10.31.2009

Reinforcing my point

At least they don't fight like the Germans -- the French are proving that there is a good way of doing both military and civilian operations in Afghanistan:
In Kapisa, the French task force is headed by France’s 3rd Marine Infantry Regiment, commanded by Col. Francis Chanson.

“Success in Kapisa will hinge on development more than the destruction of insurgents,” Chanson said. “I’m not trying to gain their heart, but their confidence.”

The French focus simultaneously on security and development, believing they go hand-in-hand. From their base in Tagab village, the French troops set out to gauge insurgent strength along the valley road and give reconstruction teams time to assess the area for construction projects, such as roads and police stations.

“You don’t have to wait for total security to start projects,” said Capt. Antoine. (Except for senior officers, the French military permits only the use of first names.)
The French example also serves to reinforce a point I made the other day -- the civilian and military aspects of the campaign must be closely linked, working in tandem, rather than dis-coordinated and haphazard.

This civilian capacity is an aspect of the campaign to which Europe can contribute greatly, but Obama's options are slimming -- indeed, the honeymoon with Europe seems to be coming to an end:
Despite George W. Bush's defiant "you're with us or you're against us" public stance, he actively solicited advice and input from his NATO partners. Obama, by contrast, is saying all the right things in public about transatlantic relations and NATO but adopting a high-handed policy and paying little attention to Europe. And Europe is taking a hint.

Macabre Day



Visit St. Roch Santo Campo...if you dare.





In the Headphones

It's that kind of day.

10.30.2009

The right response

Kudos to the Obama administration -- they got this one exactly right:
That's what made Biden's trip interesting. First, just a few weeks after the reversal, he revisited these countries. He reasserted American commitment to their security and promised the delivery of other weapons such as Patriot missile batteries, an impressive piece of hardware that really does enhance regional security (unlike BMD, which would grant only an indirect boost). Then, Biden went even further in Romania, not only extending his guarantees to the rest of Central Europe, but also challenging the Russians directly. He said that the United States regarded spheres of influence as 19th century thinking, thereby driving home that Washington is not prepared to accept Russian hegemony in the former Soviet Union (FSU). Most important, he called on the former satellites of the Soviet Union to assist republics in the FSU that are not part of the Russian Federation to overthrow authoritarian systems and preserve their independence.
This is exactly the right note to strike. We reached out to Russia, and they refused to make concessions. Now we are making it clear that non-cooperation carries a price, and that we will stand by our allies in every way we see fit.

I must disagree, though, with this:
On a deeper level, Russia once again is shaping up to be a major challenge to U.S. national interests. Russia fears (accurately) that a leading goal of American foreign policy is to prevent the return of Russia as a major power.
There is no problem with Russia becoming, once again, a great power. Indeed, having a democratic Russia that played by international laws would bring a great deal of needed stability to the region, and serve as a needed bulwark against a the growth of Chinese power. But my caveats -- democracy and respect for the international community -- are far from being met; until they are, the US has a duty and a vested interest in preventing a Russian resurgence.

Linkages

Reading Russ Feingold, I'm reminded of Robert Kaplan:
In the 1990s, successive democratic Pakistani governments struggled to cope with intensifying social and economic turmoil. Violence was endemic to Karachi and other cities. But even as the Pakistani political elite turned inward, it remained obsessed with the related problems of Afghanistan and energy routes. Anarchy in the wake of the Soviet withdrawal was preventing Pakistan from establishing roads and pipelines to the new oil states of Central Asia—routes that would have helped Islamabad consolidate a vast Muslim rear base for the containment of India. So obsessed was Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s government with curbing the chaos in Afghanistan that she and her interior minister, the retired general Naseerullah Babar, conceived of the newly formed Taliban as a solution.
The security and stability of Afghanistan is inextricably bound up with the security of Pakistan.

Having troops in Afghanistan is only as useful as the Western civilians who carry out the backbone of the nation-building, really the capacity-building, mission. Doing "counter-terrorism" is not enough. That's the first step. The way to actually get the country stable is to do an intensive, probably State Department-led, Peace Corps-style, grassroots capacity-building program. And that's where Senator Feingold's minimalist, counter-terrorism only focus goes wrong.

What will the health care bill really mean for costs?

I've been thinking about that question quite a lot lately. While I'm concerned about the public option, I don't really think it has a chance of passing. My biggest concern lately actually comes from preexisting conditions.

It seems that everyone in Washington agrees that insurance companies shouldn't be allowed to deny service based on any preexisting ailment or illness, but what would that do to costs? I think that it's quite obvious that many people - especially young people - will skip purchasing any insurance until they get sick. Then they buy insurance for a few months or until they are healthy again and then they'd drop it again.

If you know that the insurance companies can't punish you for poor planning, there is no incentive to purchase inurance.

Of course many people suggest that the solution to this problem would be to mandate everyone purchase insurance, then the risks are spread out and everyone wins. Well, not really. Passing a mandate for everyone to purchase health insurance gives the government the authority to pass minimum coverage requirements. Even then, the penalties for not purchasing insurance must be high enough to make purchasing insurance the cheaper alternative, but the penalties that were discussed during the committee debates in the Senate never came close to that threshold.

The potential result of this was plainly seen in Wisconsin just this year. When the legislature passed increased liability minimums for auto insurance, most people saw their insurance premiums increase. Even though our risk in Wisconsin is spread out, it wasn't enough to prevent government meddling to artificially raise the cost of auto insurance for Wisconsin drivers.

Anyone who thinks the same thing can't or won't happen with health insurance at the federal level is living in a fantasy world. The health care bills in the House and the Senate all add to the minimum requirements of coverage for which insurance companies must pay. That alone will force the cost of health care upward and stifles competition by limiting the ability of insurers to tailor their plans to the needs of the consumer.

By heaping requirements onto insurance companies, Congress would only make the problems of cost and access worse. I don't deny that health care and health insurance in the US needs to be reformed, but in this case it seems to me that the answer is less government intervention, not more.

Overboard

An LSU fan proposes stealing something from Tulane as the traditional rivalry ends.

Musikvideo von Freitag

I discovered this week that this song is an English-language cover of this song:


It all started when a labmate from Germany and I were talking about music and I mentioned how Nena did an English version of 99 Luftballons.  I've been working on my German.

I had only ever heard this song in English and I probably hadn't heard it since the mid-90's.  When I was little, my mom's car had a cassette player and there were exactly three tapes: something-Gloria Estefan, something-Phil Collins, and Greatest Hits of the 80's.  Der Kommisar and Wang Chung are the only songs I remember from the tape.

Here are the lyrics in German.  The two versions mean largely the same thing, but "Dreh dich nicht um, schau, schau, der Kommissar geht um!" just doesn't have quite the same ring.

