2.28.2009

Power Outage Uptown

Power out @ joey k's on magazine. Dinner just got more romantic.

Bleg - Best New App

What's the best new app, software, program, or website you've adopted for regular use in the past 6 months?

Intense

A friend on the Maritime Law Journal decided to share a few NOLA photos - including this one.

15 minutes: expired

Joe the Plumber had a book signing in DC.

"about 11 people wandered into the rows of seats set up hopefully in the basement

"The event was scheduled to last three hours, but ended after 55 minutes, with Joe having sold a total of five books. "

2.27.2009

Governor Sanford Gets Gratuitous

Is this the kind of rhetoric that will help turn the GOP around?

CPAC Gov Sanford talking about Katrina and feds responsibility, mentions the bible suggested where homes should be built! #cpac09 #tcot
Beating New Orleans with biblical allusions may appeal to red meat conservatives, but there's also Seattle, LA, NYC- even Charleston- that are vulnerable, too.

Jindal Responds to the Flak

His office releases a video intended to quell the allegations that he lied in his speech about his interactions with Sheriff Harry "Last Yellow Dog in Louisiana" Lee during and after Hurricane Katrina:


I don't know that the video proves anything definitively, but I think the conjecturing at places like Daily Kos about timelines is also less than fully convincing.  

To me, one of the most interesting aspects of the video is the presence of several African American officers standing in support of Lee and Jindal - who were both being painted as racists earlier this week by a blogger at Politico.

Pulse Check

The markets, the financial system, the economy.

In Memoriam - Empress of the Universe, Antoinette K-Doe













New Orleans lost a cultural pillar on Mardi Gras day.  As the red gutter on the Mother in Law Lounge proclaims: "...you can't break her yet!"  She lies in state today at the Lounge from 2-7.


Euterpe Recyling Center - Great!

A new free recycling option in nola. Alumin. & plastic bottles only. Open 24/7 @ 1829 euterpe st.

2.26.2009

Rolling

"Savings" So-Called

While slamming the sneaky accounting of his predecessor, President Obama engaged in a bit of his own:  

One of Barack Obama’s most audacious claims in his budget Thursday is that he has identified more than $2 trillion in savings over 10 years.  But his budget document shows that a big chunk of those savings comes from a flick of the budgetary pen — a helpful side effect of Obama’s pledge to be more open with war costs than his predecessor.

The method: bringing hundreds of billions of dollars in Iraq and Afghanistan costs onto the budget’s bottom line, and then reducing them over time..

While the addition of the conflict costs to the overall budget picture is positive, the savings claim appears to be rhetorical embellishment at the least.

As commenter Chris noted, the title of "A New Era of Responsibility" for the President's Message is a bit disingenuous, or at least ironic - and annoyingly characteristic of the doublespeak that has become standard for the Executive.  Euphemisms in a landscape of unprecedented government growth and intrusion of government into the private sector are worth worrying about.

Creole Tomatoes Captures the Commotion

A good friend with a new blog provides us with a lively little video dose of the Krewe of Hammurabi.

Obama's New Budget at a Glance

Marc Ambinder slices, dices, heats, and distills the document into something that goes down smooth. 

Unfortunately, the aftertaste is less than pleasant - far too many spending increases with few corresponding cuts.

Budgeting by stimulus, stimulating by budget, but above all else, spend, spend, spend.

Flambeaux!

Harry Lee and his Posthumous Buddies

The deceased Chinese Cajun cowboy sheriff of Jefferson Parish, born in the back of a Chinese laundry in 1932, gets dredged up by Politico as an emblem of racism.  Bobby Jindal referenced the colorful character in his Obama response speech - which I have yet to watch - and now Hillary Clinton is being tied back to Lee as well.

I'm not trying to defend Lee's stance on race - he was brash and outspoken - but I will say he and his electorate represent a slightly more complex dynamic than Glenn Thrush realizes.  Referring to Lee may not have been a sharp move on Jindal's part in a pure political sense, but I wonder if the criticism for the Lee mention is fully warranted.  Barack Obama approvingly quoted George Washington, a slave owner, in his inaugural address.

Personally, I think Jindal should have reached higher in his allusions.  He should have invoked a national figure, someone from U.S. history.  Lee, for all his prominence within Louisiana, is not necessarily worth mentioning on the national stage simply because a broad swath of Americans can't connect with him for lack of familiarity.  And, for a first impression moment, he has some baggage, as is now apparent.

Harry Lee is a near-mythical figure in the New Orleans metro area.  Yesterday, I stopped at C's Pharmacy in Metaire as I returned from an airport run.  A slightly yellowed newspaper pullout replete with photos of Lee was still posted prominently near the entry to the store.  He still looms large and is much beloved.  But Jefferson Parish isn't a perfect microcosm of the United States.  And if Jindal is going to turn the GOP around, Jefferson Parish can't be a microcosm for the Republican Party.

NOTE:  Here in NOLA, the Governor's last name is pronounced "Jindle," not "Jindoll" - something lost on a number of national news outlets.

2.25.2009

Crime and Omission

The Times-Picayune story on the weekend rape of a Tulane student in Audubon Park fails to include the fact that the attacker was black. 

The omission seems like a matter of political correctness because the other facts about the attack and the attacker, taken from the TUPD report, show up in the news blurb.  When a suspect has not been apprehended, the race of the alleged perpetrator would seem to be relevant for purposes of helping people report the suspect or avoid being victimized.

Even if the victim was unwise for walking alone in the wee hours of the night, the crime is terribly unfortunate, and it will certainly be a PR concern for the school as well.

Another Time, Another Place



















Thanks to a wild man in a pink boa, my camera suffered a major blow on Thursday night, just as the Carnival parades were picking up in earnest.  I managed to snag a few shots, however, and a guest who let me share his camera now and then will be sending more images soon.  I'll share them as I'm able.

"I am worried. Things could unravel."

My professor of International Trade, Finance, and Banking wrapped up class today with this statement about the current world financial crisis.

After laying out the magnitude of the numbers underpinning the present situation, he noted that he made the statement as a professional who has taught and published in the field for over 30 years.  

