1.31.2010

Caption?

Bumfuzzled

I had never seen or heard the word used until today.

It means just how it sounds.

Thoughts on the Nola Mayoral Race?

That, minus the question mark, is the title of a post I hope to put up tomorrow.

While I haven't posted about it frequently, I've been to a number of events along the campaign trail, and I've followed the story lines in the newspaper and on the blogs.

If you have any thoughts or input on the topic before I give my take, comment away.

Taiwan Arms - A Pretext?

Just after Robert Kaplan tells us "Don't Panic About China," China announced it is cutting off various military exchange programs with the U.S. and imposing "unusually broad" sanctions on the private U.S. companies that supply Taiwan with defense technology.

It's certainly possible to view the moves as rational responses to the U.S. decision to permit the transfer of military technology to Taiwan, if you step into the nationalist shoes of China, which continues to view Taiwan as a breakaway province.

But I wonder if the unusual breadth of the response shows the weapons sales to be a pretext - an excuse to erect barriers around China's military development, something already notoriously opaque.  It's difficult to read the Pentagon's precise take, but I think it's a possible interpretation from the military's public comment on the development:

“We regret that the Chinese side has curtailed military-to-military and other exchanges” Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary, said, according to Reuters. “We also regret Chinese action against U.S. firms transferring defensive articles to Taiwan.”

Part of the value of the military-to-military exchanges is, at least in theory, an ability of each side to keep tabs on the military developments of the other, to keep fuses from being lit.

Finally, what does Taiwan think of a one-China policy these days?  Here's a look at some numbers from fall 2009.

1.30.2010

Six Bouts

























































































"straight out of the House of Commons"

That was refreshing - truly, it was.

Although I think the House GOP ended up ceding yet more air time to the Executive.  And it appeared as if Obama was capable of "taking them all on at once" in a way.

But perhaps that was part of the plan...when a President is this overexposed...notwithstanding what some observers say.

The frank, respectful discussion of Rep. Paul Ryan's "Roadmap" was also intriguing - and rare.

1.29.2010

Booyah

Score 1, Who Dat Nation!

Friday Night Fights - Tonight on Freret


















Driving down Freret in the past six months, you may have occasionally seen the sign out in front of the Freret Street Gym announcing Friday Night Fights, which, with a few exceptions, have gone down one Friday per month.  There was no December event, but now, from what I hear, the fights will be official amateur boxing matches.

I have yet to make it to a bout, despite my best efforts.  Several friends have attended, though, and there's a blog report and a student newspaper report out there.

I do know that the October event featured, among others, a fight between a Tulane business student and the Jesuit priest who heads Loyola University-New Orleans.  Stavros S, a fellow Tulane Law Student, also fought.  The crowd included, among others, my friend Wolf, James Carville, and the Editor in Chief of the Tulane Law Review.

It's hard to believe there's boxing going on over in the Freret Corridor.   I've never seen boxing live, so I might just have to stop by this evening.

Unadulterated Hackery

The chair of the Democratic Party of Louisiana is trying to make hay of the recent shenanigans in Senator Mary Landrieu's office.

While I, too, condemn the deceptive attempt by Mr. O'Keefe and friends to do seemingly unlawful things (despite O'Keefe's insistence that his party sought no illegal end, I haven't heard a credible account of what legal thing they intended...dressed up in disguises), Mr. McHale's attempt to capitalize seems equally ridiculous:

I guess I shouldn't be surprised that the Republicans have to resort to breaking the law to push their agenda of doing the bidding for special interests, standing up for Wall Street fat cats and abandoning the middle class. But I have to tell you - I am amazed that they would sink this low.

The only way to combat these Republican dirty tricks is with constant viligance and by aggressively exposing their lies and criminal behavior. That's why we need your help.

Please contribute $25, $50, or $150 right now to help the Louisiana Democratic Party fight these Republican dirty tricks.

Already, the supporters of these four Republican political operatives are trying to explain away their actions. The truth is simple: these four grown men broke the law to further their twisted political agenda.

We're not going to let them get away with this. If you will stand with us, the Louisiana Democratic Party will make sure there is a thorough investigation and that those who broke the law are prosecuted to the fullest extent.

Help us make sure we have to resources to pursue every legal means to make sure those responsible for the Louisiana Watergate are brought to justice.  Click here to contribute $25, $50 or $100 to the Louisiana Democratic Party right now!

Unfortunately David Vitter and other Louisiana Republicans with ties to these four political operatives are refusing to answer some basic questions.

Did David Vitter, his staff or anyone asociated with the Louisiana Republican Party have any communication with these four politcal operatives or did they have any advance knowledge of their actions?

The rhetoric is silly, and only a complete tool would actually donate money to McHale's attempt to milk the situation.  The final "push poll" graph is especially sleazy.  If you're going to use that kind of language, Mr. McHale, you had better have some substance, some proof.

I do agree with McHale that these were grown men - it's time to stop treating individuals in their 20s, legally adults, as if they were "just kids," like one of the men's attorneys tried to do.

Life in a Post-Arbitration World

Inside the Footprint is back in business.

1.28.2010

Dome


Things got so loud...they had to make repairs.

Well, this snowblows

The lab and I just returned this morning after driving all night from a several day conference in Florida. As we were whittling down the last hour on the road, the sun rose on a fresh layer of snow in presently 14 F air:



Tuesday in Orlando was the best day with temps in the low 70's and sunny with no humidity--felt like a May day. Shorts and t-shirts. And it was my first time in a tropical area. There was still plenty of green in January.

Just 18 hours ago, the sun had set on scenes like these:



the beach at dusk



the Kennedy Space Center




and an anonymous field in the middle of Florida.

It was a conference and expo so there was nothing to take pictures of in Orlando, unfortunately.

"but can the "Hamlet-Brett Favre" act stop once and for all?'

Kevin at Lakeshore Laments takes a look at the chatter surrounding the possible Tommy Thompson - Russ Feingold matchup.

The numbers are interesting.

ADDEDRasmussen breaks the numbers down.  (ht/CB)

The new snit, or, Post Wilsonian whining

Glenn Greenwald is getting excercised by a whisper:
There's a reason that Supreme Court Justices -- along with the Joint Chiefs of Staff -- never applaud or otherwise express any reaction at a State of the Union address. It's vital -- both as a matter of perception and reality -- that those institutions remain apolitical, separate and detached from partisan wars. The Court's pronouncements on (and resolutions of) the most inflammatory and passionate political disputes retain legitimacy only if they possess a credible claim to being objectively grounded in law and the Constitution, not political considerations.
If I could take the liberty, I'd like to issue a stern head shake of my own. Greenwald is missing the point. Alito had already, by siding with the majority position in Citizens United, disagreed with what Obama said in that section of his speech. He had already made -- and voiced -- the decision that Obama was wrong in saying that the Supreme Court's decision effectively limited or perverted free speech.

