my career where I'm not measuring every step I take based on how it's going to affect the next election," Lieberman said. "I think if you do that, you end up compromising the quality of your service."
One wonders how the nascent Tea Party movement would handle Lieberman. He's been a crucial ally in the battle over health care reform, which is the purported motive behind the Tea Partiers; but he would be the very definition of a "Republican in Name Only" -- one might expect open season from a movement that seems to be constricting around a perceived "purity" of ideological outlook. One doubts the Tea Party would have too much positive to say about a man who has made a name for himself by holding a personal sense of duty above rigid political conformity -- after all McCain isn't terribly popular with the Partiers either.


Ladies and Gentlemen

We have been brought, Drudge tells us...to "the needle's edge" - what a dramatic, precipitous place to be!

But no siren?

"your wits have been dulled by the Uniform Commercial Code"

Elizabeth Wurtzel talks tough times for big law in the WSJ.

I'm not sure who's out there right now passing up an $80k paid year off with a job guarantee at a top firm at the end of it...but I tend to agree with Wurtzel's speculation:

These top-notch law grads, brilliant and bright as the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree when all the lights are turned on, may actually be idiots who lack imagination underneath it all. Maybe they just don't have enough vision to know what to do with $80,000 worth of free time.

I assure you, although my wits are being dulled even now by the UCC, that I don't have a similar problem finding things to do in my free time.  I'm pondering even now what to do in my deferral year.


I regret that I have but one beard...

 Nathan Hale is hamming it up here in the reading room, a rare touch of levity in an otherwise silent chamber...silent but for the drip drop of water trickling out of a bookshelf into the garbage cans on the far wall.  The rain is really pounding against the windows.

I have one more exam to complete, and I cannot express the depth of my desire to be done for the semester.

Another Flash Flood Watch Issued for Orleans Parish

This is one is in effect until tomorrow evening.

Expropriation in Lower Mid-City

The LSU Board makes a move and provokes my ire over at Inside the Footprint.

Neat Concept: The "Investment Green Card"

I learned about the EB-5 visa recently, and I must say that I'm a fan of the concept.

Interestingly, it leverages the difficulty of the barrier to legal entry into the United States to its advantage, extracting some investment from a potential immigrant/investor in return for expedited permanent resident status.

Here's a rundown of the basic requirements:

You may qualify for an EB5 in three different ways:
1. Invest $1,000,000 and hire ten employees anywhere in the USA, or
2. Invest $500,000 and hire ten employees in an area where the unemployment rate exceeds the national average by 150% or the rural population is less than 20,000, or
3. Invest in a Government designated Regional Center and avoid direct employment.
The program is making a tangible difference in some ways here in post-Katrina New Orleans.  Overall, I think it's a creative, pragmatic program that not only incentivizes beneficial investment in U.S. jobs and economic development, but also brings desirable human capital to our shores.  Recognizing that our immigration system is far from perfect, this seems like one of the better aspects presently in place.

"Health cost increases might spontaneously recede, but history suggests skepticism."

Robert Samuelson gazes at ostensible health care savings with a wary eye.


Something's Going Down

Here's a great shot by Sam B of something happening under the vacant 1111 Building along the canal in Gert Town.

Wampum, Dinero, Continentals

Whatever you want to call it, recession and deficit be damned, Senate Democrats are looking to spend it on federal agencies.

Republicans sought (unsuccessfully) to filibuster the spending package passed today, a package that seems completely inappropriate at this time for its lack of restraint:

The $1.1 trillion measure combines much of the year's unfinished budget work, only a $626 billion Pentagon spending measure would remain, into a 1,000-plus-page spending bill that would give the Education Department, the State Department, the Department of Health and Human Services and others increases far exceeding inflation.

And Joe Lieberman, scourge of progressives, was willing to do whatever it took, apparently, to keep spending.  While it's great imagery, it's an unfortunate act:

Democrats held the vote open for an hour to accommodate Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, an Orthodox Jew who walked more than three miles to the Capitol to vote on the Sabbath after attending services at his synagogue in the city's Georgetown neighbor Lieberman wore a black wool overcoat and brilliant orange scarf — as well as a wide grin — as he provided the crucial 60th vote.

