4.30.2009

Deja vu all over again...

Sound familiar to anyone? It seems as though we've done this before...

Thompson Possible Candidate for Governor.

Union South has left the building

This morning only the westernmost wall was left.

The new building across the street is coming along nicely.

Time Magazine is a worthless rag

Seriously. I have been very critical of time magazine in the past. I used to look forward to the Person of the Year and 100 Most Influential issues. I'm a bit of a geek that way, but I always thought they were cool.

Today, as I read through the list of the 100 Most Influential people, I can't help but think what group of drunken monkeys throwing darts at a list names came up with this.

I'm dead serious. Some of the picks are no-brainers. Of course the President and First-Lady are influential. Ditto for Sarkozy, Brown and Merkel. But when the financial system around the world is on life support, Time magazine is going to tell us that Ben Bernanke is not one of the most influential people in the world? Maybe one of the Congressional leaders on the Banking Committees? No? Come on.

Or, with the problems in Afghanistan and it's intrinsic link to the future of Pakistan, you think at least one person from that country might be important? Maybe?

I get the idea of diversity and wanting "entertainers" and people from all walks of life on the list, but do we need 20 in each category? NO. Tell me how Zac Effron is influential outside of making teenage girls swoon? Who cares. I really like Jay Leno and Tina Fey, but they are not influential. They are entertainers. They do not influence world events unless you live in Hollywood. (Please note that Hollywood is not reality - ever.)

Also, what the heck is the "Heroes and Icons" section? Sarah Palin? I like her, I really do, more than anyone else here at LIB, but she is the only elected Republican on the whole stinking list. You're telling me that she is more influential in the Party than Paul Ryan or Bobby Jindal or Mark Sanford? No. She is not. Newt Gingrich hasn't been in office in 10 years and has more influence than Palin. Sarah Palin is well liked, but in terms of influence in the GOP, let alone the country at large, she just isn't there yet. Maybe in compiling the list, the people at Time would do well to talk to an actual Republican every now and then.

There are some legitimately influential leaders on this list. No doubt about it. But the quality of the list in part is determined by who is not on it. When you leave off people like Bernanke, or General Petraeus, or Nancy Pelosi (far more influential and than Kennedy), Harry Reid or Gingrich, or Mayor Bloomberg, or Netanyahu or the Pope, or the Ayatollah, or Ahmadinejad, or Putin, or a whole bunch of other people I've overlooked you end up with a very silly list.

The President's speechwriter made the list as a "Thinker." Really? So we're to believe that he's the one having the great thoughts and not the President himself? I seem to remember a whole bunch of stories about how hands-on the President was for major speeches like the convention speech and his Innaugural.

The only thoughts provoked by my reading of the list is how monumentally stupid it is to put celebrities on the same level as actual business and political leaders.

Time is supposed to be a news magazine. Let People do the puff pieces on how we admire and look up to beautiful people. You know why people aren't buying newspapers and news magazines anymore? This is why. There isn't any news in it. Everything is fluff. Journalists didn't even write the portraits of the people on the list, they got admirers to do them so they are nothing more than sloppy wet kisses.

When you look at this list, anti-intellectualism is not a Republican Party problem - as so many in the media claim. It is a national problem. Time, the magazine that used to be the gold standard in print journalism - right up there with the NY Times and Washington Post - is little better than people magazine, with slightly fewer bikinis. I find better, more insightful writing in a copy of Esquire, Rolling Stone or GQ than in Time magazine - whose only bright spots seems to be Joel Klein and an occasional Bill Kristol column.

We venerate celebrities for no reason and this list proves that. "The Twitter Guys" made the list Okay. I get that, Twitter is an amazing phenomenon. Who writes the story? Ashton Kutcher. A fun actor, but he's the guy writing the story? The same guy who posted a twitpic (I think that's the correct term) of his wife bending over in her bra and panties? The brains behind Punk'd?

I'm sorry, but this just isn't journalism anymore. This is a high school popularity contest.

If we want to talk about influence that actually means something and raising the standard of discourse in our country, then let's do it. We can start by getting rid of Time.

*Note: updated time when to reflect when I actually posted, rather than started this rant.

It's in the photograph

Paula A. White - a Wisconsin photographer who once snapped a photo of me playing my accordion at the Madison Farmer's Market - is opening a show in Madison on State Street. 

While I can't make the opening to play my accordion outside as requested, I thought I would pass along the information for the benefit of any classy, interested LIB readers in the greater isthmus area:

Street Scenes
Photography by Paula A. White
You Are Invited to the Gallery Night Reception at Steep & Brew Gallery
Friday, May 1, 5-9pm
Champagne, wine, cheese, and chocolate with live music by local musician Doug Brown (starting at 6pm)

The photo of me can be viewed in one of Paula's online galleries, entitled "World of Accordions."

This is waterbording

From descriptions I had heard on the news, I thought it was just putting a person on a board and then pouring a bucket of water over their face.

Honestly, that doesn't sound very bad--just spit it out as quickly as possible and you'd also probably get that 'water up the nose' feeling. Turns out it's a bit different. Here's Christopher Hitchens getting waterboarded last year:



I didn't know that it's actually wetting a towel held tightly over someone's face. That's a bit more--it's not so much pouring water on or simulated drowning as simply depriving of breath. That seems to be a large difference, at least to me.

Torture conjures up images of inflicting pain and discomfort externally. On the bright side, pain alone can't kill you. However, to lose control of a vital body function surely has to be terrifying because it could easily be your end. Something comparable, I imagine, would be to use defibulation paddles to induce a heart attack. We're mental in modern times; bruises are so middle ages.

We can weigh the ends and the means of torture, but in the end, we should not torture. (And if we have to stop to think if something is torture, as with waterbording, it probably is.) Torture is disgusting and barbaric.

This is America. The thing that makes this country special is that rather than being leftovers of an ancient kingdom or people who happen share an ethnicity or language, our country was instituted orderly by thoughtful people guided by the ideals of the Enlightenment.

When someone is destructive, it's easy and quick to be destructive in return. It takes foresight, restraint, and maturity to rise above it and take the high path. Moreover, barbarism is the antithesis of civilization and respect for human rights, which is what we're working hard to spread in the first place.

When we torture, our enemies win. Not because they ever destroyed something of ours or defeated us, but because we've voluntarily given up one of our defining characteristics.

4.29.2009

Doctor at Uptown Tulane Clinic Suspects Swine Flu in Local Patient

This is not something to get seriously concerned about until further notice, but it is worth noting. 

A High Rate of Death

Let's do a review of blogs on our soon-to-be-updated sidebar in the category of "The Lagoon - Madison," shall we?

Althouse - Strong
Christian Schneider - Strong
University & State - Strong
Badger Blues - "This blog should be in a museum."
Critical Badger - Strong
Hippie Perspective - Sort of came back for a while there
The Wisconsin Lounge - A return spurt, then nothing since Feb.
Something Verbose - Dead - No post since November 2008
Partridge Amongst Pigeons - Dead - No post since 2008
Fearless Sifting - Site no longer exists (and I think I'd updated to the correct second site)
Mr Mustache - Waxing America - Strong
Vote Dark Horse, Vote Dorshorst - Dead - No post since 2008
Right Off the Shore - Dead - No post since 2008
Brian's Study Breaks - Strong - Changed name to "Brian's Coffeehouse"
Alderman Eli Judge - Rendered Obsolete
Other Side of the Ocean - Strong
Fearful Symmetries - Strong
Uncredible Hallq - New url.
Sara with No H - Strong
Columnist Manifesto - Dead - 1 post since Sept. 2008
Pixelated Imagination - Error 404 - File Not Found.

