2.28.2010

A TV Review?

A guerrilla marketeer sent a sneak preview for new episodes of a tv show that has moved to a new channel.  I had seen the commercials, but I'd never watched any of the episodes for SouthLAnd:

Lucky for fans, SouthLAnd has a new home on TNT, starting with the never-before-seen premiere of Season 2 on March 2nd.

Three of us here at S. Liberty Street checked out the sneak preview.  We have a policy here at LIB of engaging in these sorts of things if they intrigue us, understanding that we inform our readers of the underlying contact. 

The consensus: it wasn't bad.  The show, a cop drama set in Los Angeles, seemed to be well shot, and some of the characters and storylines hinted at piqued our interest.  If anything, the show seemed so realistic that it might actually have slow patches now and then.  Some of us worried that the show might fall into tried and true police shows - although the commentary at the outset of the preview discussed the filming of a mob scene...that got a bit more realistic than the crew anticipated.  Tidbits like that are encouraging as far as indicating a Wire-like desire for authenticity.

NBC apparently thought the show was too dark for a 9 p.m. time slot - and TNT bought the rights to the second season, unaired until this week.

Along the Portage Route

2.27.2010

Gas Lines and Mistaken Identity

On Thursday, Entergy left a note on our door stating that our gas service had been cut off due to "crossed meters."

It turns out that we've been getting our neighbor's gas bill for the past three years, and she was getting ours.

No wonder we couldn't get our bills to respond to our changes in behavior.

The whole strange setup was revealed to us after we suffered a night in the cold...along with the fact that the fire department had to come to the downstairs for a gas leak that resulted when the stove was pulled from its moorings.

2.26.2010

The Badger Herald

It does what it always does...and someone tells it, very unconvincingly, to stop.

Friday music video

I recently got around to looking up who the woman singers are on The Hazards of Love, and the first result for My Brightest Diamond on Youtube is this:



This warrants further investigation.

She's on Sufjan Steven's label.

This is why the name is familiar: she goes far back on the blog and Steve S., himself, even interviewed her.

Obligatory Health Care Summit Post, with bonus Krugman fisking

Okay, I'm not being too creative with the title. So sue me.

I actually watched the majority of the afternoon session of the Health Care Summit and caught most of the morning session in internet clips - for a great "live blog" full of video check out the Daily Caller's coverage here. I had my doubts about what would happen, but I thought it was actually pretty good. The Republicans came with real alternatives and ideas for reform and took away the Democrats' best talking point for the upcoming election.

As for the substance of the conversation, I'd like to offer my view by taking apart Paul Krugman's column in the NY Times. Krugman asserts that the Republicans came to the debate with nothing more than "slander and misdirection." In his view, the GOP offered no ideas and showed heartless disregard for the plight of "real" Americans.

This is a nice talking point, but flatly untrue. Speaker after speaker told the President that they shared the Democrats' desire to stop insurance companies from dropping patients who become seriously ill or denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions. True, Republicans didn't trot out constituent sob stories to make the point, but sentimentality rarely makes for good public policy. Krugman portrays the GOP plan in predictably demonizing fashion:
In reality, House Republicans don’t have anything to offer to Americans with troubled medical histories. On the contrary, their big idea — allowing unrestricted competition across state lines — would lead to a race to the bottom. The states with the weakest regulations — for example, those that allow insurance companies to deny coverage to victims of domestic violence — would set the standards for the nation as a whole. The result would be to afflict the afflicted, to make the lives of Americans with pre-existing conditions even harder.
Krugman should know better. Less than ten minutes of searching on the Internet - damn that Google and its efficiency - and you can find legislation that the Republicans offered that cover pre-existing conditions. Title 1, Section 101 of the GOP Substitute Amendment to the House bill covers this issue and Sec. 101(c)(1)(E) caps the premiums of the pools at 150% of the standard risk rate in the state where the pool exists. Also in Sec. 101(c)(1)(G) the pools are required to cover "preventive services and disease management for chronic diseases." The risk pools are also subsidized by the government up to $25 billion to offset the cost to insurers. They also prohibit insurers from dropping an individual once they become sick.

To say that there can be no compromise on pre-existing conditions is a lie and it betrays the Democrats' desire to paint opponents of their bills as evil tools of the insurance industry. Their goal is not simple reform but destroying the opposition so that government is the only viable option.

The big problem for the Democrats going forward is that they can no longer claim the GOP is the party of no ideas. They can no longer say that there is no area of agreement or that Republicans are unwilling to reform at all. Krugman's usual hyperbole again does not disappoint:
So what did we learn from the summit? What I took away was the arrogance that the success of things like the death-panel smear has obviously engendered in Republican politicians. At this point they obviously believe that they can blandly make utterly misleading assertions, saying things that can be easily refuted, and pay no price. And they may well be right.
This, again, is nonsense. While there was definitely talking points on both sides, there was very substantive discussion about the nature of reform. Paul Ryan's excellent dismantling of the Senate bill and Tom Coburn's discussion of waste and fraud are just two examples of real disagreement, not pathetic pandering. If anyone is guilty of the tactics Krugman so vehemently denounces, it was congressional Democrats. They are the ones who used misdirection and demagoguery in their statements. Pelosi and Rockefeller blasted insurance companies for their greed. Harkin defined opposition as the moral equivalent of supporting segregation.

The President handled himself well enough - he even acknowledged that entitlement reform is budget reform and left the door open to malpractice reform - but his fellow Democrats did not help him at all. They came off shrill and seemed to be saying that we just need to pass something - anything - now because it will be too late if we don't. Which, really, is kind of silly when most of their reforms don't kick in for 3 or 4 years but the funding mechanisms kick in immediately.

The Republicans, on the other hand, were very well-prepared and on message throughout. They seemed sincere in their desire for reform, but held firm that the current bills are too expensive and too intrusive. The President mentioned at the end that he hoped there would be some agreement in the coming weeks. If not, he said, that's what elections are for.

That may be a statement the President comes to regret.

2.25.2010

Reassuring info about US manufacturing

Despite what people would probably guess, the United States has more industrial capacity than ever.

According to this graph it's doubled in the last 30 years in fact: [click to embiggen]



from this website

Although it's Federal Reserve data, it doesn't say how exactly the capacity is quantified. I would assume it's something like the value of the products if the factory/mines/businesses ran at full blast.

The thing is--which is stuff we've talked about in engineering classes--is that innovation, making things more efficiently with better tools, and automation, such as robots and computers, have been reducing the number of jobs much more than outsourcing ever has.

2.24.2010

A few things

+I wouldn't call Sting a "faux-artist," but this is pretty awful.

+Craig Ferguson put on a pretty fantastic hour of television indeed.

+the benefits of flexibility?

