3.31.2010

Cao: I'll Stay at the Trough

Congressman Joseph Cao refuses to join the House GOP in forsaking earmarks for the next year.

He joins only two other GOP House members, including Ron Paul (who has a more interesting and slightly more principled justification).

Yes, New Orleans has many needs, as Cao notes.  But part of being a representative at the national level also entails doing what's best for the country, not just the district.  As the nation faces increasingly dire fiscal conditions (created in large part by unceasing government spending), it's rather shameful for Cao to continue to belly up for unnecessary appropriations for highly targeted local institutions.  Besides the levee repair earmark, which is more worthwhile...the others noted in the article are, not surprising when it comes to Cao, Catholic institutions, like this project:

His only solo earmark for fiscal 2010 was $400,000 for Mary Queen of Vietnam Community Development Corp. for facilities and equipment for a health center. Cao formerly served on their board but stepped down after his election. This year he is asking for $6.5 million for Mary Queen of Vietnam CDC to build Viet Village Urban Farm "as a model community project for economic and environmental stability." 

That sounds rather ridiculous.  New Orleans, it's time to "faite-le vous meme."

"We confiscated the camera, took the film out," says Noce. "We just said we worked for the government."

Area-51 secrets are slowly coming out:
Barnes believes the Air Force and the "Agency" didn't mind the stories about alien spacecraft. They helped cover up the secret planes that were being tested.

On one occasion, he remembers, when the first jets were being tested at what Muroc Army Air Field, later renamed Edwards Air Force Base, a test pilot put on a gorilla mask and flew upside down beside a private pilot.

"Well, when this guy went back, telling reporters, 'I saw a plane that didn't have a propeller and being flown by a monkey,' well, they laughed at this guy — and it got where the guys would see [test pilots] and they didn't dare report it because everybody'd laugh at them," says Barnes.

Noce says he quite liked working at Area 51.

Warnings from a still-unstable Chechnya

Unsurprisingly, we have a Chechen leader claiming responsibility for the Moscow blasts today:
[Doku Umarov] said the Moscow attacks were an act of revenge for the killings of poor Chechen and Ingush civilians by the Russian security forces near the town of Arshty on 11 February...

The rebel, who styles himself as the Emir of the Caucasus Emirate, said attacks on Russian soil would continue.
Unmentioned by Umarov is Alexander Tikhomirov, a militant leader apparently killed recently by Russian security forces on March 4.

The relative calm in Chechnya -- where violence still simmers, a fact often forgotten in the West as well as in Russia -- has actually come at a fairly steep price: violence has spread from that region to the nearby regions of Daghestan and Ingushetia. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, there has been no real unifying ideology to hold even Russia (much less the republics) together; essentially a cobbled-together empire, there is nothing to hold the Muslim south together with Moscow. And to the extent that the government has tried to formulate some kind of overarching ideology, it has largely been a Great Russian nationalism that further divides Moscow from its furthest-flung regions, further severing non-ethnic Russians from the center.

And as the eyes of the world turn toward Sochi for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games, the message of terrorism becomes more potent. That's clear from the second blast, this one targeting the overt signs of Russian domination in Daghestan. I'd wager this kind of thing will only continue in the near term.

The shoe's about to fall Inside the Footprint






















Federal Judge Eldon Fallon just denied the National Trust for Historic Preservation's motion for summary judgment, which sought an injunction to stop property acquisition and demolition inside the VA hospital footprint.

From what I hear, demolition of a few properties - historic properties that were determined to be "contributing properties" to the National Register Historic District that encompasses the VA hospital footprint - is about to get underway.  The photo above shows some architectural detail from one of the contributing properties, a shotgun at 325 S. Tonti, that's supposedly slated for demolition in the near future.

I'm doing my best to keep tabs over at Inside the Footprint.

3.30.2010

Delicious

Someone's made a map of publicly available fruit trees in Champaign-Urbana.

In addition to the usual apples and berries, there appear to be things like apricots, peaches, and plums in town. I can't say I've seen those in Wisconsin.

I'll have to go pawpaw and persimmon hunting sometime. I've never heard of either before.

I stumbled upon an intersection

Exactly, for the umpteenth time

I've been saying this since 2002 when I was in high school:

In international relations, let's for the moment forget the distractions of the Middle East and Iran's nuclear ambitions. The country that really matters to the US and will define the geo-political landscape of the future is China, America's biggest trading partner.  Against this, the Middle East is an irrelevance.

While I fear that President Obama will turn largely to additional domestic overreaching now that health care has passed, one can hope.

3.29.2010

"I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!"*

Wow, apparently some parents feel that they were misled by Governor Doyle's covenant program.

I can't say that I'm surprised at all about this. The way in which he sold the program did make it seem like the end-all-be-all of government programs. It was basically, "hey, if you do a good job in high school we'll let you go to college for practically nothing!"

Now, having had to fill out financial aid packets, I understand the insane disconnect between what parents - particularly those with multiple children - can afford and what the government "expects" them to be able to pay. Most parents don't realize this until they're in that situation. It's perfectly understandable that some parents had expected more than the $250 to $2,500.

The problem is that Governor Doyle and the Democrats oversold the program. It was a guarantee of acceptance into the UW system and financial aid - not a free ride. The kicker is that even the high end of $2,500 isn't going to cover tuition at most of the four year schools. I don't think that the covenant program was a good idea for many reasons, but this is the most glaring.

We essentially promised more than we ever expected to deliver.

*Where is this movie quotation from?

RDW is a jackass and is not helping conservatives.

I can't stand the health care bill. The impending fights over cap and trade and illegal immigration will be defining moments for the country. I have serious doubts about the President's judgment.

That said, Real Debate Wisconsin should shut up. Of all the things to criticize the President for - and it is certainly a target-rich environment - this is not one of them. President Obama is the Commander-in-Chief and has been remarkably good on military affairs. Visiting the troops in Afghanistan is not an easy thing given the security and secrecy involved, but one that both President Bush and President Obama have done. It was right when bush did it and it's right now.

This type of pettiness is what drove me nuts about the Left under President Bush. It drives me nuts now, too.

"True, she seems to know very little about international affairs, but expertise in this area is no guarantee of wise leadership."

While I see Mr. Podhoretz's point, I don't really find that a comforting reason to support Sarah Palin in any quest for the presidency.

His defense of Palin leaves me unconvinced.  Even if Sarah Palin agrees with me on the substance of an issue, I'm concerned, at least at this point, about her ability to lead and to govern.

