9.30.2009

Princella

The interesting story of Representative Joseph Cao's Communications Director.

The house that government built

Paul Ryan is worried about the ballooning government sector:
Nearly seven months after the President signed his $787-billion economic “stimulus” bill, the U.S. economy continues to shed jobs, and unemployment continues to rise. But at least one sector has managed to grow: the government itself. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has funded about 3,000 government jobs across 14 major agencies, and the Federal workforce overall has expanded by more than 25,000. Several agencies – including the Health Resources and Services Administration, the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, the Government Accountability Office, and the Department of Transportation – have made hires just to oversee “stimulus” spending.

In the 1990s, a Republican Congress achieved significant reductions in the Federal civilian workforce, most of them from the defense drawdown following the end of the Cold War. But in recent years, the Democratic Congress has reversed the trend. Since 2006, Federal employment has grown by more than 15 percent – 20.5 percent in non-defense agencies. The pattern is one clear expression of the overall expanse of government that has occurred in the past 3 years and sharply accelerated this year. Please see the attached document for details.

The truly amazing thing is that for all the new people who are supposed to be overseeing the stimulus spending, nobody has any real idea of what the banks are doing with the money that was given to -- or, in some cases, forced on, them. For all the purported responsibility of the project, and the public lashings of irresponsible private-sector leaders, the government has done an at best equally poor job.

"I hardly ever consult with anyone and they very rarely consult with me,"

- Wisconsin State Assemblyman Marlin Schneider

Schneider's quote comes from a piece about his proposed legislation to exempt buildings housing Wisconsin newspapers from property taxes, as well as exempting all personal property used directly and exclusively to produce a newspaper.

I'm generally concerned about losing newspapers given the role they play in serving as public forums and meaningful government watchdogs at all levels.  Yet I'm not quite sure how I feel about Schneider's bill.  Lifting the burden of property taxes could be characterized as an indirect "bailout" of newspapers, as some have suggested about possible federal bills drafted along similar lines.  A newspaper's independence - or, also critical to a paper, appearance of independence - might be affected.  And what's more, Schneider's bill, unlike the federal proposals, does not require newspapers to become not-for-profit entities to take advantage of the tax break.

In many ways, it brings to mind the occasionally contentious situation at UW-Madison between the Badger Herald, which loves to stress its full-fledged independence as a student publication, and The Daily Cardinal, which occupies a University building (even though there is an ancient agreement that some say undercuts the dependence argument).  Outside the campus boundaries, though, I think there is a true risk that a publication might take a more lenient approach to covering state government if it knows its life-saving property tax exemption is potentially at stake. 

The root of the problem for Wisconsin papers, as with papers elsewhere, is clearly the decline in classified advertising revenues.  One question that must be answered before supporting or opposing the Schneider newspaper bill is this: presuming newspapers provide an irreplaceable, essential public service, is the decline in classifed revenues an irreverisble, systemic problem that the government must intervene to offset - or must publications alone bear the burden, a harsh one perhaps, of finding creative new revenue solutions in the internet era?

Beyond that, even if you ultimately think the former applies, the real property exemption aspect of the bill could be opposed as yet another unfunded mandate.  The impact would likely be rather insignificant in most regards, but the state would seemingly be mandating a reduction in property tax revenues for local municipalities that local municipalities and local voters did not necessarily want.  Tailoring the bill to permit individual municipalities to grant property tax exemptions to those owning buildings that house newspaper operations might be a more attractive way to proceed, although, admittedly, it would lack uniformity and it raises some of the same issues of the appearance of an independent press.

The Scope of the Second Amendment Right

 
The case centers on the issue of whether the Second Amendment right to bear arms found to apply against the federal government in Heller applies against state and local governments as well.

Save the Anthropology Building
























A lovely future parking lot, no?  Here's where the building is located.

Please jot a short note to FEMA in the agency's online public comment section for the building to let them know you're opposed to demolishing what could and should be a great, character-filled, renovated space for student use.  One of my roommates, who attended Tulane for undergrad, reminisced yesterday about having class in the building pre-Katrina.

From what I hear, the various umbrella student government organizations at Tulane are now aware of the situation.

I see...

a mansard roof through the trees.

9.29.2009

"Mind if I take a picture? I like the design of your steps."



"Yeah, they come up with some weird stuff down here."

I Oppose Tulane's Proposed Demolition

The University has proposed demolishing the old Anthropology Building (pictured) located on 1021 Audubon Street between Howard Tilton Library and The Boot.

I see no reason why the university would demolish the interesting stucco structure, which adds much needed architectural diversity to the block and the university's built environment generally, even if it was damaged by Katrina.  The lot is small, random, and I don't see what better purpose the university would use the site for if it razed the present building - I think repair of the structure is feasible, contrary to what is claimed.  The proper course would seem to be rehabilitating the building for use as classroom, support, or administrative space.  But here's what Tulane has to say at this point:

Tulane has not determined if it will replace the Anthropology Building with a new building or if it will construct a surface parking lot on the site. Either of the proposals for the redevelopment of the site may affect the Uptown National Register Historic District. FEMA is seeking input from members of the public on ways to avoid, minimize, or mitigate the Adverse Effect.

A parking lot?!  If it's parking that the university wants, then perhaps it should have refrained from eliminating a massive amount of parking by taking out McAlister Drive.  And as far as replacing the pre-1935 building, I think a look across the street is instructive - we'll probably end up with a blase, indistinct property that certainly won't be worth saving at any point down the road.  The Anthropology Building contributes to a better original sense of place - it says New Orleans, it says character, not pre-fab.

October 10 is the final day to give public written comment to FEMA on this site.  I've already left my comment.  Please feel free to leave your own.

"Paul Krugman has no interesting ideas whatsoever"

It's a bit after the fact now, but I think it still deserves discussion here on LiB -- professor of economics John Cochrane takes Paul Krugman apart :
Imagine this weren’t economics for a moment. Imagine this were a respected scientist turned popular writer, who says, most basically, that everything everyone has done in his field since the mid 1960s is a complete waste of time. Everything that fills its academic journals, is taught in its PhD programs, presented at its conferences, summarized in its graduate textbooks, and rewarded with the accolades a profession can bestow, including multiple Nobel prizes, is totally wrong. Instead, he calls for a return to the eternal verities of a rather convoluted book written in the 1930s, as taught to our author in his undergraduate introductory courses. If a scientist, he might be a global-warming skeptic, an AIDS-HIV disbeliever, a creationist, a stalwart that maybe continents don’t move after all.

It gets worse. Krugman hints at dark conspiracies, claiming “dissenters are marginalized.” Most of the article is just a calumnious personal attack on an ever-growing enemies list, which now includes “new Keyenesians” such as Olivier Blanchard and Greg Mankiw. Rather than source professional writing, he plays gotcha with out-of-context second-hand quotes from media interviews. He makes stuff up, boldly putting words in people’s mouths that run contrary to their written opinions. Even this isn’t enough: he adds cartoons to try to make his “enemies” look silly, and puts them in false and embarrassing situations. He accuses us of adopting ideas for pay, selling out for “sabbaticals at the Hoover institution” and fat “Wall street paychecks.” It sounds a bit paranoid.