He estimated the total economic hit from subprime mortgages and derivatives (when the latter are priced at last) may "substantially exceed the gross national product of all the economies of the world" - something in the range of 60-80 thousand billion dollars.

Ghosts of elections past

The Badger Herald has some interesting advice:
While some may want to fight the vote, appeal the decision, throw the same measure on a ballot for April — there will be no resurgent campaign, no second wind, no “one last chance.”

This was ASM’s last chance. To entertain the notion of propping up a decaying corpse in hopes that it lurches back to life is an insult to the student body.

At this point, ASM can do only one thing in hopes of reviving some sort of viable system of representation on this campus — bury this parliamentary casket once and for all.

Sounds like something I've heard before...

The Bourbon Street Sweep

If nothing else, it provides a fantastic photo opportunity. 

2.24.2009

Live from basin street as zulu arrives. Happy mardi gras!

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2.23.2009

Sad, but hardly surprising

In Azerbaijan:
A Baptist pastor in the South Caucasus country of Azerbaijan has been found guilty of what supporters say are bogus weapons charges and given "a two-year corrective labor sentence," according to a worldwide Baptist group.

The Virginia-based Baptist World Alliance announced Feb. 20 that Hamid Shabanov, who pastors a house church of approximately 60 members in the town of Aliabad, had been convicted. He was arrested on June 20, 2008, after police claimed to have found an illegal weapon in his home after a raid.

Denying the allegations against Shabanov, and claiming that the weapon was planted by the police, Baptist Union of Azerbaijan General Secretary Elnur Jabiyev said the arrest "was a provocation by the police" and that it was "a deliberately targeted action," according to a BWA press release. Jabiyev claimed "the police’s aim is to halt Baptist activity and close the church in Aliabad.”

Azerbaijan is trying to forge a national identity based on Islam, and any groups that get in the way of this, officially tolerated or not, will be harassed until they no longer effectively exist. This goes to extremes: a store in Aliabad was torn down because it had a roof "shaped like a steeple." This has the amusing side benefit of sidelining ethnic Georgians and others who tend to be less in favor of the current regime than most; indeed, to the extent that there is an opposition party in the Zaqatala region (where Aliabad is located), it tends to be ethnic Georgians who simply have a better sense of what democracy actually means.

(ht: N&EE)

"After 47 years ... the unilateral embargo on Cuba has failed to achieve its stated purpose of 'bringing democracy to the Cuban people'"

"The current U.S. policy has many passionate defenders, and their criticism of the Castro regime is justified. Nevertheless, we must recognize the ineffectiveness of our current policy and deal with the Cuban regime in a way that enhances U.S. interests."

Richard Lugar is calling for a change to America's Cuba policy. It's about time this ineffective nonsense was brought to an end.

2.21.2009

Lookin to make a bratwurst po-boy for endymion.

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2.20.2009

ICA, coffee, and trains: a ramble in Boston

Since the gate stands open, as usual, and the doorkeeper steps to one side, the man stoops to peer through the gateway into the interior. Observing that, the doorkeeper laughs and says: "If you are so drawn to it, just try to go in despite my veto. But take note: I am powerful. And I am only the least of the doorkeepers. From hall to hall there is one doorkeeper after another, each more powerful than the last. The third doorkeeper is already so terrible that even I cannot bear to look at him." These are difficulties the man from the country has not expected...

My brother and I set off from our hostel last night to find the Institute of Contemporary Art. We were chased out by some of the worst coffee ever (our hostel's; but I've yet to find a really even decent cup of dark roast in this town), and by a sense of adventure on our first night in the city. The packed train screamed a protest, metal grating on metal; a dragon racing through the crumbling cement and exposed wiring of the Boston metro. We were on our way.

We missed the stop.

We knew roughly where we were bound, yes, but the hostelier we'd asked was a bit vague on exactly where to get off the bus after the metro. So we rode around the airport and took a second crack at it. We got the stop right this time. It was a rough-ish part of town at night, and we jumped across a low fence and made our way up to the "big glass building" we were told was the ICA, and we jumped into the elevator that was marked "service entry." We were in the wrong building. We did not want to see the boat expo.

Back out into a night that was beginning to drizzle, we cut across a parking lot that was spotted with a gritty sand and uneven concrete. We cut through a break in the fence. We met these fellows:



The ICA is a squat, garishly lit building, surrounded on three sides by an oddly-fenced parking lot, through which we trekked, guided on by the lurking Obey Giant.



Our quixotic quest continued once inside; what purported to be a museum felt more like an uninspired airport terminal: long, badly-organized lines (20 minutes just to drop off our bags) and boxy architecture that took no heed of the beautiful water on the its one good side (indeed, the view of the water was almost completely blocked from the parking lots through which we entered).



The show was a Shepard Fairey retrospective, which seemed worth seeing. Somehow I'd thought it was Banksy who did the Obey Giant -- I see now that I was wrong. The layout was odd, the rooms jarringly separated from each other, leading into and out of themselves with no clear path, no obvious lines to follow, multiple entry/ exit points leading nowhere and everywhere, with only the slightest possibility of getting where one meant to go, the antithesis of the flow of the Guggenheim. It made the exhibition jarring, too -- one jumped from room to room, decontextualizing and recontextualizing quickly.

I enjoy Fairey's art in and of itself, but I think he gets away from himself; his irony creates recursive loops on itself as the pictures and text work with each other. His political work is so starkly, self-obviously ironic, while his portraits of rock stars so worshiping; it made me wonder about his Obama posters: is it in fact darkly ironic, meaning for us to share the joke that no, politics will go on as usual, don't really hope for too much? Or is it suggesting Obama is a rock star, a figure more about pose and glamor than substance, a simple pop-culture icon? I think Peter Schjeldahl gets it right in The New Yorker: It’s as if Fairey meant to ridicule rebellion.

The coffee has not improved.
Rebirth randomly at the french market!

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"Poor fool, he makes me laugh." - krewe d'etat float passing by en route to staging area on tulane ave (floats and

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If politicians wore sponsors' logos like race car drivers

I can't quite put my finger on it, but it seems like this would be an improvement.