O, the weather outside is frightful: photos of the flash flooding

New Orleans has received well over 5 inches of rain today.

The National Weather Service said the monthly rainfall record for December was broken Saturday.

The last record, set in 1967 and recorded at New Orleans International Airport, was 10.77 inches for the month, said Shawn O'Neil, a weather service meteorologist. By 9 p.m. Saturday, it was measuring 12.72 inches as the rain continued to fall, he said.


The streets around Tulane turned into rivers - with up to two feet of water in places, some of it flowing in waves out over the sidewalks and yards, some of it running in strong currents, such as at the tempestuous intersection of the Rio Freret and Calhoun Creek.

More photos after the break.


Idiocy and cowardice

Robberies these days aren't what they used to be:
During the holdup, the suspect told a bank employee his face was covered with cloth because he had the swine flu, the FBI said.
If my local news is reporting this right, his "weapon" was threatened exposure to swine flu. If that's the case, every employee of the bank who either stood by or actively handed over money should be fired for appalling idiocy and cowardice.

The 55 most interesting songs of the decade

As we come up on the completion of the tenth year of the new century, there's been a glut of "best of the decade" lists -- music, film, what have you. I'm not so arrogant as to presume I could create a list of the best songs of the decade, but I do propose to list for you the most interesting songs of the aughts. The difference is subtle, but I hope my intention will become clear with the list; I'll lay out some general guidelines, though: songs that say something about the times in which we live, or the zeitgeist, are certainly interesting. Songs that redefine a genre, or take an old genre in a new direction, generally are more interesting (although not necessarily better!) than songs that simply excel in their genre. Songs by obscure acts that show a certain brilliance but are probably not more widely know move toward the top. But ultimately the choice was mine, and none of these general guidelines are firm rules.

55 - 45 are here, the top ten are after the jump with music videos and discussion:

55. Idlewild -- Little Discourage

54. Kings of Convenience -- Toxic Girl

53. Fleet Foxes -- White Winter Hymnal

52. Kanye West -- Jesus Walks

51. Raconteurs -- Steady, as She Goes

50. Mason Proper -- Fog

49.Cold War Kids -- The Wedding

48. Kings of Leon -- Soft

47. John Vanderslice -- Exodus Damage

46. Frightened Rabbit -- Old Old Fashioned

45. Coldplay -- Don't Panic

44. DeVotchKa -- Enemy Guns

43. Interpol -- NYC

42. Andrew Bird -- Imitosis

41. Ladytron -- Light and Magic

40. Girlsareshort -- Sunshine

39. Bon Iver -- Flume

38. The Hold Steady -- Stuck Between Stations

37. Gogol Bordello -- Avenue B

36. Neil Young -- Restless Consumer

35. Nouvelle Vague -- Guns of Brixton

34. Cloud Cult -- Happy Hippopotamus

33. Jay-Z/ DJ Danger Mouse -- Moment of Clarity

32. The Killers -- Mr Brightside

31. The National -- Ada

30. The Streets -- Turn the Page

29. M.I.A. -- Galang

28. Bloc Party -- Like Eating Glass

27. Chin Up Chin Up -- Get Me Off This Fucking Island

26. Camera Obscura -- Let's Get Out of This Country

25. British Sea Power -- The Lonely

24. Modest Mouse -- Education

23. My Brightest Diamond -- Something of an End

22. Yeah Yeah Yeahs -- Y Control

21. Architecture in Helsinki -- The Cemetary

20. Gnarls Barkley -- Crazy

19. The Go! Team -- Feelgood by Numbers

18. Joanna Newsom -- Emily

17. The One AM Radio -- What You Gave Away

16. Constantines -- Lizavetta

15. Beirut -- Elephant Gun

14. William Elliott Whitmore -- One Man's Shame

13. Sufjan Stevens -- Chicago

12. Portishead -- Silence

11. Wilco -- Theologians

Flash Flooding in NOLA

Flash flooding here in nola; my car took some water. Pics & vid later
This mobile text message is brought to you by AT&T

UPDATE:  Here's video of the intrepid Aaron H trying to surf Calhoun Street.   (ht/MM)

The Waves

The strange fruits of the New Orleans raised basement style.