By the way, has anyone else noticed that classic rock stations are starting to creep into the 80's?

Mayor Nagin Makes His Budget Address Today

By dint of my pro bono assignment, I'll be in the Council Chambers this morning as it happens.


This suggests a problem

Paul Ryan and Jim Sensenbrenner are coming back to Wisconsin to "share the House Majority’s massive health care overhaul with their constituents this weekend." Of course, it's a behemoth, checking in at 1990 pages.

But I wonder if we should pass any bill that can't be carried on a plane: "Ryan and Sensenbrenner would leave copies of the 1,990 page bill at each of their districts’ libraries, but the airline on their flights back to Wisconsin this evening only allowed one carry-on item each."

That's right -- each Congressman can only carry one copy of the bill home with him. Granted an overhaul this major needs to be detailed, but the gargantuan size of the current legislation suggests such a great degree of inaccessibility that I worry if anyone will truly comprehend the thing. This is a large, slow-moving target that anyone willing to take a shot should be able to hit. I just hope it will be enough to bring down the beast.

After the jump, the full text of the press release, including details on where and when you can hear both Congressmen.

10.29.2009

A Cruel Winter Approaches

"It's starting to look like Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi are leading the Donner Party, the snowbound emigrants who bogged down in the Sierra Nevada winter in the 1840s and resorted to cannibalism to survive."

Paths







High Cliff State Park, WI

Rue the Day


Wisconsin Justice Was Blind - Unfortunately, This Time

Sometimes, with the judiciary, it's all about perceptions in the end.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court adopted two proposals permitting justices to refuse to recuse themselves in certain situations yesterday.  I support the substance of the two measures:

A divided Wisconsin Supreme Court voted today to adopt a petition to amend the Code of Judicial Conduct so that the receipt of a campaign contribution from a party in a proceeding cannot be the sole reason for a judge to recuse him or herself.

Similarly, the justices voted to amend the Code of Judicial Conduct so that a judge is not required to recuse him or herself where a party to the proceedings sponsored an independent expenditure or issue advocacy during the judicial campaign.

I believe a judge's ill-chosen refusal to recuse himself or herself in a case where the perception of a conflict of interest is involved should be that justice's personal decision - and fair game when it comes to electoral fodder in a retention election.  That makes sense in a system of elected judges with contribution disclosure as a check in the system.  It also, as the Wisconsin Law Journal noted, effectively codified current practice.

But I think a majority of the court did itself a disservice today - and will likely further inflame the ongoing furor over Justice Gableman (which built upon the frenzy over Justice Ziegler) - by adopting measures put forward by the very organizations that are major players in Wisconsin Supreme Court elections as of late:

The petition regarding campaign contributions was authored by the Wisconsin Realtors Association; the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce offered the petition concerning independent expenditures.

In the present environment, this will be viewed as the parties to a conflict of interest writing and approving the rules permitting the conflicts of interest they've engaged in.  Don't get me wrong - I think recent moves for recusal by some defense attorneys regarding Justice Gableman are rather dangerous games to play.  But I think the high court, if it was savvy, would have crafted its own rules amending the judicial code in the end, especially in light of the ongoing drumbeat from the Wisconsin political left (whether it's warranted or not), extra scrutiny by the press, and even general concern by the electorate.

When measures supporting public financing of state judicial races and merit-based judicial selection systems are in the air, it would seem to behoove the judiciary to tread delicately.  A failure to act in a manner that does not appear ethical, especially at a moment when the court is in the limelight, has the tendency to bring a reactionary, populist backlash (or is it not populist because one of the ends sought is unelected judges?) seeking legal regulations of the conduct involved.

A NOLA reminisce


In the Marigny.

10.28.2009

Oh, OSCE

Kazakhstan is ascending to the chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, unsurprisingly with the full support of Russia
Although many member states questioned or openly criticized Kazakhstan's nomination, Russia fully supported its efforts to overcome perceived organizational bias and unfair strictures placed on former Soviet republics. Speaking at the OSCE summit in Madrid in November 2007, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov took issue with the proposal to postpone the Kazakh chairmanship, tentatively scheduled for 2009.

"Unfortunately, during the several years that have preceded today's meeting, there were absolutely unacceptable and unseemly maneuvers aimed at imposing restrictions on the right of a specific country -- an equal member of the OSCE -- to chair this organization by making demands on its internal and external policies," Lavrov stated.
Meanwhile, Kazakh president is pulling a Turkmenbashi:
Not far from the Palace of Peace and Reconciliation, lies Kazakh Eli Square, where the Kazakh authorities uncovered a 15-foot high bronze statue of none other than Nursultan Nazarbayev.

The statue, accompanied by other traditional Kazakh scenes, lies at the base of a rather harmless white obelisk in an area that’s hardly in the center of town. That being said, Nazarbayev has always been one of the more restrained Central Asian presidents, but that restraint seems to be disappearing as the 69-year old gets older.

This comes after chatter about Nazarbayev being declared president-for-life, which Nazarbayev coolly dismissed as unnecessary, since he’ll keep winning elections regardless.
It would be going to far to say that Kazakhstan is here being played as a Russian pawn, but with the Nabucco project in jeopardy while the Nord Stream project continues apace, having a Central Asian dictatorship in the OSCE chair certainly strengthens Russia's hand.

Another Thompson in the Capitol

Ed Thompson: Mayor of Tomah, Libertarian candidate for governor in 2002, Tommy's brother, future State Senator?

One can only hope.

In his opening press release for his campaign to unseat Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, Ed Thompson lays out one of the best arguments the GOP can use in 2010. It's all about taxes and jobs. That's it, nothing else matters.
This year alone the Legislature passed over $5 billion in new taxes and fees on families and businesses to pay for a 6.8% increase in government spending. Taxpayers will pay more for property taxes, phone taxes, garbage taxes, health care taxes, capital gains taxes, income taxes, and car insurance. Massive new taxes on Wisconsin employers are forcing them to cut costs and jobs. Companies like Briggs & Stratton and Harley Davidson are cutting jobs in Wisconsin while expanding jobs in other states.
“My priorities will be to make Wisconsin a welcoming place for job creation, to stop tax increases in their tracks, to improve our rural economy and to ensure seniors can retire without the fear of financial ruin,” said Thompson. “I pledge to be an independent, common-sense legislator who will fight for smaller, more responsible government that works for the people, not a big-spending government that taxes people out of their jobs, businesses, and homes.”

Every Republican running next year needs to take this stand. Our economic woes are not simply the result of a national recession. Time and again the legislature and the Governor shot ourselves in the foot by raising taxes and punishing businesses. We're lucky to have saved Mercury Marine, but we need to bring new jobs to the state, not just stop jobs from leaving.