The beauty is the way he backs it up. It seems Krugman really has given up economics.

Off the Island

Recently, as you may have noted, we conducted a series of tryouts.

We sought to find a new voice for the blog to continue our connection and coverage on "The Island of Madison" where the blog began.  We sought that connection seeing as we're now otherwise posting generally from Wisconsin's Fox Valley, New Orleans, Louisiana,  Fort Knox, Kentucky, and the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana.

Unfortunately, we didn't find that voice.

Still, we found the exercise helpful - even if a bit chaotic - because it demonstrated a number of things to us.  One, we have, rather organically, developed baseline standards.   Posts, regardless of their underlying opinion or purpose, should be reasonably well-crafted, should be free from glaring spelling and grammatical errors, and should consist of something other than mere hollow antagonism.

Two, we have a reasonable, erudite readership that, even if it waits in the wings by and large, expects that those standards will be upheld.  And it swoops in actively to assist in the upholding via the comments when it feels the need.  It's a very healthy thing.

Three, we've built something here, raised something up out of the muck, so to speak, that is worth preserving and continuing.  While it's important to seek new energy and avoid fearing a bit of instability now and then, an ultimate call must be made as to whether or not a prospective change will benefit the existing arrangement.

We are not shutting the door, by any means, to further experiments down the road, but as to this particular personnel chapter, we've made our decision.

SCOTUS

A preview of the new season. 

9.28.2009

A house divided against itself...



...can be repaired.

In Tbilisi, Aug 2008

A New Blogging Side Venture

My friend Curtis and I just launched a new blog called "Inside the Footprint" dedicated to chronicling the area of Lower Mid-City New Orleans that would be razed to make way for the proposed LSU/VA Hospital.  We want to humanize and focus in on just precisely what stands to be lost if the plan goes through.

I oppose the plan on a number of grounds: 1) revulsion at the prospect of the mass use of eminent domain on primarily low income families and individuals (it's a rather Kelo-like situation where the end project is an economic development, even if it is a hospital complex); 2) sadness at the loss of numerous historical, cultural, and architecturally significant structures, and 3) belief that better use options exist in the form of structures like Charity Hospital.

I realize we're rather late to the party, in some ways.  Many individuals and organizations have made vigorous efforts, although not in the precise way we plan to proceed.  But with this project, it's better late than never if the end result is a halt to the razing of a neighborhood that, while admittedly in poor shape in many ways, still has a lot of unique potential.

Stop by - we'll have new content on a daily basis.

Brass


Outwindows

Riding in today I noticed some trees have a touch of a fall facade.

9.27.2009

Noted today

+The conservative movement lost an important voice.

+Roman Polanski may finally be returning to the US

+A joint Nazi/ Soviet military parade in Brest.

+Thinking about the Central Asian cotton crop.

+What's Turkey's role in US missile defense?

+The Rightroots?

Quote

"I expect to pass the forts and restore New Orleans to the government, or never return.  I may not come back, but the city will be ours."

Said by whom?

Thomas Friedman Rides Again

I don't know that I've ever discussed a Thomas Friedman column here.

I've always found the man's columns, like his latest, to be rather oversimplified, vaguely sensationalist and self-serving.  All the puzzle pieces just happen to fit together in a convenient historical tableau that ought to leave you, reader, believing everything will and should transpire just as he's laid out.  Sputnik caused the internet and the internet is good.  Therefore, China's going green is the new Sputnik and we should adopt green energy policies because it will cause the next big, good thing.

For one, is the factual basis of Friedman's crystal clear Sputnik II premise even accurate?  Is China really even going green?  Or is the latest move by the Chinese leadership, the UN speech by President Hu Jintao,  largely posturing with a few concrete specifics and lots of wiggle room?

Also, Friedman fails to note that of course it's easier for China to go green suddenly than it is for the U.S.   China's political system permits rapid, systemic changes in policy with little room for dissent.

The more column-worthy observation one could draw from the Chinese energy consumption projections is this: even if China democratizes, even if it adopts a parallel system of green energy development, its sheer demand for raw materials and energy resources remains a destabilizing prospect on the horizon.  And, moreover, one has to ask whether democratization or increased governmental responsiveness will actually exacerbate the trend.  With more political freedom, would China's burgeoning, aspiring middle classes demand even more economic development toward a greater overall standard of living?  Or would newly engaged masses account for negative externalities of white hot economic growth in government policies?

The Grass is Always Greener


On this side of the levee.

9.26.2009

The Return of Latrina's Lounge

















Every day this week brought something new on Freret.  Some time back, I noticed that the broken brick archway on the side of Latrina's Lounge - a squat, somewhat sketchy looking structure that looks like it lost its upper story during Katrina - had been repaired.  A random mason looking for practice?  That was my thought.

But earlier this week, I saw that someone was painting/priming the exterior walls.  Then, on Wednesday, I talked to the painters.





















Brad V: *Gives thumbs up* "So, is it going to be called Latrina's Lounge again when you re-open?"
Guy painting the wall: "Yes, I do believe so. First we're doing the outside, then the roof, and then we'll do the inside."

"We've had to add a fourth shift and go 24/7"

The AP, reporting from the greater New Orleans area, notes the continuing ammunition shortage in the U.S., ostensibly due to hoarding.

At some point, does this phenomenon cease to be an irrational reaction and begin to serve as a sort of political futures market on the likelihood that the Obama administration will ban certain ammunition or guns?  As with any good political futures market, individuals are actually staking their own personal wealth on their predictions.

Afghan futures

The New Yorker is looking at possible outcomes in Afghanistan, and mostly doesn't like what it sees:
It is questionable whether the United States can succeed with a counterinsurgency campaign against the Taliban, no matter how many more troops are sent; the experts on Afghanistan that I know are divided on that issue. It seems unarguable, however, that such a campaign will be excruciatingly difficult if international forces are expected to simultaneously repress the Taliban and sort out a central government that is at prolonged and perhaps violent war with itself. A loyal opposition to Karzai questioning the election’s legitimacy would be one thing, and bad enough; a dysfunctional split or open revolt would be another.

From what I understand, the coalition military effort and the civilian capacity-building effort have been terribly disjointed, with the civilian effort terribly under-staffed and poorly executed -- Registan has been all over the issue, though you may want to start here. Some of it is the usual aid and development issues - focusing on large infrastructure projects rather than smaller, more responsive and sustainable projects. That in turn has to do with military objectives -- building Western-quality highways is seen as a way to reduce the danger of IEDs, even if the money could be better spent on dozens of community-based projects that bring a greater degree of sustainability, as well as credibility.

Part of it is also a simple, and appalling, dearth of people qualified for the myriad training jobs that are needed there. Whether through the State Department or some other group, it is really inexcusable to not have a base of specialists who can train Afghan civilians to become self-sufficient. That basic training is the bedrock, really, of success in that country -- the military effort is there as a guarantee of the civilian component.