Podhoretz says he would prefer her in office to Barack Obama.  I must say that I would prefer someone with what may be her policy stances (they're rarely nuanced or even fully clear, usually buried somewhat unintelligibly under a storm of personality controversy), but without her excessive drama.

In a way, when I'm looking for a potential president these days, I'm searching for someone who 1) is within an acceptable range of possibilities based on how the individual would handle power compared to past occupants of the position and the powers of the position, and 2) does the person align with me when it comes to policy and principle?

Most candidates fit the first range - they're not perfect, but they have a baseline seriousness, competence, and loyalty that assures me, to some extent, that they won't act in a manner that will actually destroy the country.  I may not agree with them - I may even vehemently disagree with them - but I know that their approaches are not so out of line with what I'd expect that I could tolerate them should they win office.  Barack Obama, even post-health care passage, still barely falls within this category (one more act of fiscal recklessness, and I'll likely reconsider).  He certainly doesn't fit the second qualification.

With Sarah Palin, it's hard for me to rest assured that she actually fits within the first category.  I still don't feel comfortable with her wielding power.  From what I've seen over the past year and a half, even if I agree with her on the policy and principle (something commenter Tim S has aptly suggested at various points), I'm concerned she may be too erratic, vindictive, uninformed, inarticulate, or petty to lead effectively and predictably.  I may change my mind in this regard, but at present, I'm not sure I'm confident about trusting Sarah Palin if she's forced to go with her gut in a critical situation.

Super Sunday


3.26.2010

Whew - glad that's settled

The neocons? Not a conspiracy:
It should be obvious that the neoconservatives who pushed for war in Iraq do not fit this definition, and the wide array of people who now hold them partly responsible for the decision to invade Iraq are not advancing a very controversial notion. Far from being secretive, the various think tanks, committees, foundations and publications that nurtured the neoconservative movement have courted publicity from the very beginning, just as other policy networks do. Instead of concealing their goals-such as the ouster of Saddam Hussein-they were clear about what they thought the United States should do. It is a pretty weird "conspiracy" whose leaders routinely appear on national television to proclaim their policy goals, and whose members sign their names to open letters advising government officials what to do. And in those heady "Mission Accomplished" days when Iraq seemed like a great success, neoconservatives were quick to claim credit for it. This is not the way a "secret cabal" normally behaves.
Thanks, Stephen Walt!

Obama's 2011 Budget - Unwise

The CBO assesses the President's proposed 2011 budget.  And it doesn't look good.

Here's what the CBO found regarding the debt:













How about the deficit?

Measured relative to the size of the economy, the deficit under the President’s proposals would fall to about 4 percent of GDP by 2014 but would rise steadily thereafter. 

By 2020, the deficit would reach 5.6 percent of GDP.

And mandatory outlays?  Here's the real problem with the CBO estimate - it doesn't incorporate (and probably can't accurately forsee) the coming realities of the post-health care bill landscape.  Instead, it adopts what are no doubt optimistic placeholder numbers put forward by the administration as far as revenues and mandatory outlays due to the legislation:

Health Care Legislation. 


The proposal to expand health insurance coverage and make other changes to the health
care system would have the largest effect on mandatory spending. The Administration estimates that such legislation would increase mandatory outlays by $6 billion in 2010 and by $593 billion from 2011 through 2020—about $150 billion less than the added revenues assumed to result from such legislation. As in the case of revenues,that estimate of outlays is a placeholder calculated by the Administration that CBO has incorporated in this analysis.

The administration seems to be in denial.  Spending is not they way forward.  We need to sober up and get our fiscal house in order.

Also of note...Obama's budget proves Paul Ryan was on to something when he called for the CBO to do one final estimate before the health care vote.  One of the CBO's presumptions in scoring the Democratic version of the bill was that Medicare rates would go down as planned - an unrealistic presumption.

Obama's budget shows its unrealistic.  The budget proposed calls for the "doc fix" when it comes to Medicare reimbursement rates.  He proposes restoring and keeping those rates at 2009 levels through 2020, something Nancy Pelosi et. al carved out of the health care bill to avoid splashing red ink on the legislation.  It's going to cost a good deal:

Medicare’s Payment Rates for Physicians. Under current law, Medicare’s payment rates for physicians’ services are slated to be reduced by 21 percent beginning in April 2010, by about 6 percent in 2011, and by about 2 percent a year for most of the rest of the decade. The President proposes to avoid those reductions by freezing the payment rates at the 2009 levels through 2020. The higher payments to physicians that would result under the proposal (relative to those under current law) would increase outlays by $5 billion in 2010 and by $286 billion from 2011 to 2020.

This budget, in my mind, fails because it so closely resembles the George W. Bush approach you often saw in the former President's State of the Union addresses - a desire to hand out a little bit of everything to everyone.  A detachment from the reality of finite resources.  And limited government.  It's not sustainable, it doesn't get us on the road to sustainability, and it doesn't even attempt to appear to be making hard choices in hard times.

"China's military buildup exceeded U.S. intelligence estimates every year for more than a decade"

That and other uncomfortable realities as a U.S. admiral discusses China's push to project naval power.

What's The Deal?

Is Barack Obama on the cusp of announcing his "New Deal" for the Great Recession?

I ask, seriously, after seeing this story today in the NYT:

The Obama administration on Friday will announce broad new initiatives to help troubled homeowners, potentially refinancing several million of them into fresh government-backed mortgages with lower payments.

Combined with the headiness that has accompanied a win on the health care bill (I encourage gloaters on facebook to keep it up - you're only further entrenching your opposition), along with numerous other federal measures over the past two years, I have to wonder if Obama now sees this as his moment to throw the kitchen sink. Go all in "for the American people." Deficits be damned. Let's roll out some new programs to appear to help in the here and now.

At this point, functionally, I think he and his team realizes he could make such a move - throw in the stimulus, the stimulus' change in food stamp rules (ht AD), cash for clunkers, health care, the jobs bill, housing relief, etc. His actions, regardless of his words and regardless of the GOP record in the Bush years, have shown he's willing to spend almost without limit. He could announce a broad reaching effort along the public relations lines of the New Deal. But I think, at least for the time being, even if the federal government continues to roll out programs, he's going to avoid labeling the efforts he could try to claim as his own under some umbrella term - largely because I think he fears the consequences of failure in the wake of "Mission Accomplished" and "The War on Terror."

It's also in keeping with Democratic and Progressive traditions:

Late Teddy Roosevelt - Square Deal
FDR - New Deal
Truman - Fair Deal
Johnson - The Great Society

Carter's malaise and Clinton's centrism in good economic times aren't up to the task of the times at present.