Alito was fully within his rights to shake his head. Indeed, as Althouse notes, it was indecorous of President Obama to so vehemently attack the Court in a speech that should have instead focused on politics"
I think that if they knew they were going to have to listen to that kind of in-your-face disrespect, they wouldn't have done the President the honor of sitting there, providing the scenery. But they were there, and I'm not going to criticize Alito for moving his lips and letting us see a silent defense of the judicial branch of government.

1.27.2010

SOTU live

It's the first State of the Union for an arguably overexposed President, and CNN is saying we're looking at 65 minutes or so -- longer than most, though perhaps not Clinton-esque. We'll be multi-liveblogging as we go after the jump!

Is he where Reagan was in his first SOTU? Should he be conducting a fighting retreat on health care or urging a more maximalist policy than he has to this point? And wither the tax cuts and budget freezes we've been hearing leaked lately?


Paul Ryan's star continues to rise

Seriously, this guy is one of the absolutely crucial Republicans right now. He has been a leader on fiscal responsibility and sound policy for the last year or two, and now he is laying out a case for a Republican recovery:
Republicans can help Washington become part of the solution, not part of the problem. We can do this by pushing to enact tax policies that boost incentives for economic growth and job creation, focus the Fed on price stability, fix our banking system to get credit flowing again, stop reckless spending, and reform our entitlement programs.

Our economy is begging for clear leadership that inspires confidence and hope that the entrepreneurial spirit will flourish again. Our goal must be to offer Americans that leadership.
The GOP has dug its trenches -- now it's time to mount an offense.

High-rise hilarity

So, we're getting ready for another new high-rise on campus at the UW. But this one's got a twist:
There is no parking provided for staff, residents or guests. Instead, the developers have included 27 covered stalls for mopeds and another 75 for bicycles. [...]

"I like the idea of a building that says ‘No Cars Allowed,’" said commission member Ald. Lauren Cnare. "This seems like a great place for an experiment of this kind."
Well, that's dumb. Any developer who thinks he can be magically delicious by ignoring reality in one of the worst areas for parking in already parking-unfriendly Madison is asking for a boondoggle.

You want campus greenies on your side because you put in a few bikes spaces? Great. That's a cute gimmick and I'm sure you'll get lots of pats on the head. Now dig a garage so the people who live there can park. The simple fact, though, is that the price points on this place are quite clearly going to select for coasties who are already segregated on Langdon. And the next simple fact is that these people drive cars. Have you seen the parking at Langdon Hall? So yeah, that's cute that your residents will be able to bike a block and a half to Bascom Hill, and then they'll probably just get on the bus anyway. But patting yourself on the back for somehow being green just because you're going to create a catastrophe of parking is simple asshattery and nothing more.

And there are other problems:
Korb attorney Harvey Temkin said the lack of parking in the plan would present problems for delivery, emergency or maintenance vehicles. He also raised safety concerns about adding more density to an already congested area along the lake.

"We’re not opposed to development on the site … but this is not the appropriate development there," said Temkin. "It’s just not practical."

Trial Delayed in Nola

Due to "Saintsmania."

(ht/Adam D)

Waiting for the King to Tip


Charity Hospital Arbitration - The Numbers Are In

The State of Louisiana gets an award of $474.7 million (higher than expected) for damage to the structure during Hurricane Katrina.

This number was crucial to the nature of the fight for Lower Mid-City.  The extra funding gives LSU a leg up in its push to build a new hospital - although it's not even half of the total cost involved.

ADDED: While I think the funding will give LSU momentum based on its own arguments...I think it also raises a simple question - why not use the windfall to revitalize the old hospital building?  They could start today, rebuilding floors or nodes within the structure.  It wouldn't even require any bulldozing or additional hassle in Lower Mid-City.

ADDED II:  SaveCharity lays out the argument nicely.

1.26.2010

Scary

The CBO's Budget and Economic Outlook, just out today (ht/David L), puts some frightening writing on the fiscal wall:




















This is utterly unsustainable.  And there's far more in the report that's disconcerting - especially the crippling interest payments looming on the debt down the road.

The Obama push for a deficit reduction commission - dismissed by many in the GOP as mere cover for the gargantuan expansion in the debt ceiling - is at least a step (and Scott Brown supports it).  But it does seem a bit like agreeing to put a band-aid on an arterial wound at some point the future...while pulling the wound open.

Obama's potential spending freeze is a good step as well, although it suffers from a similar problem - it doesn't necessarily address the underlying system that is going to continue generating spending.  The spending cuts within the federal government should be far more significant than merely setting inflated spending on autopilot.

It's time for some actual, concrete fiscal conservatism.  It's time to say "no."

Summer Internship with SCOTUSBlog

Here's a great summer opportunity for current law students.

Appearances


All things pop

Politico is talking populism -- trying to define the term that is so prevalent in today's politics. One blurb seemed especially helpful:
Populism is a term with a complex and not altogether wholesome legacy. At one level, it refers to representing the interests of ordinary people. But it has also been used to refer to pandering to the base instincts of the mob. Tom Watson of Georgia was a leader of the Populist Party in the early 20th century who is now remembered most for his virulent appeals to racism and anti-Semitism. So I guess you might say that populism is in the eye of the beholder — either an idealistic rejection of the powerful or a crass effort to exploit popular prejudice for personal or political gain.
I'm disappointed they didn't ask someone at UW-Madison. Wisconsin has had its own history of populism, and it's been by and large a unique and distinguished version of the trend. Indeed, Wisconsin bucked the trend of agrarian populism, instead drawing on labor in heavily industrialized Milwaukee and Badger miners, which in many ways would become the template for the Democratic populism we see today -- a focus on unions and labor.