Tippecanoe Two

Is it time...

Swine of the Times

Shutting Down McAlister

Yea or nay?

Do you think eliminating vehicle traffic and parking from McAlister Drive to install a pedestrian greenway will be better or worse, overall, for the Tulane campus?

I tend to agree with this surprisingly trenchant opinion by the editorial board of The Hullabaloo - 1) there should have been more student input, and 2) the change limits parking and access, cutting 80 parking spots - when parking is already a problem.

A Few Blue Dogs - And Dennis Kucinich

17 Democrats in the House opposed the Obama budget as it passes that body today. 

Here's the list :

The 17 Democrats who voted against the measure are some of the most conservative and/or vulnerable members of the Dem caucus -- with one exception: Dennis Kucinich. Those 17 are: Barrow (GA), Boren (OK), Bright (AL), Childers (MS), Foster (IL), Griffith (AL), Kratovil (MD), Kucinich (OH), Markey (CO), Marshall (GA), Matheson (UT), McIntyre (NC), Minnick (ID), Mitchell (AZ), Nye (VA), Taylor (MS), Teague (NM).

It's interesting to see that Congressman Kagen, WI-8th, didn't vote against.

4.28.2009

Sometimes a headline says it all...

...and this is one of those times: Unprincipled Hack (D-PA).

Now, I have often defended Specter to some of my fellow conservatives. I said repeatedly that it takes a certain amount of courage to remain a Republican in a state like Pennsylvania. I defended him saying that we still had his vote on fiscal issues (I was wrong). I defended his stance on judicial matters, too.

I would have defended him if he had chosen to become an independent like Lieberman. This is, however, entirely different. As Jonathan Chait puts it: "I think it’s pretty clear that Specter is an unprincipled hack. If his best odds of keeping his Senate seat lay in joining the Communist party, he’d probably do that."

Specter now needs to win a Democrat primary. If he is to have any hope of winning it - after all, he has no built-in machine within Democrat politics per se - he is going to have to move more consistently left. I hope he doesn't, but I don't see a whole lot of sense in hoping at this point.

Some good news and a whole lot of bad news.

One of my favorite restaurants is Buffalo Wild Wings. Love the food and I am thrilled that Janesville now has one - yet another place that I have to go when home on leave next month.

Okay, so that's the good news.

The bad news is that for the 120 job openings at the new BWW in Janesville there were 1600 applicants. That's right 1600.

This story comes as the unemployment rate in Rock County hits 13.5%. Janesville jumped to 15.3% and Beloit hit a whopping 17.7%. Once again Beloit is the highest in the state. One begins to wonder if we will see 20% unemployment in Beloit before the worst is truly over.

By the way, the unemployment rate one year ago in Rock County? 5.5%.

I know we are beginning to bludgeon a dead horse here at LIB, but when this is happening in Wisconsin cities where is Governor Doyle? Where are the elected representatives of Rock County? Anyone?

Bueller? ... Bueller?

Flyover Continued - Federal Government Knowingly Created Panic

So...my earlier logic - and tentative venture into conspiracy theorizing - wasn't so off-base after all...

In a memo obtained by CBS 2 HD the Federal Aviation Administration's James Johnston said the agency was aware of "the possibility of public concern regarding DOD (Department of Defense) aircraft flying at low altitudes" in an around New York City. But they demanded total secrecy from the NYPD, the Secret Service, the FBI and even the mayor's office and threatened federal sanctions if the secret got out.

This is a rather disturbing revelation.  My chief questions now center on how high this goes in the federal government food chain: was President Barack Obama aware of this plan?  If so, did he authorize or condone it?  And if he did, how do we square that with his public blustering against the incident?  This may be no more than a very poor decision by an agency head, but the absurd nature of the explicit command of secrecy under threat of federal penalty makes me question further.

Obligatory Specter Party Switch Post

"Party has not defined" who you are?

Then why, regardless of which side you ultimately caucus with, aren't you running as an independent, Senator?

Here's the thing:

It has become clear to me that the stimulus vote caused a schism which makes our differences irreconcilable. 

It might be a pretext, but if Specter is leaving primarily because of the stimulus vote - and not the GOP's social conservatism, foreign adventuring, anti-intellectualism, etc. - then I think it was time for him to go.  That may sound rash given the GOP's heavily reduced position in the Senate.  But opposition to the stimulus represents a legitimate focal point of opposition centered on fiscal conservatism and limited government that should be able to appeal to a wider range of individuals than the Bush-era GOP.  It's a better least common denominator around which to form a revitalized party, as I think Rep. Paul Ryan, among others, has shown.

If the stimulus was the decisive issue for Specter - which should have been the easiest, least controversial part of the GOP agenda to agree with - then I'm not surprised he left.  It's unfortunate, though, as it represents a political "tragedy of the commons" wave overpowering the reality of scarcity and the prospect of unsustainable deficits.  

Everyone wants a stimulus, and, wrapped up in the numbers of the Obama surge, Specter caved to save his seat.  

Had he decided to run as an independent, no matter how much more difficult that would make his re-election, my assessment would have been a bit less harsh - that would look far more like a move grounded in true loyalty to the citizens of Pennsylvania and the notion of public service in the face of looming public challenges.


UPDATE: Specter on why Specter should not have done what Specter just did.

Fifth Floor, Fourteenth Amendment

Fighting to survive, one case at a time.

4.27.2009

Head Checked - by a Jumbo Jet

This aspect of the New York Harbor flying photo-op incident still doesn't make any sense to me:

The memo specifically directed local agencies not to tell the public about the photo shoot, according to a government official. The memo detailed the nature of the event and the flight details, saying there would be a transport and fighter aircraft flying over the harbor. "Information in this document shall not be released to the public or media," the memo instructed. "Public affairs posture for this effort is passive," it said.

The oddity of of such an explicit command in a post-911 landscape is almost enough to get me thinking up conspiracy theories, such as: "Was this some kind of innocuous test to see how the public would react to a possible terrorist move - how jittery are people, how will various agencies react?"  

I think the official responsible, who has taken responsibility, should be publicly reprimanded or fired.

If you had a bit of time and money...









What would you do with this little yellow place on Freret?

Hours of arduous study got me wondering yesterday...

Crimson Tide

Slate shares an interactive map tracking job loss in America by county over the past two years.

Louisiana, interestingly, stays a noticeable blue amidst a rising sea of red, seemingly staying afloat from all the post-Katrina federal funding.

Italian Cruise Vessel Fights Back

Imagine that - private, armed security rebuffs a pirate attack in the Indian Ocean.