Honestly, it'd probably be better for people who vote superficially to base their votes by who's sponsoring whom, rather than just how a candidate seems or by the feelings he projects.

If I should ever run for something, maybe that'll be my gimmick.

More Hammurabi






2.19.2009

Into the gaping maw

I'm never sure how to feel about air travel. This godlike soaring is all a bit too much for me; the perspective is all wrong. It's an awful case of cognitive dissonance -- the power of flight on the one hand, the absolute police-state of the stewardesses on the other (will my iPod really cause the plane to crash? will having my seat back as we take off actually cause me land in the lap of the hapless fellow-traveler behind me? Big Brother says "yes" on both counts).

I went to New York City for the first time last week. I think it was, to me, what the Grand Canyon is to others: the grandiose walls...




...the little details...



...even the night scenes.



There were moments of tranquility...



...and moments when everything flowed.



All in all, a very good time. I was sad to leave.

An Attempt to Recall Rep. Joseph Cao

A group of New Orleans ministers launches a quixotic bid to recall Congressman Cao. 

Cao's vote against the stimulus seems to have poked the hornet's nest.  Given the legal and historical precedent involved, however, I don't think Cao has too much to worry about:

The Recall Anh Cao Committee faces daunting odds. The effort has 180 days from its filing Monday to gather 100,000 valid signatures from registered voters in the district -- a third of all district voters -- in order to get a recall vote. And even if they succeed at that, and voters approve the recall, it appears that Congress would not accept the result.

According to a report to Congress last year prepared by Jack Maskell, a legislative attorney with the Congressional Research Service, "the United States Constitution does not provide for nor authorize the recall of United States officials such as United States Senators, Representatives to Congress, or the President or Vice President of the United States, and thus no United States Senator or Member of the House of Representatives has ever been recalled in the history of the United States."

Still, the group claims it has 8,000 signatures already.  And the Louisiana Secretary of State's office has a local control take on the ability of the voters to recall a Congressman:

Jacques Berry, press secretary to Secretary of State Jay Dardenne, said that the office believes that Louisiana voters can recall members of Congress under the state recall law. "Because we elected them, we can recall them, " he said.

Krewe of Who?


















Look forward to a full account of the immensely fun first march of the Krewe of Hammurabi later in the day.

2.18.2009

Parade waitin' on a trombone player to start in bywater.

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Jindal Prepares to Pull a Partial Scott Walker

Louisiana may not accept all of the stimulus money allotted to it. 

(Ray Nagin says he'll take every last scrap of slop, however - whatever the state doesn't take.)

The difference between Jindal's bold talk and Milwaukee County Exec. Scott Walker's tough talk last month is that Jindal is dealing with a much more conservative - and probably receptive - electorate.

Jindal also has a national audience to keep in mind.  One that would also be more empathetic to such a decision than the Milwaukee County electorate.

Step Back, Facebook

The site is forced to retreat, yet again, after Terms of Service changes rile users. 


Purple Yellow Green














Here's what Bourbon Street looked like from the balconies back on the 7th, the night of Krewe Du Vieux.  It's difficult to imagine, sitting here on a tranquil morning, the magnolias motionless across the street, listening to the trains and ships sounding their horns down at the wharves, the streetcars faintly rumbling up St. Charles. With less than a week until Mardi Gras, though, I'm sure it will soon be even more packed for several days straight.

I recently asked a friend what we should call today, something to make it fit the irreverent tone of the Carnival season.  If next Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, shouldn't today be something like "Fire Wednesday" or  "Spark Wednesday"? - some term to denote the ignition of the final festive week. 

The new Krewe of Hammurabi is slated to light up the tinder, making its inaugural march this afternoon in the Bywater.  I would classify us as a "Walking Club/sub-krewe/guild krewe."  Unfortunately, some intense rain and thunderstorms on the horizon have me worried about the viability of the afternoon's events.  Still, rain or shine, we have a nucleus of people that is interested in making this idea come to fruition sooner or later.

Tomorrow, an old friend arrives in town - a college roommate I've kept up with, but haven't seen in over two years.  He's never been to New Orleans, so it should be great to give him a taste of the city in full swing - when I'm not working on tasks for the Maritime Law Journal (which recently elected me Editor in Chief for the next year).  Some of you may remember him, a character from the early Madison blogosphere.

I'll do my best to chime in now and then as Mardi Gras sweeps over the city.  Keep an eye on our Twitter account near the top of the sidebar, too, as Steve S will be traveling just as I take to the neutral grounds for a variety of parades, music, and other festivities over the long weekend.  Here's some music from Rebirth Brass Band to get you in the Mardi Gras mood (the saxophone player in the opening frames banks at the same branch as me):

Going down?

It doesn't look good for Roland Burris, the recently Blagojevich appointed Ill. senator, as his story changes again. It seems to be converging on perjury.

Other than this mess, in general it appears he's well prepared.

2.17.2009

Dow Drops 297.81

I guess Wall Street isn't buying all the rhetoric about how great the stimulus bill is that President Obama just signed.

Makes you wonder if Congress should have actually taken the time to craft a decent bill.

Showdown in the CBD

Mayor Ray Nagin uses the nuclear option against the city council, disbanding city committees rather than having them meet in public under a new ordinance designed to foster transparency:
 
Lobbing another grenade in the increasingly bitter battle between the city's executive and legislative branches, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin has suspended a series of panels that recommend firms for legal, architectural and other professional service contracts and given himself sole authority to evaluate such deals.
Sounds ridiculous to me.  Although it's no surprise - Ray Nagin is an embarrassment to the city.
 
Even if Nagin has a legitimate gripe about the transparency requirement limiting frank, open discussion and decision-making in the city's best interests, he should find a different means of making that point.

Cigarettes: Government's tax cure-all

During the last budget debate in Madison we were told that raising the cigarette tax $1.00 per pack would help solve the budget deficit. It seems that once again, Governor Doyle has found the silver bullet of taxes for this year's crisis: another $0.75 increase in the cigarette tax- which would make the state tax a whopping $2.52 per pack.