Whether President Obama himself coins the term or someone from his administration or the media/chattering classes does, it's coming, I think. A Deal with a capital D of some sort, an entry for the history books.

3.25.2010

A Sense of Place

Meanwhile, back on entitlement island...

Social Security insolvency comes early:
 
This year, the system will pay out more in benefits than it receives in payroll taxes, an important threshold it was not expected to cross until at least 2016, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
 

3.24.2010

If you're going to San Francisco...

...don't plan to have fun.

A little geopolitics for your evening

Let's mull the implications of an Iranian bomb:
A nuclear Iran, however, could exert significant pressure on Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, in particular on their energy policy and strategic alignment. The lesson from the August 2008 war in Georgia is crystal clear – NATO umbrella does extend past the Black Sea and Partnership for Peace status is not a defense guarantee. It is a message that the leadership in Iran has picked up. There are also no significant bilateral agreements and security guarantees in place as in the case of the Gulf countries.
...
The risks of a nuclear Iran are not just direct, but also indirect – like nuclear proliferation in the Caspian region. Nuclear terrorism can link up with the region’s already notorious smuggling networks, exposing not only the Caspian, but also increasing the threat of nuclear terrorism in Europe.
I think the issue of nuclear terrorism -- say, the Iranian secret services selling a bomb to some jihadist group -- is pretty unlikely. Iran knows that nukes leave fingerprints, and they'd be held accountable (on the other hand, the chances of the Pakistani ISI doing just that are far more credible). But the effect on Caspian-basin energy reserves could be very significant, and a nuke could put Iran in a position similar to Russia -- able to redirect major supplies of oil and natural gas away from the West when it doesn't get its way in international policy. That's a real problem.

I'll believe it when I see it

Are we any closer to START?
All but the final details have been cleared away for a historic nuclear arms reduction pact between the U.S. and Russia, officials said Wednesday, with the former Cold War rivals reaching agreement on necessary documents for a new treaty that both countries consider an important measure of trust and cooperation.

The State Department said the two countries are still working out unspecified technical details, but spokesman Mark Toner told reporters the two sides are "extremely close" to completing the agreement. He said there have been discussions with the Czech government about holding a signing ceremony in Prague — where President Obama last April declared his vision of a nuclear-free world.

Czech officials, who separately announced Wednesday that Prague will host the signing, did not give a date. (emphasis added)

Start eating goat

National Geographic, focusing on global problems with fresh water, provides some statistical insights into the amount of water embedded in the things we consume.

I've seen the classic "one pound of beef versus one pound of vegetable matter" contrast, but the magazine looks at the comparisons more broadly.

The list is not likely to change my consumption habits immediately, but it's quite revealing.

3.23.2010

Oh, hell, sure, let's follow the Tajik example

Over at Fighting Bob, John Smart is still rambling on about Tajikistan. You see, he met this one exchange student who spoke three languages, and suddenly he starts saying things like this:
He's from Tajikistan, and just turned 16. Considering his age, he should probably be a high school sophomore, but he already has enough credits to graduate from any high school in this country, so he's a senior. He has had three years each of algebra, geometry, chemistry, physics, biology, world history and much, much more. He has studied three languages: Tajik, Russian and English, and is now taking Spanish because, "I only speak three languages." Tajikistan! Do you even know where that is?
Actually, I do, John; and let's do talk about Tajikistan for a moment, shall we? (Let's do it after the jump.)

This is a disappointment

I just caught a video of a recent Sam Harris talk at TED. TED talks are usually pretty good--food for thought at least. His talk is titled Science Can Answer Moral Questions. Here's the link.

It's a disappointment because he's one of the so-called Four Horsemen and the talk was inane mush. It starts and I'm optimistic I might finally have some real answers. Already in the beginning he's all about how science can answer questions of good and evil. He's just shot his own horse--somehow good and evil already have definitions--which science has provided?

He then goes on to explain for 15 minutes how science answers moral questions. He roots it in that ensuring a conscious organism's wellness is good and that science is a tool that can be used to measure and maximize wellness, hence answering moral questions. He does make an interesting point by saying that the knowledge and judgment of an expert is more valuable and that we don't acknowledge that in issues of morality. However by the end he's explaining about how Muslims and moral relativists are wrong and he'll solve moral issues by scanning the brains of all those involved.

It's a fluff job. All science is, has ever been, and will be is a tool. Science informs us of what there seems to be and how those things are related and connected. In contrast, morality and virtues attempt to tell us things about the world that are unmeasurable and aren't self-evident like the why's, how's, and to what extent, what means, for whom, to whom, etc. as well as setting boundaries and guidelines in living life.


He's starting from the assumption that goodness is to be maximized and he's added a 'with science' so that means he'll be using brain scans and extensive studies to tell you what you want. The first part at least is just utilitarianism and it's not new.

I don't even know what this approach would be useful for. At one point he decries moral relativism and in another he talks about how there are many points of maximum 'goodness' that can be selected via many different ways. He also says that rigid absolutes are not sensible.

The scientific method, which attempts to form non-trivial laws that apply everywhere for all situations, doesn't fit in here. The direction he should be going in is philosophy. Philosophy is the reasoned out and non-religious attempt at finding morals and virtues and guidelines.

If there's one thing I've learned while reading philosophy in my free time, it is that there actually are no universals, science is as close as we can get to an approximation, and philosophy is just people coming up with a system they think is good for whatever reason and then trying to convince other people to adopt their views.

3.22.2010

Wind tunnel

Looking upstream from an airflow nozzle at the evaporator (the part of a refrigerator that gets cold) through a window screen holding thermocouples. The tape was there temporarily.

Adopt-a-pothole

Let's get this program going here in New Orleans.

We could use it.  And it might be fun.

Ryan's Remarks



At the risk of seeming sycophantic, I post this video of Congressman Paul Ryan's remarks on the floor from last evening. 

Still, there's a reason we keep mentioning Paul Ryan here on the blog.  He's one of the few voices in the national Republican Party that regularly delivers a cogent message with some intellectual heft.  Last night, he presented the most coherent, principled argument in objection to the passage of the health care legislation.

He's right.  It's going to be a very steep climb.  But more than ever before in my life, I think I'm ready to throw on my hiking boots and start making the rough ascent that awaits.