Thompson is an unabashed libertarian and when it comes to the role of government in our lives and in the economy, it is exactly what the Republican Party needs to win in 2010. I keep on saying it, but with news like this, 2010 is going to be a very fun year.

Common Book: On Liberty - Thoughts?

I know a number of you out there are reading/have read the common book by one John Stuart Mill.

Thoughts?  Insightful?  Useless?  Obvious?  Stilted?  Marcus Aurelius?

Facebook Memorial Shrines

Facebook profiles lingering on after death...the AP reports:

The five-year-old social network will "memorialize" profiles of the dead if their friends or family request it.  Such accounts will be different from regular Facebook profiles.

For example, the site will remove any contact information and bar people from logging in. The person's profile also won't appear in the "suggestions" section of Facebook, and only the deceased person's confirmed friends will be able to find them in a search.

I've already seen this phenomenon of memorialization play out in practice on Facebook, so I'm not surprised to see the practice formalized by the company.  From my personal experience with a Facebook friend who died a few years ago, one part of me finds it very eerie - it was somewhat discomforting to see mutual friends continue to post on and interact with the profile years later at random intervals, creating the awkward protocol for such tributes as they went. 

Another part of me, though, finds it interesting and possibly helpful (in the sense that the deceased person's page will always serve as a reminder and a crystallization of the individual).  I suppose it's just a new, standard aspect of 'modern life.'

10.27.2009

A Whole Lotta Opting Goin' On

Reid unveils the opt-out public option.

Pelosi opts to rename it.

Reid's version seems worse than the Baucus Plan.

But it's better than a straight up public option (federalism is key - although, unlike Sullivan, I don't see this development putting the GOP in much of a box in the public mind at all).

An opt-in public option...as originally chatted up in the Democratic caucus...would be preferable if we're absolutely going public option in the end.

But when Olympia Snowe, Lieberman, Landrieu, Bayh, Lincoln, Nelson, etc. are uncomfortable with a public option of any kind...maybe not opting in...Reid has a problem.

Getting closer

Best Month Ever

It's official.

We checked in last fall in September when we experienced our best month of blog visit traffic ever.  We then exceeded that number in October during the frenzied leadup to the presidential election.


















And now, with a few days remaining in the month of October 2009, we've surpassed even that record in terms of unique visits to the blog, making this our best month of traffic in the history of the blog.  It's still spare change from the perspective of some big time blogs.  But it's great, even as so many of the blogs we knew and loved have met their demise, to be doing well.

Thanks for stopping by!

If Scott Cowen Really Wants to Go Green...

...perhaps he should make a few more decisions in line with his rhetoric.

Recently, I received an email from the President touting his efforts to make the campus "go green" in a number of ways:

Last year I signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, pledging, among other things, that Tulane would work toward carbon neutrality by balancing the amount of any carbon released with measures to reduce such emissions by an equivalent amount. My support was not driven by political correctness; instead, it was motivated by the fact that it was the right thing do for our campus and wider community. [...]


Meanwhile, we continue to reduce the university's energy use and environmental impact in other ways. For instance, new campus construction projects, such as the renovation of Dinwiddie Hall, are following the guidelines of the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED Green Building program.

Since he mentioned the institution's affiliation with the Green Building Council in relation to the renovation of Dinwiddie Hall - and it's mentioned on the campus green website as well - I thought it made sense to ask why the full range of green considerations seemingly haven't been brought to bear on another historic campus structure - the old Anthropology Building.  Perhaps the same economies of scale aren't involved.  Perhaps the prospect of FEMA money for demolition or reconstruciton is too tempting.  But as the maxim goes, the greenest building is the one that's already built:

The “Green Preservation” movement is concerned with something known as “Embodied Energy.” Basically, look at any building standing today: there was a lot of energy used to construct it. Energy to create the building materials, transport those materials, and physically construct the building, plus the use of equipment (bulldozers, cranes) and automobiles to transport workers to and from a site. That is a lot of energy – energy that is “embodied” in the building.


Now tear that building down.


All the embodied energy is lost.

Even if the Anthropology Building has some structural issues, I don't believe it has enough to warrant demolition - especially if the school, as outlined by President Cowen, truly wants be seen as living up to its own billing as a green institution:

The Sustainable Endowments Institute recently gave Tulane a "B" on its "College Sustainability Report Card for 2010." We won't stop working until we get an "A," but this is a good start.

Another weekend, another stop on the Bourbon Trail

I was stuck down in Kentucky again this last weekend so I decided to check off another distillery on the Bourbon Trail. This time it was the Woodford Reserve distillery in Versailles (pronounced ver-SALES) just south of Frankfort.


The trip to the distillery is beautiful and right in the middle of Kentucky thoroughbred country with horse farms as far as the eye can see. You get the feeling your driving through the farms as you wind your way to the distillery.


The Woodford Reserve brand is less than 20 years old, but the distillery where it is made has been in business since 1812. The original founder was Elijah Pepper and his son Oscar made their bourbon famous. Senator Henry Clay took a barrel of it to Washington each year to "lubricate the wheels of government" and Senator Daniel Webster kept a bottle of it in his closet at the capitol.

The Old Oscar Pepper Distillery changed hands a few times over the years and though it is owned today by the makers of Jack Daniels, Woodford Reserve is still produced under the previous owners' names of Labrot and Graham.


A fun side note, the Labrot and Graham distillery is one of the few that survived Prohibition in tact since it was allowed to produce bourbon to be sold for "medicinal purposes." Oddly enough, most of the bourbon was sent to Chicago where doctors wrote thousands and thousands of "prescriptions."

Only about 100-120 barrels are produced each week and all of them are aged in the original limestone warehouse on site. As for the taste of the bourbon, its flavor grain is rye - as opposed to wheat that Maker's Mark uses. This gives Woodford Reserve a very warm and spicy flavor that is strong and finishes warm on the back of the throat.


All in all, it's a great rye bourbon, but I still like the sweet, winter wheat flavor of Maker's Mark a little bit more - not that I'd ever turn down a glass of Woodford Reserve.

10.26.2009

"Well, that plan didn't save enough money, so let's scrap it and just keep spending."

Mayor Dave's idea didn't work out:
It's fair to say this idea has met resistance. For one thing, it's not as simple as I had hoped. Developing the neighborhood capacity and networks to pull this off probably can't be done in time for this skating season. For another, the savings aren't as great as I had hoped, given that the water costs and set up of the rinks would still have to be provided by the city.

So Monday night's Board of Estimates meeting will see a budget amendment to restore the funding, although it will also contain language asking the Parks Department to develop an "Adopt the Ice" program. I have little doubt that the amendment will pass, and I won't fight it.