The state of a movement

Richard Viguerie at the American Thinker is talking about the Tea Party movement:
Republican Party leaders should be embarrassed. Instead, the Republican establishment disdains this populist uprising. Rather than embracing this genuine movement, establishment politicians and consultants are calculating how to co-opt, sideline, or even defeat the newest phenomenon in politics: tea partiers.

That would be arrogance, not leadership. It could be the downfall of Republican leaders, who have taken the Party of Reagan to the Party of No -- meaning No Ideas, No Leadership, and No Principles.
The Tea Party movement started as a healthy expression of concern over spending -- indeed, we shouldn't forget it stood initially for "Taxed Enough Already". And as a movement aimed at curbing the extent of government, at limiting taxes, and at pushing fiscal responsibility as a primary principle, it called back to what the Republican Party truly stood for. At least initially, it de-emphasized the culture wars and social issues to focus on a broadly libertarian agenda.

That agenda, in its very willingness to put aside the religious insurrection that has threatened to pull down the big tent of the GOP, could have served to bring in to the Republican Party (or simply the nascent Tea Party) both the libertarians who support gay marriage and various liberal social policies and the religious conservatives under a shared concern for limited government and fiscal responsibility. It could have, in effect, reset the Reagan coalition.

But it has become something wholly different -- a beast of which the Republican leadership should rightly be skeptical. Perhaps by the very nature of its broad-based appeal, other causes glommed on to the initially libertarian movement, and swung it around at 90 degrees to its original purpose. It is now a standard-issue populist wave, focused as much on religion and vague nationalism as it is on fiscal responsibility. Nor has the movement garnered much in the way of an intellectual foundation -- it is represented much more by the Sarah Palins of the right than the Paul Ryans.

The Tea Party in itself will never become a credible third party, much less a replacement for the GOP, as Viguerie seems to suggest it might; despite a swell of popular support, the Tea Partiers will go the way of the Greens: a vocal minority on the fringe of a major party. The religious right, despite all efforts in 2004, could not re-elect President Bush alone -- it needed the support of the more libertarian base of the party. And so Republican Party leaders are right to be wary, to hold the thing at arm's length, taking from it the good ideas, while eschewing the religion and nationalism that may lead to large gains temporarily, but in the end ruin chances of long-term ability to govern.

Cao votes nay on Wall Street reform bill

He joined all other voting Republicans in the House to oppose the bill, which ultimately passed.

Democrats and the debt ceiling

“The bill’s already been run up; the credit card has already been used. When you get the bill in the mail you need to pay it."

- Rep. Dave Obey

Congressman Obey, why the hell were you spending with a credit card in the first place?

The numbers getting tossed around show just how fiscally irresponsible the Democratic Party has been while in power.  And I don't care what the Republicans did under Bush - most weren't responsible in that regard either.  Stop making excuses.  We're talking about here and now.

It's also worth noting that numbers contributing to the overall fiscal problem can't simply be blamed on the war or the recession.  The White House, in conformance with what is now a common theme, talks fiscal responsibility, but doesn't follow through:

The White House has vowed to be more deficit conscious in its forthcoming 2011 budget due out in February. But the House could vote as early as Thursday on a $446.8 billion year-end package covering more than a dozen Cabinet departments and agencies and representing a healthy 9 percent to 10 percent increase over current spending for the same accounts.

Raising the debt ceiling makes me ill.  While the raising of the ceiling simply permits the government to issue more instruments, such as bonds, to cover the debt, it's a sign of increasing fiscal imbalance.  The Democrats are looking to jury rig this house of cards now to prevent the move from being noticed closer to the 2010 elections:

In a bold but risky year-end strategy, Democrats are preparing to raise the federal debt ceiling by as much as $1.8 trillion before New Year’s rather than have to face the issue again prior to the 2010 elections.

They seem to think people will forget.  I, for one, will not.