Then, of course, there was Fighting" Bob Lafollette, who founded one of the lasting political faces of progressive populism -- the Wisconsin Idea:
In Wisconsin, La Follette developed the techniques and ideas that made him a nationwide symbol of Progressive reform and made the state an emblem of progressive experimentation. The Wisconsin Idea, as it came to be called, was that efficient government required control of institutions by the voters rather than special interests, and that the involvement of specialists in law, economics, and social and natural sciences would produce the most effective government.
He is something of a contradiction: he established the progressivism that the Democrats have since claimed -- but which he created as a Republican. His political career thus hints at the populisms of both right and left, the back-to-religion, kick-out-the-"beltway insiders" brand embodied by the Tea Party as well as the the pro-regulatory focus of the self-styled Progressives.

Politico does a disservice to the understanding of populism by not getting to the heart of Bob La Follette.

Break In at the Hale Boggs Building

The young videographer who posed as a pimp to "take down ACORN" gets arrested here in New Orleans for trying to bug Senator Landrieu's office in the Hale Boggs building on Poydras.

Bad idea.

UPDATE:  A long time reader and friend of the blog sends in this tidbit about James O'Keefe: "I met James while working in DC.  He seemed a little TOO passionate about politics and really enjoyed shock value (aka "attention")."

Exhibit A

UPDATE II:  The Times-Pic provides more strange details about the event - including the fact that O'Keefe, on leaving the St. Bernard Parish jail stated only "Veritas."  Laughably stupid.

UPDATE III (Steve S): the FBI affidavit can be found at Talking Points Memo.

Very Cool

WIRED shares the first comprehensive map of global shipping routes based on actual vessel itineraries.
 
(ht/Gillian G)

Unhinged Opposition to Citizens United Ruling - Revealing, But Unhelpful

In the end, disagreement with the recent Supreme Court opinion on political speech can only be rooted in a lack of confidence in individuals and the American electorate.  It presumes voters are too weak and "too stupid" to self-govern.

I don't place absolute faith in the electorate - it certainly gets things "wrong" in the eyes of history and my subjective conception of things.  It's not always the most informed.  It doesn't always have the best of intentions.  But I think it has a certain "horse sense," if you will, at the very least.  It can smell danger, and it can self-correct.  It mediates our politics - acts as a great body of water moderating the otherwise wild, continental temperature swings in the political apparatus.

That's why, especially in this time of increased rates of higher education, a time when we've grown increasingly skeptical of our national politicians of all stripes, I find the bitter, venomous, generally unhinged reaction to the Supreme Court's opinion in Citizens United to be complete overkill.  Especially this piece by John Nichols in Wisconsin's Capital Times.  And Ed Garvey's hyperbolic allusions to Plessy v. Ferguson.  And Mike McCabe's absurd invocation of Dred Scott.  And Mike Plaisted's oversimplified, emotion-based diatribe.

First, if we step back far enough, we should take comfort that corporate conglomerations of wealth are even working within our political system.  Comparatively speaking, even a Progressive's post-Citizens United worst case nightmare is better than having a system akin to the one prevalent in Russia in the 1990s and 2000s - a plutocracy of corporate bosses who refused to operate within the overarching political structure.  Getting nodes of power to play within a legal framework and a political framework puts corporate or union influence up for potential public inspection, especially if sufficient disclosure measures are in place.

Second, the change wrought by the decision will likely be in the shape of a shift of wealth already influencing the political sphere, as opposed to an actual influx of additional corporate (and, remember, union) monies.  As Politico notes:

But the reality is likely to be something more modest, mainly a shifting of cash that’s already in the system away from so-called 527 groups.

Third, the ruling does not permit direct corporate treasury donations to candidates' campaigns - it permits them to run ads in elections in support of or in opposition to various candidates.  Thus, crucially, this ruling does not hand various entities actual political power.  It's allowing them to speak in the marketplace that the electorate ultimately looks to in making its decision about which candidate to back in the end.  Voters still get to mediate any corporate speech.  Massive corporate or union television support may be just as likely to backfire as it is to succeed - provided there is adequate disclosure (which I do think is essential to making the new paradigm work in a way that enhances the value of political speech in the market).

Fourth, any discussion of stare decisis, a worthwhile one, is complicated by the conflicting SCOTUS precedents involved in this issue - for example, the Austin case, overruled in Citizens United, was itself arguably unfaithful to the earlier precedent in Buckley v. Valeo.  Thus, assertions that "the majority had no legal basis whatsoever" and "blazed through" precedent are rather flimsy - mostly driven by detractors' general policy of hating on corporations in most respects.  One of the hypos at oral arguments revealed the the dark side of the then existing law on corporate donations - potentially allowing bans on pamphlets or books put out by corporations.  The majority opinion in Citizens United is very speech protective.  And for anyone who has problems with "money as speech", read this - it's about the dangers of regulating money that facilitates speech in the end.

Fifth, the obsession with the "corporations as persons" concept misses the point.  It's about the speech in the end.  No matter who or what is speaking, it's about having a marketplace of speech out of which the electorate can sift and winnow toward some sort of political truth. It's about aggregating many interests, voices, and perspectives so as to permit a more wholistic assessment of issues and candidates.  And it's about ultimately placing the responsibility of sussing everything out on individual voters as aided by the news media, bloggers, etc.  Again, disclosure is a crucial component - the electorate must be able, in some fashion, to connect speech with speakers so as to gauge its veracity and relevance.  Although even anonymous speech has had an important role in the history of American political discourse.

I haven't even finished reading the opinions in Citizens United, but from my extensive reading of the coverage firestorm surrounding the case - even the President has taken part with a very dumbed down, politically calculated response - I think the backlash is looking increasingly like one big melodrama.

1.25.2010

Bits and pieces

+Chinese capitalism - leveling out?

+How's that reset working out?

+The Christian Science Monitor echoes a question of mine. So does Megan McArdle.

+Hipster cons?

+An insider look at the Nepali elections.

+Hayek/Keynes rap-off:



Also: if you're not keeping up with the World Politics Review under-the-radar roundup, you're not keeping up.

5th Circuit Returns to TLS

Oral arguments on Feb. 2

"an Abita or four was pretty clearly justified in this case"

The WSJ sounds off on the Saints victory.

Money as Speech, Corporations as People

Professor Volokh, in the wake of Citizens United, takes on the "money = political speech" interpretation of those who dislike the majority opinion:

It's that restricting the use of money to speak, like restricting the use of air travel or computers to speak, interferes with people's ability to speak. One can debate whether this interference is justified. But mocking the pro-constitutional-protection position as resting on the notion that "money is speech" strikes me as quite mistaken.