+a resignation

+bridging the millennial gap?

+Douthat: "Still, after a year and change of the post-Bush G.O.P., the idea of a right-of-center party that just offers 'good speeches and interesting promises' sounds pretty appealing to me."

+tax evasion as Greek tragedy?

+your obligatory mention of something going on in Azerbaijan

Dance at Dusk

Little deficit on the prairie

Illinois has a budget problem:

To experts, that is an astoundingly scary ratio that ranks Illinois as one of the nation's worst fiscal basket cases — if not the worst. The budget deficit in Illinois is almost as big as the one facing California, a financially beleaguered state that has triple Illinois' population...

I didn't know it's that bad.

In short, the deficit is half as big as the core of the state budget.

Egad! What to cut? Taxes are down across the board and I wouldn't expect the economy to get better here soon. In housing Chicago and the Midwest move more slowly than the coasts so although the amplitude of the housing boom and bust wasn't as great as on the coasts, it will still take a while to recover.

It seemed like things were looking up for the university this year, with the clout list scandal that erupted last year in the past. However in the last couple of months we've been getting scarily worded emails from the interim leadership. The most recent dispatch started: Due to an excessive delay in the payment of our appropriation by the State of Illinois and uncertainty over what lies ahead, your university is facing unprecedented fiscal challenges.

According to this short pdf, it looks like the university is $745 million short from the state which has started accumulating since last summer.

I've already seen one professor's door with a note blatantly explaining how he wouldn't be at meetings since he was taking a furlough day. I remember some talk about furloughs at the UW last summer. It seemed like they had started belt tightening more than a year before I left.

This year is a big election cycle for Illinois, with the governor seat up for election, so I doubt anyone will be up for the bold action needed.

2.23.2010

On ungovernability

The Economist seems pretty sure America is trapped in hopeless deadlock, caught in the horns of ungovernability:
It may sound arcane, but Rule XXII has big consequences. It means, in effect, that new legislation can be forced to muster a 60-vote supermajority in the Senate. Happily for Mr Obama, a Republican from Pennsylvania, Arlen Specter, decided last April to join the Democrats. His defection, followed by the ruling that Al Franken had squeaked to victory in Minnesota, eventually gave the Senate Democrats a filibuster-proof supermajority. This appeared to put health reform—the achievement that eluded Bill Clinton—well within reach. So Mr Obama seemed to take no risks in making this one of his chief tests of success as a president.
Never mind that Rule XXII has stood since 1917 (which you'd think would be enough time for a country to thoroughly do itself in) -- now that Obama's signature reform is in jeopardy, America must be ungovernable! Moreover, Democrats don't have a supermajority any more! Hello, banana republic-ville!

But wait. Hang on just a cotton-pickin' second:
For Brown, joining a GOP filibuster over a parliamentary procedural squabble clearly wasn't the best vote for a new senator from an overwhelmingly Democratic state who had campaigned on a promise to rise above partisan politics.

"I came to Washington to be an independent voice, to put politics aside and to do everything in my power to help create jobs for Massachusetts families," said Brown, whose election last month gave Republicans the 41st vote that could sustain filibusters. "This Senate jobs bill is not perfect ... but I voted for it because it contains measures that will help put people back to work."
Huh. So maybe, by crafting truly bipartisan legislation that moves the country forward while satisfying the interests of both parties, we can come to a reasonable consensus?

I'm not a particular fan of this jobs bill, but it's a clear lesson in bipartisanship -- not the the "hey, we won, you guys have to roll over" bipartisanship of hope and change, but actual, real, let's hash out a deal that actually works bipartisanship -- works. The sky isn't falling just yet.

Dan Bice digs up...nothing

Strange.  

As I read through the piece by a columnist known for his sleuthing, I kept waiting for the dirt - he accused J.B. Van Hollen of plagiarism.  But the dirt never really showed up.

A state agency incorporated parts of federal agency press releases in its own press releases.  And the agencies were working jointly on anti-crime measures at the heart of the releases.  I don't see the problem with that.

They're press releases, for one - not newspaper articles.  And that makes an opening statement like "If Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen were a journalist, he'd be fired" seem rather over the top. 

I felt as if I'd been promised an R-rated thriller only to get a G-rated Sunday afternoon matinee.

A "Hinged" Response

Janice Eisen was kind enough to respond to my fisking of her column.

And while we may agree to disagree, her measured response is more than welcome.

2.22.2010

Juice tree

"Does Glenn [Beck] truly believe there is no difference between a Tom Coburn, for example, and a Harry Reid or a Charles Schumer or a Barbara Boxer? Between a Paul Ryan or Michele Bachmann and a Nancy Pelosi or Barney Frank?"

That's a key question in former Reagan Secretary of Education Bill Bennett's stinging takedown of Glenn Beck's rant to CPAC over the weekend:
Second, for him to continue to say that he does not hear the Republican party admit its failings or problems is to ignore some of the loudest and brightest lights in the party. From Jim DeMint to Tom Coburn to Mike Pence to Paul Ryan, any number of Republicans have admitted the excesses of the party and done constructive and serious work to correct them and find and promote solutions. Even John McCain has said again and again that “the Republican party lost its way.” These leaders, and many others, have been offering real proposals, not ill-informed muttering diatribes that can’t distinguish between conservative and liberal, free enterprise and controlled markets, or night and day. Does Glenn truly believe there is no difference between a Tom Coburn, for example, and a Harry Reid or a Charles Schumer or a Barbara Boxer? Between a Paul Ryan or Michele Bachmann and a Nancy Pelosi or Barney Frank?

Third, to admit it is still “morning in America” but a “vomiting for four hours” kind of morning is to diminish, discourage, and disparage all the work of the conservative, Republican, and independent resistance of the past year. The Tea Partiers know better than this. I don’t think they would describe their rallies and resistance as a bilious purging but, rather, as a very positive democratic reaction aimed at correcting the wrongs of the current political leadership. The mainstream media may describe their reactions as an unhealthy expurgation. I do not....
To say the GOP and the Democrats are no different, to say the GOP needs to hit a recovery program-type bottom and hang its head in remorse, is to delay our own country’s recovery from the problems the Democratic left is inflicting. The stakes are too important to go through that kind of exercise, which will ultimately go nowhere anyway — because it’s already happened.

The first task of a serious political analyst is to see things as they are. There is a difference between morning and night. There is a difference between drunk and sober. And there is a difference between the Republican and Democratic parties. To ignore these differences, or propagate the myth that they don’t exist, is not only discouraging, it is dangerous.
I find this particularly satisfying, not because I hate Glenn Beck, but because I'm tired of the ignorant view of history that Beck pushes on his program every night. The Progressivism of Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson were much different than he would ever admit - there were good reasons the two were such bitter rivals. Beck's "history" lessons ignore the realities of early 20th century America and paint with such a broad stroke as to imply that no difference has existed between Republicans and Democrats since WWI. TR may not have been perfect, but President Obama is hardly a direct ideological descendant.