What has always amused me about the logic of "sin" taxes - whether it is smoking, drinking or any other legal activity - is that the arguments for them are so self-defeating. Those in favor of the tax increase usually make two arguments: 1) the tax increase will pay for health care costs or other costs related to the activity; and 2) the tax will make the cost the activity so high that people will no longer do it.

That means that if the new tax increase succeeds in its objectives, there will be no increase in revenue because fewer people will actually be buying cigarettes. To be sure, the smokers I know are resourceful enough to find ways around the state tax buying buying online or crossing state lines.

Still, here we are on the eve of Governor Doyle's budget address and once again we get the same argument that the cigarette tax just isn't high enough. And the goal is still the same: The new 75-cent increase in Wisconsin's tax would be part of an attempt to raise money to pay for health care and smoking cessation programs and make the price of smoking so high it forces smokers to quit and stops children and teens from starting to smoke.

At the same time Governor Doyle is advocating for a new tax increase, there is a new report out from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau that has a very interesting line about the effectiveness of cigarette taxes. In explaining the reasons for the drop in tax revenues this year, the report begins with this:
On January 29, 2009, this office released tax collection estimates for 2008-09 and the 2009-11 biennium. Those estimates were modified on February 11 because of a reduction in estimated cigarette and tobacco products taxes due to an increase in federal taxes on those products.
So, if I'm reading this right, part of the budget deficit is caused by an increase in the cigarette tax. But the Governor still wants the increase and is betting on the increased revenues in the budget. I guess this explains part of the reason we are in the mess we are in.

Saluting A Badger..er...Wildcat?...Sports Great

Here's a funny little story about a UW alum who pulled the wool over the eyes of Northwestern fans.

ht/EL

"If ever a rushed extravagant purchase was likely to induce a touch of buyer's remorse, it is this one."


"Even if you don't think these ideas are harmful or unworkable or both, as I do, you have to admit that they deserved more of an airing than they received--which is virtually none--before they became law."

As Drudge has pointed out, it is odd that President Obama has held off until today, Tuesday, to sign the package and seal the deal...a strange delay of several days after his heightened rhetoric about the dire need for speed.

2.16.2009

Rolling Roadblock
















En route to a long day of appellate brief writing on Saturday, I ran a bit late - when I ran into the floats of Pegasus rolling through the intersection of Jefferson Davis and Earhart in Gert Town.

Finally, a good excuse for tardiness.

Where shall the libertarians go?

I missed a great post from Ross Douthat while in New York:
What could happen, instead, is a bigger-tent liberalism - somewhat chastened, perhaps, by some big-government failures in the Obama era - that makes libertarian intellectuals feel welcome, engages them in conversations about smarter regulations and more efficient tax policy, and generally woos them away from their culturally-dissonant alliance with people who attend megachurches and Sarah Palin rallies. This would make for a smarter left-of-center in the short run, but I think in the long run it would be pernicious. It would further the Democratic Party's transformation into a closed circle of brainy meritocrats, and push the Republican Party in a yet more anti-intellectual direction. And it would produce an elite consensus more impervious to structural critiques, and a right-wing populism more incapable of providing them. The Democratic Party would hold power more often, and become more sclerotic as a result; the GOP would take office less often, and behave more recklessly on those rare occasions when it did manage to seize the reins of state.

I see this as the time that the libertarian movement needs to make a very concerted push into the Republican Party, which is a much more natural home for it. Going to the left will keep it in the same second-class position it has occupied in the GOP as that party went on its religious kick, and, as Douthat points out, push the GOP even further into its unfortunately anti-intellectual corner. It would be a shame if things came to that.

The Disturbing History of the King Cake

My, how things have changed:

The oval-shaped pastry always contains a trinket of some sort, but the meaning associated with the person who finds the trinket has changed. At one time, finding the trinket would signify a person’s approaching death.

2.15.2009

Krewe of Hammurabi Happenings














With just shy of 100 members on Facebook, the nascent Krewe of Hammurabi is slated to march as a walking group in a Bywater Mardi Gras parade this Wednesday at 4 p.m.

Over 30 members have confirmed attendance at the event, and an additional 30 or so are lingering in the gray twilight land of "Maybe."  Someone is supposedly going as "King Solomon divides the baby."  Another participant is ostensibly shooting for Harvey Birdman.

I've procured my legally-related costume (something nice and Blackstonian).  And I'm still trying to secure some doubloons!

On the Carousel

The Hell That is Juarez

Horrific. 

ht/AD

In the Company of John Tyler and Millard Fillmore

That's where President George W. Bush ended up, seventh from last, in a new C-SPAN ranking of the U.S. presidents based on a number of metrics.  

A group of eminent historians and presidential observers rendered judgment.

Tweets in Bottles: A Note on Our Twitterings

Last night, in a move that ranks up there with the splitting of the atom, LIB featured its first "Guest Tweet" on Twitter.  The world, clearly, was shaken to its core.

Twitter continue to prove itself an interesting little creature.  I continue to take issue with the superficiality that seems to pervade the system.  It's like a "medium-is-the-message" facebook status update feature on steroids, in a way.  While the chance to reply to others on the system is entertaining, it raises facebook-like issues: why do I care what x has to say to y about z?  Why does that extremely low-level snippet of conversation need to be public?  Why should your heavy "live-twitter" of a local event clog up my feed?

Yet I recommended Twitter to Professor Eugene Volokh of The Volokh Conspiracy last week while out for dinner at Clancy's during his visit to New Orleans.  He seemed intrigued (he has a strong base in computer science), and I hope he dives in to explore the possibilities.  It's still a bit of a frontier for the time being.

I thought I would share a portion of an email I sent recently, which explains how we're using our blog's Twitter account (which you can follow over on the sidebar of the blog, too):

That's just the way we decided to designate which of the four of us happened to be making "the tweet" - as you can probably see, Steve S (designated by an /S) and I are the chief users, although Mike F has chimed in (as /F). So, in the case of the tweet you were referring to, that was me (the /B).