His co-blogger, Ilya Somin, parses the "corporations aren't people" argument:

I'm not arguing that corporations themselves are "persons" with constitutional rights. Rather, I'm asserting that their owners and employees are such persons and that that status enables them to use corporations to exercise their constitutional rights. Similarly, partnerships, universities, schools, and sole proprietorships aren't people either. But people can use them to exercise their constitutional rights, and the government can't forbid it on the sole ground that they are using assets assets assigned to "state-created entities."

Losing the East?

Some of our China hands may raise their eyebrows:
Political experts say Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama’s greater willingness to engage Beijing and the rest of Asia reflects a broad rethinking of Japan’s role in the region at a time when the United States is showing unmistakable signs of decline. It also reflects a growing awareness here that Japan’s economic future is increasingly tied to China, which has already surpassed the United States as its largest trading partner.

"Hatoyama wants to use Asia to offset what he sees as the declining influence of the United States," said Yoshihide Soeya, director of the Institute of East Asia Studies at Keio University in Tokyo. "He thinks he can play China off the United States."

Saintsational Pandemonium!







A tightened grip may not regain control

More centralization from the Obama camp:
Mr. Obama has asked his former campaign manager, David Plouffe, to oversee House, Senate and governor’s races to stave off a hemorrhage of seats in the fall. The president ordered a review of the Democratic political operation — from the White House to party committees — after last week’s Republican victory in the Massachusetts Senate race, aides said.
Obama -- and Plouffe (remember him?) -- was a great campaigner. These two men clearly know how to run well-oiled machines, and their experience should parlay into better campaigns for the Dems in the next cycle. Maybe.

The trouble is, Obama rode a groundswell of popular discontent -- and that is the exact same groundswell that carried the Republicans to power just now. As Brad pointed out, the activists in the health care debate are the anti- camp, no the pro. The Tea Partiers have the momentum, and the motivation; the other side is, if not in disarray, strangely paralyzed at least.

The '08 election would probably have gone Obama's way in the end anyway, but there can be no doubt that his ability to pin the problems he faced on the Bush administration, rightly or wrongly (and there was plenty of both), was what beat McCain. The Democrats have used up the "blame Bush" card, and are going to have to win this one on the merits of their arguments. That's a much different wave to ride, and one that isn't drawing much water at all right now.

1.24.2010

SAINTS ARE GOING TO THE SUPERBOWL!!!!!

Here come the fireworks!

Saints Fever

I've just been informed that services at the Presbyterian church on St. Charles here in New Orleans closed out with a rendition of the Ying Yang Twins' "Stand Up and Get Crunked" on the organ in honor of the Saints.

Crazy.

ADDED:  Here's the Marine Corps. Band, based in NOLA, with its own great version.

IP Showdown

The North Face versus The South Butt.

Here's the site of the insurgent clothier.

Violation?  Dilution?  Appropriation?

Or simply parody?

(ht/David H)

Remember When...

...justices of the Supreme Court had to ride circuit?

Sure, Nate Silver

But your table fails to account for varying voter intensity on any of the given aspects of the health care bill that you tabulate.  If the individual mandate is the real gravamen of people's opposition, it doesn't much matter what they feel about all the other provisions.

I'd also note that the Democrats sealed the deal by creating so much uncertainty early in the process that few were really sure if there was a bill, or if there was one, what was in it.  It was never really clear to the public, I'd submit, what bill version - and specific provisions - was up for a vote in Nancy Pelosi's rapidfire push for House passage.  The fear that move generated through sheer uncertainty was quite damaging.

The debate about federal government involvement in health care took place before any definitive, concrete bill existed as the basis for debate.  And thus the fight played out more over first principles - and whether the overall concept was even appropriate given everything else on the nation's plate at the time.

1.23.2010

Roundup

A.  Will a Tommy Thompson run against Feingold actually materialize?

B.  "The Chinese government is sending teachers from China to schools all over the world — and paying part of their salaries."

C.  The strange list of bedfellows against Bernanke grows.

D.  The Wisconsin Assembly votes overwhelmingly to ban texting while driving.  The bill is massively overbroad.  And redundant.  But it deserves a full fisking in its own post.  For the moment, I see that Lieutenant Governor candidate Brett Davis was one of the six to vote nay - good for him.

E.  This image blew me away.

A Visit to Kiln, Mississippi on the Eve of the Saints Vikings Showdown
























The Times-Picayune visited Kiln before the game...and so did we...

1.22.2010

Talking Turkey

Turkey has arrested 120 al-Qaeda suspects:
Turkey, NATO's sole Muslim member, took over the rotating command of the NATO peacekeeping operation in Kabul in November and doubled its number of troops to around 1,750. Turkey has also said it is ready to serve as an exit route for U.S. troops' withdrawal from Iraq.

Friday's crackdown follows another raid on suspected militants in the cities Ankara and Adana last week in which police rounded up and interrogated some 40 people and reportedly seized documents detailing al-Qaida activities. Twenty-five of them were charged with membership in a terrorist organization while the rest were released.

Completely unrelatedly, the country is doing all it can to keep non-Russian gas flowing to Europe:
Although the details of the talks have not been disclosed, the enthusiastic declarations of friendship that followed are an indication of renewed cooperation between Turkey and Azerbaijan, the country that first promised its large reserves to the Nabucco project.

Losing Inge
























I knew something was up when I saw the old boxes out on the curb one night.  Inge didn't normally throw anything out that wasn't in her garbage bin.  I looked inside one of the boxes.  In the dim streetlight glare, I could see it was full of old negatives and photos.  Beautiful black and white shots from Mardi Gras 1961.  Photos from a trip to the beach in the 1970s.  Something was definitely wrong.

Sure enough, the next day, a voice called to me through the screen porch as I returned home.  "I'm very sad, Brad."  The lady who is just about to turn 95, the lady who began renting downstairs in 1956, the Jewish lady who fled Nazi Germany, the lady whose family died in the Holocaust was effectively getting kicked out of her home.

The landlord is apparently looking to renovate Inge's apartment in order to get a higher rent.  And Inge can't afford the increase on her limited income.  It's really a shame.

New Orleans, really, has always seemed to radiate out from Inge as she sits in her plant-filled sun porch.  "It's where I live," she said as she told me the bad news, shaking her head, gesturing at the Norfolk pine and the palm trees.  Since the moment she first floated out of her porch in her nightgown, watering can in hand, when I came to view the apartment, she's been the anchor of the neighborhood - always quick to note new developments and the comings and goings of the residents.