Needed: Judges for Nola Moot Court Competition

If you're a lawyer in the New Orleans area with two hours to spare on Thursday or Friday of this week, please get in touch.
 
We're looking for a few additional volunteer judges to help fill slots for the John R. Brown Admiralty Moot Court Competition, hosted this year by Tulane Law.
 
The tournament takes place at the Eastern District Federal Courthouse - and you need not be a maritime lawyer, although it is preferred.  Teams from 26 schools across the country will be in town to participate.
 
I can be reached at: bvogel@tulane.edu

2.21.2010

CNN goes haywire

There's a bizarre cyber attack crisis "simulation" on CNN right now - I don't know what they're thinking, unless they're gunning for H.G. Wells War of the Worlds-style confusion.

Milk-eyed sazerac drinker

There is absolutely no good reason not to be completely in love with Joanna Newsom:
Indeed, sitting here by the pool in Hollywood, ...she orders Sazerac cocktails (rye and absinthe; she has to explain them to the waiter)...
She also puts on a quite stellar live show, of course.

"You know, casting the other side as somehow nefarious and evil and poorly intended is the oldest trick in the book."

Rep Paul Ryan has a great interview in the New York Times today:
[NYT] Your "Road Map," we should explain, is a somewhat alarming document that proposes, in 600-plus pages, erasing the federal deficit by radically restricting the government’s role in social programs like Social Security and Medicare. The president described it as "a serious proposal."
[Ryan] Right. And then the next day his budget director starts ripping me and then the day after that the entire Democratic National Committee political machine starts launching demagogic attacks on me and my plan. So when you hear the word "bipartisanship" come from the president and then you see his political machine get in full-force attack mode, it comes across as very insincere.
I'd mostly say the alarming thing about this question is the way it's phrased -- it doesn't really seem to be the interviewer's business to decide what readers should thing about Ryan's views on the government's proper role in the provision of health care -- it's only her job to describe what the bill actually does, and let Ryan respond. Ryan comes back well, but I'd have liked to see him expand a bit more on what he sees as the philosophical basis of his bill, rather than the pure politics and gamesmanship of the situation. Pushing back on a question like this is important, I'd say, and he got his shot at the politics of the thing in the next question anyway.

But overall, he came off with real charm here, as well as being the kind of deep-thinking policy wonk that Republicans need on the issue.

Making mascots PC - This is a really bad bill

Up for a vote on Tuesday, Wisconsin Assembly Bill 35 seeks to bar public schools from having "race−based names, nicknames, logos, and mascots." 

It sounds patently unconstitutional to me:

a school district resident may object to the use of a race−based name, nickname, logo, or mascot by the school board of that school district by filing a complaint with the state superintendent.

Race-based name or nickname of what?  Of the mascot, which could also inherently be deemed racist?  The text doesn't really specify.  Also, what is a race-based name?

At the hearing, the school board has the burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence that the use of the race−based name, nickname, logo, or mascot does not promote discrimination, pupil harassment, or stereotyping, as defined by the state superintendent by rule.

So the name/mascot, etc. is, after a complaint is filed, presumed BY DEFAULT to promote discrimination and the school board has a burden to prove otherwise?  The State Superintendent does not have discretion, according to the bill's text, to refrain from instituting a hearing after a complaint.  Plus, the standard of proof for the school board is "clear and convincing evidence" - a rather high standard and a vague one.

If the state superintendent finds that the use of the race−based name, nickname, logo, or mascot promotes discrimination, pupil harassment, or stereotyping, the state superintendent shall order the school board to terminate its use of the race−based name, nickname, logo, or mascot.

"Stereotyping" - what does that consist of in the end?  Need it be tangible harm or merely a sense that stereotyping of some nebulous sort is occurring?  Does a Viking mascot, for example, cause stereotyping?  What about a nickname that the locals have for an otherwise innocuous mascot that the school has no control over?  What if a mascot that promotes stereotyping in the eyes of the State Superintendent is based in a school district's local history?

The bill permits the State Superintendent to promulgate rules to enforce the statute, but I think the absurd overreach of the bill on its face - which is really a means of state approval of certain ideas - means anything the Superintendent devises will likely be inappropriate.

I hope the bill gets shot down.

Aaagh!
















I happened to see this on wikipedia...and it disturbed me a bit.  Apparently the pharyngeal jaw of moray eels inspired Alien.

Challenging a core health care presumption

With President Obama redoubling his efforts to push a health care bill across the line at any cost, Megan McArdle over at The Atlantic bucks convention and questions one of the basic premises of the health care debate:

The possibility that no one risks death by going without health insurance may be startling, but some research supports it. Richard Kronick of the University of California at San Diego’s Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, an adviser to the Clinton administration, recently published the results of what may be the largest and most comprehensive analysis yet done of the effect of insurance on mortality. He used a sample of more than 600,000, and controlled not only for the standard factors, but for how long the subjects went without insurance, whether their disease was particularly amenable to early intervention, and even whether they lived in a mobile home. In test after test, he found no significantly elevated risk of death among the uninsured.

Big Mother


"Momma will always find out where you've been
Momma's gonna keep Baby healthy and clean"

2.20.2010

FW: IMG00013-20100220-1643.jpg

Friend of the blog David H reports a "Big ass fire off the spillway." 

As the picture indicates, there's quite a blaze going somewhere off the I-10 causeway west of New Orleans near the Bonnet Carre spillway.

I have yet to see any local coverage.

Taking issue with a piece in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Janice Eisen clearly doesn't like corporations.  And, it seems, she clearly doesn't like more free speech in elections.

In her column in the MJS earlier this past week, Eisen does something worse than merely espousing those opinions, however.  She doesn't get the law quite right.  She fails to delineate and appreciate the outer limits of just what the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling actually does.  The distinctions may be fine, but they're extremely important when criticizing the nature of a court's ruling.  It's the only way to avoid allowing emotion and political ideology from clouding the electorate's understanding of what the decision means.

For example, she writes this:


2.19.2010

A monstrous invasion of privacy

 

Friday music video

I really like this song, Ready, Able, by Grizzly Bear.



It's on their newest album which is pretty good.

The Real World New Orleans

Filming for the upcoming season is underway a few blocks away from my house, and I keep seeing the cast walk across the neutral ground at night, trailed by a camera, as I drive down St. Charles.