What's important to me is not that every idea in my budget be embraced, but that we meet some basic goals, the most important of which is to keep the tax increase on the average house below 4%. As for the ice rinks idea, I always knew I'd be skating on thin ice.
I really can't figure for the life of me why Madison might need ten ice rinks in the first place, or why the city couldn't just close a couple outright. But the thing is, Mayor, that the point is to save money. Whatever planet Madison lives on, it needs to live on a budget right now, because the city just doesn't have the money to keep going the way it has been. So if your plan to save money by cutting funding somewhat doesn't work, the next step would be to cut funding some more, or to close a few of the rinks outright. That's what making the hard choices means. That's your job.

And when you've been busy coming up with cockamamie schemes that are clearly out of touch with the wider business community, reinstating funding for projects that are mostly extravagance anyway isn't really the best way to prove your economic chops.

Nightfall on the Bayou



The Bottleneck

















I'm stuck in my role as bottleneck at the moment.

All the materials that ultimately get published in the Journal this semester must pass through my editing, cite-checking, substance-checking, grammar-revising eyes.

While I signed up for it - and I do find I learn a good deal - it's an unspeakably tedious process, it's eating up most of life as of late, and, after multiple weekends largely down the drain, I don't like it.

Lawton Drops Out of Wisconsin Gov's Race

And she was barely even in.

The Badger Herald promises more updates throughout the day.

To quote one Jason Smathers: 


"Wow.  Just, wow."


This makes for a significant shaking up of the Democratic primary field - although I believe it actually strengthens the Democrats' chances of competing effectively. I think Lawton had acquired a great deal of symbolic support in her party, but I think we would have realized very quickly that such status didn't translate into an effective candidate in grittier times such as these. Lawton's departure leaves stronger candidates with one less hurdle to overcome. I think the Democratic primary field's composition is now dependent in large part on "Will Mayor Barrett run or not?"

"Congress is positioning itself as the next systemic risk"

When it comes to government finance, Senator Judd Gregg provides the welcome voice of the adult in the room.

10.25.2009

"We just have to go and get it."

And what is it that we are going to get? Money. Money for "social programs" and "infrastructure."

And how are we going to get it? Simple: we're going to take it. Whether you like it or not, we're going to take it from you because we can spend it better than you can. Really, it's for your own good.

Every once in a while, it's nice to see liberals say what they really believe. Keith Schmitz over at Folkbum's praises a group of wealthy Germans for being "community-minded" because they want to be taxed more. He also manages to insult conservatives in this country for being cheap and ignorant of society's needs.

It is obvious that Schmitz and his fellow liberals believe that charity and economic growth happen because of government and not individual action. In insulting conservatives - and indeed most Americans - he also ignores the fact that no other people on earth give as much money - both in dollars and percentages of income - to charity than the American people.

Nothing prevents a citizen from making a voluntary donation to the US Treasury. If anyone out there feels that they aren't paying their fare share, then they are well within their rights to send more or their own money to Washington. That's the whole point. It's their money.

Government cannot create wealth by taking it from those who have it. Wealth - in terms of jobs and standard of living - is created by hard work and providing goods and services that people need and want. Poverty is not relieved by government programs, but by the compassion and generosity of private citizens.

In reality, the money isn't there because government has no right to steal from its people. President Coolidge was right: "Collecting more taxes than is absolutely necessary is legalized robbery."

10.24.2009

I'd rather be in Madison...



...drinking Blatz!

Mater Dolorosa


FOX News: An Equal and Opposite Reaction

The Fourth Estate huddles...and rebukes the Obama administration on its shunning of Fox News.

To me, the real problem with Barack Obama and company's offensive against Fox News is that if they want to start saying Fox is not news, a number of other cable, network, and other news entities need to be written off as well.  Some because they're rabidly and unabashedly slanted politically (MSNBC).  Some because they're bloated with infotainment that's barely passable as news, even if it is "unbiased" (CNN).  Some because they cater in a biased way to a narrow ethnic demographic (various outlets that Obama's worked into the lineup in place of Fox).

I take Fox News with a grain of salt.  But, while I rarely agree with Joe Klein of TIME Magazine, I think he proves that Fox News is serving a core purpose of the press in the Obama era (though I disagree with the shrillness of his hyperbole in this instance, in line with my general distaste for his opinions):

If the problem is that stories bloated far beyond their actual importance--ACORN's corruption, Van Jones's radical past--are in danger of leaching out of the Fox hothouse into the general media, then perhaps the Administration should be a bit more diligent about whom it hires and whom it funds.

A Question...on the New Orleans Office of Recovery and Development Administration

If ORDA budgeted $1,000,000 for renovation of Lincoln Beach (in New Orleans East) for 2009...what happens to the money when the project is listed as "On Hold" on the city projects website?  When I stopped by the site of Lincoln Beach about a month ago, nothing appeared to be underway.
 
Also, unlike other projects on the site where no progress is apparent on the ground, there isn't even a generated project timeline on the site to indicate that contract solicitation or design is underway for eventual construction at Lincoln Beach.

10.23.2009

Ladder


OBEY?

UW-Madison apparently thought it would be helpful to copy Shephard Fairey's copycatting in its anti-swine flu propaganda.













I don't even know what the second image, shown here, is intended to mean on its face without further explanation.

(ht/??)

Footprint Hearing Today

On the VA down at CDC in the CBD.

10.22.2009

Surprising timing

Armenia has allegedly caught an Azerbaijani spy:
The National Security Ministry of Azerbaijan says reports about the arrest of a person in espionage in favor of Azerbaijan are nonsense, Trend News reports.

...

News-Armenia website reported with reference to the Armenian National Security Ministry that Gevorg Hairapetyan suspected of cooperation with the Azerbaijani special service was arrested in Armenia. The security agencies filed a suitcase on Hairapetyan under the criminal code article on high treason in the form of espionage. [sic]
The thing that really surprises me is that it's Armenia catching a "spy" (I have my doubts as to whether this fellow really committed any espionage, but that isn't really the point). If Armenia was really serious about rapprochement with Turkey, one would thing they would at least avoid creating any incendiary events with Azerbaijan, which is itself doing its utmost to prevent the re-opening of the Turkish-Armenian border. But with skepticism toward a thaw high on both sides, I wonder if someone in Armenia isn't trying to put the brakes on progress made so far, if not derail the process altogether. Certainly angering the Azerbaijanis is a very close second to pissing the Turks off, and could have very real negative consequences.

The Western press has played the Turkish-Armenian border deal up as pretty much a fait accompli, but it isn't done by a long shot, Clinton deals brokered from a car or not.

Ghosts and ashes



The cremated remains of one Nicola Tesla, scientist; in Beograd.