I'm still trying to get the hang of twitter myself - I've long been skeptical of it as being too shallow. I also think the term "tweet" is especially annoying - "Don't mind me, I'm just tweeting on twitter right now." It sounds inherently superficial.

Anyway, that's how we've decided to address the issue of a multi-party twitter account (actually, I can't think of any other multi-party account that has distinct individuals tweeting - Wispolitics, State Journal, Cato, etc. are possibly multi-party sourced, but they are thus far an anonymous whole when it comes to posting/tweeting).

Several individuals - when I slam the term "tweeting" - have reminded me how the term "blog" was similarly much maligned as a weird portmanteau back in the early days.  In the short-term at least, I think "twitter" and "tweet" are worse, though.  They have other pre-existing linguistic connotations that tend, I think, to diminish the credibility of the system, its users, and its outputs.

Still, it's mostly about the allure of the technology.  And the people utilizing it - from Shaq to senior citizen Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley to the notorious NOLA Mardi Gras Krewe, Krewe d'Etat.

2.14.2009

Where Should Libertarians Head?

Left or Right?

I understand the impulse for smart, independent-minded libertarians to flee what seems like an increasingly anti-intellectual American Right and seek conversations and alliances with the friendlier parts of the left-of-center. But the vacuum on the Right also militates in favor of smart, idiosyncratic thinkers trying to fill it, instead of fighting for a seat at the crowded liberal table. That doesn't mean registering as a Republican, attending CPAC, or casting a vote for McCain-Palin (or the next iteration thereof). But it means being open to the possibility that the old fusionism, battered and bruised as it is, may still hold as much promise for the advancement of libertarian policy goals as "liberaltarianism" ever will.

An interesting take.  But I think the Bush years convinced many libertarians that both parties are equally unresponsive to libertarian calls.  Throughout the Aughts, the GOP gave fewer and fewer reasons for libertarians to remain in the coalition.  With no lesser of the two evils, some libertarians will probably seek a seat at the table, even if it is one chair out of many. 

Until the Obama administration and the Democratic congress show more of their true colors, a folding chair in the East Room probably looks better than a prominent spot on a stump out in the wilderness.  

The Fourth Course




Free Fall into a Fiscal Marianas Trench


Discovering the Cure

Yesterday, I met with Neal Bodenheimer, proprietor and mixologist at Cure, the brand new bar at Freret and Upperline here in NOLA.

As I arrived, I caught Neal placing bottles on the shelves behind the bar - the place was literally on the cusp of opening.

He was gracious enough to sit down for a brief chat about Cure, its development, its attributes (it's voluntarily smoke-free!), and its place in the ongoing revitalization of Freret Street.  I hope to have video up on the blog in the next few days, if all works out.

More on Cao's Vote

The Times-Picayune provides more nuance in understanding Congressman Joseph Cao's vote on the finalized stimulus bill.

Up go the fences

around Union South

construction on all corners


across the street Biochem construction is getting started too

2.13.2009

What about Cao?

I thought he just said he was very adamant about voting for the stimulus in the end.


The U.S. House passed President Barack Obama’s $787 billion economic stimulus plan designed to help repair the economy through tax cuts for businesses and families and a half-trillion dollars in federal spending.

The chamber voted 246 to 183 for the measure with no Republicans in favor.

How did Cao vote?

ADDED:  Sure enough - Cao voted against the stimulus, contrary to his statements just yesterday:  New Orleans Rep. Anh "Joseph" Cao was the only Republican member who had signaled a willingness to support the bill, but he apparently reversed course.


Personally, I'm fine with that - I think the stimulus is unwise and irresponsible on many levels. But I don't know that the vote is a sound political move for someone in his position. Perhaps it's a subtle admission that Cao believes he simply cannot win reelection outside of his one miraculous moment given the numbers in his district.

"the Tercel was assaulted by a drunken dirty Marigny hipster who thought it would be funny to perform an ollie off of my trunk"

An astute observation about human nature emerges during one blogger's hunt for parking before Krewe du Vieux:

Dirty hippies tend to make things miserable on Frenchmen Street in surprisingly similar ways to which the tourists do on Bourbon Street and the frat boys do on St. Charles. They're all just variations on the same self-satisfied asshole.

True enough.  We the conscientious, we the self-dissatisfied.

Black Clouds for Big Law

Large law firms nationwide hemorrhaged 800 attorneys and staff yesterday.

Unfortunately, it appears that more storms are moving in on the horizon:

"There will be more," said consultant Peter Zeughauser. "Materially more. I'm aware of some big ones coming up."

These developments are obviously quite ominous for law students looking to break into the market.  

The sky is looking dark indeed.

Skinny

2.12.2009

"Steve Scalise doesn't know kung fu. I know kung fu. He can't whip me."

New Orleans GOP Congressman Joseph Cao, explaining he is his own man.

 Cao says he will vote to support the stimulus bill that emerges from conference - even if he is the only member of his caucus to do so.

Want to create jobs? Just tax the hell out of businesses!

Which is apparently how Governor Doyle plans to "fix" our state's economy and fill the budget deficit. Once again, his incompetence is astounding.

While there are some nice tax incentives in the Governor's plan for nanotechnology and green energy and things like that; as far as existing business and industry goes, they get very little. And the tax incentives are dwarfed by the tax increases.

In the plan are two tax increases that could have a very costly impact on businesses in the state. The first is the Main Street Equity Act - sounds nice doesn't it. Under the act, "all prewritten computer software packages are subject to the sales tax" which would increase taxes collected an estimated $61.3 million. Another provision in the act would extend the sales tax to digital personal property if the "tangible" personal property would also be subject to taxes. That amounts to another $10.9 million for the state.

Once again, the Democrats' answer to finding something not already taxed is to tax the hell out of it. My question though, is how does increasing the number of things subject to taxes help "main street" businesses? Wouldn't it simply make the products that much more expensive for consumers, thus making them go elsewhere - such as online - to find the products they are looking for?

Plain and simple, making things more expensive during a recession is the wrong thing to do.