President Obama referred to the legislation as a positive reflection of our national character.  Frankly, I can't believe he had the gall to do so.  If anything, passage of the bill betokens just how dependent and complacent we've become, how far we've fallen from any semblance of a nation that had a bit of self-sufficiency, principle, and grit in its character.  A nation of individuals that didn't play the victim.  A nation of individuals who could find a way forward without the indignity of resorting to an official helping hand.  Obama, like most Democrats, confuses informal and meaningful charitable altruism, a valuable hallmark of our culture, with a need to enact government mandates and centrally planned solutions that corrupt and calcify that spirit.

Paul Ryan was on to something in his allusion to natural rights as one of the fundamental conceptions of our founding documents.  Too many people get hung up on the fact that he mentions "Nature's God" - immediately he's a veiled religious zealot throwing a bone to the religious right.  It's far more than that, though.  It's an areligious recognition that our government, as it grasped for its independence, knew from the tyrranies of the past that it had to be humble - it was merely instituted to protect preexisting liberties that sprang from our humanity, not its loins.  It was brought about to provide a bare minimum of order that we might be able to fully enjoy our liberties.  It was designed, even when the Constitution strengthened the nation after the Articles of Confederation, as a limited institution.

Nancy Pelosi tried last evening to construe a mandate for individuals to buy health insurance as part of that arrangement.  Few things could be further from the truth.  The health care legislation was and is about compulsion, profligacy, and sleight of hand.  Its irresponsibility and its potential to corrode core strengths present in our way of life are infuriating.

But I'm ready to swallow my anger and disbelief and engage.  It is indeed going to be a very steep climb.

Mitt Romney has no business critiquing this bill

Over on the Corner, Mitt Romney blasts the President and the Democratic leadership for the way in which the health care bill was passed. While his points are certainly valid, he is the last Republican who should be talking about the dangers of a government takeover of health care.

RomneyCare in Massachusetts is a disaster but he is the one who signed it into law. I'm sorry, but for that reason alone I don't want him leading the GOP on anything - especially the effort to repeal this bill.

3.21.2010

Childishness

The American Thinker is bemused by Non-Believers Giving Aid, the Dawkins-backed charitable organization:
In terms of substance, Dawkin's amoral altruism is rooted in an eminently self-serving ethos. It showcases a magnanimity grounded on feelings rather than a transcendent absolute. The shallow brand of compassion that it produces seeks to satiate a sense of self-fulfillment through service to others. That is, since it assumes that there is no moral law-giver to whom we are accountable and from whom we derive moral concepts like good and evil, which ultimately steer us toward self-renunciation for the sake of the less fortunate, we are left with helping others simply because it makes us feel good about ourselves. This kind of charity is defined as that which springs from a desire to meet a vague sense of obligations to help others, and it is fueled by the expectation of reciprocity and a self-congratulatory reminder that we are, after all, rather decent human beings.

Real charity instead is anchored on the injunction furnished by the millennia-tested Judeo-Christian tradition, which affirms that every benevolent act towards a fellow human being in need is a direct offering towards our creator -- a reminder that charity begins with a surrender of the self and a concern for the other. Moreover, this tradition does not cast all suffering as intrinsically evil, but it recognizes that in many instances, evil does result in much of the suffering we experience in the world. But also, in a deeper sense, suffering can ultimately have a redemptive purpose.
This is a laughable argument, of course, and easily turned on its head -- religious charity is just an attempt to buy off the same malicious God who cast this suffering upon us all in the first place, while atheist charity, insofar as it expects no quid-pro-quo reward for its good deeds in some future life, is in fact the more purely charitable. But both of these arguments are the stuff of overindulgent Freshman late-night dormitory discussions -- they're hardly arguments worthy of an institution that seeks to claim some mantle of thoughtful conservatism. Which is sad, really.

And so it goes

Good bye scarcity, hello health care.

I am now truly concerned about the future of my country.

Hmmm

Cornell?

Geesh.

Paul Ryan's on the floor of the House

Lofty.

Solid.

"We have seen this movie before.  And we know how it ends.  ...  This is not who we are."

This is a climb we must make.

Stirring.

China Eyes Iceland

I noted the first hint of China's interest a few weeks back in a Financial Times piece.

And now, Newsweek fleshes it out a bit:

Once the Arctic is navigable by commercial traffic year-round, Iceland could serve as a friendly and well-equipped way station for China in the North Atlantic (the U.S. military left some handy facilities in place when it quit the country in 2006). The idea is appealing to Iceland, as well. President Ólafur Ragnar Grimmson recently talked of his country's future as a logistics hub and cited Chinese interest.

Here's some more context on the growing potential geopolitical status of Iceland even as its economy totters.

I'm watching the Stupak press conference

He plans to vote for the health care bill now that President Obama has promised to sign an executive order that would bar public funding of abortion via the health care bill.

My question: how does this impact Joseph Cao's vote?  His only sticking point, the thing at the root of his NO vote this time around, has been objection to the bill's impact on abortion funding.

Will Cao now change and vote Yes at the last moment?

He has not mentioned any other grounds for opposing the legislation, and he voted for the House bill the first time around back in the fall.  The only thing he could really do to explain a NO vote at this point, given his rhetoric for the past few weeks, is to say that the executive order promise is not sufficient given whatever provision in the text of the bill that he finds may ultimately fund abortion with public funds.

Or he could say that reliance on an executive order as part of a legislative law-making exercise is inappropriate from a separation of powers standpoint.  Somehow, I don't think that's in the cards, though.

ADDED: Nola.com says Cao is still a NO.

D.C.

It sounds like quite a crazy scene on the ground out in the capital city.

3.20.2010

Liftoff

Health Care reform and the law

A number of constitutional considerations present themselves.

For me, the individual mandate (which is apparently in the final draft up for passage) is the item worth the most concern:

But the individual mandate extends the commerce clause's power beyond economic activity, to economic inactivity. That is unprecedented. While Congress has used its taxing power to fund Social Security and Medicare, never before has it used its commerce power to mandate that an individual person engage in an economic transaction with a private company.

Two Good Links

Here are two posts of note from Ernie the Attorney:

1.  "The Young Turks of Information Processing"

A Five Binder Slog

3.19.2010

Hey, wait a minute, we're still in a Recession!

Lost among the Democrats' efforts to ram health care reform down the throats of the American people, is the just released state unemployment numbers for January. The bottom line is that they are not good. In addition to the statewide unemployment rate jumping to 8.7%, the local numbers are absolutely abysmal.

Beloit is yet again the city with the worst unemployment, topping out at a near-depression level 18.3%, a nearly 2% jump from December. Janesville, a city decimated by the loss of GM, is doing slightly better, but is still the sixth worst at 13.1%. What's really disturbing though, is that these numbers are unchanged or worse than a year ago. I know that it will take time to recover and that employment is a lagging indicator, but at what point do we start to do something?