4.26.2009

It's Sunday and I got nothin'

So here's some theorizing:
Exceptional pop creates a precedent precisely by abrogating the presumptive rules. How did that grouchy Bob Dylan become a critical favorite by spitting back at interviewers with silence and riddles? (Didn’t being cute and funny help the Beatles? Why would the opposite behavior work just as well, and at exactly the same time?) How did the Jamaican shantytown hero Bob Marley become an American Ivy League dorm-room staple? How did the tiny, androgynous Prince become a hero to alpha-male guitar-solo fiends? Pop acts become classic when they reveal the contingent nature of "classic."


And a video that really doesn't have much to do with anything:

"Don't you think that Paul Ryan should run the Republican Party?"

That question was asked by Joe Scarborough on his MSNBC show. The answer should be a resounding "YES!"

Yesterday's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel had a great piece on Paul Ryan and his rise on the national scene (read the whole thing - it's great). We here at LIB are definitely Ryan fans and I think that the portrait the Journal Sentinel paints is a great blueprint for the future of the Party and the conservative cause. Even though Ryan says "I'm not looking to become some famous conservative movement leader. I just don't see that as my role. That's not my thing. I want to be a policy leader." Sorry, Paul, but whether you want it or not, you're already leading the charge.

It's refreshing to see a politician lay out alternatives and substantive policy reforms. Ryan is a policy wonk, a numbers nerd. The current economic crisis and government expansion is the perfect storm for Ryan's strengths to bring him to the national stage.

I love that his mentor was Jack Kemp - a man dedicated to the idea of a big-tent party and respectful disagreement. "Jack had a huge influence on me, his brand of inclusive conservatism, his pro-growth, happy-warrior style. That was infectious to me," says Ryan. The young Congressman has some good advice for the Rush/Hannity crowd: "Look, Barack Obama is doing what he thinks is right. I just disagree with him. I don't think the man is evil or sinister. I just think he's liberal."

It's not about identity politics or endless division. You don't hear a lot about social issues from Ryan. I wonder how many people would be surprised that he voted to ban employment discrimination based on sexual preference. I think many more would be surprised that he explains it this way: "The way I see that  . . .  may be informed by just friendships I've had, people I grew up with in Janesville who didn't choose to be gay. It wasn't an orientation they decided to experiment (with) or choose. It's just who they are. They were just created that way."

The thing is that Ryan realizes what's important in government. It's the level of freedom we guarantee and protect - personal as well as economic. It's not what people do in their own bedrooms.

The goal, the point, of politics should be making the country a better place. Paul Ryan is offering actual solutions. Every single person running in 2010 or considering running for president in 2012 needs to follow his lead. We need to be the party of ideas again, and Ryan is definitely doing his part.

The Captain's Mansion

One of New Orleans' finest architectural examples of "opulent decay" (a personal favorite down on Esplanade) gets a breath of new life. 

Fanning Up

Guest Post: Swine flu has “pandemic potential”

By Suchita S, (cross-posted from University and State)

The recent outbreak of swine flu in Mexico and now California, Texas, and New York City (…!) is definitely an epidemic, though it is not yet that pandemic flu that public health officials have been fearing for years. But, like the World Health Organization has noted, it has the potential of becoming pandemic.

Unlike the “normal” flu which is particularly dangerous usually only to the elderly, children, and the immunocompromised, this strain of swine flu has been killing otherwise healthy people in their prime of life, in their 30s and 40s.

A quick intro to swine flu, courtesy KevinMD:

Symptoms of swine flu are similar to those of regular influenza, and can include fever, cough, sore throat, chills, fatigue and body aches. Gastrointestinal symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea can be present as well. The diagnosis is made by analyzing a respiratory specimen, which is generally collected within 4 to 5 days after the onset of illness.

And no, you cannot get swine flu from eating or preparing pork.


What has escalated fears in recent days is the fact that this virus, which is generally transmitted from swine to humans who have close contact with them, has now been found to spread via human-to-human interaction. (As of now, President Obama appears to be swine-flu-free after his recent trip to Mexico, where he greeted someone who has since died of the disease.) It echoes of Andrew Speaker with his MDR-TB; seal an infected individual into an airplane for an international flight and there’s your pandemic. And its a lot more difficult to quarantine exposed humans than it is to eradicate an infected herd of swine.

And therein lies the classic public health tradeoff: individual rights vs. the benefit of the community. Mexico has decided to play it safe and protect the community:

President Felipe Calderón published an order that would give his government emergency powers to address a deadly flu outbreak, including isolating those who have contracted the virus, inspecting the homes of affected people and ordering the cancellation of public events. …

The government encouraged people to stay at home by canceling concerts, closing museums and banning spectators from two big soccer matches on Sunday that will be played in front of television cameras, but no live crowd.


What level of severity would the pandemic threat need to be for measures like this to be enacted in the United States? Does President Obama have this power? Would Americans accept curfews or home inspections?

As I ponder this, I’m comforted by the quick response by the CDC and the WHO so far. The WHO had an emergency committee meeting today to coordinate international efforts to contain the virus. The CDC has been constantly updating its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report with detailed reports of the cases in California and Texas, and I’m betting something from the NYC - Queens cases will arrive in my Google Reader no later than Monday (yes, I do subscribe to the RSS feed…). The CDC is even Twittering its updates - talk about public health 2.0 (though I wonder who actually follows the CDC on Twitter).

Are the hospitals ready, though? Thankfully, this isn’t like SARS, where no one really knew what we were dealing with. Nationwide, there has been organization over the past decade or so in preparation for a major flu pandemic, what public health officials predict will be deadlier than the 1918 Spanish Flu outbreak. We discussed this in Prof. Judith Leavitt’s public health history course at UW-Madison; she indicated that, if (when?) a pandemic like that does occur, hospitals and clinics may not be able to handle the sudden influx of patients needing ventilators and isolation rooms with negative air pressure, etc. Hospitals today are not built for treating massive quantities of infectious diseases. They’re reflective of chronic sicknesses of current society, not the pre-immunization-era illnesses. It makes financial and operational sense, but it may come back to haunt us.

One thing that the government/CDC is doing towards immediate preparation is working with a pharmaceutical company to create, manufacture, and distribute a vaccine for this particular strain of swine flu. But that’s not going to happen overnight. It will definitely take months if not a couple years. However, the US has been stockpiling flu drugs since 2005, including Tamiflu, which appears to be effective (so far) against this new swine flu strain.

It might be a good idea to buy stock in Roche on Monday morning. And to wash your hands.
--
A special thanks to Suchita, a Columbia med. student and friend of the blog.

4.25.2009

Wendt Appalled by Sumptuous Ostentation of Predecessors

George Wendt, the new Tulane GAPSA President, uncovers a dark secret about his predecessors as he pushes for fiscal responsibility: 

"As I pour through the old receipts from exec board meetings it's appalling. The old exec board meetings had filet mignon for themselves with student money."

While I agree with the need to stop Versaillesque instances of waste and excess like the example uncovered above, I think the difference between the $300,000 the Reserve Fund is anticipated to hold after this school year's end and the $100,000 the Fund is required to hold as a minimum should be rebated to individual grad students on a pro rata basis next year.

Distributing the funds to individual students would reduce the temptation for misuse by officers - and individual students will know how to spend their portion of funds best to maximize their utility, focusing on whatever most pressing need presents itself.

Yep.