Obituary for Martha Jane Crump Hardy, "Granny Cart Lady"

In today's Times-Picayune.

The Tulane campus has lost one of its most iconic and memorable figures with the loss of Ms. Hardy.


Some things need saying

Ross Douthat reminds us that there is a lot of room to Obama's left.

Everyone else thinks it's the bees' knees

While I work on something for the blog, please enjoy this.

Incoming search hits for Granny Cart Lady just spiked

An uptick in searches along the lines of "Tulane Granny Cart Lady death" began not long ago.

UPDATE:  Here are a few additional indicators from the facebook fan page posted in the past hour:

Zach Y no way
26 minutes ago · Report

Caroline G can it be true?
36 minutes ago · Report

Allison S  R.I.P. GCL. We will miss you terribly. :'(

UPDATE II: After a bit of searching, I still have yet to find any concrete evidence that Granny Cart Lady has died. I posted the above because they occurred; but they may well represent nothing more than a feedback loop on a rumor.

UPDATE III: The Tulane Hullabaloo has posted this newsflash atop its homepage as of 7:30 p.m.:

We Were All Yellow

The Obama Nobel Speech

Full text.

UPDATE: “If Bush had said these things the world would be filled with violent denunciations. When Obama says them, people purr."

True.  Although Bush likely wouldn't have said things as eloquently.  And that's half the battle.

Initially, I'll say that in reviewing portions of the lengthy speech (far too long for the occasion), I rather liked what I read.  Although, as I've made clear, I don't think Obama deserved the award.  I may lay out my disagreements later.  First and foremost, I question whether Obama should have accepted the prize at all if he truly believed some of what he said in the first half of the speech.


The golden magpie of democracy

A little of the history of the Soviet collapse in Mongolia:
The transition began on December 10, 1989 -- international Human Rights Day -- when Zorig and other activists rallied a small crowd of 200 people for a peaceful pro-democracy demonstration on Ulan Bator's Sukhbaatar Square.

Mongolia's communist leadership watched with alarm from the square's monolithic Government House as the protests quickly swelled to tens of thousands of people, with students, academics, miners, and nomadic herdsmen all taking part in the demonstrations.

On March 9, 1990, the government quietly stepped down. Zorig, who came to be known as the "golden magpie of democracy," announced victory to the joyous crowds outside.

Another benefit of socialized health care

You'll get to pay for fraud:
In recent weeks, regulators cut public funding to more than 130 child-care providers suspected of scamming the state's troubled Wisconsin Shares program. The program was designed to help low-income parents get jobs by covering the cost of child care.

In an ongoing investigation extending more than a year, The Journal Sentinel has uncovered rampant fraud within the $350 million-a-year program as well as shoddy oversight.
It isn't clear from the article how long some of these scammers have been suckling at the state's teat, but it is clear that Wisconsin taxpayers have been paying a tremendous amount for a program that has failed glaringly to prevent fraud.
The state issued $23.9 million in child-care subsidies last month to cover the cost of care for 56,550 children. That compares with $28.2 million in November 2008 for care for 60,417 children, according to data released by the state.
That's a drop in the bucket to what will undoubtedly get through the national system. Which is to say, it's a drop in the bucket compared to what you will be paying down the line.

A cheap shot in the evening

Some days, Christianity just can't win. It usually gets kicked for glorifying poverty, instead of working to raise the poor out of their circumstances. Today, The Atlantic decided to go the other way, proposing:
Many explanations have been offered for the housing bubble and subsequent crash: interest rates were too low; regulation failed; rising real-estate prices induced a sort of temporary insanity in America’s middle class. But there is one explanation that speaks to a lasting and fundamental shift in American culture—a shift in the American conception of divine Providence and its relationship to wealth.
Now, encouraging the poor to remain so by winking about "inheriting the world" is absurd. And it's sickening when The 700 Club encourages those who are falling behind on their bills to keep tithing and keep the faith or when Joel Osteen smirks his way through selling his used-car salesman faith. But it is utterly absurd to suggest that Christianity itself caused the financial collapse.