I don't mean pass another "jobs" bill or ramp up spending or indefinitely extend unemployment benefits. What I'm talking about is serious reform of the state's budget and tax code. In New Jersey, Gov. Christie is making headlines for essentially freezing the state's budget and calling on mayors to do the same. I don't expect any type of leadership like that from Gov. Doyle or the legislature. Apparently they're far more concerned with curbing payday loans, passing a jobs-killing "energy" bill and building a not-so-high-speed train from Milwaukee to the Dane County Airport - because you know that if you're going to Madison the airport is the place to be.

I know that I've said a lot of this before and I know that many people are far more interested in the health care showdown, but this is getting ridiculous. Is anyone in state government going to do anything? Scott Walker and Mark Neumann can talk all they want about creating jobs next year, but that's the earliest they can do anything. The Democrats have proven that they really don't care or don't know what to do about this. They seem content to defer to Washington to "save" the economy. Still, there are 61 Republicans in the legislature and even though they are in the minority they can still force a debate. They need to be either introducing bills or speaking to every media outlet that will listen about jobs, taxes and the budget.

Gov. Doyle is a lame duck and probably couldn't care less about really addressing the economic needs of the state, but we could at least make a last stand. I know that even if we could pass economic and tax reform it would get vetoed in a heart beat, but what worries me is that Republicans need a plan for when they do get the legislature back - and it looks like they will in November. We need to be prepared to lead from day one and get Wisconsin back on track.

The health care bill will hopefully die this weekend. When it does and we move on to other issues, I hope we go right back to what is hurting each and every one of us right now. We are in fact still feeling the recession, how long do we have to wait for anyone in Madison to notice?

3.18.2010

Signaling with an attack

One of the posters at One Wisconsin Now throws in a random, borderline incoherent attack on Brett Davis - mentioning him only by last name along with Scott Walker in some attempt to paint them as failed disciples of Tommy Thompson.

I can only imagine this is a good thing for Davis.  Apparently the opposition sees him, of all the GOP lieutenant governor candidates, as a threat they have to begin taking down.

Incisively put

"And so Bret Baier never gets an answer to that question. Barack Obama — who acted like he didn't want to waste his time on the deem and pass — wasted our time evading the questions about the deem and pass. His aim is to put us to sleep. We may be asking questions about the procedure now, but eventually we'll let it go and ultimately we will look at the substance what we got and decide whether we like it. So quiet down and wait, the most powerful man in the world tells us. He knows what's good for us. Don't look while he prepares the medicine that will make you very very happy."

A side effect

I felt like I was watching one of those strange and slightly distrubing tv ads where the narrator dislaims that an anti-depression medication "may trigger thoughts of suicide."
 
Another unfortunate side effect of the "health care bill or bust" mentality emerged today:
 
Gibbs's remarks came after the shocking announcement that Obama is postponing his trip to Indonesia and Australia until June so that he can stay in Washington and ensure the process progresses.
 
It's really quite astounding just how much of an obsession the "W" has become for Democrats and the President.  We're now withdrawing from pre-planned engagement with key regions of the world because of this distraction.  Shouldn't the need for his presence at the final hour be a sign to Obama that this lead balloon should not be floated?
 
Passage would require a cowardly "deem and pass" maneuver of questionable constitutional standing.  The bill may also affect Social Security, which could mean it will lose its status as a reconciliation bill.  More Americans oppose the bill than support it, which has been clear for some time.  Even if the measure reduces the deficit in theory, it likely will not (see generally the history of entitlement programs...and many of the conditions for that number will likely change) - and it still costs $940 billion!  Why does the reconciliation bill also treat the completely unrelated topic of student financial aid?
 
This whole push is looking...increasingly desperate and creepy.

Upriver

This is how I roll

Provocative thoughts on the science of addiction

In a new book, a scientific mind analyzes the assertion that addiction qualifies as a disease...and his findings compel him to argue to the contrary:

"The implication is that as we learn more about a disorder,” he writes, “the more likely it is to be thought of as a disease"—and, consequently, as a condition whose course cannot be modified by its foreseeable consequences. Indeed, reconciling advances in brain science with their meaning for personal, legal, and civic notions of agency and responsibility will be one of our next major cultural projects.

It's really a provocative point, one that stands to upend a great deal of left-leaning policies based on the now widely held assumption that addicts should be treated like victims of disease:

Heyman mounts a devastating assault on the brain-based model of addiction. Not that he views addiction as independent of the brain—no serious person could even entertain such a claim. What he rejects, however, is the notion that excessive drug or alcohol consumption is an irresistible act wholly beyond the user’s control, as the term “addiction,” commonly understood, implies.

I'm very much interested in the intersection of the developing science of the brain and society's philosophical underpinnings relative to what makes up a citizen as far as rational free will is concerned.  How much control does an individual have over his or her actions?  It's a deep question from which much of our approach to life - certainly our law and public policy - flows.

***

Last semester, one of my colleagues spoke out during a large lecture on legal ethics.  When asked how to deal with a business associate with an alcohol problem, the classmate noted that, at the outset, he didn't consider alcohol addiction a disease.  The questioner seemed stunned...and the lecture hall murmured a bit.  But I thought he had a legitimate point.

I tend to believe that individuals have the capacity for much greater control over their lives and behavior than they realize.  It's not perfect control - there's certainly an irrational aspect to human beings.  But it's there.  And I think society is better off when it demands its members tap into and engage each other via their rational aspects, their potential for personal responsibility.

I might have to add Heyman's book to my reading list.

3.16.2010

Tulane toys with a website ban

Tulane's Undergraduate Student Government recently voted 19-2-2 for a measure requesting that the university administration ban "CollegeACB from Tulane University Internet networks."

Yes, Tulane is a private educational institution (although it once was public long ago).  It's not a state institution, so there's no direct First Amendment issue since there's no government restraint on speech in the mix.

Still, the student effort to have the university ban access to a website should be setting off a few alarms.  Thankfully, the measure will seemingly go to the student body in a referendum (the article is not clear whether graduate students will have a say - they better not vote to ban it for us, too, without a say).  But even a plebiscite doesn't leave me very reassured.

It seems unwise for an academic institution to ban access to a website that, while it's certainly crude and downright repugnant, facilitates a broad range of speech.  I took a look at the site today.  Some of the material is defamatory, but I still don't think that means the university should ban access to the site up front.  I can see a possible university concern for liability (under the Communications Decency Act, Section 230, the website itself likely has immunity).