The other major tax increase in the "stimulus" proposal is to subject corporate income to combined reporting. this one move by the state government would increase taxes on businesses in Wisconsin by $187.3 million in the 2009-2011 biennium. It is reasonable to assume that the result of this kind of tax increase will result in one of two things happening: 1) the businesses effected by this tax will pass the cost on to consumers, thus inflating prices; or 2) many corporate headquarters will move out of Wisconsin, taking their jobs with them. Take your pick.

I know that there is more to the plan and once I've had the time to go through it more thoroughly I'll have much more to say. But for now, all I have to say is that once again the Governor has failed to offer any real leadership in this current crisis.

Plessy v. Ferguson Marked Today in NOLA

Descendants of the parties in the infamous case will unveil a plaque this afternoon at 2 p.m. down at the intersection of Royal and Press Streets (on the Marigny/Bywater border).

Recycling in NOLA - Or the Lack Thereof

One of my roommates washes his bottles out each week.  Plastic, glass, he rinses them all at the sink.  He places them on the floor next to the garbage bin in the kitchen, amidst the gathered transparent, anxious crowd.  My empty frappuccino bottles and grape juice containers stare up emptily at us, too.  But it's no use.  

More than three years after Katrina, we still don't have municipal recycling in New Orleans.

Fortunately, private services like Phoenix Recycling offer a curbside recycling option for those who can afford it.  Local garbage company SDT is also considering launching recycling service - our household received a potential contract to sign.  In reviewing it, I noticed something odd, though.

SDT wouldn't accept glass items in its proposed recycling program.

Curious, I checked out the Phoenix website, and that company, too, lists the unavailability of a glass processor facility - "there are virtually no markets in this part of the country" - as the reason it does not accept what is commonly presumed to be a recyclable material.  The Green Project down in the Bywater also doesn't take glass.  Given the imbalances in the waste glass market, it's not surprising that the viability of glass crushing programs has suffered and prevented companies from offering certain services.

In my searching, however, I came across this that's-so-crazy-it-just-might-or-might-not-work idea proposed by Phoenix:

Now, Phoenix wants to find money and a facility to pulverize its own glass, and then sell the product to the Army Corps of Engineers for use in federally and state-financed wetland restoration projects, says director of business development Steven O'Connor.

The numbers cited in the piece are interesting, but I would still want to see a full feasibility study.  Another option - which still might require the threshold step of grinding - would be to utilize the proximity to the Port of New Orleans to export the material via ship or barge in great bulk to some other locale.

In the meantime, I'm going to continue to wonder where the contents of various campus recycling bins ultimately end up...

Bourbon Cowboy

2.11.2009

"Tennessee Pusher"

Great song.  It's as if a gaggle of lonely, old time violin-wailing country greats had lived to see Nirvana pass by...

"Jurisdictional Whack-a-Mole"

David Post posts on "More Crazy Internet Jurisdictional Stuff" at VC.  He raises some relevant issues to ponder.

Post shares the story of Google execs presently standing trial in Italy over a controversial online video.  He then moves into a sound summary of the problems of jurisdiction in the global internet landscape, including the divergence between U.S. legal policy (which grants broad 3rd party content immunity for internet intermediaries) and EU legal norms (which are generally far less hospitable to American conceptions of free speech, etc.).  The cases and issues that mark the transatlantic split bring to mind the discussion I had with Columbia University President Lee Bollinger last semester about the coming skuffle as U.S. conceptions of free speech butt up against - or are evangelized to - the rest of the world.

We're currently covering immunity under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (the portion not struck down by SCOTUS) in my Internet Law course.  Tomorrow I give a presentation on the complexities of Wikipedia's potential liability for content that appears on its site.  Interesting stuff.

Jindal Gets Prime Time Slot

Louisiana's governor will give the GOP response to Obama's state of the union address.

Interestingly, the people who've given this response in past years haven't gone too far beyond their respective states - see Sebelius, Kaine, etc.

Cheers to the WSJ

A great, clear chart for understanding and contrasting the two stimulus plans at a glance.

Troubled Asset Relief Program

Do Your Duty

Vote for the Critical Badger, a blogging friend of the blog, in this national contest.

Post-Apocalypse Now

CityBusiness provides a detailed peek at the "homeless" lifestyle in one of New Orleans' many large, abandoned buildings:

Above the darkness of the first floor, the building teems with signs of life. In place of piles of bureaucratic papers once shuffled by city workers, there are piles of cigarette butts smoked to the filter and heaps of discarded food containers, clothing and bottles of St. Ides malt liquor and Heaven Hills Kentucky whiskey.

To me, the prospect of fires is the worst aspect of the illegal occupancy, however.  While it's not at all conclusive, the article appears to indicate that homeless fires may have contributed to the recent fire at the old Carpet World building that was burnt to a black heap recently on Canal Street.

Quick hits on deficits, stimuli and the economy

There are so many stories I wish I could go in depth on, but unfortunately my time is short so here goes:
Also, just a quick note. I saw Speaker Pelosi on the news yesterday while I was eating dinner. She said that "we cannot afford to make the perfect the enemy of what can be done or what is effective." Not the exact quote, but pretty close. My response is: when did it become acceptable for our legislative leaders to basically say that yeah, we know it's no that good, but hopefully it will work. Since when is mediocrity okay?

2.10.2009

Pining for Ice Sculpting



Saturday marked the 18th year of competitive ice sculpting in my hometown of Kiel. I missed carving with my team for the second year in a row due to law school - we had carved together for the preceding decade, taking home several trophies.

It's great to see all the familiar teams at work along Fremont Street on an abnormally warm day in the video from the Tri-County News. There are even a few shots of a chili cook-off and a brat fry for good measure.  Strangely, there's no image of my team...they must have been off on the traditional mid-morning doughnut run when the camera went past.

Whither conservatism

Over at The New Republic, Andrew Bacevich has some interesting things to say about where the conservative movement should be going:
Yet by and large, the proper place for genuine conservatives today is in opposition, advancing a principled critique of the status quo with the hope--however quixotic--of persuading Americans to mend their ways.