But she says there's no time to be sentimental.  She's not going to a home.  She's transitioning to a smaller efficiency apartment down on St. Charles over the course of the next month - "so I can hop right on the streetcar."  We've been helping her move boxes and clean out her garage.

She's a remarkable lady.  And we're going to miss her.

1.21.2010

R-O-C-K in the PRC

A Foreign Policy photo spread.

Boat Crossing


"We stand for a single Internet where all of humanity has equal access to knowledge and ideas."

Secretary Clinton is pushing a great idea today:
The State Department will launch programs to promote Internet freedom, expand access to the Internet by women and other groups; implement programs which trains and supports civil society groups and NGOs in the use of new media technologies that enhance communication and coordination efforts; and support a series of pilot projects starting this spring that will use new media to connect people -- particularly young people -- to expand civic participation and increase the new media capabilities of civil society in the Middle East and North Africa.
The full text of the speech is here.

This is undoubtedly pointed largely at China, whose recent cyberattacks prompted Google to pull out of the country.

But it has much larger implications -- for much of the post-Soviet sphere especially, but not only. Indeed, it should be seen as a bolster to domestic discussion of net neutrality as a foreign policy calculation. One hopes this move will garner the attention it deserves.

With a plate already full

...Obama has lined up his next windmill: the banks.
"Never again will the American taxpayer be held hostage by banks that are too big to fail," Mr Obama said.

The plans - the most far-reaching yet -include limits to the size of banks and restrictions on riskier trading.
Allowing the government to regulate the size of private banks is just as much a threat to our basic freedoms as government regulation of the health care industry. Simply because the populists on both sides are burning bankers in effigy, it doesn't make the policy right.

I do support devestment from banks that are now "too big to fail," and, oddly, it lines me up with a liberal evangelical:
When I recently told a few friends that my wife, Joy, and I had decided to close our little account at Bank of America and move our money to a local bank that has behaved more responsibly, I was amazed at the response. Religious leaders and pastors from around the country called to say that they, too, were ready to take their money out of the big banks that have shown such shameful morality and instead invest according to their values, by putting money into more local and community-based institutions.
There is much in Wallis's article I disagree with -- especially the idea that banks tricked people into their loans. People made gambles, and frankly, if they didn't read the rules, they shouldn't have played the game. It's too late to cry that your gamble didn't pay off -- that's the nature of gambling. Nor do I have a problem with bank bonuses. But in this solution of Wallis's, we find an ultimately libertarian solution to the problem of banks that are far, far too big -- and in that respect, in the sense that Wallis urges some sense of personal responsibility and autonomy, I agree with him.

***

But to return to Obama. What does this new move of his suggest?

I would say it is a wise move, politically -- it does two very closely related things for him. Firstly, if he does this carefully enough, he can position the argument such that it appeals to populists on both sides of the aisle who are clamoring for banker blood. If Obama can bring in enough Republican populists to pass these restrictions (it's a long shot, but not impossible), he can claim a truly bipartisan victory. Positioning himself as a populist could be a good move for him right now.

A populist, bipartisan victory by Obama while Scott Brown gets seated would give Obama not only political momentum and capital, but also a new way to either frame the debate on health care, or let the debate die. This banking trick would be a major reform along the lines of what the populist left is looking for. They might then push for a more maximalist policy on health care reform, but they might accept the victory in lieu of a victory there.

It's a gamble for Obama, and with so much on his plate already, reforming the banking system will be that much more difficult. But if he frames it right, and gets it through quickly, it could be a deeply reinvigorating victory for the Dems.

A strange twist in the Ft Hood shooting case

Two things caught my eye today in the Ft. Hood shooting. Taken together, they say something quite worrisome. First, this:
Rep. Buck McKeon (R) of California on Wednesday called the report’s failure to mention Islamic extremism a “strange silence.” To 9/11 commission member John Lehman, the administration's position “shows you how deeply entrenched the values of political correctness have become,” he told Time magazine earlier this week.
Then this:
Evidence shows a lot of doctors were worried about Hasan — some for years. Evidence also shows that only one supervisor, Scott Moran, actively tried to kick Hasan out of the psychiatry program. Now sources involved in the investigation say Moran is one of the officers who's in big trouble. Moran wouldn't comment, but the sources say the supervisors under investigation are fairly low level officers like Moran, who is a major.
Taken together, this is an especially troubling look into the military's thinking about the case. I don't have a problem with treating this as a criminal issue per se, but by refusing to call the incident a terrorist incident and then investigating the man who tried to take action when the problem was becoming clear suggests a real blind spot in the military's thinking in the case.

Overturned

SCOTUS:

By a 5-4 vote, the court overturned a 20-year-old ruling that said companies can be prohibited from using money from their general treasuries to produce and run their own campaign ads. The decision, which almost certainly will also allow labor unions to participate more freely in campaigns, threatens similar limits imposed by 24 states.

It leaves in place a prohibition on direct contributions to candidates from corporations and unions.

ht/anon3

1.20.2010

"unless you pay, the NYT will disappear as a significant news site"

Althouse has been musing about the looming bar on free access to the New York Times with its "TimesSelect" pay wall.

I agree with her assessment: as a blogger, I will likely stop using the NYT in my blogging because the pieces will be effectively unlinkable.

I've already noticed this trend with the local New Orleans publication CityBusiness, which is otherwise some of the best, more meaningful reportage in the city.  A pay wall went up after the new year...and I noticed I couldn't get at the most interesting linked headlines.  And, besides the previous post, I stopped linking to it on the blog...and, come to think of it, I've largely stopped visiting the site at all.

How will a pay wall on a major news site affect your news consuming habits?  Althouse points to the Financial Times' scheme of offering a limited amount of content for free before the wall hits as a more effective way forward.

Here's an interesting look at online news consumption behavior to contextualize the conversation.

Nola's continuing culinary explosion

Wow:

On Jan. 1, 2009, 980 restaurants were cooking and serving in the metro New Orleans area. That was already up 171 restaurants from the restaurant population before Hurricane Katrina. As of mid-December, the figure stood at 1,045. The 1,000th restaurant, Madrid, opened in April, marking the first time New Orleans had so many eateries.

That is a remarkable statistic. The restaurant population dropped significantly during 2009 everywhere else in America. If we were still filling in holes left by Katrina, that would be one thing. But that deficiency has long since been filled, and we're still growing.

Amazing - and delicious!