But that's not what seems to have driven the student government.  The backlash was about content.  Most of the material is vulgar and mindless, yes, but there are topics like "Issues" and "Academics" that mean a ban is casting a wider net than the truly problematic defamatory content alone.

Why did the Undergraduate Student Government even pass this request for a ban?  Well:

“Besides fostering cattiness between sororities, this site allows people to damage reputations and openly deliver threats to certain religious and racial groups,” Walker said. “By banning CollegeACB, administrators would be protecting the welfare of the Tulane students.”

So, we're going to ask the administration to exercise prior restraint for an institution populated by adults to stop cattiness between sororities?  Please.  That's asinine, in addition to being shallow.

Sophomore Jared Sichel's oped in The Hullaballoo attempts to bring some nuance to a stance in favor of the ban, but the censorial air that wreathes the piece is really somewhat disconcerting for someone who exalts a liberal arts education at the opening of the same column:

And although CollegeACB serves as a forum to a few meaningful discussions, the attempt to ban something that helps students publicly humiliate one another is a noble goal.

I don't think "noble" is the right word.  Politically correct, perhaps.  Misguided might do.

Here's another thought: even if Tulane bans access to the rumor and gossip site via its network, it's not like students won't be able to access the site from a host of other networks...and ultimately engage in the same behavior with the same cast of targets.

And another thought: when a potential employer or potential students stumbles across material on CollegeACB via a Google search or some other method, what credence will he or she actually give to the defamatory content?  The site doesn't exactly scream legitimate, well-researched material from the outset.

I hope that GAPSA, the government for graduate students, takes a directly contrary approach and votes against a website ban.

And still

One-upping Sally Franson: I was a UW-Madison College Republican

So the Isthmus went undercover: Sally Franson "infiltrated" the Dane County GOP. What do you think she found?

Well, she seems to have discovered that Republicans aren't actually baby-eating, Constitution-shredding monsters. Shocking, no? She also finds out that not all Republicans wear pearls! They are a mad bunch though -- although she may just mean angry, not completely insane, we're not sure.

What is interesting is the flip that's occurred. Remember when it was the angry Left? They were mad -- hey, there's that word again -- about lots of things. The stolen election. The Iraq War. The fact that Bush was still president (how'd that happen?). What have you. I guess the shoe is on the other foot now.

The second half of her article is more instructive, and hits at the reason I joined the College Republicans at Madison rather than any of their counterpart organizations, even though I opposed at least half of what the CRs did and stood for. You see, Franson discovered those kooky libertarian types:
But there are also plenty of perfectly nice and intelligent people — people who went out of their way at GOP events to welcome me, and who just happen to have a drastically different perspective on the role of government. This gets lost when both parties paint the other as not only wrong, but morally abhorrent.

...As it turns out, Waksman is a Libertarian who has folded himself into the Republican Party of Dane County and supports, among other things, medical marijuana and equal rights for homosexuals. His social views may skew liberal, but he is staunchly against big government and believes in the inviolability of free markets. He is also dismayed by what he perceives as the county Democrats' inability to govern in a fiscally responsible manner.
What you find -- or at least, what I found -- was that in Madison, the orthodoxy is ascendant on the left. And that means that the right collects a bit more diversity, intellectually. It's still fairly stifling, perhaps -- Waksman expresses that. The GOP activists still tend to be the religious types, the true believers in the Republican mission. But if you look, there will be a pretty surprisingly wide range of views -- because the other options just don't really fit for a lot of people. And Franson motions toward that, without making it explicit -- that the range is pretty wide on the right, when you feel you don't have options elsewhere.

Rewire roundup

+broadband

+the Euro

+the Powell Doctrine

+the Court

The "Slaughter Solution" - A Token of Dishonesty

House Democrats defend "deem it passed without passing" when it comes to the procedure necessary to pass their desired version of the health care bill.

I tend to agree with former circuit judge Michael McConnell's take: it's clever, but unconstitutional.

And even if it is not - Jack Balkin, while cautious, seems to think it could be done in some way - I think it's a glaring sign of just how craven the Democrats have become in the face of the healthcare battle.  It smells to high heaven - I don't care if it's been used on other votes.  This is major legislation.

If nothing else, I think the healthcare fight has been a refreshing period where a curtain has been drawn back and the general public has seen the twisted, spineless shenanigans that have entwined themselves into the workings of our federal government.

St. Louis, part II

Here's the remainder of the photos from my St. Louis excursion two months ago.

The downtown, which is west from the Arch. [Click for bigger on all of these.]




One thing I wasn't expecting was just how big the arch was. At night when the arch was lit, from the city on the west site the top of the arch stood out above the skyline--the silver curve was quite a weird shape to be above the tops of buildings.



It's 630 feet tall. The curve of the arch is hyperbolic cosine, if you're into trig. This means two things: the arch is as wide at the base as it is tall and the arch curves in such a way that it is only compressed--there is no shear stress in the legs (from holding itself up at least, when the wind blows it'll shear a little). Additionally if you hold a string or rope from its ends and let it droop, it'll make a cosh curve. In a typical arch, an ellipse or circle, the bricks would slide out away from the center if they could, that's the shear stress.

(By the way, it's $10 to the top and the elevator is a set of tiny...cans of perhaps a diameter of 5 feet, each with 5 seats.)

The observation area. In the summer when it's busy they use both legs. Another surprise: there was a national park ranger stationed in the tiny observation area. Turns out the arch is a memorial to Thomas Jefferson.

The downtown is immediately west of the arch. The next place I went was into the Old Courthouse in the center.


The arch from the courthouse steps.


The Old Courthouse is now a museum about the history of St. Louis. It's got that capitol feeling.


Several important court cases were heard in the building. The Dredd Scott case is probably the most well-known. The courtroom that it was argued in doesn't exist anymore, but they have restored the courtroom above it to how it would have looked.



After that, my friend and I stopped by the Anheuser-Busch brewery in St. Louis. I'd say that's the cleanest and sharpest factory I've seen. It was dark by the time we finished that so we drove around a little before leaving.

I was pleasantly surprised how nice St. Louis was. To be honest, having grown up near Midwestern cities that dried up after factories left, like Detroit but not as extreme, I was expecting the same sort of thing in St. Louis. However around the downtown and for a few miles west through the area where the college campuses are out to the park where St. Louis' World Fair was held in 1904, the city seems to be on the upswing. There were a few blocks of empty grass but other than that, the buildings and streets looked nice, there seemed to be new construction, and there were several areas with storefronts that were alive.

Expropriation comes to The Footprint

And so it begins.