The extra fissure of a government that will not be seen as legitimate makes the situation that much more delicate.

9.25.2009

Friday music video

It's a Wisconsin band, Bon Iver:



Know of any other good Wisconsin or Illinois bands? Louisiana too, given the scope of the blog.

9.24.2009

East Side Story





Campus Media Still Stuck on Sara M. and Any Way to Debase the College Republicans

Thanks Jack Craver. Since the Department of Homeland Security warned us of right wing extremism a few months ago, I have never been so insulted as a republican.

I would love to have a pro-life rally or a rousing speech on Islamo-Fascism. Believe me; nothing would warm my right wing extremist heart more, but the goal of the college republicans is to reach out to as many conservative students as we can. Our focus this year on financial issues is a matter of PR as well as the predominant interest of our group in light of the big spending occurring in Wisconsin as well as on the national level. We are in a financial crisis, and fiscal conservatism may just be the way out. It worked for Reagan, so why criticize the CRs for focusing on issues that are proven rallying points for all conservatives from the most moderate of republican party to the most libertarian among us. We still support the party platform, and we always will, but thanks for insulting us with your comparison between moderate republicans and conservative extremists. I especially love the McCarthy attack. Since you are a history major, I hate to have to tell you this, but the only reason McCarthy was ever elected to congress is because the democrats sabotaged the republican open primary to get back at Robert LaFollette Jr. and other progressives in the republican party for not joining the democrats.

Nice try, but this article only proves that you and other liberals in the campus media feel like you can't slander the CRs any more because we are growing, we are legitimate, and we are poised for success, so you resort to the past and debasing Sara Mikolajczak .

Women's Health Day Nothing More Than A Celebration of Genocide and A Distraction from Real County Issues.

Wednesday, County Executive Kathleen Falk, Mayor Dave Cieslewicz, and pro-choice groups such as Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin, Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health, and the Wisconsin Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice gathered downtown to celebrate how they live in a place where healthcare extends to such procedures has pulling a half developed baby out of their pelvis and bashing its skull in.

Let me be clear. I support abortion in instances of rape, incest, and medical necessity, but abortion is a risky procedure, and it also sacrifices the life of an innocent child because too many people aren't proactive enough to prevent unwanted pregnancies in the first place.

Among the misguided Madison liberals out celebrating the genocide, I mean reproductive care, that women have access to was Representative Terese Berceau, D-Madison.

Berceau said, “I’ve seen them insert the politics of ideology into our doctor’s offices, into our families and into our bedrooms. Consistently and fervently, my like-minded colleagues and the people standing here have helped me and others stop these anti-women policies from becoming law.”

Of course, pro-choice individuals are never forcing their views on others and "inset[ing] the politics of ideology into our doctor's offices." When tax payers have to fund partial birth abortions because their state university unanimously approves of such procedures being performed in facilities they own by doctors they employ, that isn't the politics of ideology being inserted into our doctor's offices.

When County Executive Falk promises to fight for funding for Planned Parenthood and similar organizations when budget deficits are mounting, that isn't "insert[ing] the politics of ideology into our doctors’ offices, our families, and our bedrooms." Even if it is right for government to support abortion rights, when is it ever justified for government to give money to abortion pushers?

Representative Berceau may think that limiting or eliminating access to abortions is "anti-woman policy," but I was under the impression that women were women for the fact that they can bear children. Now don't get me wrong. I support first wave feminism. Women should have access to equal employment and education opportunities. I support the use of contraception and a woman's right t0 choose when she marries and choose when she has kids, but the abortion pushers would have one believe that femininity comes from the denial of what makes women: their ability to be mothers. Women are the progenitors of the human race. They are the nurturers. They are the mothers, and I don't want to live in a world where genocide in the name of second wave feminism and the euphemism of abortion defeminizes women, demeans them for pursuing families, and inevitably creates an inverted society with too many old people expecting entitlement pay outs and declining birth rates making it impossible to support retirees that characterizes EU countries and Japan among other nations.

No, I want to live in a world where women truly have opportunities to be part of a society that values women both in and outside of the home as fully contributing citizens and innately female creatures. To quote Louis Armstrong, I want to live in a world "where I hear babies cry; I watch them grow....And I think to myself, what a wonderful world."

As the Herald paraphrases Matt Sande, legislative director for Pro-Life Wisconsin, "a Women's Health Day should focus on ailments affecting women such as osteoporosis, breast cancer and other diseases."

Somehow since the passage of Roe vs. Wade, factions of American society have led us to believe it is okay to stop a beating heart in the name of health care. That it’s okay to destroy beings with finger prints before proud parents ever have a chance to see those ten fingers stamped on a piece of cardstock simply because fetuses are part of the mother rather than an independent being.

Some may not realize that abortion is a genocide. Some may never view abortion as murder. Some will argue that abortion is protected under the fourth amendment to the constitution. Fine for them. There is no real legal definition of life. The lines are murky. You have a right to be pro-choice, but don't propose funding for controversial pro-choice groups when budget deficits are mounting. Social conservatives, it goes both ways. We have every right to fight to outlaw abortion once and for all, but in the mean time, we shouldn't be giving money to pro-life organizations out of government coffers.

Politicians need to learn the sin in stopping a beating heart, but in the mean time, Madison liberal politicians need to get off their pro-choice soap box and fix the budget deficit, the traffic conundrum, the 911 center, and the other various issues that need to be addressed. Has Falk learned nothing from Nancy Mistele? When the margins were close, did Falk fail to get the memo? Dane County is sick of Falk spending money on left wing projects like buying land for the purpose of stopping developers from purchasing the land to develop it themselves, and now she wants to spend money on Planned Parenthood? Stop appeasing the far left and making social policy stances in preparation for the next time you run for higher office while we are still paying your salary. Focus on real county issues, and when you act in a ceremonial role, don’t support derisive issues like abortion and think you are a great representative of all Dane County.

The article can be found at:

http://badgerherald.com/news/2009/09/24/womens_health_day_ce.php


Censorship Rears Its Ugly Head at Student Ran Newspapers

UW-Stevens Point and UW-Oshkosh refuse to print a twelve page insert created by the Human Life Alliance. (http://badgerherald.com/news/2009/09/24/uw_schools_deny_ads.php)

If they would have said that the insert is just too long for a student newspaper, that would be a fair reason not to publish the insert.

Avoiding controversy and denying the fact that pregnancy resources and information on the grotesqueness of abortion proceedures amount to a service needing to be advertised leads one to the conclusion that these nonpartisan papers are failing to be fair and balanced as they appease to the liberal majority on their campuses.

Kind won't run. Terrence Wall might?

There are two stories today that have huge consequences for 2010. First and most important are the reports that Ron Kind will not run for governor.

Personally, I'm kind of surprised by this decision. It amazes me that he chose to sit it out because I personally believe that he stood the best chance of any Democrat in the general election. Of course, I'm also happy about it because I think it gives Walker or Neumann a much, much better chance in the general against the now presumptive front-runner, Barbara Lawton.