What's the latest restaurant to open that I can't wait to try?  This one.

Sensing the Sea Change

Ilya Somin, masterful as usual.

John Yoo Assesses W

And NPR reminds us that the Torture Memos were inspired in part by Medicare legislation.

ht/David H

West Bank, Looking for Work


"an informational picket line"

The Committee to Reopen Charity Hospital is slated to picket outside the LSU administration building just outside of "The Footprint" tomorrow:


1.19.2010

Unbelievable

Scott Brown, Massachusetts Senator-elect, takes advantage of the "self-inflicted wound."

The Brown win is big.  It would have been unthinkable in the state in the past four decades.

In my estimation, it's a harbinger of potentially radical change across the national landscape - and it's not just the fringe that's activated.  The political middle, the independent faction, seems convinced that the past year spent forcing health care forward, growing the deficit and government, and ignoring the economy as priority number one has proven to be a decidedly wrong turn.

I think it's a good thing.  It's a sign that the electorate is skeptical of government as the end-all-be-all.  It's a sign that Barack Obama's mystique has at last been surmounted, deflated a bit, pulled down to a less naive, more realistic plane.

Coupled with the Republican wins in the Virginia and New Jersey gubernatorial races, as well as the recent spate of Democratic congressional retirements, the Scott Brown win stands as a clarion call for Democrats and the administration to scale back their ambitions...and the Republicans to step up to the plate and keep their promises...or face a similar fate.

No toast

The Poe Toaster didn't show.

I'm just sayin'...

... but all of the excitement on the right on blogs, TV, polls, etc. about Scott Brown's potential victory makes me nervous. This is Massachusetts after all. Polls in these special elections are notoriously unreliable. I hope he wins, but I'm not counting Coakley out until Brown is seated in the Senate.

LiB Book Review: The Yiddish Policemen's Union

Based on a discussion at a Madison coffee shop over the holidays, this is the first of a new feature here at LiB. In an effort to branch out a little bit and expand the diversity of our content, each month one of us will offer a book review from our personal reading lists.

This inaugural edition of the LiB Book Review features a great novel: The Yiddish Policemen's Union, by Michael Chabon.

Easily one of the best modern novels I've read, The Yiddish Policemen's Union is set in an alternate-history where a plan pushed by Secretary of State Harold Ickes in 1940 to resettle European Jews - as refugees - in the Alaskan Territory was successful. In addition, the state of Israel failed in 1948 and made the Sitka settlement the closest thing to a homeland the Jewish people had. The story itself is set in the present-day when the settlement is about to be returned to Alaska and its native population. Once again, the Jews of Sitka are faced with the prospect of not having a home.

The hero of the book is detective Meyer Landsman, a man who was once the pride of the Sitka police department, but is now a a borderline alcoholic, living in a flophouse, haunted by the memories of better days. A drug addict is killed in the same hotel in which Landsman lives, and draws him into solving a crime that is nothing like it first appears.

Michael Chabon's writing is nothing short of incredible. He paints a very realistic setting and cast of characters. He takes a simple detective story - a genre that is nothing new in the literary world - and transforms it into a rich and complex world that goes much deeper than a mere "whodunit." He surpasses the usual assembly-line novels that popular authors turn out and reaches the level of true literature.

Because the story is set in an alternate history, Chabon leaves hints and clues in the dialogue and the setting as to what happened in this timeline. Israel failed as a state. The Cold War was much hotter than the one we know. Once again, the Jewish people face the prospect of losing their homeland. There is much, much more that is hinted at, in bits and pieces for the reader to put together.

Chabon's novel is also rich with Jewish culture - the dialect, the customs, everything is tied to Jewish identity. If you're unfamiliar with Jewish history the author thankfully includes a glossary of terms - and his own creation of "Sitka slang" - to help out. Through the inclusion of such rich cultural elements Chabon is able to create a more real and believable narrative and it is limited solely to the interactions of the Sitka Jews, but also their relationship with the native Alaskan population and the rest of the United States.

The story itself starts out a little slow, but gains speed as it goes and becomes a page-turner. What impresses me most is the way in which Chabon is able to create a very compelling - and by know means simple - detective story and at the same time create a narrative of a completely fictional history. He uses his characters incredibly well to tell the story and their history themselves. He avoids a third person narrative almost completely when the history of Sitka is told. It allows a much more believable story to unfold.

The Yiddish Policemen's Union is a phenomenal book. Chabon is a great writer and proof that American literature is alive and well. I'd love to say more, but I don't want to give too much of the book away. I promise you won't be disappointed.

"Murky geysers run deep": Iceland at the Precipice

























Iceland’s credit risk may rise “considerably” as the island faces the threat of a shelved emergency bailout and a government collapse, Standard & Poor’s said.

The recent decision by the Icelandic President to block an Icesave creditor accord with the UK and the Netherlands did not surprise me.  Protestors were taking to the streets back in August during my visit to Iceland, as in the photo above where a man hangs things on a line in front of Althing, the parliament building in downtown Reykjavik.  And outright protesting is supposedly a very rare thing there.

The electorate's will to block a settlement that would continue IMF and Nordic aid makes it look like the government will be left with little room to maneuver:

The so-called Icesave bill, which allows the government to guarantee a $5.5 billion loan from the U.K. and Netherlands to repay depositor claims, is due to be put to a referendum by March 6. Most polls since Jan. 5 show Icelanders will reject the legislation, which lawmakers passed 33 to 30 on Dec. 30.

A looming crisis seems especially ominous for the island nation - a country that, while it modernized very rapidly at the end of the 20th century, took a very long time initially to catch up with an international sense of modernity given its harsh, far flung geography.  The precariousness of a place that has to import a great deal of its essential commodities (even if the island had a trade surplus last year) struck me during my visit.


1.18.2010

Katrina and Haiti

An odd nonsequitur on the HuffPo:
Author Naomi Klein reported that within 24 hours of the earthquake, the influential right-wing think tank the Heritage Foundation was already seeking to use the disaster as an attempt at further privatization of the country's economy. The Heritage Foundation released similar recommendations in the days after Katrina, calling for "solutions" such as school vouchers.


Our Katrina experience has taught us to be suspicious of the Red Cross and other large and bureaucratic aid agencies that function without and means of community accountability. In New Orleans, we've seen literally tens of billions of dollars in aid pledged in the years since Katrina, but only a small fraction of that has made it to those most in need.
It seems like one lesson from Katrina would be a desire to not rely on the government, and that nongovernmental organizations tend to do a better job of things -- which seems like it might suggest an argument for, rather than against, school vouchers, which would still allow schools to be controlled by the community itself. But I wasn't there for Katrina, and I have never been to Haiti, so maybe I'm wrong.