3.15.2010

Scattershot

1.  Nine states do not have an income tax.

2.  "Like most boys who graduated from high school in 1942, while still teenagers we had already acquired a deep-seated and personal understanding of the power of government. And we dreaded it."

3. Perhaps: "While the higher-education industry continues to agitate for college for all, many young adults are stubbornly resistant, perhaps because they recognize that for a lot of them, college is an overpriced status marker and little else."

4.  "The Eleventh Circuit held that constitutional protection in stored copies of e-mail held by third parties disappears as soon as any copy of the communication is delivered."

5.  "Almost everything you think you know about health care is probably wrong or, at least, half wrong."

An International Law Symposium

A friend of the blog has been hard at work on an event that might be of interest to Nola readers:

On March 19, 2010, the Tulane Journal of International and Comparative Law will host a Symposium entitled Changing Course: The United States' Evolving Approach to International Law.  The Symposium will analyze whether the Obama administration has changed the country's posture towards international law.  The symposium will focus on three issues:  The Copenhagen Summit on Climate Change, Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaties, and Human Rights in the War on Terror. 

Eric L - whom you might recall from the time we went gallivanting around in Macau - organized the symposium to focus on the distinctions between the Bush and Obama administrations when it comes to the U.S. approach to international law.

UW makes it to the Final Four!

UW-Stevens Point, that is.

Pretty cool, really. It's too bad they aren't getting more coverage. UW-Whitewater won the D-III football championship earlier this year, and now UW-SP is on the verge of bringing another national title to Wisconsin. Their next game is on Friday, but it doesn't look like it's broadcast anywhere.

I hope this is a pattern that the Badgers can build on.

I'm reading

Consciousness Explained by Daniel Dennett and I came across this bit in a section about how naming something a 'soul' adds a meaningless layer of abstraction:

All you're giving up is a nugget of specialness that couldn't really be special anyway. Why would you think any more of yourself if you turned out to be a sort of mind-pearl in the brain-oyster? What would be so special about being a mind-pearl?

Coming home to roost

It's all over the headlines.  And it should be.  The nation's credit rating is now at risk due to reckless debt-backed federal spending:

The U.S. and the U.K. have moved “substantially” closer to losing their AAA credit ratings as the cost of servicing their debt rose, according to Moody’s Investors Service.

This is the point where all the harping about fiscal restraint should finally get traction.  The United States government has objectively damaged its fiscal position, and it's beginning to show:

Under the ratings company’s baseline scenario the U.S. will spend more on debt service as a percentage of revenue this year than any other top-rated country except the U.K., and will be the biggest spender from 2011 to 2013, Moody’s said today in a report.

“We expect the situation to further deteriorate in terms of the key ratings metrics before they start stabilizing,” Cailleteau said. “This story is not going to stop at the end of the year. There is inertia in the deterioration of credit metrics.”

The U.S. government will spend about 7 percent of its revenue servicing debt in 2010 and almost 11 percent in 2013, according to the baseline scenario of moderate economic recovery, fiscal adjustments in line with government plans and a gradual increase in interest rates, Moody’s said.

Fortunately, House Republicans have begun to act in accordance with the news. They decided they will not seek any earmarks for pet spending projects this year, which is an admirable thing - and I can barely imagine that the coalition will hold.

Here in New Orleans, Representative Joseph Cao, in contrast, refused to join his colleagues from the outset.  Forsaking pork would be "shortsighted" in his view.  I continue to wonder how Cao's tightrope walk between his official party label and his distinctive district will turn out. 

The Gun Cabinet

3.14.2010

Why NOLA?

Humid Beings looks at how New Orleans became - and is becoming - an entrepreneurial hub.

In the headphones

A little Junior Wells.

Quantum dots

Yes, please.

I can't stand compact fluorescent bulbs.  And if we can skip LEDs for a technology that gives off something closely approximating incandescent light, count me in.

The Crew


















Last evening, the Tulane Maritime Law Journal held its annual banquet at the Westin Hotel down along the river.

I've spent a great deal of my time in law school in the company of my TMLJ colleagues - most of the 39 of us are shown here.  While it's been challenging at times (serving as Editor in Chief seems to be a lot like heading up a small business or non-profit), it's truly been a pleasure.

And now, back to work editing this article...on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon.

1937 all over again

Here's a worthwhile column pointing out some of the dangers - and historical analogies - in President Obama's tit for tat with the Supreme Court. 

Kiel Headed to State

Good news from The Little City That Does Big Things:

Kiel's men's basketball team is headed to state for the first time since my dad was on a state-bound team in the 1970s.

Brandon Gries' three-pointer with 2:02 to go put Kiel up 48-47 after they trailed by as many as 11 points in the third quarter. His two free throws with 26 seconds left put the Raiders up 52-49 and then the Kiel defense stuffed Seymour on its final attempt to force overtime and the large Kiel contingent erupted in celebration when the final horn sounded.

Congratulations - Go Raiders!

ht/Josh H

3.13.2010

Texas and the Rewriting of History

To listen to those on the Left, the curriculum debates in Texas are a travesty. A whitewash of the true history of the United States - with emphasis on the white. In the coming days and weeks, the entire 120 page guide will be posted for public comment and we will all be able to learn just how bad everything is.

Unfortunately, if this NY Times story is any indication, I think it's much ado about not very much. I would assume, based on the tone of the piece that the Times would look for the worst amendments and the most egregious examples of conservative or Christian overreach, but the examples they use aren't that bad. I wouldn't say that they are necessary, but not patently offensive either.

I'll give my opinions of the amendments after the jump, but first I want to make one point about high school social studies in general. In terms of US history, all students need to be given a good grounding in the founding of the country and the literature of the time. The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and Common Sense should be required reading. As well as select speeches from Patrick Henry, George Mason and the Federalist Papers - these are vital to the understanding of our nation's identity. However, the foundation of the events that took place should be done in middle school. The same thing for the Civil War and Reconstruction. High School students should have a focus on 20th century history and it will necessarily be broad - mostly due to time constraints of the school year.

Now, about those amendments, and you may be surprised by some of my comments...

I'll meet you in the fog

3.12.2010

Friday music video

This week it's Animal Collective and Summertime Clothes from the album Merriweather Post Pavilion.



I like the song. The video's a bit out there.

"the reader understands what he is reading, just as the diner might grasp that he is eating possum scat — but that doesn’t really excuse the cook."