And paired with lines like, "The Gilded Age launched the myth of the self-made man, as the Rockefellers and other powerful men in the pews connected their wealth to their own virtue. In these boom-and-crash years, the more reckless alter ego dominates," I have to say I stopped reading after the first page -- a cheap shot at religion egged on by economic illiteracy is hardly worth anyone's time.

A Blizzard Back on the Island

A good friend in Madison sends along a few images and a report on the blizzard that just hit Wisconsin:

They cancelled classes and all bus routes. Its supposed to get very cold and very windy today which will be interesting. We had 15" overnight, its about as bad as i can remember in at least 10 years.

ht/Brian S

Dog's Eye Level


Hollywood and War

I like Toby Maguire. I like Natalie Portman. I have no desire whatsoever to go see Brothers.

Based on the trailers and reviews I have read, I'm inclined to agree with Meghan McCain on this one. The plot of Brothers is a familiar one, and not a heck of a lot different than love story that ruined Pearl Harbor - though this version is just a tad grittier. Quite honestly, I hate these plots. I know that fidelity is one of the first and unfortunately common casualties of war, but it is by no means the norm.

What about the thousands of faithful, loving wives who raise children and manage the day-to-day activities of their households while their husbands are deployed? It may not be as "gritty" as the typical storyline, but those women deserve recognition too. As do all family members with loved ones overseas.

Hollywood's treatment of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has been remarkably slanted to the dark side of war - to the virtual exclusion of all else. While it is important not to gloss over the horrors of war, many of the finest films about war - Band of Brothers, Saving Private Ryan, Black Hawk Down - are also incredibly graphic. What makes those films great is how they capture the camaraderie and bravery of soldiers at war.

The current crop of Hollywood war films - at least those set in Iraq and Afghanistan - portray our veterans as victims of war and their own minds rather than heroes who act with courage when faced with extraordinarily dangerous circumstances. We have all heard stories from these wars about PTSD and traumatic brain injury, but how many of us can say that we know about the 6 men who have been awarded the Medal of Honor or the dozens who have been awarded the the Distinguished Service Cross, the Navy Cross or the Air Force Cross?

I don't have a problem with telling the truth about war, but let's make sure it really is the truth.

"...this is without doubt the most arresting ad I've seen all year."

I wholeheartedly agree.

Levi's two recent ads featuring the reading of Walt Whitman poems have held me in rapt attention each time I've experienced them this fall.  They're different, they're memorable, and they're beautiful.

The first, Go Forth, struck me when I recognized iconic images from here in post-Katrina New Orleans woven into the raw, almost post-apocalyptic footage.  I've seen young black boys racing carriage horses through blighted neighborhoods, just like the ones that gallop in the video with the blue bridge winding off in the background.  And the hairs on the back of my neck stood up at not just the riveting fireworks shots, but also the snippets filmed along the gritty water's edge out on Lake Pontchartrain in New Orleans...at the ruins of Little Woods, the place I call Tetanus Beach (I think the half-submerged AMERICA sign was filmed there, as were the people walking along the water, and the man standing on the silhouetted cross-bar).

I didn't see the second spot, O Pioneers!, until recently.  It features images not nearly as strong as those in the first spot (a little racier, perhaps), but the voice reading Whitman's poem by the same name brings an overpowering, eerie solemnity to the words that at first seem ironic, almost cynical in their distance from today.  But as the voice continues in its vacant earnestness, sounding like an old-time steel-rimmed glasses radio voice, I almost feel as if he means it (he channels Whitman well).  No matter how commercial and contrived the Levi's ad, it's undeniable that Levi's and blue jeans came from a flintier time, a deeper connection with the American psyche.  The voice and words make one feel, in a sort of deep and serious way that harkens back to our actual past as Americans, that it's time to call upon our lifeblood amidst the ruins and recession and start relying on that more primal spirit again no matter what our starting point or present station. 