While the house is impressive, I'm not quite sure why they picked a location this far Uptown.  If someone sent me scouting for a wild and crazy location for the show, I certainly would have picked something closer to the Quarter - either the Marigny or the Warehouse District.  It is more "real world" New Orleans, for sure.  But that's usually not what the show seems to be aiming for in the end.

I'm not sure the show has great local guidance.  On the day of the Saints Parade, we passed the cast as they waited for the streetcar near their house about two hours before the parade was set to begin.  "Yeah, that's not going to happen..." was the consensus in our vehicle (in which we'd packed our bikes to use in the final stretches of guaranteed gridlock).  I wonder if they ever made it.

"First, we need to redefine masculinity...

...creating an image that encourages teenage boys to stay in school and older men to pursue service jobs."

Good luck, David Brooks, good luck.

The more worthwhile read is not Brooks' column on the gender and demographic trends that will likely stem from the recession, but rather the underlying work that seems to have prompted his commentary.

This piece, in The Atlantic.

It's a sober, disquieting look at how our national life unfolds from here.

"We're about to see a big national experiment on stress."

2.18.2010

This is why I love Wisconsin: Beer in a brandy snifter

For those of you who don't know: I love beer. Good beer, especially beer made in Wisconsin.

So you can imagine that I was very excited to see this article in the State Journal:
With an alcohol content of 14 percent, this beer, yet to be named, is meant to be sipped. "It's a dessert beer, something you can sit and relax with," said Kirby Nelson, brewmaster at Capital Brewery in Middleton. "It's like Korbel, only better."
Nelson, 54, and Rob LoBreglio, 43, brewmaster at the Great Dane Pub & Brewing Co., used their 53 years of combined brewing expertise to create the brew, a beer style called barley wine, in December of 2008.
Since then, the beer has been fermenting at the Great Dane's Downtown brewpub - the only  place it will be on tap, for about $6 a glass.
Two things really stand out in the article. First, the line "It's like Korbel, only better." That right there makes me want a glass. And second, even though it has 2 or 3 times the normal alcohol content of normal beer, the brewmasters still stuck closely to the Reinheitsgebot - the German Purity Laws of 1636.

I hope to let you all know how it tastes soon, but I'm betting Ben Franklin had it right: "Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy."

The point of foreign aid

Over at the MacIver Institute, Mark Green gives an interesting take on the purposes of foreign aid.
Poverty does not lead to terrorism. However, poverty leads to despair, and despair is a condition that the bad guys know how to exploit.
I'm not sure Green entirely acknowledges the facts of the foreign aid game when he says things like, "we're not asking for anything other than for you to take on your own problems." Certainly many programs -- such as the Peace Corps -- largely work that way. But plenty of aid comes with very real strings: democratize, open your markets, allow military bases on your soil.

Foreign aid -- such as we've been giving lately to Haiti -- can be a powerful force for good in the world. And Green is right that, when offered with no strings, it can be a powerful argument for America abroad. But most people are going to be looking at what foreign aid buys us, and expecting results from it. That expectation necessarily lead toward some sort of quid-pro-quo on aid lending: we obviously are not throwing tremendous amounts of no-strings-attached cash at North Korea, for example. Even our spending in Afghanistan, where one would expect, based on Green's argument, to have quite a lot of no-strings aid, it doesn't really exist. Our aid is largely offered through the military, and is directed much more at trying to buy off towns or insurgents than at the basic sorts of Peace Corps/ development work that really does need to be done.

I'd love to see the basic calculus of aid change, and I think Green is right if he argues that it should change, but it's a delicate proposition at best, and unlikely in the near future.

"Isn't it a great day to be a conservative Republican?"

That seemed to be the refrain of the Outagamie County Lincoln Day dinner, riffing on Tommy Thompson's line, "Isn't it a great day to be a Republican?" The focus seemed as much on social as on fiscal issues Monday night.

Then I saw Charlie Sykes link to the Mount Vernon Statement. I'm not entirely clear on whether it comes out of the Tea Party movement or CPAC -- or both -- but it seems to be one of those things that bubbles up from time to time, an attempt to reset the goals of the conservative movement or the GOP or some roughly similar group.

As a call to arms for Constitutional conservatism, it's a fine document, though hardly groundbreaking. But it continues to focus as much on social as on fiscal principles, and as such, it will fail to bring about any kind of new coalition around its goals.

Saying things like, "The conservatism of the Declaration asserts self-evident truths based on the laws of nature and nature’s God," might rile up a growing segment of the Tea Party base and get them more involved in Republican Party politics formally; indeed, the biggest movement out of this might be to create a tighter fusion between the GOP and the Tea Party.

But taking that path will continue to alienate the crucial groundswell of social libertarians who could get into the Tea Party movement through its focus on fiscal issues. Continuing to try to drag the religious right -- a movement which is already catered to tremendously -- into the Tea Party is a move that will only serve to push out that moderate base upon which a truly new movement could be founded. As the religious right continues to infiltrate the Tea Party, the window of opportunity for a truly unique, centrist movement that speaks to the broad swath of moderates continues to close.

Edit: it seems that the Statement did come from CPAC, and hasn't done much for conservative unity anyway. I suppose I lean toward it for the exact reasons Malkin opposes it.

Ice fishing archipelago


It's high sturgeon-spearing season on Lake Winnebago, and I took a walk on the ice with my dog Tesla yesterday to check out the action. The ice was quite solid -- a relieving surprise after a quite mild Wisconsin winter -- and there were plenty of trucks and snowmobiles parked out by the shanties.

Why religion will never be laid to rest

While I was on the bus to campus a few days ago, my mind adrift, a thought about religion sprung forth.

In ancient times, there was a god of thunder and a god of the sun. There was a god of the ocean, to whom you better have given tribute or else have procured shipwreck insurance, and a god of war and a god of summer, and so on for everything.

Over time as knowledge grew, those gods became obsolete and faded away as we began to know that thunder or storms or diseases have perfectly reasonable and natural explanations.

We've whittled it down to only one god left these days: the god of morality and justice. (There's also the god of the big bang/first cause/creation, but there's no way to tell the difference between this one and the morality one so they get lumped together.)

What's extremely convenient for religionists is that there's no morality curtain to open, since morality doesn't exist on a stage (unlike thunder and lightning whose curtains can be opened through experimentation and observation). Morality is man-made and in only our heads. There are perfectly non-supernatural explanations and reasons for morality to come about, develop, and propagate.

For me, the fun thought was imaging that instead of tribal people in loin cloths bowing down in front of the golden volcano idol, many educated people in suits and dresses in modern times bow down to and sing songs to the golden morality idol. (Some even eat their great idol!)