The whole kerfluffle over Miss California has been generally nauseating -- this is really something cable news needs to dedicate more than five minutes on their entertainment programs? -- and I think this blog has been right to avoid talking about it. But this piece from Democracy Arsenal is worth a read:
Ok, here's the thing; just because you "answer honestly" doesn't automatically end any criticism of what you have said. For example, if Miss Prejean had been asked, "Barack Obama has been elected President of the United States. Do you really think that the country can trust an African-American in the nation's highest office?" And let's say Miss Prejean answered, "my personal view is that black people are inferior and do not deserve the same rights as white people. I'm sorry if anyone is offended, but that's just what I believe."
...
The simple fact is that Miss Prejean offered an opinion about gay marriage that no matter how "sincere" or "honest" is based on intolerance and leads to the denial of civil rights for an entire group of Americans. While obviously Miss Prejean has the right to her opinion; the rest of us have a right to judge her harshly for it. And well we should. Quite simply, no one has the right to hide behind their "beliefs" when they are expressing fundamentally intolerant views.

What really surprises me in all of this is how the right has embraced a position that is usually reserved for the feel-good left: "I'm entitled to my opinion and people can't criticize me for how I feel." It's a ridiculous and untenable position, and it's a hypocritical thing for the right to embrace, regardless of the outlook of the person clinging to it.

Neumann To Join Wisconsin Gov's Race

Mike H here at LIB noted rumblings about this back in January...

...and now it seems to be confirmed that Scott Walker will have a primary opponent on the GOP side:

Former Congressman Mark Neumann said Thursday he plans to seek the Republican nomination for governor in 2010.

Neumann told the Wisconsin State Journal he intends to get into the race "some time between now and October."

Thoughts?  Some parties seem to think it's a huge mistake for Neumann to step back into the ring - I've even seen a facebook group devoted to convincing him to stay on the sidelines.  And observers from the Left, no surprise, are licking their chops. 

Still, I think it's perfectly fine and legitimate for Neumann to jump into the race; the state GOP needs to see what plays better with a wider segment of Wisconsinites.  However, both candidates are running from southeast Wisconsin, so I would think there's less of a Green/Walker geographic support dichotomy in play this time around - not sure.  

While Walker certainly seems the heir apparent to a good portion of the state GOP proper (having "stepped aside" for Green like a gentleman in 2006), Neumann has dormant statewide connections - and, as Mike H pointed out back January, a lesser appearance of being associated with Bush given his timeline in and out of politics.

Personally, I will be watching both candidates to see which one has better learned the lessons of the recent state and national GOP campaign experiences - especially the cautionary tale of Bush.

So Much Depends

Upon a yellow wheel barrow.

4.24.2009

Thoughts on Ponoroff & Law School Rankings

From an observer. 

"It lets people know it's actually there"

As a class project students at Lake Geneva's Badger High School want to renovate a Veterans memorial in Library Park near the lake's shore. I think it's a great idea and their vision for "to place the headstone on a semi-circular retaining wall, erect three flags and surround the memorial with a brick plaza" would make for a tasteful monument. The students say that "Anything that gets it more visible … would be an improvement."

Unfortunately, the Lake Geneva City Council has killed the students' plans twice. According to at least two council members, "less is more." Apparently, they want "a quiet spot deserving quiet attention."
One of the students, Mikki Smoller, said "(The council is) running around all these different ideas—'what if,' 'what if,'—and we don't have time to deal with what ifs." Their goal is to be completed before the summer break - maybe even in time for Memorial Day.

Veterans memorials should indeed be hallowed shrines, but they should not be tucked away where no one can see them. I think it is a tragedy that the national WWI memorial is tucked away, off to the side of the National Mall, where very few people even know it is there.


It is my belief that every memorial should be required to have at least the American flag and a POW/MIA flag. The statements of the council members would suggest that they want the memorial to remain obscure and unseen.

The students want to make the memorial something of which the community can be proud. The students should be thanked and praised for their persistence for a project in which they believe. Some of the most moving memorials I have seen are in small community parks. Even the larger ones, like Janesville's Veterans memorial at Traxler Park, are still "quiet spots" that invoke quiet reflection.

The students have already raised $12,000 of the estimated costs of $16,000. They have shown a great commitment to the project. The Lake Geneva City Council should approve the students' plans. To continue to allow the memorial to stand in disrepair is wrong.

"I sit with Shakespeare and he winces not"

John McWhorter, writing for The New Republic, has an excellent commentary on the current Supreme Court case Ricci v. DeStefano. His explanation of the cultural problems and the educational hurdles that face many people coming from poor, inner city backgrounds is first rate, but he does not offer them as excuses.
Thus if the black firefighters aren't at home with the format of the promotion test (reading passages and answering questions on what they mean), it is understandable and has nothing to do with their innate ability. After all, placing 16th in a pool of several dozen candidates is not too shabby in itself. The job, it would seem--say, to old-time Civil Rights leaders with a black pride that deserved the name--would be to enhance the innate ability. The black candidates need practice.
...

"I sit with Shakespeare and he winces not," W.E.B. Du Bois wrote in 1903. A century later, the International Association of Professional Black Firefighters tells us, "Cognitive examinations have an adverse effect upon blacks and other minorities." Du Bois crowed, "Fifty years ago the ability of Negro students in any appreciable numbers to master a modern college course would have been difficult to prove," and proudly documents 2,500 black college graduates. Imagine Du Bois listening to a rep from the black firefighters' association now sneering that the promotion test merely measures "the ability to read and retain"--i.e. engage in higher-level thinking processes! O tempora, o mores.

This will not do: People like Du Bois did not dedicate their lives to paving the way for black people to be exempt from tests. Sure, the tests may not correlate perfectly with firefighters' duties. But which falls more into the spirit of black uplift that you could explain to a foreigner in less than three minutes: teaching black candidates how to show what they are made of despite obstacles, or banning a test of mental agility as inappropriate to impose on black candidates?
This is an excellent article. I tried to make the same argument in my stance against the holistic admissions for the UW System - though not nearly as eloquent as McWhorter. The problem remains that we need to address the failure of inner city schools - particularly in Milwaukee - not the tests or admissions criteria.

If you want to see modern-day racism, it's the notion that some of our fellow citizens cannot succeed without special help. This is a not-so subtle statement that blacks cannot advance on their own. It is a horrible message to send, yet one we are sending loud and clear every time we say the test is flawed or biased, rather than "how can we help them do better?"

H/T Althouse

Against A Smoking Ban in Louisiana Bars

I do not smoke, but I am vehemently opposed to the bills introduced recently in the LA state legislature that would ban smoking in bars.

First, taking smoking out of certain New Orleans bars would kill classic drinking establishments financially, if not culturally.  I cannot envision cornerstones like Ms. Mae's, Dos Jefes, or Finn McCool's without a good haze to set the mood.  And don't tell me it's about the health of employees - nobody is forcing them to work in a particular bar.

Second, it's ludicrous to prevent private bar owners from making the choice about permitting smoking on the premises they own.  Patrons, even if it is a place of public accommodation, are not forced to patronize a particular bar.  And voluntarily smoke-free options like the new bar Cure are opening to serve those who want to vote with their feet.