Uptick

University and State has come alive again as of late...and various voices are saying interesting things.

Scylla and Charybdis

"It is hard to know which will be the worse political defeat -- losing the bill and looking weak, or passing it and leaving it as a piƱata for Republicans to attack between now and November."

"PUBLIC ENEMY NO. 1"



"Who would have guessed the day would come when Who Dats would be busy erecting Public Enemy No. 1 posters with a picture of Brett Favre?"

Brown v. Coakley

The money on Massachusetts says...

ht/OOTM

Still Life with Blue


1.17.2010

Well, look at that

London's getting a skyscraper, the Shard.

Not including Russia, it'll be the tallest building in Europe at 1017 feet when it's finished in two years.

I think I like it as opposed to this one.

1.16.2010

WHO DAT?

A little blues for your morning coffee

Or your nighttime tea, depending on when you read. Via Metafilter, the only known footage of Leadbelly:

Left-right convergence

Remember back over the summer, there was a big push on the right to oppose Cass Sunstein, confidante of Barack Obama and now head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs? Maybe you don't. It was certainly possible to construe the attacks as cherry-picked quotes taken out of context, but standing alone, they did pose a bit of a worry. Well, Obama's czars are starting to set off bells on the other side now:
Sunstein advocates that the Government's stealth infiltration should be accomplished by sending covert agents into "chat rooms, online social networks, or even real-space groups." He also proposes that the Government make secret payments to so-called "independent" credible voices to bolster the Government's messaging (on the ground that those who don't believe government sources will be more inclined to listen to those who appear [emphasis original] independent while secretly acting on behalf of the Government)... This isn't an instance where some government official wrote a bizarre paper in college 30 years ago about matters unrelated to his official powers; this was written 18 months ago, at a time when the ascendancy of Sunstein's close friend to the Presidency looked likely, in exactly the area he now oversees.
It gets worse from there, but you get the gist of it.

Meanwhile, Ross Douthat muses on the possibilities of left-right agreement on health care:
What I would [emphasis original] like to see, though, is a world where the left learns some things from the right, and vice versa, about how to approach the problem of corporatism. A Nation-reading lefty needn’t accept that big government is always corrupt government, for instance, to recognize the possible advantages of legislative incrementalism (because the bigger and more “comprehensive” a bill becomes, the more opportunities for rent-seeking it affords) and the virtues, in some cases at least, of pursuing state-by-state reforms rather than nationalizing every major issue. And a Tea Partying conservative needn’t give up on the goal of limited government to recognize that if you don’t care about how the government we do have gets run, corporate interests will come rushing in to run it for you.
Glenn Greenwald taking up an essentially Tea Party talking point? Ross Douthat hoping the netroots and the Tea Partiers could learn from each other? Maybe Obama really is a uniter, not a divider...

1.15.2010

An Evening with Congressman "Joseph" Cao


























Last night, I stopped by Bridge Lounge to experience Congressman Joseph Cao in person for the first time.  I can tell you this: it was not your typical Republican campaign event, that's for sure.

For one, the Congressman quoted Socrates at some point in his lengthy, rather rambling speech, citing the need to live a reflective life.  And the Congressman was the tiniest person in the room - barely coming up to the top of the microphone stands that the opening band, Glasgow, had used.  But the crowd - a wildly diverse crew that seemed very New Orleans - stood for the entire thing (Murray Nelson, beside the stage, clapped loudly at numerous points in vain attempts to wrap up the remarks, as did Princella).



















Joseph Cao, speaking softly and thoughtfully, had something to say, though.  Something very different - mostly about the need for service, a desire for dialogue for good decisionmaking, and an acknowledgement by a sitting member of Congress that in his efforts to do what's best for his district, "I will make you so angry sometimes that you will want to scream, you will want to bang your head against the wall."  Looking at his voting record, I can say that's true - I'm generally concerned about his lack of fiscal responsibility, although I think he was referencing his vote for the health care bill.  But it was refreshing in its quietness, it was in earnest.  It was clearly unscripted.  Will it be enough to win in 2010?  I really don't know.

One rock-ribbed Republican friend of mine headed out early during the speech - "not impressed in the least," he texted me as he departed.

Another friend in attendance, a conservative Democrat, summed up the presentation in this way: "The diversity of the crowd.  The blandness of his speaking.  And the freeness of the food (pizza and jambalaya)."

Cao was best when he spoke about his recent visit to Southeast Asia, where, in addition to noting China's "imperialistic intents" in the region, he visited a relative in Vietnam.  He noted that local police visited the relative after he stopped by, inquiring as to the purpose of the visit and the nature of the conversation.  He used the instance to draw a clear distinction between life under a Communist regime and life in the United States.  Ever tranquil, the diminutive Cao seemed like a sage in a gray suit with a microphone, holding the varied audience with his calm approach.


The speech, when if finally ended, concluded in random New Orleanian fashion - with Cao receiving a glittering high heel Muses boot from a member of the krewe.  This much I know: Joseph Cao is his own man.  He's far better than William Jefferson.  He's not a typical politician of any existing, recognizable stripe or strand in American politics.

No, Google Maps



This is not the *%&$#^@ Orleans Parish DMV!

1.14.2010

The state's budget is still in trouble

Yesterday, state Senator Joe Leibham wrote a column highlighting the state's budget problems and a looming deficit that puts Wisconsin in one of the worst fiscal situations in the nation. According to the Comprehensive Annual Fiscal Report (CAFR) - published just over a month ago - the state is facing a budget shortfall in excess of $2.71 billion. Senator Leibham explains that the CAFR uses GAAP accounting rules which eliminates many of the shell games and tricks used by the Doyle administration to give us a phony budget "surplus" of $70 million.

The GAAP methods paint a truer picture of the state's situation as it pertains to our bond rating, the amount of interest the we pay on our loans, and what needs to be done to fix the deficit.

Throughout the budget process last year, I spent a lot of time here at LiB talking about the bad decisions and gimmicks that Governor Doyle and legislative leaders were using, and the fact that they would likely do little or nothing to solve our long-term financial problems. The CAFR and a recent study by the Pew Center bear this out.