My guess is that Kind faced a lot of pressure from Washington to stay in the House and keep a fairly solid seat for the Democrats. Also, I suspect that he realizes that his votes on TARP, the stimulus, cap and trade, health care and other pieces of legislation would be huge liabilities against either Walker or Neumann. Even so, I would have thought that he'd give it a run.

The other news is this story from the Cap Times that Madison area businessman Terrence Wall may challenge Russ Feingold. If he does, this will be a fun race to watch. Wall is a very successful businessman and knows what it takes to create jobs. If the economy is still an issue - which I'm betting it will be - Wall can easily go toe to toe with Feingold in debates. Feingold's strength has always been judicial issues and foreign policy. No one has ever really challenged him on economics and pocket-book issues. Wall can and should.

While certainly an uphill battle, should Wall choose to run I believe he can provide a very effective and tough challenge. I'm hoping he gets in and 2010 will be one heck of a fun election year in Wisconsin.

There is only one choice in Afghanistan

That choice is to win at all costs. I understand perfectly well the dangers and problems of our prolonged involvement in Afghanistan and the historical difficulties in governing the region. I know that anything that increases our troop levels will inevitably result in more troops in harm's way and more casualties.

Even so, I trust the judgment of Gen. McChrystal and Gen. Petraeus.

The goal in Afghanistan must be a stable, legitimate government. While we would all prefer a democracy, we must be willing to accept a government that is fair and respectful of human rights even if it is less than our view of democracy. This will not be easy and it will not be quick, but we have no other choice.

There are those who would argue that our goal should only be destroying Al Qaeda. They argue that Afghanistan is ungovernable and that we should focus our efforts on the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks and leave Afghanistan to whatever future it's people choose. Such a view is naive and ignorant of recent history.

Our failure in Afghanistan - whether it be from surrender by withdrawal, or abandonment of our fight with the Taliban - will destroy our nation's reputation in the region. Al Qaeda and the Taliban will both claim victory and the Afghan people will view us as abandoning them. Should we ignore Gen. McChrystal's recommendation Afghans will rightly assume that we are not serious about defeating the Taliban. At that point, what incentive do they have to trust us? What reason can we give them to risk their lives by siding with us and the Afghan government, instead of the thugs and terrorists?

If we leave Afghanistan, and by this I mean draw down, or shift to an Al Qaeda-only strategy, the Taliban will eventually regain control of Afghanistan. It will once again become a safe-harbor for Islamic extremists who will undoubtedly launch attacks against America and the West. The extremists will be emboldened by a victory against the Great Satan and will not sit idle.

President Obama has thus far been very good on defense and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He placed his faith in Secretary Gates and Gens. Petraeus and McChrystal. I hope the President shows true leadership and shows the world that America will not concede to extremists or terrorists.

We can win. We must win. There is no other option.

Liberty, Libertarianism, Fiscal Conservatism, and Conservative Revolutions-Past and Present

Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) have been taking the UW Campus by storm. People are intrigued by them. Many campus liberals think they're a joke. Conservatives are confused on where they came from, and where they really stand on the political spectrum while at the same time wonder if their fresh message of strict adherence to the constitution and small government should warrant them to join?

Being a little more partisan than center-right and having certain libertarian leanings on issues like gay marriage and freedom of speech, I almost joined Young Americans for Liberty, and then I figured out that YAL is linked to Ron Paul, and in fact, YAL is the continuation of Students for Ron Paul.

After quickly closing the YAL site repulsed by the fact that YAL is the brainchild of a man who doesn't support the War in Afghanistan despite the 9/11 attacks, and if he had his way would make sure that people like me could never get a college education because he doesn't support federal student aid programs, I meditated on how nice it would be if government stayed within its constitutional boundaries as Ron Paul envisions.

When the wealthy OB-GYN started spouting off about how his daughters never took federal student loans, I knew that he took libertarianism to irresponsible and incompassionate levels, and yet I belong to a party that thinks Mitt Romney should be the next president of the United States if you follow various straw polls, and that doesn't sit right with me either. Romney may know how to pass business friendly policy, but he also knows how to almost bankrupt a state with socialized medicine. A little too center right for my taste. A little too reminiscent of George W. Bush big government republican politics for my comfort.

Most young republicans feel no proclivity towards Mitt Romney from what I have discerned. What has really motivated young republicans over the last eight months since Obama's election if it is not the next round of moderate republicans being vetted by the RNC? How do Ron Paul supporters, libertarian leaning republicans, and the republican party at large deviate as well as intersect? How does social conservatism, libertarianism, small government republican politics, and Ronald Reagan's legacy mesh into the zeitgeist that will drive American youth as we swell up in what many including myself envision will be a conservative revolution similar to 1980 and 1994?

I have grappled with these issues, but thankfully, Eric Schmidt, the Badger Herald editorial page editor, offers valuable insight on the matter. Not only does he open my eyes, but he presents one of the best editorials I have ever read.

Read this column:

http://badgerherald.com/oped/2009/09/23/realignment_coming_w.php

It is worth the time regardless of your political persuasion.

9.23.2009

Calls Have Been Made for a More Geographically Diverse Board of Regents

On Tuesday, the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Higher Education proposed a bill to mandate that there be one regent from each of seven designated geographic regions in the state (http://badgerherald.com/news/2009/09/23/state_may_require_re.php)

According to the Herald, currently, 10 of 14 regents are from the Madison and Milwaukee area, and of the four regents from other regions of the state, two are student regents.

Actually, there are 18 regents of whom 12 are either from the Madison or Milwaukee area. True two of the regents from outside of the greater Madison and Milwaukee areas are student regents, but that still leaves four regents from outside of the Madison and Milwaukee areas who serve full seven year terms rather than two. (http://www.uwsa.edu/bor/bios/)

Obviously, the Board of Regents is skewed towards overrepresentation of Madison and Milwaukee, but the the board is not as unbalanced as the Herald would have one believe. For instance, one of the Madison based regents is Tony Evers the Wisconsin Superintendent of Public Instruction who obviously has an office and residency in Madison, for he is a full time constitutional officer in the executive branch.

Taking the state superintendent out of the picture for the moment, of the seventeen remaining members eleven are from either the Madison or Milwaukee area, and the remaining six hail from as far north as Wausau and Green Bay, from places as obscure as Neenah, and from La Crosse in southwest Wisconsin to round out the board geographically.

The Herald obviously botched the numbers and may have underestimated the geographic diversity of the board, yet there clearly are a disproportionate number of regents from the Madison and Milwaukee areas. The question is if the disproportionate representation is an issue or not since UW-Madison, and UW Milwaukee are the two largest schools in the UW system.

UW-Madison and UW-Milwaukee had a combined enrollment of 70,901 students during the 2007-2008 school year. That means that of the 173,393 total number students enrolled in the UW System during the 2007-2008 school year, only forty-one percent attend schools that lie in the Madison or Milwaukee area.

(http://www.uwsa.edu/cert/publicat/factbook.pdf)

Basically, 61 percent of the Board of Regent members come from areas of the state boasting 41 percent of the UW System student body.