"We're the government. We know how much you should earn."

The Fed has decided to manage pay packages for bankers:
The move, a response to the public outrage over the bailout of banks and other companies whose executives received lucrative paychecks, reflects a sharp departure from the hands-off approach that has dominated bank regulations for decades. In particular, pay packages at the nation’s largest banks will now come under regular review by federal examiners.
This is a hardly surprising outcome of the recent spate of bailouts and government interventions in the market; it's what happens when the government decides it knows best. Sadly, it's also what happens when those in government don't understand basic economics.

But never fear! At least this isn't as intrusive as elsewhere:
But the principles proposed by the Fed are less strict than plans suggested by some European leaders and some members of Congress. They do not impose caps on pay or prohibit multimillion dollar pay packages. Instead, the rules are intended to discourage pay packages that encourage risky business practices and reward executives for long-term performance.
This is the new refrain of the nanny state: "we're doing this for your own good."

When the state knows best, and society is told to just follow along, it's a sad abrogation of what liberty means.

The Gitmo Playlist

"Based on documents that already have been made public and interviews with former detainees, the archive says the playlist featured cuts from AC/DC, Britney Spears, the Bee Gees, Marilyn Manson and many other groups. The Meow mix cat food jingle, the Barney theme song and an assortment of Sesame Street tunes also were pumped into detainee cells."

I like this photo


In the Chicago Tribune: Train derails in Chicago.

WWJSMD?

A fellow common book reader and friend of the blog asks:


Would John Stuart Mill...make children get vaccinations?

10.21.2009

UW Swings Eminent Domain at Madison Tavern

As an alumnus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I vehemently oppose the UW's attempt to use eminent domain to erect a new music performance hall.

I stand with Brothers Bar & Grill.

Yankee



Wisconsin: The Nanny State Ascendant

What a time in Dairyland.  The past two days seemed to give rise to a number of overreaching Wisconsin legislative measures tending toward greater state involvement in people's lives:

The State Senate passed an unfortunate measure, 27-5, that would ban texting while driving.  The activity involved is already potentially covered under state laws against disorderly driving.  And the penalties would be within the exact same range as the existing offense.  I don't see why the activity needs to be banned specifically - unless other individual behaviors done while driving that are just as distracting are banned individually.  I think the discretion to bring a disorderly driving charge is sufficient.  It also recognizes, to a better extent, that if some people can text while driving without any problems, then they won't necessarily be penalized purely for the act of texting while driving absent resultant harm.

That same body also passed a measure mandating that children under the age of 10 don life jackets in boats under 26 feet in length.  This is something that falls squarely within the responsibility of a child's parents, not the state.

Finally, Representative Mark Gottlieb, generally a thoughtful state legislator, introduced a proposed constitutional amendment that would bring a system of merit-based selection to Wisconsin's Supreme Court, as opposed to the existing practice of electing justices.  While I'm interested in studying the measure more closely, I will say at the outset that the outline of Gottlieb's plan is troubling on the whole because it, like the measures above, doesn't treat individual members of the electorate as adults who can make decisions.

Gottlieb's amendment is problematic in that it would limit the potential Wisconsin Supreme Court candidates to sitting circuit court and appellate judges.  While I generally like judicial experience, the limitation would cut out brilliant law professors, attorneys with a wealth of experience, former legislators, etc. as potential candidates.  The measure would also require a supermajority of the State Senate to confirm - which, while it seems like it would augur toward judicial impartiality, might also result in complete impracticality and gridlock given partisan interests.  Finally, the third leg of Gottlieb's plan undercuts the merit system in large part; while they wouldn't run initially, justices would still have to run in retention elections.  The inclusion of the mechanism begs the question...why shouldn't they just run in the first place then?

The Gottlieb amendment deserves additional consideration and scrutiny, but as long as the amendment effectively finds that individual voters are not smart enough to make a decision even with plenty of available disclosure on which interests are backing a given Supreme Court candidate, how a candidate treats other candidates in ads, etc., I'm probably not in favor of its passage.  Taking away the constitutionally enshrined power of the electorate to vote in judicial elections is a significant step and it needs to be done right if it's going to be done at all.

ADDED: It appears the State Senate, in much the same vein, also passed this bill, which will likely prove problematic:

The Senate also approved an anti-bullying bill that would require the state Department of Public Instruction to write a model policy that defines and bans bullying and sets up a process for bullying to be confidentially reported and investigated.

Quick hits for a rainy autumn Wednesday

I'm heading out to see Where the Wild Things Are in a moment, so here's some reading for you while I'm away:

+when not spending money is a good thing.

+one step forward with Iran (with Russian cooperation!) - will it prove Obama right?

+an information war during the Pakistani Army's push against the Taliban.

+a retrospective on ACORN's problems.

+the creation of rock'n'roll.

+a wonderful WWI flash game

The Folly of Tulane's "Safe Zone Training"

I've been invited on a number of fronts to participate in training for Tulane's "Safe Zone program."  I find the concept of the program somewhat unfortunate:

Safe Zone Ally Training

Safe Zone training is a voluntary program designed to reduce prejudice and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. The Safe Zone program makes no assumptions regarding the reasons people choose not to participate. According to Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language, an ally is someone joined with another for a common purpose. Tulane's safe zone program describes allies as persons who may or may not be a part of the LGBTQ community but have chosen to be identified and available as resources to offer confidential support, respect, assistance, and accurate information related to LGBTQ issues and concerns. Allies are people who believe in the human rights of all people and demonstrate this by their presence and actions, their acceptance and celebration of diversity among all people

Really, while the program description states that it "makes no assumptions regarding the reasons people choose not to participate," it does make a broad assumption that the campus population at large is, in effect, "unsafe" for some individuals in the campus community.

The goal, as well-intentioned as it is, should not be to create beachheads of tolerance and understanding, but to hold all students on campus to a standard of acceptance and, at the very least, neutrality.  We don't need allies marked out if everyone is expected to be an ally.  Perhaps some will say, "but Brad, not everyone is understanding.  There is a real need for this."  And I would respond: "Things will only change when the community as a whole is held to a higher standard informally by its own membership, or a vocal, well-grounded segment of its membership."

Students should certainly feel safe on campus regardless of their sexual orientation or sexuality.  But it's unhelpful to prolong the discrete and insular minority status of some students based on their sexuality by dint of a university program.

A Course on Free Speech

I'm in the midst of a course on free speech under the First Amendment.

Much like my course on the First Amendment in undergraduate, I find it to be radically more engaging and thought-provoking than many of my other courses.

As a body of law that really did not emerge with much vigor from its largely dormant source until just under a century ago, I always find myself questioning judicial pronouncements on the meaning of the First Amendment a great deal.  Even the ones I agree with.  Both in undergraduate and graduate school, I can't help but engage with the material.