In his column, Sen. Leibham uses the analogy of making purchases with a credit card, using those purchases on a daily basis, but not counting it as money spent, as debt, or even putting it in a budget until the bill is due. The state's doing this on a regular basis and we ignore the debt we're accumulating and calling our budgets balanced.

In the Pew Center report I linked to earlier Wisconsin is identified as one of 10 states in the nation that faces fiscal peril as a result of the recession and shoddy budget practices. Not surprisingly, DOA Secretary Morgan responded with complete denial. "In no way can Wisconsin be compared to the nation's most financially troubled states, especially California." Even though our bond rating is the third worst in the nation - ahead of only Louisiana and California, and our 2007-2008 GAAP per capita budget deficit nearly quadrupled California's - $445 to $113.

I'm betting that we will need at least one budget repair bill before the fall election. Given the current state of affairs in national and state politics it will surely be a contentious debate. Hopefully we can put enough pressure on our legislators to bypass the politically expedient option of postponing payments and borrowing money and convince them to actually cut spending or eliminate wasteful programs and initiatives.

It was easy to ignore or overlook these reports during the holidays and with the debate over health care at the national level, but now that we have entered a new year we need to refocus our energy and our attention on our own state problems. We may not be able to wait until election day to fix them.

A stand Obama could take

President Obama came under a lot of fire after his decision to lift the missile shield in Eastern Europe and alienating traditionally strong allies. I was wrong on that before, but I have consistently called on Obama to take a strong stand to continue to demonstrate his commitments to Eastern Europe. I've talked about Nord Stream before, but now it has a little more relevance:
The Poles... suspect the Russians of using the pipeline to pursue a classic divide and conquer strategy aimed at weakening the EU and NATO.

The Polish government has been working overtime to persuade its erstwhile partners and allies in the EU and NATO that the pipeline deal is a bad one that could undermine energy security for all, but last month (November) the final piece of the deal fell into place when the governments of Sweden and Finland granted their approval for the pipeline to cross their territorial waters.
In the face of continued Russian intransigence, now would be a fine time for Obama to make a move of support for Poland. It is too late to take a strong stand on Nord Stream, but South Stream is still under discussion. Nor is it too late to call out corruption in Gazprom.

Heatwave!

It's 36 in Menasha, and I have to unbutton my coat when I walk the dog. Puts me in mind of some MoTown.

A Racial Free-for-All

In the Nola Mayor's race.

John Georges just keeps making me scratch my head.

1.13.2010

Religious silliness on both sides

From the left, regarding the expectedly idiotic Pat Robertson quote:
Pat Robertson's language is the reductio ad absurdum of the Christian right.. This is hate speech. It's saying these people are damned. It's a frequent theme among some Christians that Haiti is being punished for this supposed pact with extreme poverty and humanitarian crises.
So saying someone is damned is now hate speech? That in itself is the reductio ad absurdum of the secular left, a form of ridiculousness that elevates every form of disagreement to hate speech, as long as you're disagreeing with the left. It was a pompous and completely stupid thing to say -- but that's what we expect from Pat Robertson. But not more.

From the right, regarding Prop 8:
Supporters of Proposition 8 in California have been subjected to harassment, intimidation, vandalism, racial scapegoating, blacklisting, loss of employment, economic hardships, angry protests, violence, at least one death threat, and gross expressions of anti-religious bigotry... As this ideology seeps into the culture more generally, individuals and institutions that support marriage as the union of husband and wife risk paying a price for that belief in many legal, social, economic, and cultural contexts.
Lord save us all from angry protests! Apparently Heritage thinks this country is coming to a bad end if people emotionally use their Constitutional rights. Religious folks are absolutely welcome to take a stand for what they believe in, but they must also be willing to face vocal opposition, and to see their own tactics on things like abortion turned back on themselves.

The Arsenal



Down in the Quarter.

"From the adjacent Arsenal, the Police fought back by shooting cannonballs toward Chartres Street."

European fragility

Greece is on edge:
"There is no case of Greece leaving the eurozone or resorting to other kinds of help, such as the IMF," Papandreou told a news conference on Wednesday, marking 100 days since his Socialist government was elected to power.

"We want to establish a sense of trust and certainty among our creditors," he said.

An interesting note amidst the rubble

A state newspaper in China said eight Chinese peacekeepers were known dead and 10 were missing -- though officials later said the information was not confirmed.
 
Remember, as I noted (somewhat bombastically) back in 2006, China has had troops in Haiti for some time - the only such instance in the Western Hemisphere.

Laptops in the Classroom

Waiting for Last Night

I arrived at McAlister Auditorium at 7 p.m. last night for the mayoral forum.  Who will replace Mayor Nagin?  It's worth pondering.  I wandered into the building with a few friends and ended up seated next to student body president Tim Clinton.  The main floor of the hall was almost full of people in the audience.  7:30, the designated start time rolled around.  Nobody was on stage.  7:40 arrived, and we moved to sit with a few other friends closer to the front right of the stage.  Candidate Jonah Bascle, in his wheelchair, was on the ground floor off the stage - ostensibly there is no ADA accessible way onto the stage, so it would have made for a fitting entry and driven one of his points home soundly.



















I never found out if Bascle made it on stage.  By about 7:45, an organizer noted that most of the candidates were still taking questions at an event at Dillard University across town.  Groans.  We got up and went out to get some food, walking around the still uncompleted and heavily fenced McAlister Place.  We returned at about 8:20.  Here's what I saw as I walked up the steps:


Moderator Clancy DuBos, greatly animated, spoke to a few people with the old pelican hovering overhead off in the distance like a pterodactyl.























By 8:30 p.m., not a single candidate had taken the stage, although Nadine Ramsey had arrived, taking off her black coat in the front of the room to a smattering of applause. We had had enough at this point, however, having waited an hour for the event to get underway.  A giant, spectral fail whale appeared on the stage curtain above the lonely microphones.  As we left, James Perry appeared at the back of the auditorium (a few people mentioned that they appreciated that he had done an LGBT meet and greet the week before).  And as we walked back out, Rob Couhig or someone who looked like him drove by in a silver SUV.

I'm not quite sure what moral I'm supposed to take away from last evening.  I don't know whether to blame the Tulane organizers or the candidates.  Perhaps I should just realize I'm in New Orleans (although I thought this election was the one that's supposed to stop the perennial eye rolling in that regard, so to speak).  In the end, it's probably not that big of a deal.  But I certainly didn't feel any better about the future of the city as I walked on into the night.