(http://www.uwsa.edu/cert/publicat/factbook.pdf)

When one examines the board as a whole, the 18 regents live in immediate metropolitan areas roughly totaling 109,774 students, or roughly 63 percent of the UW System student body. All regents claim addresses in or near Wisconsin’s major cities and regional centers.

(http://www.uwsa.edu/cert/publicat/factbook.pdf)

Clearly, there needs to be some restraint put on the governor’s ability to appoint regents. After-all, the Board of Regents is chosen from the citizens at large in order to stop power over the UW-System from being consolidated in the hands an unrepresentative few.

Since six people on the board already come from outside of the Madison and Milwaukee areas, I doubt the proposed bill will really make the Board of Regents more representative of the state, for it only creates seven regions and requires that only seven of the 18 regents be dispersed evenly among these districts. Instead of creating an arbitrary number of regions and requiring that one regent comes from each of the regions, which won’t when one examines percentages really boost the representativeness of the board at all, the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Higher Education could require that there be two regents from each congressional district resulting in all sixteen of the adult regents being appointed in such a way that will geographically balance the board. The two student regents could still be appointed by whatever system they have been in the past.

If one wants to reconcile geographic diversity with student body dispersal, the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Higher Education could give each regent a jurisdiction similar to the apportionment that is done to determine state assembly, state senate, and U.S. House representation. The committee could divide the 173,33o member student body into 18 roughly equal segments (campuses won’t be divided).

Clearly, efforts need to be taken to make the Board of Regents a more representative body of the UW-System, but arbitrary districts and arbitrary numbers won’t solve the problem.

Fountain of the Four Winds

















"At the New Orleans Lakefront Airport is 'Fountain of the Four Winds,' one of the most famous and controversial sculptures of Enrique Alferez."  


















"The artist gained the most notice for the "Fountain of the Four Winds" sculpture that he created for the New Orleans Lakefront Airport in 1937, which included a well-endowed nude male. City officials ordered Alferez to chisel off the genitalia, but the artist refused. To ensure that no one desecrated his artwork, he stood guard with a rifle until Eleanor Roosevelt intervened to save the statue."




































I suppose you can take this as my counterpoint or alternative aesthetic to the tenor on the blog as of late.  Or am I, too, engaging in gratuitous titillation?

International quick hits

+Colonel Qaddafi goes on a rant, but he's probably just still sore about that whole tent thing.

+President Obama calls for "increased unity" -- but was he ever really going to call for less at the UN?

+Poland and the Czech Republic may be complaining, but it's Ukraine that is actually facing danger.

+The UK hates technology.

+As pressure on its leadership mounts, Iran is snubbed.

Northern Wisconsin autumn


The loons are flocking up outside of Minocqua -- groups of ten or more are a common sight as fall approaches. Color is at about 10%.



photos credit KMS

Richard Posner Becomes a Keynesian

"Fortunately, there is more that government can do to arrest a downward economic spiral besides pushing down interest rates. It can offset the decline in private consumption and investment in a recession or a depression by increasing public investment." - Richard Posner

Sure, government can - but should it? I've only made it about two pages into the piece, but I'll share it with you anyway.

When I saw the title this morning, I thought: "Oh boy - what next?"

The legislature is back in session. It isn't going to be pretty.

The state legislature is back in session and rather than focus on fixing the economy or improving the business climate in the state - as suggested in a brilliant column by Rep. Bob Ziegelbauer - the legislature chose to shoot us in the foot, again.

Three of the bills passed yesterday are just bad law. Pure and simple.

First, there is AB 227. It's a seemingly innocent bill that requires all doctors, pharmacists, nurse practitioners, dentists and optometrists to report prescriptions to the Pharmacy Examining Board. I assume that the purpose is to crack down on doctor-shopping or abuse of prescription drugs. Sorry, but no. The doctor-patient privilege is too important. Creating a database of this kind is asking for abuse or privacy violations and is none of the government's business.

Next, we have SB 123. A bill that makes it illegal to have any aquatic plant or animal on any watercraft. The bill is written in such a way that I shudder to think about the zero-tolerance madness that could come from it. The bill prohibits "transporting" a watercraft with any plants or animals on it, but does this include driving to the nearest car wash to clean the craft? Common sense says yes, bureaucracy and the wording of the bill say no.

I'm all for environmental protection, but only if it makes sense, and this doesn't. It goes far beyond the invasive species that we normally write legislation to eliminate.

Finally there is SB 107. This bill is a complete disaster. This bill - again, in the name of environmentalism - heaps more and more regulation on businesses in Wisconsin. It requires all manufacturers of computers, TV's, and the like who wish to sell their products to register with the DNR and collect and recycle used products.

The bill creates quotas for disposal and new fees and fines for manufacturers. Is anyone so naive as to think that this won't cost consumers? This is absurd. We are in a deep recession and we're going to raise the cost of doing business in the state for the tech industry?  When I talk about the business climate in the state, this is what I mean.

This type of legislation does not improve our economy or the lives of our citizens. These bills empower government, not entrepreneurs or individuals. We can talk about freedom and individual choice all we want, but if in the end we pass bills like these, it is no more than cheap lip service to the principles of Liberty.

9.22.2009

Possibilities

The Guardian claims that Obama is close to sealing a deal for Israeli-Palestinian talks:
Although the negotiations are being held in private, they have reached such an advanced stage that both France and Russia have approached the US offering to host a peace conference.

Another outcome of the missile shield decision?

State Officials Inhale Too Many Fumes, Believe Stimulus Funded Environmentally Friendly Infrastructure Projects Equal Permanent Jobs.

Seventeen hybrid buses for Madison, a few truck companies updating the air conditioners in their rigs, and replacing fossil fuel costs with the expense of equipment more pricey than their fossil fuel driven counterparts, and politicians are willing to call the economy fixed.

Stimulus dollars at work. When will we start employing people to install ADA accessible curbs where there are no sidewalks?

The economy is saved everyone. Hallelujah.

http://badgerherald.com/news/2009/09/22/state_receives_stimu.php

Political Correctness, and Why the Story of the Birds and the Bees Is Wrong

According to the bulletin board in my residence hall, you can't go up to someone and assume their gender on the basis of secondary sex characteristics (hair, voice, breast, development, figure, musculature, etc).

Okay......

Since humans have been wearing clothes since the time of Adam and Eve, how else are we suppose to know who to drunkenly hit on, have a hot booty call with, or better yet bring home to mom and dad, marry, and carry on the human race with?

If society is at the point where we have to ask people what is between their legs to be sure, so much for pairing off and procreating.

It is a known fact that physical attraction can be linked to such subtle sex traits as waist to hip ratio (2/3 for a woman and 9/10 for a man if you were wondering) among other physical indicators of virility and genetic perfection like stature and musculature.

If a man is a breast connoisseur, he may just appreciate a woman who is able to nourish a child. If a woman likes a nice firm butt on a man, she just might appreciate a man with enough thrusting power to get the job of impregnation done.