Some may find the use of Whitman in a jeans commercial a crass and tasteless act.  In this instance, I think it's fantastic.  Whitman would probably savor every moment; he would distill himself into the very indigo and denim, into the creative, calculating, money-grubbing hands.  As Seth Stevenson noted at Slate:

But were you forced to choose a clothing line for our favorite barbaric yawper to rep, you might choose this one. Levi's is the rare American brand that was actually around when Whitman was alive. And there's logic to this match between a quintessentially American poet and a quintessentially American product. Whitman's verse allows Levi's to evoke not only its proud history but a forward-looking present—the pioneering, American mindset that Whitman captured and that Levi's hopes to embody.

The ads are works of art.  Bravo.  I may have to go out and buy a pair of Levi's.

Landrieu Joins the Race

Here's a pretty good summary of what that means for the 2010 Nola mayoral race. 

In sum: at last, an 800-pound gorilla enters the race.

I would just add that Lt. Governor Landrieu's flip-flop/delayed entry also has the effect of precluding entry by possible candidates who were still waffling around the edges - like Eddie Sapir.

Another Drop of Venom

Andrew Sullivan, unsurprisingly, appears to attack Sarah Palin as inconsistent by juxtaposing two of her recent statements.

I'm all for critiquing what Sarah Palin puts out into the political marketplace.  But the two statements are rather easily distinguishable.  One notes that Americans bought war bonds to fund our involvement in World War II.  The other expresses opposition to the recently proposed war tax.  One means of helping to fund a war was voluntary.  The other would not be voluntary for average citizens.  I fail to see how comparing the two statements shows Palin to be a hypocrite (and if Sullivan's trying to make some other point, I don't see that either).

In the end, Sullivan, his "blog" still sans comments, demonstrates yet again just how thoroughly his spite and obsession with Sarah Palin have blinded him to obvious distinctions.

Go and see what you think.

Karaoke at Coney Island

Evolution of a talking point

Atul Gawande in The New Yorker tries to convince us that the costs of health care reform don't matter, by using the example of farming at the turn of the last century:
The history of American agriculture suggests that you can have transformation without a master plan, without knowing all the answers up front. Government has a crucial role to play here—not running the system but guiding it, by looking for the best strategies and practices and finding ways to get them adopted, county by county. Transforming health care everywhere starts with transforming it somewhere. But how?
What he fails to mention, of course, is that one of the most lasting impacts of the government intervention in farming has been subsidies, which have not only cost tremendous amounts of money, but have also served to run up food costs in the long run:
The burden of higher domestic food costs falls disproportionately on poor households. Farm protections act as a regressive tax, with higher prices at the grocery store negating some or all of the income support the government seeks to deliver via programs such as food stamps.
It's funny that we've gone from "but it will bend the cost curve!" to "let's just spend like drunken sailors!"

The pyramid at twenty

It's been a success:
When I.M. Pei's glass pyramid was first designed for Paris' ancient, beloved Louvre, critics called it "a gigantic gadget" and "a despotic act." Now, two decades later, the French love it — and the gleaming three-story piece of glass geometry has become a destination of its own.
It is, in my opinion, a wonderful use of architecture. It compliments the ancient grandeur of the older building, both reaching back to a more ancient architectural source and bringing a modern frisson to the whole affair -- in other words, it creates a dialogue between the past and the present that echoes the very ideals of a museum, and moreso since it transformed a formerly ugly, dead space into something alive and vibrant. Bravo, indeed.


Coffee and connections

It sounds delicious:
[I]magine a short glass with a hard dose of sweetened condensed milk, the color of ivory and the texture of hot fudge. The glass wears a metal top hat, a filter with grounds and water, which dribbles in drops of thick coffee, crude-oil black and nearly as bitter. They sit, stacked in two layers, until you take a spoon and give it a turn. For a moment, the coffee and milk swirl around each other, hesitating before coming together, a phenomenon smarter people than me call sensitive chaos. You take a sip, and the sweetness hits first, full and rich. Then your mouth dries a bit, like the tide pulling back, and coffee leaves a mellow bitterness. You take another sip, and suddenly everything is right with the world. [...]