Another interesting thought is how throughout the history of mythology, the hallmark of a god is what or for whom it does stuff. They all do at least one thing for people--they're all anthropocentric. No one cares about the gods that don't do anything for or interact with people. Isn't it obvious that at best it's all just wishful thinking? Who would hope for an indifferent god that doesn't do anything for you? Moreover who could get a group of people excited enough about that religion for it to spread and catch on?

Back to my idol of morality and the big bang, did you know that it's what makes love and happiness and creativity and inspiration? It also makes good things sometimes happen and hears the trees fall in the forest. Did I mention it also makes good and goodness? I think it also is what makes colors. Notice the pattern?

The answer to the question of why religion will never be laid to rest is because it has evolved to not have a body.

Au Revoir, Lombardi Gras

























"SDT, which covers the French Quarter and the Central Business District, has picked up about 8,000 tons of trash during the past six weeks, compared with 4,000 to 4,500 tons in an average season, said the company’s owner, Sidney Torres IV."

Oh Snap

The debt crisis in Greece continues to ripple through the EU (although the EU's woes do not stem from Greece alone)...and people start picking open old scabs:

Greek opposition lawmakers said on Thursday that Germans should pay reparations for their World War Two occupation of Greece before criticising the country over its yawning fiscal deficits.

That doesn't seem like a productive way to move forward in addressing the situation.

2.17.2010

Yes!

The "New Orleans to Haiti Barge Initiative" is now underway.

I'm there.  If you want to join in, let me know.

I proposed a smaller initiative along these lines earlier in the month, but this is the better way to go.

Guest Post: Some Fresh Ideas

"In recognition of the dithering nature of our federal institutions, I submit that two relatively simple and straightforward changes in our entitlement programs might staunch the fiscal bleeding and catalyze additional, necessary reforms...


...the federal government should 1) institute a 5 year maximum amount of time that one may receive unemployment and/or welfare benefits and 2) eschew automatic eligibility for physical disability benefits in favor of opt-in coverage for additional premiums (i.e. taxes) for those workers who want the added security."

Ian F, a conservative Democrat - and friend of the blog, provides some refreshing thoughts on federal entitlement reform in the face of looming insolvency.  Read the whole thing below after the break.  I think it's very much worth considering.

What's your favorite short story?

Is it better than this?

Blue-Ribbon Commissions and a Deficit of Courage

The President is serious about deficits. So serious that he brought out the last resort of every President, Governor and Mayor in the last two or three decades: he appointed a blue-ribbon commission to solve our deficit crisis.

Pardon the cynicism, but if you really think this will fix anything you've lost your mind.

The thing is, we already have the ability to fix this problem. Contrary to how we normally regard politicians in Washington, most of them are intelligent, rational people. They have at least the basic math skills of an eighth grade student and know that you can't keep spending more than you have and hope that it will all just even out. The US government does not have a rich uncle on life support that is going to bail it out.

There are 435 Representatives, 100 Senators and a President and Vice-President elected by the people to govern and to lead. Part of governing - the most crucial part in my estimation - is setting priorities and writing a budget that reflects them. We have budget, appropriations, finance and a host of other committees in both Houses of Congress that should be able to solve the problem of $1.6 trillion deficits. That's what they are there for anyway.

But that's not what we have. We don't have congressmen and senators willing to work on this with any sincerity. They want political cover so that they don't have to make the hard decisions. They don't have the courage to do what needs to be done. Instead they make speeches about "fiscal responsibility" and "pay-go" and "making the 'tough' choices." But they don't ever make any tough choices.

They are going to hide behind a commission of unelected "statesmen" that will return ineffective recommendations and likely only add to government bureaucracy without addressing the structural problems of our entitlements. This isn't leadership. It's passing the buck and hoping no one will notice. The members of Congress who voted for or endorsed this commission should be ashamed of themselves. It is painfully obvious that they are not interested in doing their jobs or anything resembling courage.

They know what needs to be done. The President - with all of his economic and budgetary advisers - know what needs to be done. Get it done and get it done now.

The Other Bubble - Public Debt

Mr Hoenig said that rising debt was infringing on the central bank's ability to fulfil its goals of maintaining price stability and long-term economic growth. "Stunning" deficit projections were putting political pressure on the Fed to keep interest rates low, infringing on its independence at the risk of inflation, he said.  "Without pre-emptive action, the US risks its next crisis," Mr Hoenig said in a speech at the Pew-Peterson Commission on Budget Reform.

Meanwhile, the foreign appetite for U.S. debt shrank.  Figures show China began to unload its holdings of U.S. treasuries in December, leading to a record decline in foreign demand.

A Few Mardi Gras Moments


A most excellent article on Roger Ebert

The film critic can't speak nowadays, but he still has plenty to say. It's very well written and worth reading through to the end.

He's gotten into blogging lately. In particular, this post I caught last month about Urbana, the University, and relationships in the early 60's was a fun read.

Out of curiosity I searched for where he grew up in Urbana and found this other post full of memories--it's a few blocks over and down from where I live. It happens to be on street view.

2.16.2010

Facebook fail?

Organizing in Iran:
Ultimately, the blessings of new technology do not eliminate the tried and true virtues of institution-building. It's often recalled that the Islamic Revolution succeeded not least because Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini so savvily subverted his imposed exile in Iraq and France by means of cassette recordings denouncing the shah. It's less remarked upon that Khomeini had developed over the previous decades an organization of followers that was prepared not only to distribute his cassettes, but also to develop institutions that adhered to his vision. Khomeini succeeded not only because of his reach of his spiritualism, or the fervor he aroused with his rhetoric, but because of his commitment to old-fashioned political spade work.

2.15.2010

The Seismograph Starts Shaking

Senator Evan Bayh decides to retire.

Wow.  He tried to warn them...

(ht/Anon3)

It's Lundi Gras!

It's the Monday preceding Mardi Gras here in New Orleans, and, while it's strangely cold and windy, the sun is shining.

Sean Payton rides tonight in Orpheus, but I'm more excited about the Krewe of Proteus, one of the "old line" krewes founded in 1882, which rolls this evening on its original 1880s wooden wagons.  It's not the flashiest or the biggest, but it's really a blast from the past/link to the past, it has distinctive seahorse-themed throws, and it often features obscure themes like 2009's "Mabinogion: The Romance of Wales."  Plus, I've been invited to something called "Proteuspalooza" - and how could that not be fun?

What about the other old line krewes?  Where did they go?  Well, Comus and Momus still exist, although they do not parade any longer (one of my neighbors is a member of Momus).  Rex still maintains a prominent role in Mardi Gras day celebrations, although it has certainly grown to near-super krewe status - a long way from the form that Proteus maintains (slightly ironic since Proteus, in mythology, is the shape shifter).

There's a great deal of work to do today, but tonight should be fun.