Now, I am not saying that we should discriminate against people who are transgender, but as far as I am concerned, you are the gender you were born, and there is no need to feed into this notion that somehow it is free will and not dad's sperm that determines gender.

This bulletin board endorses ideas about as absurd as the “pregnant man.” When we are willing to call someone who has a fully functioning vagina and uterus a man just because she got a mastectomy, a bowl cut, and grew a little facial hair, we know that the pc world of gender justice has gone too far.

Secretary of State Clinton has short hair; does that make her a man? (Don't answer that.) I have seen my mom (I love you mom.) pluck her whiskers with a tweezers. Does that make my mom a man? Wow. Oprah Winfery and the shocking “pregnant man” have nothing on the McHenry boys and their pregnant man mom.

Even worse, they have invented a pc term for heteros and non-gender bending homosexuals. We are cisgender. Yes, dressing our gender, acting our gender, and accepting our gender makes us a unique subcategory. Who knew?

No one should be as ignorant to assume the clothes make the man or the woman for that matter, and I will admit to being confused by a couple short haircuts, but if you have breasts and a woman's figure, excuse me for assuming that you are a woman. All I know is what has been biologically programmed into my brain by evolution and endorsed and blessed by God.

Yet again political correctness has shown itself to be stupefying and useless. Only the language police can take the basic man + woman equation and turn it into a twisted calculus of hormone factors, homosexual denominators, and androgynous variables. And of course, don't forget to factor in the plastic surgery and multiply it by the emotional trauma or perverse reality that made you show me yours, and I'll show you mine into can I see yours because I am not really sure.

Women cut your hair short, and men wear panties if you must. I won't discriminate against you, but please excuse me if the fact that I still use my diencephalon rather than my cerebrum in matters of sex stops me from being an “ally.”

Instructions for Tonight's Class

"I have spoken with Professor C----- about the walking tour tonight and the weather.  Professor C----- will be at the cathedral.  Bring your umbrella and show up at 6:30 p.m.  In the event of deluge and/or lightning, Professor C----- will make the determination whether to continue or not."

One of Rep. Joe Wilson's former legislative aides shares his thoughts with LIB

Chirag S, a gentleman, a scholar, and a friend of the blog, was kind enough to share with us his unique take on the hubbub that broke out surrounding South Carolina Representative Joe Wilson.  As he puts it:

For nearly two years, I served on the staff of the now simultaneously famous and infamous Congressman Joe Wilson. As a native of Wisconsin and a second generation Indian American, I had absolutely nothing in common with the Congressman or the State of South Carolina; nevertheless, from the first day I walked into the office, I always felt welcome.

Chirag sent us a great guest post, but it's slightly longer than our typical posts, so you can read the entire post here via the old LIB Storage Shed.

As the above tidbit suggests, the guest post provides an interesting window on Representative Wilson - one that might have given former President Jimmy Carter some pause before he made his recent incendiary remarks:

Perhaps worse than the immature name calling, is the idea that Congressman Wilson’s disagreements with President Obama are somehow motivated by race. The mere suggestion that Mr. Wilson spoke out against the President because of some racial prejudice is ignorant and lazy. To make such a cowardly charge is to make assumptions about an honorable man that could not be further from the truth.

I encourage you to take a glance at what is certainly an interesting perspective.

About politics

The thing that annoys me most about politics is how frivolous it is because of how little substance most political arguments have.

What I'm thinking about in particular is the Acorn incident with two young people who went in acting as prostitution entrepreneurs to get tax advice.

OH GOD! The whole organization is evil and bad and needs to be destroyed because a few people at the bottom actually took them seriously. Talk about a "got'cha" moment. Have you noticed how smug some republicans are all of a sudden? By the way, I thought they were leading the vanguard against "got'cha" politics.

People at the bottom of an organization are the least competent people in an organization. Especially since the organization is aimed at helping poor, uneducated people, the people in the local offices are probably just a step above those very people themselves.

Love/hate an organization or issue. Whatever, I don't care. Just make an actual argument and talk like an adult to support your point. If whatever you're saying is true, then there's going to be evidence and a reason to support your point. Sadly, so much of politics is doing the exact opposite, turning everything into an extremely base or emotional point.

The epitome of this trend is 9/11-style politics. I recently saw a video clip of a certain Fox News host wishing for a return to the mindset of the day after. That would be the worst situation possible for the country. The times of raw emotion are the worst times to be making decisions with far-reaching consequences.  Big things should be decided after much calm, rational thought.

The emotion of sudden events in particular creates temporary openings to ram through crappy legislation--9/11 led to wars and the Patriot Act, and the sudden near "collapse" of the economy last year led to the bailouts and giant laws no one read--that stuff wouldn't have made it any other time.

Unfortunately it seems like actual issues have to degenerate into emotional ones where a logical approach becomes difficult and unpopular to become motivating enough to create political action, such as the "death panels", "socialism", abortion, global warming, immigration, gun control, drugs, and so forth. We and our country are all the worse for it.

Wisconsin legislative quick hits

A couple things that have been in the news a bit lately, and I haven't put my two cents in so here goes:

I'm back. What'd I miss?

For the last three weeks I've been in the process of demobilizing and getting some minor medical issues solved by an annoyingly long, bureaucratic nightmare also known as military health care. More on that in the future, I promise.

So this is where I am and I'll be here for the near future and will now be posting regularly again. I know you're all so excited.
Interesting side note, I arrived at Ft. Knox on the 93rd anniversary of the first use of tanks in war. The Patton Museum on post here is a great history of armored warfare and, of course, the most famous armored division commander.

One last thing: can anyone guess where I took this picture? The answer may surprise you.

TLS Townhall Tonight

Stop by Room 357 tonight between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. to discuss the dean search with the interim dean and the search committee chair.

Interestingly, 5-6 p.m. on Tuesday evening falls at exactly the same time as the weekly Trial Ad. lecture...which consists of about half of the 3L class.

EAA memory



Warbirds takeoff 8.01

9.21.2009

Rene Removes the Golden Fan


















From Antoinette's wall, with Antoinette's wooden spoon, while standing on Antoinette's stove.

"If it looks like rummage sale material, it's probably rummage sale material."

Rather Despicable

The "Tenther" smear.

Why I'm Still Wary of the Missile Defense Decision

Steve provided a well reasoned take on the Obama administration's decision to eliminate missile defense positions in Poland and the Czech Republic.  While I was particularly impressed with the clear explanation by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates that Steve incorporated, I nevertheless remain somewhat skeptical about the move.

For one, what does the U.S. stand to gain from making a move that will be read in almost all corners of the globe as an indication of weakness?

Does the specific move of eliminating "the third site" in exchange for "greater cooperation on Iran" even make sense?  The Obama administration's move, which comes after months of hinting, is very concrete.  The item being bartered for is as nebulous as mist.  What does greater cooperation on Iran entail?  What incentive does Russia have to hold up its part of the ostensible bargain?  If Russia gives a little bit on Iran and then refuses to go any farther, what happens next in the relationship?