Far too many people I know acquiesced with frighteningly little thought to the heavy-handed bar smoking ban imposed in Madison when I was still in that city.  "Oh, it's so nice to go home at night without reeking of smoke."  Few seemed to realize that even as the final cigarette butts smoldered in the last ashtray, something more important than second-hand smoke had clearly been extinguished in the oversimplified acceptance of government decision-making.

If anyone knows of a lobby day of sorts in Baton Rouge in the next six months, please let me know.

4.23.2009

4.22.2009

So much Sochi

Amid a swirl of activity in Sochi, the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) claims to have captured a Georgian spy:
"The Russian FSB uncovered and halted an agent of the Georgian security services... illegally trespassing on Russian territory with the aim of carrying out reconnaissance and subversive activities," a FSB spokesman said.
“Maisuradze arrived in Sochi in mid-2007 using a fake Ukrainian passport. He acquired Ukrainian citizenship and other necessary documents with the help of the Georgian secret service,” the source told RIA Novosti. He was engaged in business, however the Russian counterintelligence are assured that the Internet-cafe opened by Maisuradze is nothing but his cover and at the same time a convenient liaison channel with other spies.

Curious.

(Edit: even more interesting in light of this, via Siberian Light. Retaliation?)

Libertarian Shading in the GOP

Nate Silver makes some encouraging observations in light of what we've been advocating here at Letters in Bottles.  (ht/Bryan K)

Right on Target

GAPSA

For TLS readers...a question.

Why does our graduate students' student government organization maintain a reserve fund of over $300,000...when it's only mandated to maintain a reserve of $100,000?

What is it going to do with that surfeit of funds?

Baton Rouge Teachers Lock Themselves in School

...and blog it. 

My friend - a teacher at the school who now goes by "Mr. Adams," it appears - explains:

So here's the rub.  Me and two other teachers have locked ourselves in our school for the week because 95% of our students ABEd during LEAP testing (Attendance, Behavior, Effort).

We're trying to generate some attention for it as a reflection of a school, faculty, and student body we really believe in, particularly when schools are being taken over in Baton Rouge, despite making growth in test scores.  Our kids really impressed us with their urgency and commitment so we had to hold up our end of the deals we made: principal got a blue mohawk, AP wore a dress, three teachers locking themselves in the school.

What does he mean by Baton Rouge schools "being taken over"?  This.

"Harrowing"

An appropriate description of the current legal job market in the eyes of graduating law students.

Van Hollen's memo is straight-shooting common sense

There has been a lot of confusion for some reason over Attorney General Van Hollen's memo asserting the right to open carry in Wisconsin.

I'm not exactly sure what's so difficult here, but it seems that a lot of the liberal blogs in the state are scratching their heads or mocking Van Hollen. I read the memo. I was happy that the AG affirmed our state constitutional right to open carry a firearm if we want.

Van Hollen states quite clearly that this right is not absolute and those who carry are not immune from being asked questions by police. The thrust of the memo is meant to clarify that the mere fact of carrying a firearm does not qualify as disorderly conduct without additional facts. The disorderly conduct statute had been used to effectively eliminate any right to carry and this memo clarifies state law.

It's really pretty straight forward. The memo pretty clearly allows police to question why someone is carrying. Chief Flynn's statements are not in dischord with the AG's. Indeed, the memo reads:
"'even when officers have no basis for suspecting a particular individual, they may generally ask questions of that individual, [and] ask to examine the individual's identification,' as long as the police do not convey a message that compliance is mandatory."
So where's the confusion? We can go to the heart of Chief Flynn's comments - the Milwaukee homicide rate - and the memo still works:
"An officer may stop and briefly detain a person for investigative purposes ... if he has “reasonable suspicion,” based on articulable facts, of criminal activity. ... Even though open carry enjoys constitutional protection, it may still give rise to reasonable suspicion when considered in totality. It is not a shield against police investigation or subsequent prosecution."
It seems the crime rate in Milwaukee would contribute to a "reasonable suspicion." Also, let me be clear that I am not criticizing Chief Flynn, but rather the morons who are trying to create controversy or conflict where none seems to exist.

The liberal reaction is predictable. They go off half-cocked about the examples Van Hollen uses in the memo, but don't address the substance of it. Van Hollen's examples may be the extreme, but anyone who has read Supreme Court opinions or other legal memos and decisions know that extreme, blatant examples of good/bad conduct is normal for legal opinions.

Predictably, Gov. Doyle is calling for local municipalities to pass their own restrictions on open carry. State Rep. Leon Young is planning to introduce legislation to block it statewide. Only problem with both of these positions is that pesky thing called the constitution. It clearly states: The people have the right to keep and bear arms for security, defense, hunting, recreation or any other lawful purpose. If this is to have any meaning at all, Wisconsinites must be able to carry in some form or another. Since concealed carry is banned by statute, open carry is the only legally available option.

Go ahead and read the memo for yourself. It is pretty straightforward that simply carrying a firearm in public does not in and of itself constitute disorderly conduct, but advises police to use common sense when they see someone carrying.

Maybe it's that common sense thing that's getting liberals hung up.

Obama and the Torture Can of Worms

Bold and measured - or irresponsible and damaging?

Prosecuting Bush officials at home - and/or abroad?

Exams approach, and I do not have the time to expound with my thoughts on the topic, unfortunately.

4.21.2009

Tulane Law's Martin Davies Quoted

On piracy law, relative to the Somali pirate trial, in his capacity as head of the Tulane Maritime Law Center:

While piracy has been a federal crime in the United States since 1819, it hasn't been prosecuted here in more than 100 years, said Davies, who runs Tulane Law School's maritime law center. The last prosecution he could find in the law books was mentioned in a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1894.

Quite interesting.

Welcome to the blogoshpere: Catholic and the City

One of my very dear friends has started a new blog called Catholic and the City.

I've known Annie for a few years now and have always valued her opinion and insight. Her views on social issues are decidedly more conservative than those found here at LIB, but she approaches those issues with compassion and a great deal of consideration.

For what it's worth, I think Annie does a far better job defending traditional values than just about anyone I know. I expect her to provide some constructive and thoughtful debate to the "Blogosphere 'o' Cheese."*


*This phrase used by the Troglopundit, Lance Burri to describe WI blogs. I like it, so now I think I'm going to use it.

The day I get a wifi chip implanted in my head...

...this will be the coolest thing ever. God I love the UW sometimes.

(via Metafilter)

(Edited, because my dog published this early. Really.)

Krugman is unimpressed

$100 million here, $100 million there “pretty soon, even here in Washington, it adds up to real money,” says the president.

Except, you know, really it doesn’t. Let’s say the administration finds $100 million in efficiencies every working day for the rest of the Obama administration’s first term. That’s still around $80 billion, or around 2% of one year’s federal spending.

In other words: We're not stupid Mr. President.

Still in a recession and this is what we're passing through the Assembly?

This press release is extremely irritating.