Mammoth Caves

A few days ago a friend and I visited the Mammoth Caves in Kentucky. It's a national park and about midway between Louisville and Nashville, 90 mins in either direction.

It's the longest cave system in the world at more than 360 miles long. The rangers who guide the tours in the caves explained how the caves are formed by water flowing through and dissolving the porous limestone. What allows caves to form is overlaying sandstone, which acts like a roof to only let water through in a few areas.

Initially we were planning to go on the long tour, something like 4.5 hours and 4 miles but it was sold out when we got there. So we went on the New Entrance tour. Here's the new entrance:

Only a few photos turned out. The part of the cave area in this tour was wet. Wet caves are areas where water is moving down into the ground. Water is what makes the formations. [Click to embiggen!]


In the second one, the rock had formed to make bowl-like formations holding water.

That tour was so cool we elected to go on another in the afternoon, the Historic Tour, which goes through the areas of the cave that were used by the Native Americans in antiquity and rediscovered in the early 1800's. It's mostly dry cave.

The cave went back perhaps a quarter of a mile and then there was a large circular room which was a Y junction. Back in the early 1800's, cave owners had slaves dig through the cave dirt for nitrates which were made into saltpeter and used as gunpower. Remains of 1800's extraction equipment:

The most impressive thing was the size of the passage. More than a mile into the cave, it was still much larger than a subway tunnel, oval-shaped, perhaps 30+' wide and 20' tall. It had been where a river used to be so the walls were relatively smooth and the tunnel curved from side to side.

The ranger mentioned that the slaves were the early tour guides and they made money that way. They also made money by selling materials for historic graffiti--antebellum grease smoke writing on the ceiling:


Above ground it was just under freezing. Below ground, it was comfortable sweat shirt weather in the 50's. Also you'll be dripped on.

Both tours I was one were rated half on their difficulty scale and beforehand in the orientations they stressed on knowing your limitations. The stairs and changes in elevation sound daunting. This gave me a small reservation especially since the first tour ranger said that one point near the bottom of the 200' initial descent was as narrow as his ranger hat was wide. However I realized that we had reached the bottom and I hadn't noticed anything bad; in a few spots you do have to be creative on the stairs with the railing. I suspect they write their descriptions for, say, a middle age office worker who isn't active. As an active young person I had no trouble.

I definitely want to get back and see more caves and park in nice weather. And it's the first time I've been to a national park that I can recall--I might have been through Shenandoah.

Closer to home, I can recommend a wet cave near Madison, Cave of the Mounds, worth visiting.

2.14.2010

A trio of must-read columns, or Who says the conservative movement lacks intellectuals?

Over the weekend there have been three outstanding columns by three of the best conservative writers. The first is Charles Krauthammer's stinging indictment of the administration's retreat from space:
By the end of this year, there will be no shuttle, no U.S. manned space program, no way for us to get into space. We're not talking about Mars or the moon here. We're talking about low-Earth orbit, which the U.S. has dominated for nearly half a century and from which it is now retiring with nary a whimper...
At the peak of the Apollo program, NASA was consuming almost 4 percent of the federal budget, which in terms of the 2011 budget is about $150 billion. Today the manned space program will die for want of $3 billion a year -- 1/300th of last year's stimulus package with its endless make-work projects that will leave not a trace on the national consciousness.
The second is George Will on the Progressive "dependency agenda:"
Democrats, in their canine devotion to teachers unions, oppose empowering poor children to escape dependency on even terrible government schools. Unions and their poodles say school choice siphons money from public schools. But federal money funds the D.C. program, so killing it denies education money to the District while increasing the number of pupils the District must support....
Subordination is dependency seen from above. Today, it is seen approvingly by progressives imposing, from above, their dependency agenda.
There is no school choice here; no voucher will enable Americans to escape from enveloping dependency on this "government as school." The dependency agenda is progressive education for children of all ages, meaning all ages treated as children.

And the third, piece de resistance, is the third installment of Thomas Sowell's "Society and the Fallacy of Fairness:"
Most of us want to be fair, in the sense of treating everyone equally. We want laws to be applied the same to everyone. We want educational, economic or other criteria for rewards to be the same as well. But this concept of fairness is not only different from prevailing ideas of fairness among many of the intelligentsia, it contradicts their idea of fairness....
It is certainly a great misfortune to be born into families or communities whose values make educational or economic success less likely. But to have intellectuals and others come along and misstate the problem does not help to produce better results, even if it produces a better image.
Political correctness may make it hard for anyone to challenge the image of helpless victims of an evil society. But those who are lagging do not need a better public relations image. They need the ability to produce better results for themselves-- and a romantic image is an obstacle to directing their efforts toward developing that ability.
Go and read them all. Trust me, they are worth it.

Oh, It's Carnival Time


Everybody's haaviiing fun.

Is this how our system is supposed to work?

Excecutive power is employed as an alternate Legislative route forward...rather than a separate, conflicting power.

I raise the question with respect to the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations.

2.13.2010

Please don't Buzz

A few worries for democracy:
If I were working for the Iranian or the Chinese government, I would immediately dispatch my Internet geek squads to check on Google Buzz accounts for political activists and see if they have any connections that were previously unknown to the government. They can then spend months on end drawing complex social circles on the shiny blackboards inside secret police headquarters.

But potential risk from disclosing such data extends far beyond just supplying authoritarian governments with better and more actionable intelligence. For example, most governments probably already suspect that some of their ardent opponents are connected to Western organizations but may lack the evidence to act on those suspicions. Now, thanks to Google's desire to make an extra buck off our data, they would finally have the ultimate proof they needed (if you think that this is unrealistic, consider this: the Iranian authorities have once used membership in an academic mailing list run out of Columbia as evidence of spying for the West).

“There’s not enough footballs in all of China. Get me as many as you can.”

All hail Breesus:

"Various krewes loaned floats to the victory parade; Brees was aboard the traditional Bacchus king’s float.

But for Bacchus itself, Brees wanted to ride alongside his wife, the board of directors of his charitable Brees Dream Foundation, and the Saints offensive line. Space was also needed for the Bacchus pages and an enhanced security team.

On the suggestion of studio president Barry Kern, the design incorporated a piece of Bacchus history: A decades-old chariot once pulled by a horse and ridden by a parade marshal. Exhumed from a warehouse and refurbished, it is mounted atop the new king’s float."

Trombone

2.12.2010

Really, Joe?

What is it with the Obama administration and Azerbaijan? First David Plouffe cozied up to a regime mouthpiece. Now this:
Azerbaijan, he said, can serve "as a model for stability and tolerance, combining tradition, history, openness, and the universal values of the modern world."
The Aliyev regime has a long history of persecution of religion and free speech, and of blatantly violating basic election procedures. That doesn't quite suggest a "model for... the universal values of the modern world" to me.