The short term Russian concession, refraining from deploying missile launchers near Poland, was a hypothetical move to begin with, so there's no loss to Russia whatsoever.  Russia bluffed and it cost nothing.  And Russia retains the advantage geographically when it comes to deploying force in Eastern Europe.

In the meantime, as Gates notes, no missile defense umbrella covers Europe.  While you could argue that the calls in the middle of the night were not as devastatingly short notice as they're painted to be, they still seem shady.  All attention seems to focus on Iran as the missile threat, but Russia knows that it just removed one future hurdle to the full potency of its own arsenal, which, like its control over hydrocarbon pipelines, can be used as a foreign affairs tool.  Russia has long opposed missile defense because an operational system would stand to render a good deal of its arsenal less meaningful.

Gates and Obama also cited cost as a factor in the decision.  While I think Europe should be financing more of its own defense in accordance with my general belief that the U.S. is overextended, I have to wager that even an expensive missile defense shield is arguably worth the cost if it stands to defend crucial allies and the U.S. itself from nuclear devastation.  

I know that missile defense systems are not necessarily as easy to classify in a sword versus shield sense in a nuclear calculus, but I think the defensive posture of the system was one thing Obama could have focused on, something that should have put Russia in a far weaker rhetorical position.  We're just trying to defend people - and you disagree for some reason?  And even beyond that point, this whole matter was never just about missile defense anyway - it was overtly interwoven with a desire for alliance building in a crucial region.

Overall, this is not just about Iran.  Or Europe.  Or Russia.  As Brian Kennedy notes in the Wall Street Journal, it is, in part, about the overarching purpose of defending the U.S.:

With Mr. Obama's Third Site move, the U.S. is not merely abandoning a system to stop long-range Iranian ballistic missiles from hitting Europe but are also foregoing a system to stop Russian or Chinese ballistic missiles from destroying the U.S.

And, what's more, the move sends unwanted signals to Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan as well - countries who find themselves in situations roughly analogous to Eastern European nations.

President Obama clearly has a number of motives for the move in relation to his goals with various international treaties and bodies.  But I wonder how many of Obama's moves, based on a hope that other nations will reciprocate or follow suit...will be met with less than promising or fully symmetrical responses.

"The Flagship of Freret"

















I did a double take this morning as I headed past the building that houses The Box Office. Another new establishment appears on the Freret Street horizon.


9.20.2009

Sunday in the park


Neenah, WI

Goals for a week of international summits

This week sees Obama at meetings of both the UN (both the General Assembly on Wednesday and the Security Council on Thursday) and the G20. It won't be to the adoration he faced before, but there are a number of things Obama should accomplish during the week.

The prime issue will be getting a solid commitment from Russia on working with the US to deter Iran. Holding out an offer of improved trade relations -- perhaps allowing Russia into the WTO -- should sweeten the pot; but if no commitment is forthcoming, it will be clear that Russia is not interested in reciprocating the "reset" sought by the US.

It is also momentous that Obama will act as the chair of the Security Council. He must use this position to reassure allies Poland and the Czech Republic, as well as Georgia. He ought to meet separately with the representatives of each of these countries to give them assurances of America's support, especially in the near term; Georgia should also receive assurances that America will push for its inclusion in NATO. An attempt at soothing Sino-Indian tensions would also be most welcome.

Pittsburgh is a fine backdrop to press a free-market agenda, which ought to be Obama's key task while addressing the G-20:
Business Week and The Economist already have run stories about Pittsburgh, a riverfront city that once was home to a major domestic industry, steel, that collapsed. As a result, the Pittsburgh area lost tens of thousands of factory jobs and about, 50,000 people a year from the late 1970s to mid ‘80s. Sound familiar? But Pittsburgh has made it to a new chapter, and was among the places in America where the number of jobs actually increased in 2008.

Obama must stand firmly against further trade protectionism, and publicly step back from the protectionist programs he has pushed recently. He must also stand against the Sarkozy proposal to tax bank transactions and a wider European push to limit banker pay.

The honeymoon has worn off -- it's time for Obama to prove he can bring results on the international stage.

A few more chime in on health care

After sending out e-mails weeks ago, this week has seen a few more bites on my questions about health care reform -- now from Russ Feingold and Ron Kind.

Neither discusses any specific proposals made, despite my specific questions about such, nor, again despite specific questions, do either discuss any potential problems with health care reform.

Feingold assures me that, "The Senate is currently drafting legislation on health care reform. When a bill is available for consideration by the Senate, I will thoroughly review the legislation." So he hadn't read the currently-proposed bills as of Sept 18, when I got his message.

Ron Kind doesn't even remember hearing that question, and glosses over it entirely in the e-mail he sent out on the 18th.

That means that not only did neither of these gentlemen bother to read the 1000-page bill that has been floating around since before the August recess -- the point of my inquiries -- they have also so far not read the Baucus plan, announced on the 16th.

It also makes me question Senator Feingold's insistence on the 18th that there was no legislation available in the Senate. Really, sir?

After the jump, the full texts of both letters, for your consideration.


Edit: the jump feature doesn't seem to be working, sorry. We'll keep playing with it, though.

Live from Cafe Luna


Good News About The Spotted Cat
















Apparently, someone realized that Jimbeaux's was a goofy name...and it seems he or she realizes the existing formula was just the right recipe.

The UW LBGT Community is Celebrating and the Wisconsin Constitution is Ticker-Tape.

It is so wonderful that people can celebrate the power of closed room budget deals to nullify the state constitution. I have views in favor of the full legal enfranchisement of the LBGT community, but somehow I don’t believe the LBGT minority should be gathering to celebrate how corrupt interest group driven politics playing out in a financially debilitating budget have managed to contradict the desires of the people as expressed in the 2006 binding referendum to pass a gay marriage ban.

Chapter 770 establishes a partnership registry, defines domestic partnerships, and sets up a system for the disbursement of partnership benefits as approved in the state budget.

770.001 Declaration of policy. The legislature finds that it is in the interests of the citizens of this state to establish and provide the parameters for a legal status of domestic partnership. The legislature further finds that the legal status of domestic partnership as established in this chapter is not substantially similar to that of marriage. Nothing in this chapter shall be construed as inconsistent with or a violation of article XIII, section 13, of the Wisconsin Constitution.

First, how many times is a law passed that is so controversial that it has a disclaimer that it is indeed constitutional? That kind of rhetoric begs the question is the law really constitutional?

Marriage. SECTION 13. [As created Nov. 2006] Only a marriage
between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized
as a marriage in this state. A legal status identical or substantially
similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals
shall not be valid or recognized in this state. [2003 J.R. 29, 2005
J.R. 30, vote Nov. 2006]

Governor Doyle and democrats in the legislature have interesting reasons why they think the partnership registry doesn’t violate the marriage amendment. UW professor of law David S. Schwartz sent a memo to Governor Doyle that is posted on the governor’s website as the main authority on the legality of the registry. Professor Schwartz argues that the words “legal status” only refer to civil unions and same-sex marriages administered by other states. Schwartz goes on to say that Wisconsin’s partnership benefits are of such a limited number and scope that domestic partnerships are not substantially similar to marriage.