You see, the problem is that AB 31 does nothing to actually guarantee or assure equal pay. State law already effectively guarantees that by allowing the Department of Workforce Development to penalize employers who have been found to discriminate against their employees for virtually any reason. All this bill does is allow an employee to sue for punative damages. Even though DWD is authorized to award reinstatement, back pay up to 2 years prior to the complaint and costs/attorney fees. Not that "groundbreaking" of a bill, really. Yet Rep. Sinicki said:
“This is an historic day for women and all workers... We want finally to be able to tell Wisconsin’s children they have the strongest legal protections possible against workplace discrimination.”
No, we now allow a person to sue for millions of dollars. We don't guarantee squat.

The other bill in the release is AB 172 and mandates that all school districts in the state teach "the history of organized labor in America and the collective bargaining process." Sounds fairly innocent. No big deal right?

Well, let's see the intent of the legislators' who back the bill. From the press release:
Rep. Jorgensen; "“By teaching labor history in our schools, we’re preparing students to go to work knowing that people who came before them toiled, bled and organized to gain the eight-hour day and forty-hour work week we now take for granted."

Sen. Hansen; "Kids in every Wisconsin town need to understand they can create change by organizing and taking action with their peers and co-workers."
As a history major who focused on American and European history I find it absurd that we are now mandating labor history. It is unnecessary as it is impossible to teach American, let alone European history, without including labor history. I think that the statements by the main proponents of the bill show that this is nothing more than a political move that seeks to include the political effects of unions and paint them in only the most flattering view possible and pacify a core constituency.

I doubt very much that this bill stems from any empirical evidence that there is a lack of labor history currently taught in school. Also, and this is the biggest issue I have, the more we pile on mandates of what must be taught in schools the more likely it is that nothing will be taught beyond a basic "this happened on this date, this happened here" approach to history.

Our goal in high school history classes need to be on the importance of historical events and why they happened, not a boring recitation of dates and places. It's very simple, when we mandate subjects - especially for pandering political reasons like this one - we run the risk of nothing being taught in any meaningful way.

Let teachers do their jobs. If their students pass the graduation requirements and standardized tests, who cares what their curriculum is?

4.20.2009

Leaky, Leaky

The Critical Badger makes Above the Law.

Aah, the freedom one has when one is not seeking a legal career...

"Let her go, let her go, God bless her"

When I die, I want you to dress me in straight-laced shoes
Box-back coat and a Stetson hat
Put a twenty-dollar gold piece on my watch chain,
So the boys will know that I died standin' pat.

I liked that, too. It was odd that the singer would abruptly start addressing his own funeral arrangements while looking at his lover's body, but I found it charming somehow. I'm not saying I admire the narrator, who seems overly pleased with himself and dishonest besides. But I do admire something in his matter-of-fact, fearless taunting of the fates. That just seems very New Orleans to me.

Musings on St. James's Infirmary.

Informatick

Mmm, data
This means the average hourly temperature in Madison is 43.8 F with a standard deviation of 22.0 F. So 95% of the year is spent between -0.1 and 87.7 F. This graph also indicates that about 34% of the year is spent below freezing. You can draw your own conclusions. I'll have to find some other cities for comparison.

Panama Canal Expansion Breakfast

This would be very interesting...given this.

4.19.2009

Somewhere in this city...this photo is real






















"I was taking photographs of human beings because they were real life and they were there in front of me and that was the reality. I was the recorder of it. I wasn't trying to exhort the public"

The Problem of Rule by Czars

"I shall be an autocrat, that's my trade; and the good Lord will forgive me, that's his." - Catherine the Great

* * *

I second...Robert Byrd, of all people...in expressing concern about the growing proliferation of czars in the Executive Branch of the American government.

While American czars have the benefit of appointment by a democratically elected Executive, Illya Somin nails it when he notes they are symptomatic of the growth of government beyond the ability of voters to assess the legitimacy of government's actions. More and more power gets exercised by people more and more tenuously connected to the electoral process. That has unfortunate implications for individual liberty.

Plus, as Jib remarks: "When was the last time you remember an American "czar" accomplishing jack?"

"In Istanbul, people smoke as if they’re living in a Godard film."

Still, the addicted find deep cultural significance in their drug of choice. New Yorkers worried that a smoking ban would impede American binge drinking, and Parisians fretted that it would vanquish French café society. Istanbullus fear the ban will destroy vital mainstays of the Turkish community—specifically, the nargile (water-pipe) cafés and the teahouses...


tea house and hookahs, Istanbul

Hundreds of teahouses, suffering from rising utility costs and the myriad effects of the global financial meltdown, have already closed in the past few months. Family-first and feminist types aren’t fond of these men-only sanctuaries, where the retired and unemployed while away their days playing backgammon, talking politics, and smoking cigarettes. But in this enormous, bewildering city, the approximately 15,000 teahouses serve as, among other things, “a university without professors,” according to Ahmet Turan Doğan, the chairman of Istanbul’s Chamber of Public Teahouses and Non-Alcoholic Halls. Surrounded by four portraits of Atatürk and two nargiles, Doğan, who hates smoking, doesn’t believe that the teahouse men will adjust to the new rules. “Of course we know what will happen to the teahouses,” he said ominously.

A final word on the Tea Parties

This is easily the best commentary about the Tea Party movement and what exactly was being protested I have found. The author, Steve Chapman, hits the nail on the head about many of the same things we have mentioned here at LIB.

It's not the taxes we're facing today, it's the taxes that must come later - when the bill for today's bailouts and stimuli comes due.
The amount of money involved in all this would be staggering to anyone not benumbed by the incessant torrent of bad news. But judging from the tea party protests, the numbness is not universal. No matter what the state of the economy, some Americans are still capable of being shocked to see trillions of federal dollars pouring out like water rushing over a broken dam. And like many reputable economists, they suspect most of it will be wasted.

The invocations of the Boston Tea Party -- on April 15, no less -- suggested that the protests stemmed from anger about taxes under Obama. But Obama has not actually increased income taxes -- only the federal tax on tobacco, which the majority of people don't pay. His tax plan calls for cutting income taxes for most Americans, and not raising them on the rest until 2011.

So why did people rally across the country when they should have been planning how to spend their tax refunds? Because their true dismay is about the mushrooming of federal outlays, which the demonstrators regard as a future tax increase in the making. Which, of course, it is.

4.18.2009

Not quite sure what's going on here

And the caption doesn't really help either. Just sneaking some random news photo looking in.

www.lettersinbottles.com

Finally, after years of hemming, hawwing, speculating, and procrastinating, I purchased the domain www.lettersinbottles.com - which now redirects to this address.

Small victories!

Yeah...?

"Which begs the question, what are 1Ls doing this summer? Are 1Ls working? Are they living in tents and basements across the country? Are they eating Ramen and mayonnaise sandwiches?"

Gen Y - Liberal or Libertarian?

Thoughts? 

I'm inclined to think most of my peers, even if they are functionally libertarian, are more likely to define that libertarianism through the lens of modern Obama-infused liberalism than through a separate non-partisan libertarianism or through anything the Republican Party is offering (except for the Ron Paul wing, perhaps, which is still being treated as a gaggle of pariahs - primarily because the party grew so drastically far away from that version of itself).

As McCain campaign manager Steve Schmidt recognized in a recent speech, the rigid gay marriage stance of the GOP is wildly out of touch for purposes of attracting and retaining any workable GOP majority under 30 moving forward.  Even if the GOP is more libertarian on most issues, the gay marriage issue stands as a threshold issue that raises a bar to any additional consideration by many young adults.