But hey, maybe that's why I'm not Vice President.

Yet Again, Paul Krugman Needs Help

The man certainly does have a penchant for distortion - and parroting the Democratic talking points de jour.

In his latest column, Krugman tries to tar and feather Representative Paul Ryan while slamming the GOP generally - all in hopes of getting the health care bill passed.

Krugman tries to home in on what he sees as obvious hypocrisy:

No, what’s truly mind-boggling is this: Even as Republicans denounce modest proposals to rein in Medicare’s rising costs, they are, themselves, seeking to dismantle the whole program.

But who are the "they" being thrown about as strawmen?  He cites Newt Gingrich as a voice now supporting Medicare against the ravages of the health care bill...and Paul Ryan as a voice pushing a plan that would ravage Medicare.  So naturally, the entire Republican Party, in Krugman's view, is hopelessly caught up in contradiction.

No, what’s truly mind-boggling is this: Even as Republicans denounce modest proposals to rein in Medicare’s rising costs, they are, themselves, seeking to dismantle the whole program. And the process of dismantling would begin with spending cuts of about $650 billion over the next decade. Math is hard, but I do believe that’s more than the roughly $400 billion (not $500 billion) in Medicare savings projected for the Democratic health bills.

It's convenient.  Because Krugman's conflation of the figures and issues in play means he doesn't actually have to address the substance of Paul Ryan's serious proposal.  He recognizes Ryan is a true threat - a likeable conservative who has intellectual heft and has proposed a plan that is surprisingly moderate and pragmatic in addressing a real problem, a plan that creates room for discussion and maneuvering that could lead to consensus.

Krugman just keeps pointing to the perceived paradoxes in the GOP...but he never talks about the far more pressing actual fact that we, as a nation, are facing several serious, crippling entitlement explosions. 

In particular, Mr. Ryan offers a plan for Social Security privatization that is basically identical to the Bush proposals of five years ago.

Did the Bush plan refrain from affecting seniors at present?  Because that's what the Ryan Roadmap does, from my understanding.  If it's the same as Bush's plan, good.  At least somebody wants to save us from our own insanity, a mindset since the Great Society that seems to think government can provide everything to everyone without addressing the underlying realities of scarcity and changing demographic trends.

Regardless of how or why Ryan proposed the Roadmap, regardless of what other members of the GOP think, Krugman should look at the reality of the Roadmap - which does not "dismantle the whole program" - but that would be ceding ground to the Republicans.

Instead, Krugman, in decrying confusion, presents a little demagogic confusion of his own:

If this sounds like deliberately confusing gobbledygook, that’s because it is. Fortunately, the Congressional Budget Office, which has done an evaluation of the roadmap, offers a translation: “Some higher-income enrollees would pay higher premiums, and some program payments would be reduced.” In short, there would be Medicare cuts.

So now he portrays the Medicare cuts as reprehensible?  After attacking Gingrich for doing so?  Despite pushing the health care bill aggressively himself, which contains Medicare cuts?  Somehow, Krugman has his cake, eats it too, and then throws it back in the faces of the Republicans.

Paul Ryan's proposal, in the end, is the most realistic step forward that I've seen to date.  In the face of daunting fiscal challenges, his plan takes a very long term approach toward solvency (rendering Ramesh Ponnuru's incrementalist conservative critique rather moot), but it's a plan that, like any grand compromise, makes everyone a little unhappy - I think it cedes far too much to the continued existence of the welfare state.  The bizarre Democratic storyline - that Obama brought up Ryan's Roadmap in order to have it pulverized by the political left crying out about an end to Medicare - is just as hypocritical as anything Krugman is lambasting.

Disconcerting

In the name of keeping us safe, the federal government argues it has a right to know the location of our cell phones:

...the Obama administration has argued that warrantless tracking is permitted because Americans enjoy no "reasonable expectation of privacy" in their--or at least their cell phones'--whereabouts. U.S. Department of Justice lawyers say that "a customer's Fourth Amendment rights are not violated when the phone company reveals to the government its own records" that show where a mobile device placed and received calls.

I disagree.  Of the two types of wireless tracking, federal government collection of prospective data is the most alarming:

It comes in two forms: police obtaining retrospective data kept by mobile providers for their own billing purposes that may not be very detailed, or prospective data that reveals the minute-by-minute location of a handset or mobile device. 

I do believe, harkening back to Justice Harlan's concurrence in Katz, that we have a reasonable expectation of privacy, both subjectively and objectively, in the present location of our cell phones.  I would place the hurdle of a search warrant requirement in the way.

What's your favorite Mardi Gras krewe or parade?

Here's mine.

2.11.2010

Rollin'

There's good reason to head down to the Bywater on the Wednesday before Mardi Gras.  I'll post a few images.

Massive return?

Massive Attack is coming back:
The group brought an approach to pace that was more common in modern classical and electronic music than in hip-hop. A new genre was attributed to (or blamed on) Massive Attack: trip-hop. The name indicates music based on hip-hop beats but slowed way down, detached from actual rapping, and combined with anodyne elements such as saxophones and hand drums. Along with its peers in Bristol—notably Portishead and Tricky—the band made pop music that did not depend on being assertive or fast to make its point.
This is interesting news, at least, especially in the wake of Portishead's Third. And TV on the Radio's Tunde Adebimpe is involved, which has to be a good sign. I've always thought that trip-hop as a genre was unfairly maligned, and Massive Attack and Portishead often come back up in my listening, so I'm glad both acts are now putting out new material, hopefully after the hatefest on the genre has abated.

"No sex here," or, a little linguistic fun

The headline is better than the article, but it's something Peace Corps volunteers have been giggling over since the program in Azerbaijan began:
One of the guests ironically noted that Azerbaijan is unparalleled in everything that relates to sex, let alone other realms. He reasoned it by numerous advertisements “sexi” (on Azerbaijani small businesses sounds as “sex” and such signs are found on every such enterprise throughout the country) on Azerbaijani roads.

Azerbaijani authorities were unpleasantly impressed by guest’s joke and local officials were instructed to immediately remove all similar public ads.

(via GoldenTent)

Obama weaves with gossamer strands

What is the Constitutional or statutory source of the power the President intends to exercise in setting up the deficit reduction commission via executive order?

Transitional period

The king is dead, long live the king: Haloscan, my friends, is no longer. We've decided to switch to Echo, the pay version of Haloscan. Please let us know if you have any problems with comments -- we'll be keeping an eye on things as best we can, but if you have problems, give a shout!

Oh my

Put a notch in Glenn Beck's belt -- he's just taken down a superstar:
Texas Republican gubernatorial candidate Debra Medina imploded on the Glenn Beck radio program this morning when she said she didn't have an opinion on whether the US government was behind the 9/11 attacks.