“Substantially similar” is substantially vague, no doubt, but I still don’t subscribe to the notion that the purpose (at least not the main purpose) of the second sentence of the amendment is to deny recognition of same sex marriages granted in other states. Same-sex marriage is marriage, and when it comes to civil unions, “a rose by any other name is still as sweet.”

Marriage itself is a state issue per the 10th Amendment of the United States Constitution, but the extension of certain rights to certain subgroups of the population due to a common characteristic in effect excluding all other members of a population violates the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution.

According to 770.006, one of the criteria for a domestic partnership is that “the individuals [entering the partnership] are members of the same sex. Proponents of the 14th Amendment likely didn’t envision the gay rights movement, but it seems to me that the gays are following in the footsteps of white patriarchs in trying to use their unique situation and attributes to somehow justify exclusive advantages under the law, undemocratic favoritism for particular population segments that the 14th amendment made steps to eradicate.

Violation of the state constitution aside, as Professor Schwartz alluded to: there is enough of a contrast between the partnership registry and marriage to classify domestic partnerships as a separate status. A separate, exclusionary status? Shouldn’t heterosexual couples that choose to cohabitate have shared insurance benefits, pension access, family leave, real estate transfer, and estate benefits? Wouldn’t the extension of partnership benefits to all cohabitating couples be the democratic thing to do, or is the partnership registry simply the backroom, interest group tinged, subgroup constituent appeasement act that I think it is?

If the democrats can bypass the Wisconsin majority that they still deny existed and passed the marriage amendment, and if they can appeal to the LBGT voting bloc in order increase the number of pro-democrat votes, who needs the 14th amendment to the constitution or the state constitution for that matter. After-all, constitutions only keep governments honest and democratic. In Wisconsin, we have backroom budgets.

I am for the enfranchisement of the LBGT community, but violating the state and national constitutions to do so is despicable. The University should not be celebrating. They should be taking the heat as a state organization, and I am ashamed that the University would make a mockery of the public forum by celebrating the passage of something as controversial as partnership benefits. When many of us Wisconsinites are still scratching our heads trying to figure out how we went from a constitutional amendment banning anything substantially similar to marriage from being recognized to the state budget giving the legal and fiscal basis for partnership benefits (something I argue is substantially similar to marriage) to gay couples of which at least one partner is employed by the state when just three years ago, almost 60 percent of Wisconsinites said they wanted to define marriage as between one man and one woman, I hope Chancellor Martin, the administration, faculty, and staff who found another way to get their hands on undeserved tax dollars enjoy their celebratory question and answer forum sham.

Links:

Memo to Governor Doyle from Professor Schwartz: http://www.wisgov.state.wi.us/docview.asp?docid=17476

Chapter 770: http://www.co.portage.wi.us/countyclerk/DOMESTIC_PARTNERSHIP_LAW_770.pdf

Wisconsin State Constitution: http://www.legis.state.wi.us/rsb/unannotated_wisconst.pdf

Article on the UW Q&A Forum/ LBGT Celebration: http://www.news.wisc.edu/17089

9.19.2009

A good, and wise, compromise

Obama nixed the "missile shield". Good.

The conservative end of the punditry have been jumping up and down for a couple of days now, accusing the president of taking action detrimental to the interests of US and European security, and caving to Russia diplomatically. This is silly.

There are three issues issues here I'd like to touch on -- feasibility, actual threats, and diplomatic links.

Well, does the thing even work?: feasibility
Shooting down long-range missiles is significantly harder that shooting down short- and medium-range missiles. What's more, the Bush system had major flaws:
The system that former President George W. Bush was rushing to build in Eastern Europe did not work. The interceptors slotted for Poland have not yet been built, let alone tested, and their sister systems deployed in Alaska have demonstrated serious operational problems. The radar intended for the Czech Republic has been shown to have major shortcomings, as documented by Theodore Postol of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and other independent experts. In short, it could not see the warheads it was suppose to track.

There was no "shield." There was no defense capability to "give up." It did not exist.

So, the thing just didn't work. Canceling a program that doesn't work is not a loss, to national security or the global world order. It's really just good sense.

Moss and rolling stones: Cold War inertia and actual threats
The fact the thing wasn't feasible, to any meaningful extent, brings us to the actual threats the Bush missile defense system was supposed to protect against. Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense for both presidents Bush and Obama, has this to say:
The new approach to European missile defense actually provides us with greater flexibility to adapt as new threats develop and old ones recede. For example, the new proposal provides some antimissile capacity very soon — a hedge against Iran’s managing to field missiles much earlier than had been previously predicted. The old plan offered nothing for almost a decade.

Moreover, the system proposed by Obama defends against the real threats more quickly than the Bush system would have. Our security guarantees to Europe must be focused on the Iranian threat -- no system proposed since the original SDI pushed by Reagan could reasonably talk about completely blocking Russian nukes. The Bush system explicitly did not have the numbers to pose any real deterrent against Russia. The threat from Russian missiles is being dealt with through diplomacy and treaties cutting the number of missiles; Russian nukes have not posed a real threat to the world since the Cold War, except insofar as they could be accessed and used by non-state actors (read: terrorists).

Guaranteeing our commitments: the diplomatic angle
This leaves us, then, with the question of how the whole thing looks: are we backing down and selling out allies, or are we adjusting our assets to best uphold our commitments and the security of ourselves and our allies?

La Russophobe has one answer:
A destabilized eastern flank... A more contentious NATO... An emboldened Russia... Cheapened alliances.
But is that bearing out?

Well, not really. Actually Russia has already reciprocated, without even being asked, thereby removing an actual threat to our Eastern European allies and actually stabilizing the "eastern flank" (although it should be remembered, of course, that World War II has long since been over).

Nor is the US "backing down" in the face of Russian threats -- if that had been the case, we would have scrapped the plan before Obama went to Russia first, as a sign of obeisance before a strong rival. Instead it comes now, at a point when Russia has not made any significant negative overtures to us. And the ambivalence of the Central European feeling for the missile shield must be taken into account as well:
Far from seeing America as a leader, the citizens of these countries tend to be more skeptical of American power than almost every other NATO country. The government of the Czech Republic hadn't even ratified the agreement.

Nor, it should be noted, has the US taken off the board the possibility of installing missile bases in these countries when our security and intelligence assessments determine that such bases are feasible and necessary. And not all of our allies are so upset as the Poles seemed to be.

*****

This is the first real move in the vaunted "reset," and puts the US in a much better negotiating position to bring Russia to the table on our policy toward Iran, where the bear's cooperation will actually be necessary, and where they have been recalcitrant in the past. Far from losing a zero sum game, the US is simply ending an egregious case of institutional inertia in Cold War thinking. There has been no weakening of our position, but rather a repositioning to best respond to the actual threats at hand. Positive consequences have already been borne out. The hawks should be applauding.

Saturday Lagniappe

1.  A fun song via 91.5 WTUL.

2.  Let's go to Pal's again soon.

3.  Missile defense decision...questionable.

4.  Exactly.  Stop casting aspersions, Jimmy.