Pulse Check: The China Threat

The WSJ asks, in a must-read piece, "China, Friend or Foe?"

According to the Chinese government, the country's defense budget for 2008 was $60 billion, up nearly 18% from a year earlier. The Pentagon believes China's official figures substantially underestimate actual defense spending. It estimates that China spent $105 billion to $150 billion on military-related expenses last year, as its military transforms itself from a low-tech mass army designed to fight a war of attrition against invaders to a more sophisticated, agile force capable of projecting power beyond China's borders.

Thoughts? I remain concerned about China's military threat to American military supremacy for a number of reasons highlighted in the piece. For one, China's increase in strength is not fully transparent, and thus the U.S. should err on the side of caution. Second, China's increase in strength is shifting from one of sheer buildup to one of increasing ability to project power outside of its immediate environs. Third, and most important, China's growth at America's expense does not come interlaced with a worldview/conception of power I find preferable to the American one.

The article does a great job of outlining the Chinese moves towards greater bluewater naval strength - and considers detractors who claim it's largely hype. I don't think it's hype. The stealth wreathing most Chinese military developments should concern us. The nationalism driving militarization should concern us. And, even if China's ability to project military force is currently underdeveloped by its own insistence, its potential development should concern us. China's massive population, economic capacity, public sentiment, and government's ability to act even absent public support are like a giant boulder atop a hill, poised to be rolled down the slope, change into kinetic energy at any point in a massive rearmament process if necessary:

In China, a vocal public constituency is pressing for a more assertive military. Bai Jieming, who runs a shop in the southern boomtown of Shenzhen selling models of Chinese warships, says that replicas of one of the destroyers sent in December to patrol the Gulf of Aden against pirates, the "168," have sold out. He says that Chinese people long for an aircraft carrier. "I'd even donate money to help build it," says Mr. Bai.

I applaud the WSJ for shedding light on the serious implications and warning signs embedded in the Impeccable incident off Hainan Island. As I have been reiterating since 2002, I find the U.S. focus on "terrorism" has been excessive and detrimental in that it has distracts us from focusing on true, long-term threats to our global position. Any nation at the top of the heap that fails to recognize and address the up-and-coming challenger does so at its own risk.

While the massive economic entanglement of the U.S. and China should prevent conflict by most theories, I'm still wary (and the article notes the disconnect between bilateral economic and military relationships). Most theories would have seen China freeing up its political system even as its economic system became more free over several decades. And that theory has not held.

4.17.2009

NOLA memories

Outtakes from a Photo Shoot




















Recently, I just barely* squeezed in a photo shoot with a friend's band, Broken Smokes.

If you're free, they're headlining a gig at Le Chat Noir in the French Quarter on April 30 starting at 10:00 (bar opens at 9).

*Made possible by my friends Ian and Kristen!






















I guess you never know who's going to wander into a photo shoot at a gas station on Earhart Boulevard at night...

Songs that tear your heart out

Over at Althouse, a post about the 50 most heartbreaking songs of all time - #1 is "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" - got me thinking about some of my favorite songs that are meant to tear your heart out. I mostly listen to older music - by which I mean 1950s, 60s, and 70s - especially the Rat Pack and classic country music. I think those eras had some of the best emotional, heartbreak music.

The list that Althouse links to is good; these are four of my favorite (only the first made the list):

Frank Sinatra: "One for My Baby (And One More for the Road)"


Ray Charles: "I Can't Stop Loving You"


Conway Twitty: "The Clown"


Merle Haggard: "A Place to Fall Apart"


I'm not usually the one to post music links here, but I'm interested to know what everyone else thinks of the best "pain" songs.

The Pirate Bay

Goes straight to jail, does not collect $200.

For contributory copyright infringement.

4.16.2009

4.15.2009

Violencia - New Orleans v. Mexico

Ian F, a friend of the blog, sends an interesting email:

So of course I decided to waste the last several hours investigating crime rates instead of sleeping. The map below shows the number of drug-related homicides in each Mexican state over the last two years (2007-2008). When you adjust for population to get actual murder rates, it turns out that you were anywhere from 3.5 to FIFTY-FOUR times more likely to be killed in New Orleans than even the most violent Mexican states (I looked at Chihuahua, Sinaloa, Guerrero, Jalisco, and Mexico City). This is according to FBI violent crime statistics from 2007 and 2008 (which I also looked up).

Stats link.

Usually, I'd be happy to hear that Mexican homicide rates are lower...just not lower than New Orleans homicide numbers.

Thoughts?

"Or the tea-party movement may lead to a new third party that may replace the GOP, just as the GOP replaced the fractured and hapless Whigs."

The wisdom of the first Republican

I just got a package in the mail from my fiance, and inside were several copies of National Review. The issue dated February 23 had a cover story on "The Conservative Lincoln." I think it's a wonderful article on a part of Lincoln's ideology that is often - in my opinion, too often - overlooked.

I have long been a great admirer of Lincoln - as are many, if not most, young students of history and politics. My admiration comes mostly from the steadfastness of his beliefs. Lincoln was a man who may worried about the outcome of his decisions, but in the end he always acted. He was unfaultering in his commitment to the Union and the Constitution. Despite his infamous suspension of habeus corpus and other war powers, it is obvious from his writings that he did these things only as last resorts and only to preserve the country he loved.

The thrust of the article in National Review was about Lincoln's broad views on economics and personal freedom. The author, Allen C. Guelzo, quotes Lincoln heavily throughout the article and essentially let's the President "speak" for himself. On the basic role of government, Lincoln once said: "I don't believe in a law to prevent a man from getting rich; it would do more harm than good." And later on how economic freedom should work; "The prudent, penniless beginner in the world labors for wages awhile, saves a surplus with which to buy tools or land for himself; then labors on his own account another while, and at length hires another new beginner to help him."

Lincoln's view of equality was one of equality of opportunity - not of outcome. That each man must have the opportunity to make of his life what he will, and no man can deprive another of that right. In a speech to the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society in 1859, Lincoln said: "Some of you will be successful, others will be disappointed... [and those that are disappointed, take heart] in the maxim, 'Better luck next time;' and then, by renewed exertion, make that better luck for themselves." He was a man who believed in hard work, not handouts.

Lincoln's views are not dissimilar from other famous Republican leaders like Teddy Roosevelt (a man who has been much maligned lately, but that is the subject for another post). He had great faith in man's ability to do great things through hard work and perseverance, but that sometimes it was necessary to make sure that some people were not exploiting the labor others. It is partly why he hated slavery.

I also think that Lincoln's words can have great meaning for the Republican Party of today. We like to hold up Reagan as the paragon of conservative virtue - some have even replaced "Lincoln Day" dinners with "Reagan Day" dinners (something which drives me crazy, by the way), but I think Lincoln's belief in personal Liberty and vastly limited government still speaks to a great many Americans.

In a speech in Ohio in 1859, Lincoln had this to say about the new Republican Party. The "chief purpose of the Republican Party is eminently conservative. [It] proposes nothing save and except to restore this government to its original tone ... and there to maintain it, looking for no further change ... than that which the original framers of the government themselves expected and looked forward to..."