Medina, who has literally come out of nowhere to quickly become a legitimate candidate in the Republican primary, first laughed when Beck said he had received emails from listeners saying she was a "9/11 truther."
The real question is, how does this reflect on the Tea Partiers?

I haven't been following the Texas primaries, but there are suggestions that Medina is pretty strongly linked to the Partiers; another report calls her a "tea party supporter." Certainly the rest of the rhetoric I see on her site fits the mold. She's a rabble-rousing populist running a guerrilla -- or grass-roots, if you will -- campaign.

The Redstate piece above hits at something that I think bears emphasizing: the Tea Party as an organization has done a pretty crap job of vetting those they let speak for them. Witness the Tea Party convention, with its controversial speakers. And now Ms Medina. The trouble with touting anyone who claims to lead a crusade for the people is that anyone can show up.

And now here's Beck, someone very near the center of the Tea Party movement himself, holding another's feet to the fire. I think ultimately that says something positive for the intellectual honesty of the movement. Beck could easily have ignored the question, dropping it as something out of left field, a ridiculous accusation by her political enemies, "old-line conservatives" or otherwise. But he didn't let it go, and that's important.

The movement is perhaps rightly proud of its decentralization, its focus on local groups with similar interests -- but that was the trouble with the first iteration of the United States, too. Some centralization, some degree of coordination, some way of saying, "we stand for these things, and these people speak for us," is needed.

The Nola Art House...

...is apparently about to be shut down by local law enforcement.

According to the facebook profile:

The city of NOLA just took a big bite out of its own culture: They're shutting us down completely, and trying to move us into homeless shelters. Our electricity is minutes from being pulled. We're gonna be fighting, we're homeless and we don't have much by way of resources, but we're gonna fight this thing all the godd...

For more on the phenomenon of the Art House, here's the recent Gambit article, which does a decent job of capturing the craziness and creativity.

UPDATE:  Nola.com provides more information.  It appears the utilities have been cut as well.  A fire department official had this to say:

“As bad as it may seem,” Woodridge said, “our concern is for the people living there.”

I do not know all the details, but it does seem bad.  What if all the people living there are consenting adults who don't care about the supposed violations and aren't posing any danger to the lives or property of others?  And another question: why now?  The Gambit article?  The upcoming show?  The treehouse and parties have been quite apparent for the past, oh, nine months.  The Art House is also one of the only structures on the block that it occupies, a block of mostly vacant lots directly in the shadow of I-10.

Google Buzz is upon us

What are your thoughts?
 
And did you mean to buzz them?

A Few Little Things - Yes or No

1.  The Boy Scouts at 100 - Are they still relevant?  I'd say yes.

2.  Should libertarians learn to love government?  I'd say no.

3.  Storm clouds building in the U.S.-China relationship?  I'd say yes.

4.  Does The Economist start from the right premise in assessing Paul Ryan's Roadmap?  I'd say no.

Muses Postponed

For New Orleans readers, the parade has been bumped to Friday due to the threat of sleet and rain.

2.09.2010

A Special Thanks

Thanks to guest blogger Chip A for the play-by-play updates on the Saints Parade as it happened (see below)!

It truly was a great night.

And thus begins Lombardi GRAS

Who dat?

Brad and I join the 610 stomper

Kickers in the shoe. Get it

Shockey : do the stanky leg

Stand up and get crunk. Brees blesses the masses with cheap plastic shit.

Breesus Christ the savior

The bensons

Popes on a rope

videoThe attached video was created using Qik VideoCamera application for
the iPhone.

St charles and girod. Parade begins.

Something else happened on Sunday. And it's pretty cool

I wanted to post this earlier, but I didn't want it lost in the midst of Brad's excellent reporting on the Saints victory.

Just about 45 minutes before kickoff in Miami, Edgerton native Steve Stricker won perhaps the biggest tournament of his career on the PGA Tour. Not only did he win on an historic course, against a great field, with this, his eighth win, he moved to into the number 2 golfer in the world. Ahead of Phil Mickelson and behind only Tiger Woods.

Steve still lives in Madison and spends his time in between tournaments during the winter hitting golf balls out of a heated trailer into the snow. Not only is he a great golfer, but perhaps the most humble sports figure in the country. National Review's Jay Nordlinger has a great little write-up on Steve in his weekly column, Impromptus:
Speaking of The Weekly Standard: Steve Stricker won the PGA tournament at the Riviera Country Club in L.A. over the weekend. Big tournament, big win. It was Stricker’s eighth. I was there for the first one: at the Kemper Open, outside Washington, D.C. This was in the spring of ’96. And I wrote about the tournament for the Standard (as I recall) — about my playing reporter at it.

As a rule, Stricker sheds tears after winning a tournament — so says this write-up about his Riviera victory. Well, I remember shaking hands with Stricker, after the Kemper: and he did indeed have tears in his eyes. Quite moving. He was a big, big deal in my neck of the woods — I mean, my home region, the Midwest. He is from Wisconsin and played at the University of Illinois. Nobody could touch him. He was one of the great collegians, a god of the links.

After he won the Kemper, there was a little press conference, as there always is, post-tournament. I asked him, “How old were you when you figured you would go on to win a PGA tournament? Were you in junior high, high school? College?” Stricker answered, “I never realized I would win until this very day.” He said this with obvious sincerity. He is a remarkably modest person.

But I’ll tell you this, sports fans: Stricker’s chances of winning on the PGA Tour were basically my chances of consuming a hot-fudge sundae.

Anyway, nice going, Steve — excellent.

Saints Parade Live Guest Photo Blog

Chip A, friend of the blog, will be live guest photo blogging the Saints Parade this evening!
 
He makes no warranties as to quality given that darkness will be falling, but I think it will be great to see things as they happen.

Tougher Talk from China

 
I now wonder just how much of this is belligerent venting...and how much is an actual desire/political ability to use the Taiwanese arms sales as a much more potent pretext (than I initially thought) to hurt the U.S. more broadly on multiple fronts:
 
"Our retaliation should not be restricted to merely military matters, and we should adopt a strategic package of counter-punches covering politics, military affairs, diplomacy and economics to treat both the symptoms and root cause of this disease," said Luo Yuan, a researcher at the Academy of Military Sciences.

Excellent


It looks like a nice and crazy parade route for today's Super Krewe.

Also, I think Howard Avenue should be renamed Brees Terrace.

Roundup: governance edition

+so much for the Orange Revolution

+the Sri Lankan parliament dissolves

+Goodluck steps up in Nigeria

+OSCE pressure pushes press freedom in Kazakhstan

+regret in Gaza