For me, so much is going on in any interaction with a free speech opinion or issue.  Should I consider it from today's perspective or should I contextualize it within its own time and circumstances?  What did the Framers envision when the Amendment was enacted versus what our conception of the Amendment has come to be?  Is free speech weakened in a sense even as its protection is extended to additional new categories like obscenity or expression (does it get "thin" when it's stretched too much)?  Should some of the things protected by the First Amendment be protected under other provisions of the Constitution instead?  How do I actually believe different categories of speech, such as subversive advocacy, should be distinguished and treated as opposed to how the courts have found they should be delineated from other categories?  What is "harm" in this setting?  How do we balance - or should we balance?  What about censorship?  What about local control?  Who decides what is a closed question?  Can anything be argued as ostensibly having some value as speech?  How are individuals and law enforcement officers supposed to tailor their conduct to meet the demands of the law?  Should we allow speech into the marketplace that advocates a violent end to the marketplace?  How did we get here via stare decisis?

This is just a tiny sampling of the myriad considerations that swarm like a droplet of pondwater under a microscope every time I read the textbook or step into the classroom.

My skepticism, I've found, leads me to participate often in class.  I probably come off as bit of a contrarian, but I genuinely want to do a number of things - test my own understandings of the law, challenge others' understandings, question the underpinnings of various lines of jurisprudence, express how I actually think about a given point, etc.  It's a free speech course, after all. 

It's rewarding.  Even when I may leave a class with a few classmates - or even the professor - thinking me a fool, I do feel as though I've done my best to plumb my own concerns, to test out my own "grand unified theory of free speech"...and ultimately strengthen my general preference for greater protection of speech overall.

A few tunes to start the day

You know Steve Burns from Blue's Clues. But did you know he's also an indie rocker? Yep, it's true; the drummer for the Flaming Lips even moonlights in Burns's band. I don't remember exactly how I came across his first album, Songs for Dustmites, but I go back to it every now and then, and always find it an extremely pleasant listen.



Girlsareshort was another blip on the radar, putting out just two albums before folding. Earlynorthamerican is one of the most charming, summery, pleasant albums I've ever heard.



It is impossible to go wrong with Bowie, but Heroes is my go-to song whenever I need a lift; it picked me up many a time in Azerbaijan when things just got a little too much, but I had somewhere I needed to be -- I'd bring it up on the iPod on the walk to wherever, and by the time I got there, things would be better.

10.20.2009

Foreign Policy bits

Looking at Joe Biden, the un-reassuring reassurer:
It does make one wonder, at what point are U.S. allies no longer going to be reassured when Biden shows up?
And

A third way on Iran?
There is a third option. The United States could offer its unwavering support to the Iranian opposition, strengthening and broadening this newly reawakened movement by arming it with satellite phones, digital cameras, and GPS units. America could train a cadre of countersnipers to neutralize the regime's rooftop shooters, many of whom have fired into peaceful crowds of protesters.

Data could be fed into the government's channels of information to confuse its intelligence organs, turning various elements of the regime on each other. Shortwave radio could be used to educate people in rural regions where the regime enjoys some support. America could eviscerate the regime's moral authority by showing its perfidy and corruption for what it is.
Sadly, only the last three paragraphs of the article actually discuss what steps the US should take, and I've quoted two of those here.

The history of armored warfare and smooth Kentucky bourbon, not a bad weekend if you ask me.

So, this weekend was a lot of fun for me down here in Kentucky. In addition to my trip to the Patton Museum on Saturday, on Sunday I took a beautiful scenic drive from Ft. Knox to the hills just outside of the small town of Loretto to tour the Maker's Mark distillery.


On a side note, Maker's Mark is perhaps my favorite bourbon. I absolutely loved getting to see how it's made. To start things off, Maker's Mark is made at the oldest distillery in the US. Bourbon has been distilled on site since 1805 when it was owned by the Charles Burks family and known as the Burks Mill distillery.

It is also home to the Quart House, the first retail bourbon/whiskey store in the America. It's called the Quart House because farmers would bring their quart jugs to the small building where they would be filled up straight out of the barrel.


After the grains are ground up, cooked and the limestone spring water and liquid yeast are added, the mash ferments in open vats for three days. It's called the "beer process" because at the end of the stage the bourbon more closely resembles beer. The sweet smell of beer in the room was strong, but very pleasant.


From the vats, the mash is run through one of the two giant 38 foot stills outside the building. Then the bourbon goes through a two-stage distilling process that produces what is called "White Dog" - basically moonshine. It comes out of these two copper stills at 130 proof. The dog definitely has some bite.

From there, the White Dog is put into charred, white-oak barrels and allowed to age for 5 1/2 to 6 years until the Maker's Mark tasters determine it's ready for public sale. Once the bourbon is distilled, the only thing added is limestone spring water. That's what brings the final product down to a more easily consumed 90 proof.


After the tour we got to taste both the White Dog - cut down to 90 proof - and aged Maker's Mark. I was surprised by how smooth the White Dog was. While not nearly as pleasant as the finished product, it still had the beginnings of the smooth, almost sweet flavor of regular Maker's Mark. It was by no means the harshest bourbon I've ever tried.


It was quite a good time, and I recommend it to anyone who likes bourbon, or just enjoys learning about a uniquely American drink.

A step in the right direction

This is good for everyone involved - the city gets revenue, the smokers aren't penalized for an absurd law:
Sheboygan police would still seek misdemeanor charges against people caught with small amounts of marijuana, but would send the cases to the Sheboygan County District Attorney's Office, which offers first-time offenders a chance to plead down from a criminal charge to an ordinance violation, which involves paying a fine, but no criminal charges.

By creating the marijuana ordinance, fines generated by offenders would go directly to the city, rather than the Sheboygan County Circuit Court system.

"It's a revenue enhancer, and I guess in my mind it's kind of a no-brainer to me, if these people are going to be arrested and if the city is going to get the revenue, if it's a city arrest, why wouldn't we want to get the revenue rather than having the county get it?" said Ald. Jim Bohren, whose Law and Licensing Committee supported the ordinance.
(via Fox Politics, with whose proprietress I just had coffee)

Tuesday Grab Bag

+ "Houses of the Future" down in New Orleans.

+ The FDIC "will likely stay in the red through 2012."

+ China hits hurdles in its exploitation of African oil.

+ Iowa gets burnt by its film tax incentives program...I can only imagine how this plays out in Louisiana.

His presence commands nothing but an ironic smile. And do we have nothing else to do but fight with ghosts?