And, like every culture and every cuisine, it keeps changing. Nearly every time I order one in the U.S., someone reaches for an orange tin of Café du Monde, the coffee-and-chicory blend that's the pride of New Orleans. (Well, the beignets -- dough fried 'til pillowy and buried in powdered sugar -- are probably what they're really proud of, but you can't pack those in tins.) The Café du Monde is so ubiquitous that I thought it had somehow traveled from Louisiana, through some Francophone space-time continuum, to become popular in Vietnam. My confusion got even deeper when I actually went to Café du Monde and saw that all the servers were Vietnamese.

A big case before the Court today

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Free Enterprise Fund v. PCOAB earlier today, a case dealing with an agency created by Sarbanes-Oxley.
Here's some background  on the important limited government concerns in play.

Books I Can't Wait to Read

Mao: The Unknown Story

The Moviegoer

Southern Storm: Sherman's March to the Sea

Lorine Niedecker: Collected Works

The Fabric of the Cosmos

Books I'm still trying to finish (law school cut in):

Wisconsin Votes (fascinating thus far)

Lincoln's Admiral: The Civil War Campaigns of David Farragut

On Liberty (almost done)

Books I finished this summer:

The Spy Who Came in From the Cold

The Limits of Power

Book I had to put down in Hong Kong after proceeding almost halfway through the 500-page tome because I could barely stand it anymore:


Anything else interesting and worthwhile out there?

Remember the Churn

Here's something to keep in mind, something to reorient the stimulus-based approach to national economic recovery:

"I saw a beast rise up out of the sea..."


A New Stealth Aircraft

Revealed - a flying wing U.S. drone in service over Afghanistan.

Saints Win!

Good cheer reigns at the coffeeshop (the library got to be too much).

Here, a man with ear buds called the overtime play by play, pacing up and down the shop.  Quite memorable - what a nailbiter.   12-0.


I was checking up on some musicians online and I discovered Sufjan Stevens released some new stuff last month.  It's The BQE, an exploration of a highway in NYC  Apparently he's gone from the band room to the orchestra hall.  And there's an accompanying film made by him.  From the Wikipedia page, it seems to have received positive reviews so that's good.

Looking around on the internet, I was able to find this sample:

Pleasant on the ears. Easy to feel, hard to describe. I'd say cathartic (def #1) in a good way.

"I am petite..."

I missed this - a New York Times Magazine interview with Congressman Joseph Cao.

He talks about growing up in Indiana, why he joined the Republican Party, and even his honeymoon.


So, Perry v. Schwarzenegger

What's your take on the Boies-Olson federal suit to invalidate California's Prop. 8?

Here's the complaint.  The trial is slated to begin in January.

From what I can tell, it's going to be difficult, legally, to avoid the many analogies to the Colorado amendment struck down under equal protection in Romer v. Evans.


Reading closely, with The New Yorker

The New Yorker managed a few days ago to get things staggeringly wrong, enough so as to warrant comment. So let's take a look.

The subject was Honduras, and Obama's failure vis-a-vis the situation there. Now, I'm with them so far -- the situation was incredibly badly handled by the US, a very real failure of foreign policy understanding for which the current administration is responsible.

But it's not for the reasons the New Yorker gives. After the jump, a fisking.

Tulane Smokers,

...are you smoking in your zone?

I just wanted to make sure.  Wouldn't want to slip off the bandwagon.

The Elements Are Hell

I have bushels of photos from New York - so many that few were ever shared on the blog - like this shot of the sorely neglected Saint-Gaudens statue of General William Tecumseh Sherman at the southeast corner of Central Park.  You'll probably see a few materialize over the next two weeks, as regular blogging will slow a bit for me in light of finals.



1.  The Orleans Parish Public Defender's office is in a bad way.  A "crushing caseload" and insufficient finances led the director to state that it would have to stop taking on new murder and rape cases as a result.

2.  Facing the worst economic environment since the Great Depression, the private legal sector having hemorrhaged severely, a disturbingly high number of top Tulane 3Ls are still looking for work upon graduation in May.

3.  Why don't  the two parties come together in some way to make headway in solving both problems?  A loan forgiveness program for a promise of several years of work?  Trade new graduates liened properties that haven't paid taxes in 5 years for a given number of years of work for the public defender?