When it comes to the culture, conservatives should promote an awareness of the costs of unchecked individual autonomy, while challenging conceptions of freedom that deny the need for self-restraint and self-denial. When it comes to economics, they should emphasize the virtue and necessity of Americans, collectively as well as individually, learning to live within their means. When it comes to foreign policy, they should advocate a restoration of realism, which will necessarily entail abandoning expectations of remaking the world in America's own image.

I'm not sure I agree entirely -- I should have some thoughts in the next few days -- but there needs to be more thought exerted along these lines. Feel free to do some of your own in the comments!

Surprise - Another New Freret Street Establishment: Village Coffee

I just learned that another new establishment will soon be gracing Freret Street.

According to workers at the site this afternoon, a vacant building at the corner of Jefferson and Freret is being converted into a Village Coffee shop.

This is good news.  The new establishment will occupy a building that has been vacant since I arrived in 2007 on a prominent corner.  It helps to anchor the far Uptown end of the reviving Freret Corridor (which I've highlighted before).  It provides an option for students like me, who make up a sizable portion of residents in the immediate vicinity, that currently does not exist within walking distance.  Finally, it helps to transform portions of the Katrina-weakened residential neighborhoods on the border of Central City/Freret and Audubon into more attractive, livable neighborhoods.

It's also within walking distance of the uptown universities.  For example, it's only 0.4 miles from Tulane Law School.  By contrast, the walk to the closest existing off-campus coffeeshop is 0.9 miles to the cluster of shops around Starbucks on Maple Street.

Perhaps my postings today belie an excessive interest in coffee shops - it's true!  They've become a key part of my attempt to balance my workload with limited forays into the real world.

Oh boy

Reminder: Volokh Speaks Tonight

Professor Eugene Volokh speaks tonight at Tulane Law - 5 p.m. in the Faculty Lounge. 

I highly recommend attending to hear the thoughts of a great legal mind and a fellow blogger.

Awaiting a New Freret Street Establishment: "Cure"

The outlines of the rather mysterious and hip new establishment on Freret Street begin to take shape:

If it hasn’t opened by the time you read this, give it a week or so. Neal Bodenheimer’s new cocktail lounge, Cure, promises to take us back to a time when “ … having a cocktail and a bite to eat was both healthful and enjoyable.” Neal is quite the talented barman and his eclectic mix of coffeehouse, juice bar and lunch cafĂ© by day, bar and restaurant by night, with careful crafting of both cocktails and cuisine, should be a smash hit. Kudos to Cure for being a part of the revitalization efforts on the beloved stretch of Freret Street between Napoleon and Jefferson.

Here's the spartan site for Cure.  I'm extraordinarily glad to see the new place will be part coffeehouse - having an actual option within walking distance from my house will be great on a number of levels, especially for a potential new studying scene.
















Here's the teasing snippet from the search result description:

Coming Soon, Cure is a cocktail bar with small plates, esoteric beer and wine that...

Esoteric beer sounds like a great addition to the neighborhood, too.

If politics is perception, is 92% of the state legislature selfish and arrogant? Probably.

A $2,530 pay raise for state legislators may be a drop in the bucket compared to the $5.4 billion deficit, but sometimes it is not so much about the money as it is doing the right thing. Wisconsin lost more than 60,000 jobs last year - 33,000 of those in December alone - and our lawmakers have the audacity to take a pay raise.

In politics, leadership is about priorities and setting the right example. Apparently 92% of the legislature are looking out for themselves first.

The State Journal has an editorial admonishing the 122 legislators who took the raise and praising the ten who did not. While $25,300 doesn't solve our problems, at least a small percentage of our legislators still realize they serve the people, not the other way around. The ten members who aren't politically tone-deaf:
  • Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills
  • Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Waunakee
  • Sen. Ted Kanavas, R-Brookfield
  • Sen. Dan Kapanke, R-La Crosse
  • Sen. Joe Leibham, R-Sheboygan
  • Sen. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center
  • Rep. Steve Hilgenberg, D-Dodgeville
  • Rep. Dan Knodl, R-Germantown
  • Rep. Margaret Krusick, D-Milwaukee
  • Rep. Keith Ripp, R-Lodi

2.09.2009

A quick question

This site has no official connection with Marquette University. Indeed, when University officials find out about it, they will doubtless want it shut down.

So, have they found out about it? And did they want to shut it down? Seems the thing has been going long enough, and that enough students know about it, that the administration must...

The Bulldog House

15 Companies That Might Not Survive 2009

I didn't patronize any of these in 2008. In fact I can only say for sure that I've been a customer of one at some point. It seems strange that this company would have trouble given how high its prices are and it's usually well used.

A consensus on the need for a stimulus?

       No.

Also, it would be nice to see government officials stop extolling the virtues of making personal sacrifices and private individuals helping individuals - while pushing an astronomically large government spending plan based on the undeniable premise that government is the answer to this crisis.  The rhetoric is growing rank.

President Obama, besides hitting the road in support of the bill, wants me to hold a pro-stimulus house party as part of his "Organizing America" network.  Well, let's just say the chances of an anti-stimulus house party on South Liberty Street are growing by the minute.  Please contact your Senators to encourage them to vote against the current stimulus bill.

Alert

Andrew Sullivan's blog still does not permit comments.

That is all.

Are you ready to "Draft Stormy"?

I began seeing ads on craigslist - under the "Miscellaneous Jobs" category - last fall calling for a Louisiana candidate who fit this mold...and now it seems someone has been found.

That's right, a possible porn star challenge to Louisiana's Senator David Vitter:

According to a capsule bio on the Draft Stormy Web site, Daniels has been "breaking barriers and shattering glass ceilings her entire life," serving as editor of her high school newspaper and president of her school's 4-H Club and eventually transferring "her determination and talents to the professional level, becoming a featured performer in the adult entertainment industry."

This is Louisiana politics, I suppose.  Anything can happen.  Remember, Vitter is the Louisiana Senator who gained notoriety for his involvement with the DC Madam prostitution scandal.

If you're thinking about drafting Stormy, here's the website.

(ht/SS)

The quick and the dead

After a warm weekend in Wisconsin. We took our losses:





But the Lorax still stands.