Georgia is trying to decide what to do with Stalin:
"The monument must be completely destroyed," argued Levan Ramishvili, director of Tbilisi’s Liberty Institute, a think-tank that provided intellectual heft for the 2003 Rose Revolution. "Since the Georgian government is being careful, this should be a civil initiative ? I would not rule out that somebody blows up the monument in the night."

...

"Now they want to destroy him, destroy a statue! ? [These are] the same people, who would not dare to make a sound when he was alive," fumed Vasil Modebadze, a fragile octogenarian who wore a Soviet army uniform with a cascade of medals as he played a game of backgammon with a fellow World War II veteran.



Here's old Djugashvili, the day after the Russians left the last time around.

10.19.2009

Movement on Medical Marijuana

"This overreaching stifles an express choice by some States, concerned for the lives and liberties of their people, to regulate medical marijuana differently. If I were a California citizen, I would not have voted for the medical marijuana ballot initiative; if I were a California legislator I would not have supported the Compassionate Use Act. But whatever the wisdom of California’s experiment with medical marijuana, the federalism principles that have driven our Commerce Clause cases require that room for experiment be protected in this case. For these reasons I dissent."

Justice O'Connor's great dissent, years later, wins the day, for all practical purposes, with the Obama DOJ's enforcement decision.

"A Stealth Stimulus"

As the White House builds a second stimulus - (just don't call it a stimulus) - I love how photographer Pete Souza managed to capture a fitting, somewhat saddening scrap of imagery for TIME Magazine.
 
The President, head down, advisors in tow, is framed, overwhelmed almost, by...the Red Room.
 
I'm generally quite opposed to a second stimulus due its potential to further damage the nation's fiscal standing in the short and long term.  We are already drowning in red.  The first stimulus, an overt measure, was poorly done.  That inspires a good deal of trepidation at the prospect of a second measure going under the radar, so to speak, with a different, more appealing appellation, even if the total dollar figure mentioned (100 billion) is about 1/8 the size of the first stimulus package.
 
Still, I'm very much willing to look at the nature of this second stimulus.  Some of the measures being discussed may represent better options, at least, than much of what comprised the first stimulus.  Passing a pared down, heavily targeted, bipartisan measure with a high likelihood of catalyzing a short-term turnaround on a few fronts should not automatically be off the table.
 
But the problem is that this is how the first stimulus should have gone.  And it didn't.  So anything passed at this point, no matter how well honed it is, must be considered in light of what's already been passed to address the crisis - the financial bailout, the stimulus, the auto bailout, the budget, etc.  That makes almost any measure look more unattractive at this point than it otherwise would.
 
In all of this, a final and crucial consideration must also be a preference for empowering individuals, families, and businesses to be intrepid in forging their own recoveries.  There is a liberty impact at stake in stimulus policies, not just an economic impact.  I would challenge lawmakers and the administration to seek creative solutions that incentivize private actors to step back into the market without reliance on traditional Keynesian pump priming.

"All very successful commanders are prima donnas and must be so treated."

So said George S. Patton, one of the greatest battlefield commanders - and biggest prima donnas - the United States Army has ever seen.


On Saturday I took some time to tour the Patton Museum here at Ft. Knox. It's the second time I've done so - the first was in 2003 while I was stationed here - and if you are ever in the Ft. Knox or Louisville area, I highly recommend checking it out.

The museum is not only a great tribute to one of the most influential military leaders of the 20th century, but a great history of armored warfare in general. There are exhibits from the very early days of Ft. Knox and it's history as the home of the cavalry to the history of tanks and armor from WWI through to OEF and OIF.

Among the impressive displays is this life-size recreation of the first tank engagement in WWI.


There are also displays of the most famous tanks in history and a lot of great artifacts from the life of General Patton.

Lots more pictures after the jump.

Testing the Kindle at UW

The State Journal has an interesting little story on a group of 20 students at the UW who are giving the Kindle digital book a test run.

As far as textbooks for college are concerned, I wish I'd had one during my time at UW - of course, back when I started college in 2001 it wouldn't have been an option, heck the iPod didn't even exist yet, but I digress - if only for the fact that I wouldn't have had to carry so many books around campus. Even though they cost a lot up front, it makes sense for incoming freshmen to buy one. If you add up the cost of textbooks over 4 years versus the cost of downloading them onto a Kindle, it could save hundreds, if not thousands.

But that's just for textbooks. I have to agree with one of the students interviewed in the article: "I've been raised reading books. I like the physicality of books. I like holding one. I like seeing how far I am."

I love being able to sit down and read a book. It's more fun to feel the pages in your hands. Two of my favorite authors are Michael Crichton and Robert Ludlum and are known for suspense and action. I think being able to see how many pages are left helps to make those types of books fun because you are often left guessing how it will end quickly or - when things look nice and tidy - what will happen to prolong the story.


As for my favorite novels, they are almost exclusively the classics. Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls, Dickens' The Tale of Two Cities, or Dumas' Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers. I simply cannot fathom reading them on a lifeless computer screen.


The Kindle may be the future when it comes to textbooks and newspapers and technical works, but I hope there will always be a place for books. I just don't want to give those up. Anyone else have any thoughts?

10.18.2009

On Liberty - Common Book Roundup 1

This year marks the sesquicentennial of the publication of John Stuart Mill's most notable work.  We're reading the rather prescient book 150 years later as the first in our LIB Common Book Project.

After the break, Steve S and Brad V chat about the first chapter and its continuing relevance to the contemporary American political landscape.  Please feel free to join the conversation in the comments.

T-Model Ford at Crescent City Blues and BBQ Festival


Hands down, one of the most electrifying musical performances I have ever witnessed in my life.  T-Model Ford is living proof, at 89 or 90 years old, that the blues are still alive.  Damn, what a good show.  Joined by the bearded Bill Able and T-Model's own 11 year-old grandson, STUD, on drums, the man put out just the right mix of paleo Delta blues infused with a raw, heavy, more aggressive Chicago-laced sound.  If my hearing ever goes bad in my right ear, it's because I heard T-Model Ford from the front row, sprawled out on the grass.





10.17.2009

Hands Across the Sea

The United Kingdom ends centuries of legal tradition with the creation of its own separate Supreme Court. 

I'm curious to see how this new judicial development unfurls in what has long been a unitary government.

Unedited


$21 Trillion

"The overall national debt, which is the accumulation of annual deficits, is nearly $12 trillion, and projected deficits for the next decade will add an estimated $9 trillion more." 

This is the leaden albatross about our neck.

Another Clinton rebuff

After famously running heated negotiations from a cell phone in the back of a car last week, it seemed Hillary Clinton had achieved a tremendously important, if unfortunately obscure, breakthrough by bringing Turkey and Armenia together in an agreement to open their borders.