The Brad Pitt Houses



I guess it's all in how you look at it....

Jim Geraghty offers some interesting - and definitely funny - perspective.

Drawing the wrong conclusions

One MadCityMan has learned exactly the wrong things from the Small Business Entrepreneurial Council's Small Business Survivability Index, which ranked Wisconsin 30th:
I’d suggest that the WMC take a look at this report and stop whining and start representing and encouraging entrepreneurship in our state.
I'm not sure how Mr Man feels about our 30th ranking, but I'd like to be clear about my feelings on the subject: 30th is pretty mediocre. We're not even in the top half. We have some serious catching up to do, and 30 is nothing to gloat about. There are no laurels here on which to rest.

You should go over there and see his numbers yourself, but I'll excerpt a few here for discussion:
Where we aren’t doing as well as our #30 ranking according to the report:

* Property Taxes as % of Income -42 (4.14%)
* Top Personal Income Tax -40 (7.75%)
* State Gas Tax - 41 (how about the cost of tolls in lower ranked states?) .329
* State Diesel Tax -42 (.329)
* Workers Comp/$100 wages – 37
* Unemployment Tax (% of pay) - 33 (tie) 2.47
* Top Corp Cap Gain Tax - 33 (tie) 7.9%
* State Corp Income Tax – 32 (tie) 7.9%
* Electric Utility Costs - 31 (tie) (how about water costs?)
The thing is, these are all areas where Democrats have driven up state spending and, concomitantly, taxes, to a point where business is detrimentally impacted. This is a state spending issue entirely, and were the state to lower its taxes and spending, our ranking would most surely go up. Indeed, WMC itself pointed this out back on November 6:
Several weeks ago in this column, WMC President Jim Haney recounted the slide that Wisconsin has taken in comparative analyses of the respective states’ business climates. Specifically, in late September, Forbes Magazine announced that Wisconsin ranked 48th out of the 50 states in its business climate rating — down from 43rd in the 2007 ranking. Calling for political climate change in Wisconsin, he challenged policy makers to focus on job creation rather than continuing to enact costly regulatory mandates and higher taxes on job creators. [...]

When we talk with WMC members, they consistently tell us that taxes and business regulations hamper their competitiveness and impede their ability to grow and create jobs. Ironically, increasing the business tax burden, as occurred earlier this year, almost invariably reduces government revenues. Conversely, a growing vibrant economy with more workers working at higher wages will increase state revenues. The Partnership for a Stronger Economy needs to focus on these two important areas — taxes and regulation — to improve the business climate and strengthen the long term prospects for our economy.
The blame for Wisconsin's ranking here is not WMC -- it is Wisconsin's Democrats whose spending policies inevitably raise taxes and put the state in a worse fiscal position.

As our legislature continues their work, one lesson from page 19 of the study is crucial:
The relative governmental costs among the states will impact where people live and work, that is, where they seek opportunity. That most certainly is illustrated by where people are moving to and from among the states.

*As a disclaimer, I should state that I have some tenuous connections to Jim Haney, WMC's president, but these ties have in no way affected my position vis-a-vis state spending. I've been against it at every level.

I can't believe Rambo IV didn't make the cut

The AV Club's top movies of the 2000s. Not sure I'm sold that their #1 is really the best, but a fine list nonetheless.

Did they miss (or mis-rank) your fave?

Winter roads

In Aliabad, Azerbaijan...

Foreigners round-up

Wondering what's going on abroad? Here are a few things:

+Russian tourists are flocking to Abkhazia while Saakashvili prepares for an electoral challenge.

+Russia and the Vatican now have full diplomatic ties.

+Is the Orange Revolution sputtering?

+Hezbollah may be trying to go mainstream.

+A suicide bomber killed three government ministers in Somalia.

+Obama is not playing well in Pakistan.

+Is Iran's recent bluster hollow?

+Kazakhstan is assuming the OSCE chairmanship under a cloud.

+The EU seems bent on sapping its own effectiveness. In light of the recent choice of foreign minister, should we be surprised?

+The Dutch navy has rounded up a bunch of pirates.