150 years ago Lincoln was telling his Party where to go and where to lead. I think we need to listen again.

Will you be taking Earl Grey?

Or would prefer something stronger...at the Tea Party?

4.14.2009

"The pirates could only lament their littleness befor the vast number of dolphins."

Good luck apparently visits Chinese vessels in the Gulf of Aden.

the Hall

Brass and The Illusion of Topography

Meghan McCain on Gays in the GOP

Her prescient take, in a nutshell:

So why are gay issues so important to me? At the most basic level, sexual orientation should not be a factor in how you are treated. If the Republican Party has any hope of gaining substantial support from a wider, younger base, we need to get past our anti-gay rhetoric.


4.13.2009

TLS SBA Candidate Response - Julia F

1. How will you raise or otherwise improve the profile of TLS as SBA President?

SBA needs to roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty. We need to get out into the community as an organization and not only do more community service but do better community service. This year the 1L class and SBA helped with the Mayor's Halloween party and SBA helped with the Mayor's Easter Egg hunt. These are two community service events that give parents in New Orleans that may not be able to afford an Easter egg hunt and a Halloween party a place to bring their kids. I have spoken to the gentlemen in charge of coordinating these events about SBA not only proving volunteers but helping with the planning. These two events get city wide publicity and it would be a great way for SBA to do some real good and improve our reputation. I wanna give these kids a haunted house and Easter egg painting. I want these events to be something that these kids will remember and since it is conjunction with the Mayor's office it is ensured that these events can become a tradition and something that Tulane can help with for many years down the road.

Also, it is important that we improve our profile to our alums. SBA needs to have some sort of newsletter or better yet get DICTA into print to be able to send to alums and incoming students so that they know about all the good things that SBA does, the social events as well as the service events. I have spoken to the editor-in-chief of DICTA and she is excited and willing to do all of the hard work to put DICTA in print and I want to help her. Also, a really great way opportunity that New Orleans offers is great local music acts, by supporting these bands and groups they will support us. The way to improve the TLS profile is to do things that are noteworthy because they are good and positive and because we are working hard to improve our community.

2. What is your take on the current state of the SBA's relationship with the administration? Is there a need for improvement? If not, what do you think is the one thing students don't realize about SBA/admin. interaction? If so, what concrete steps will you take to improve student representation to the administration?

As a member of SBA executive Board I have sat in countless meetings with members of the administration. SBA Exec. has weekly meetings with Dean Netherton and when they are issues we have meetings with Dean Griffin and in some instances Dean Ponoroff. I think that a large problem with the communication between the administration and SBA is what is discussed. Social events and issues are discussed of course but there also needs to be discussion from the administration to the SBA about things occuring in the school that concern the students. SBA needs to be able to ask the questions that the students want to know and that requires SBA finding out what those questions are. SBA needs to provide venues in which students can voice concerns so that we can have meaningful conversations with the administration. The problem right now is not that there is no communication, the problem is that we are not discussing the things that students are concerned about like Dean's Search, hurricane evacuations, incoming professors, etc. SBA needs to go to the administration with clear questions and clear proposals on issues that the students are concerned with. We need to formulate one clear voice in which the student body can speak to the administration. We do this by having meaningful discussions amongst ourselves and having people that want to listen to everyone.

3. Would you support an amendment to the SBA Constitution requiring a vote of the student body to ratify amendments to the SBA Constitution? If so, would you support a built in requirement that such plebiscites require participation by at least 30% of the student body to be valid?

SBA should always be accountable to the students. There is a certain point where there can be too much beurocracy and there are situations where SBA must act as an organization and sometimes things are time sensitive and a student wide vote would be difficult. This problem is remedied by having student representation that is accountable to the students and student representation that listens to their fellow students. I want to help foster that communication and that trust. To answer the question directly, I would support such an amendment. I do think that there would have to be a minimum percentage of the student body that would have to vote. The changes to the constitution were major and created new positions to be filled. A vote would have made people more aware that these positions were available and would have clarified what each position does. It is always better to have more input.

4. What specific lessons did you learn from the SBA's experiences in the past year? How will you incorporate those lessons into your position of leadership?

SBA Vice President was a rather difficult job at times but I learned a great deal while doing this job. We had events that went great and were huge successes and we had events that had major problems. I learned about how the locker system worked and the many problems with that system. I have learned about the budgeting system and the way that budgets are decided and the many problems with that system. I have also learned about the frustrations of trying to disseminate information to the students and feeling like there were few avenues to give out information. There are a lot of problems, from small organizational things to large things that affect he entire student body. I have felt the effects of these problems on all sides and I have come up with some solid ways to fix them.

(A) A leadership summit at the beginning of the year with all student organization presidents and all of SBA. This would not just be a budget meeting but it would be a goal setting day. We would provide food and there would be breakout sessions about new ideas for programming and communication. Also, this would help foster co-programming among organizations.

(B) Going to student organization meetings. Clearly there is no way to go to all of all of the student organization meetings, but I think that it would be important to attend one meeting a semester or a month to answer questions that the student orgs have and listen to their concerns.

(C) There has to be more than just one person in charge of lockers. The new constitution delegates this job to a committee but over the summer the lockers need to be completely cleaned out, the combinations changed, and the broken ones fixed. This may seem like a small detail but it is important that we update the things that allow students to study learn.

(D) We need to think of different types of events. We need more heads in the room and more ideas so that we can have events that target all students. We need to have events that foster interactions between students and faculty. I am not talking about getting rid of all of the events that we currently have but we need to be smarter about these events. We need more student input about what they want for events. We need events for students with families and older students and LLMs.

(E) We need to help students be prepared for the difficult economy that we are entering into. We need to have programming for students about alternative career options and areas of the law where careers are available. We need to discuss stress management and help students network with attorneys in different areas of the law and from different size firms.

I could go on and on but these are the things that first come to my mind when asked the above-asked question. I hope to get a chance to discuss the rest of my ideas as the election continues.

5. Briefly, lest we get ahead of ourselves, why should we care about SBA? What does it do for us? What's at stake?

SBA controls the entire budget for all of the student organizations and events in the law school. SBA also does a significant amount of programming for the entire law school community. This is why you should care. Also, there comes a point where we, as citizens, have to stand up and say that we care. We as members of the Tulane community should stand and voice our concerns as a community and our concerns with the community. Lawyers are the keepers of society, so why wait until graduation to stand up for things that we believe in.

6. What else would you like to tell us...in 50 words? And don't repeat anything from your candidate statement.

This is important to me. This is important to me because Tulane is the number one employer in the a city that I love. This is important to me because Tulane is the best school and the best law school in the a State that is home to an extraordinary culture. We owe more to the communities that we are apart of.

(Sorry that was 62 words not 50)

7. Did you take the shoe?

I was in charge of the event in which the shoe was taken. I planned where the police officers would patrol and I spent the first hour of that event calling TUPD and the NOPD to make sure that we had enough officers there. The shoe theft, while funny, shows that there is a climate problem at Tulane law school regarding respect for property. This situation included one or two students and is not indicative of the typical Tulane law student. There have been other similar situations and that is why we need to give our students more. I did not take the shoe, but I did not totally grasp the risks of planning an event at such a venue and I will take responsibility for that.