How quickly it's all undone, by a cheap thug in tacky suits. There were some early indicators that the Nagorno-Karabagh question would still be a thorn in the deal, but Azeri president Ilham Aliyev is going the extra mile to make sure it doesn't happen by playing the Russian card -- making oil-related threats to your neighbors:
Aliyev said at a cabinet meeting in Baku on October 16 that Turkey is paying Azerbaijan only one-third of world-market prices and demands high transit fees. The meeting was shown on national television.

Aliyev said such a practice is "illogical" and "no country in the world would accept these terms."

...

Aliyev also alluded to the Western-backed Nabucco pipeline project to bring natural gas from the Caspian Sea to Austria via Turkey, saying: "unresolved transit fees and unacceptable demands in reality can result in the disruption of a project of world importance."
If Azerbaijan won't ship its oil and gas through Turkey, that puts a major damper on the Turkish-Armenian deal -- the pipeline business is far more lucrative, especially short-term, than the trade benefits of opening the Armenian border, and the political calculus gets thrown way off too. This also means that Aliyev gets the West's attention, as Nabucco is in large part the answer to the South Stream and Nord Stream pipelines being built by Russia right now to get oil and natural gas to Europe while bypassing Ukraine; the threat is even more pointed with the deal inked today with Gazprom, the Russian giant.

Coming as it does on the heels of the Russian turnabout, this is a major setback for Clinton -- although it wasn't entirely unexpected (the Azeris have been raising Cain since the deal was first brought up), Hillary was really tied to the border opening, and this weakens her substantially.

10.16.2009

A busy Friday on Freret

Whew - what a tumultuous day on old Freret Street.  The thoroughfare changed even in the span of hours between my drive down in the morning and my drive back up in the late afternoon.

After the break, a few photos of the developments - including a movie shoot, a demolition, and the construction of a mini high-rise.

























Merit Pay proposal a good starting point

I've mentioned my reservations about merit pay before, but this new proposal from Sen. Darling and Rep. Davis might have some promise.

First, I like the idea of the reward being a bonus rather than having a scale of base pay tied to performance. Second, it appears to give school boards the choice to choose which metrics they feel need the most improvement for their schools.

What still concerns me though, is whether or not the bonuses would be paid to the entire school or the teachers that are responsible for the improvement. The school option would eliminate some of my concerns about music, art and phy. ed. teachers, but at the same time it has the potential to reward teachers who are not contributing to the success of the school. If that is the case it would defeat the purpose of merit pay completely.

Another problem is that allowing school districts to choose which areas on which they are judged could end up being an excuse to choose the easiest area to improve. In order to be successful, there needs to a concrete definition of progress or success in order for the bonuses to be paid. Is it enough to just improve over the year before, or must a certain percentage of students be proficient? Finally, having the schools come up with half of the funding poses yet another burden on school districts and property taxpayers. I would prefer that the state find full funding for the program by finding efficiencies within DPI.

When the details of the bill come out, I hope that the criteria are clarified.

Crescent City Blues Fest This Weekend

Man, I hope I have time to break away for it - what a lineup.

And it's free.

Friday music video

An album I've really been liking lately is Silent Shout by the Knife.



Here are some more music videos: eenie, meenie, miney.  

It took a few listens to get over the robotic-ness of the sound, especially with link 'eenie'. It was much less uncomfortable after I found out the singer is Swedish and frequently runs her voice through pitch shifting.

Hello!

The NYT has a story on how hello became a widely used greeting.  Turns out with Edison's help it beat ahoy as the standard phone greeting.

Unfortunately the article is not quite right, at least about the invention of the word.  It was used earlier in the 19th century, at least back to 1834 to be exact. 

What is neat is how telephones transcended the rigid etiquette of the time.

I think I'll have to start working in some ahoys now.

10.15.2009

5th Circuit Panel Hands Down Second Amendment Opinion

The case of U.S. v. Dorosan out of Gretna, Louisiana, which I've been following since I was in that city in 2008, came down yesterday. 

A three judge panel of the U.S. Fifth Circuit, in a truncated, unpublished 2-page opinion, affirmed the district court below, rejecting Dorosan's Second Amendment defense argument:

Dorosan raises one argument on appeal:  The regulation under which he was convicted violates his Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms, as recently recognized in District of Columbia v. Heller, 555 U.S. ----, 128 S. Ct. 2783, 2822 (2008).  Assuming Dorosan's Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms extends to carrying a handgun in his car, Dorosan's challenge nonetheless fails.

While the court ultimately ruled that the postal property on which the facts unfolded was one of the "sensitive places" mentioned as exceptional in the Heller opinion, it's interesting to focus in on the language at the end of the second sentence.  "Assuming Dorosan's Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms extends to carrying a handgun in his car..." Is the Fifth Circuit, with such words, operating on the presumption that the Second Amendment is incorporated against the state of Louisiana where Dorosan lives?  It seems to me that it is, if it is touching on that other controversy at all.

Even if the particular circumstances of this case (where the government restriction was based on the federal government's ownership of the property involved rather than its police powers as in Heller) resulted in no successful Second Amendment defense and the rule challenged was a federal postal regulation, a close reading arguably could push the Fifth Circuit onto the list of circuits that have found the Second Amendment to be incorporated against the states.  Admittedly, I'm not well versed in the precise mechanics of whether statements that may in fact be dicta play into incorporation debates.  At present, in the circuit split, only a panel of the Ninth Circuit had found for incorporation, and that circuit currently is reviewing the original decision en banc.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court recently granted cert. in the Seventh Circuit case (Easterbrook) that found against incorporation (joining the Second Circuit), the Fifth Circuit's brief note in Dorosan may be of some import in the high Court's decisionmaking, at least as far as providing a brief hint of how the Circuit stands on the issue.

ADDED:  I've been pondering the snippet of text a bit further.  If Louisiana doesn't have any law imposing on Dorosan's right to keep a firearm in his car on property other than federal postal property, then I suppose it's arguable that this is a throw-away line that doesn't necessarily mean anything.  In this view, Louisiana hasn't done anything yet as a state government to abridge the right, so there's no controversy as to the incorporation issue.  Dorosan can simply keep a weapon in his car outside the confines of the postal property at the heart of the case because it's not barred by federal or state law, even if the incorporation issue hasn't been decisively decided.

Or, conceivably, the court could merely be "assuming arguendo" for sake of argument.  But the court doesn't specify that it's doing that...and there's really not much else that the assumption helps with...other than possibly providing a clue as to the court's presumption about incorporation at a time when the panel likely knows the issue is hot.  That's why I still find the assumption significant. 

ADDED - 2:  I got in touch with one of the attorneys for Mr. Dorosan today, and she indicated that Mr. Dorosan "most assuredly ... will file for a writ" of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court.