Inexcusable

The Federal Reserve, Treasury Department and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation have lent or spent almost $3 trillion over the past two years and pledged up to $5.7 trillion more. The Senate is to vote this week on an economic-stimulus measure of at least $780 billion. It would need to be reconciled with an $819 billion plan the House approved last month.

Only the stimulus bill to be approved this week, the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program passed four months ago and $168 billion in tax cuts and rebates enacted in 2008 have been voted on by lawmakers.
The remaining $8 trillion is in lending programs and guarantees, almost all under the Fed and FDIC. Recipients’ names have not been disclosed.

In the Shadow of the Stimulus

All you see and hear about is this:













But the stimulus debate is proving to be a smoke screen for other questionable Presidential politicking.

From the "hope and change" files

Obama campaign manager David Plouffe is headed to Baku to talk about democracy:
Barack Obama's campaign manager will give a paid speech to "a pro-government NGO and mouthpiece of the president's office" in a post-Soviet autocracy with a major interest in American energy policy, according to a report.

Azeri President Aliyev, fresh off a crooked win in the November presidential race, is seeking to cement his power by putting through a constitutional amendment to end presidential term limits (the current limit is two terms). As a good democrat, Aliyev has blocked opposition access to the media, while he uses his his cronies to push the measure:
Chairmen of the parliamentary commissions Ali Huseynov, Rabiyat Aslanova and Safa Mirzayev expressed their opinion about the changes during the parliamentary meeting.

The US embassy there claims he will be acting as a "private citizen," but Plouffe would have to be hopelessly naive not to realize that his talk will be used by the regime as a further piece of evidence that this referendum is a perfectly legitimate form of democratic expression. I had Azeris tell me with a straight face that the same election watchers who lambasted the legitimacy of the previous election cycle in fact saw nothing wrong, and that this proves that the country is democratic. By giving this speech, at this time, in this country, Plouffe is doing a massive disservice to the cause of democracy.

2.08.2009

Legal Tidbits

Giant inflatable rat = paragon of free speech.


Bringing the Privileges and Immunities Clause back to life? (I've argued this should be done, half in jest, to a friend researching state laws surrounding gay marriage, but this seems to be a serious argument)

Solitude Found

Losing Solitude

"Because of technology, we never have to be alone anymore. And that's the problem."

I think it's valuable to ponder, on occasion, the ever-growing influence and pervasiveness of technology in our lives.  At the very least, it helps to keep technology in perspective.  

For younger generations in particular, it's important to keep technology in its rightful place - as a tool, not a master.  Having lived through the exponential transformations of personal computers, the internet, cell phones, wireless laptops to the present iphone paradigm, it is mind boggling to consider that we have arrived at a point near the end of solitude.

Quarterflage

2.07.2009

Wyoming on Gay Marriage

Wow, that's rather incredible.

Some of the Republicans out there must be Clint Eastwood Republicans:

"...but Republicans are supposed to be libertarians, aren't they?"

Oh, What A Night

Tonight's Options:

Krewe du Vieux!  Added: (NINETEEN brass bands in the parade lineup)

Andrew Bird

O'Death

Why Are We Building Such A Big Ship?

2.06.2009

Huey P. from the Sixth

Biomass at Charter Street

Looks like one of the UW's power plants is doing a little changing.

The new biomass boiler will be online in the heating plant before the end of 2012.

The boiler will be able to burn 100 percent biomass fuel, up to 250,000 tons a year.

Biomass fuels range from wood chips to switchgrass pellets.

I don't think a power plant is the best way to implement alternative fuels because plants are good places to burn dirty stuff. To burn coal cleanly takes equipment. Plants produce a lot of energy so economies of scale make buying big cleaning equipment and large systems more worthwhile than if everyone at their house had to have a small set of equipment.

There's a certain amount of energy capacity out there and if power plants were to switch away from fossil fuels, their demand will decrease, lowering their cost which provides an incentive for other energy consumers to switch to the cheaper source of fuel. It would be better to encourage houses to switch to biofuels and keep the coal at plants than to switch the plants to biofuels and do nothing for houses.

Also the article doesn't address how the fuel will be making its way to the plant. Coal comes by train all the way from the mine. Trains are the most efficient way of moving stuff on land.

For more on the actual plant, I posted a tour of the plant with photos more than a year ago.

What if Nixon wasn't really that evil?

I know, vaguely, that there has been a lot of buzz about the movie Frost/Nixon. I don't know to much about the reviews and I really won't get a chance anytime soon to see it - it's kind of hard to see new movies in Kuwait and Iraq.

I'd like to see the film because I think it looks like a great titanic debate movie that could be really good, but I was worried that the typical prejudice against Nixon would turn his character into a disturbed, petty, evil man. This has made me reluctant to see the film.

So I was very pleased to see this post by everyone's favorite law blogger that answered many of my fears. My favorite excerpt of the linked post (please read the whole thing, quite interesting):
Again, I have to wonder if this was the intention: Without any preconceived notions, Nixon comes out nearly heroic. A tragic hero, for sure, but heroic nonetheless. The script refers numerous times to his achievements (his foreign policy coups with Kruschev and Mao), and even his fiercest opponents admit that he was quite accomplished. They just believe him to be criminal.

I saw a man with great ambition and ability who was beset by partisan hacks out to destroy him. They blame him for Vietnam, for the Khmer Rouge, for Watergate--though the point is never the crime, as the gotcha--and all Nixon wants is respect. There's a fictitious scene where a drunk Nixon calls Frost and goes on a rambling analysis of his own and Frost's sense of inferiority which I felt overplayed the dramatic hand, but even that didn't undermine my sense that this was a partisan witch hunt.
This is something that has always intrigued me about Nixon - especially as a history and poli sci major at UW. His gifts as a diplomat and his foreign policy credentials were amazing and for the most part he was extremely successful in getting his domestic agenda passed. We know that he was vindictive and that he was paranoid about his enemies, but after 30+ years of parody and caricature, don't we owe it to ourselves to take a second look? Maybe time will give a clearer, more accurate portrait of a very complex man.