Jonah Goldberg lights into Thomas Friedman, serving up some colorful, yet valid, criticism:

Really, it could represent anything, because for Friedman everything is connected to everything else, so everything is a metaphor for everything. “In the Friedman mind,” writes Ian Parker in a 2008 profile for The New Yorker, “things tend to be like something else. The new is like the old. The foreign is like the American. The scattered has a pattern.” Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, Freud famously observed — but not for Tom the Magic 8 Ball of cliché generation, the maestro of mixed metaphors. A cigar could be the key to understanding why geo thermal energy is the only way to save the panda. Like the China Syndrome that inexorably leads to the perfect storm that breaks the camel’s back, Tom Friedman encounters no obstacles — factual, logical, or literary — between himself and the points he wants to make.

The sweet taste of freedom...

... apparently tastes a lot like milk.

Now, I know that many people reading this have probably never had raw milk. I haven't had it since I was very, very young and don't even remember it, but this isn't so much about the raw milk itself as it is the right to consume and produce a product free from government intervention. The opponents of raw milk are arguing that farmers and consumers need to be saved from themselves.

You see, if the government doesn't step in to save us from ourselves, people will get sick and die. I can go down to the corner store, buy a 30 pack of beer and a carton of cigarettes every day if I wanted to. I could consume them all by myself. I can eat 3 Big Macs for dinner every night and slowly kill myself with liver disease, lung cancer and heart disease - but raw milk! How dare I drink milk!

This is not to say that the government should regulate those other things, but that the government is going too far in general. This is the Dairy State. Milk and cheese are as synonymous with Wisconsin as beer and the Green Bay Packers. If produced in a clean environment, from healthy cows, raw milk is perfectly safe. My parents drank it straight from the bulk tanks on my grandfathers' farms. My grandparents and their families grew up on it. My two grandfathers are now 83 and 90 years old and in pretty darn good health for their ages.

But that doesn't matter. There may be some danger in consuming raw milk so the benevolent hand of government must reach into our refrigerators and our kitchens and tell us we can't have it. But you can't eliminate all risk. Are we going to ban playing outside by little kids because they could get hurt or sick?

Thankfully, several hundred Wisconsinites - farmers and consumers - drove for hours to attend a hearing in Eau Claire to say enough is enough.

I know that to those of you who have never lived on a farm or had family members make a living farming might not think it's a big deal, but like I said, this isn't just about milk. It's about saying that enough is enough. There are dozens of bills introduced in the last few years that aim at protecting us from ourselves by restricting our freedom to buy foods that we want to eat. There are bills that raise taxes on beer, liquor, soda and other "unhealthy" foods. If we don't even have the freedom to choose what kind of food we want to eat, what does that say about our society? What would be off-limits for government regulation?

I hope that this is the beginning of a push-back against the nanny-state. Hopefully in targeting the symbol of Wisconsin - milk; good, wholesome milk - this is a wake-up call to the idiocy of government telling us what we can and cannot do in almost all aspects of our lives.

3.11.2010

"Porteous is one of a kind and it is time for him to receive his comeuppance"

The House of Representatives unanimously approved four articles of impeachment against Judge Thomas Porteus, a federal judge here in New Orleans.

He is the 15th judge found to have committed "high crimes and misdemeanors," the Constitution's criteria for impeachment and the second such vote in the last 20 years.

The matter now moves on the U.S. Senate, however - something the Times-Picayune article headline muddles a bit for the general public.  Importantly, Porteus hasn't yet actually been removed from office after the bills of impeachment have been submitted by the House.  As the article notes, though, only eight federal judges have ever been removed (convicted after impeachment by the Senate) in the history of the nation.


















Justice Samuel Chase, for example, is the only Supreme Court Justice ever to have articles of impeachment brought against him (amidst the Federalist/Jeffersonian Republicans tensions in 1804).  He was not convicted in the Senate.

Interestingly, I noted that Judge Porteous' portrait had already been taken down at the Eastern District of Louisiana U.S. Courthouse as of late February.

Organizing for America Targets Cao on Health Care

The Obama political arm reaches out:

President Obama has called for the House to vote to move health reform forward as early as next week. Your representative, Rep. Joseph Cao, supported reform last fall, but he is now reportedly planning to vote "no." The final vote will be very close, and we must speak up right away to make it clear that voters back home want health reform.


Now, we're in the final march for reform and there's one last chance to do the right thing. Please call Rep. Cao today and let them know there is a political price to favoring big insurance companies over the American people -- OFA supporters in Louisiana have pledged 64,923 volunteer hours to fight for candidates who support reform.

I just emailed Cao's office to urge him to vote NO.  I also tried to call just now, but the lines are busy.

3.10.2010

"We’re back in the game, but it wasn’t anything we did"

"We’re on second base faster than we thought, but we didn’t hit a double." So says, among other things, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels. That just might be the best analogy I've seen about the current political situation. We hit a single, but we're only on second because of a throwing error.

It's a great place to be, and we are in scoring position, but we still have a ways to go. Great advice to Republicans for the 2010 midterms.

Another Cheney rouses some rabble

 
I find the debate over Cheney's group's ads in "conservative" legal circles quite intriguing.
 
I think the criticism of lawyers who represented detainees goes too far in its bombast by strongly implying a lack of patriotism.  And that's coming from a person who thinks military tribunals are likely a better route to take with Guantanamo detainees.
 
But I don't think the concern over a possible conflict of interest should be out of bounds - it's a potential matter of legal ethics, really.  The ad, for all its over-the-top framing, actually does raise that legitimate issue effectively.
 
We have a good number of legal minds stopping by the blog now and then - thoughts?

Youth, Obama, Trust, Jobs

In noting a "Republican resurgence" among 18-29 year olds in the U.S., The Christian Science Monitor notes these interesting poll numbers:

Only 25 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds said they trust Congress to do the right thing all or most of the time. Only 29 percent trust federal government to do the right thing, and 44 percent trust the president. At 53 percent, the US military earns most young adults’ trust; Wall Street, at 11 percent, the least.

It's interesting to see that hierarchy of trust unfold.  Overall, I'm glad that more of my peers are skeptical of government - I think it's a healthy sign, as I've noted before, in the wake of Obamania. 

Still, the 15 point spread between trust of the federal government and the president tells me the love affair hasn't fully subsided.  Somehow, Barack Obama's sheer force of personality seems to be holding him above the harsh realities.

I have noted a feeling of disillusionment with Obama from a number of liberal and progressive acquaintances over the past few months.  And based on the jobless reality that so many in the 18-29 bracket are facing right now - or, from what I know, will be facing soon...I can't imagine trust is going to increase any time soon. 

I think we face a significant national problem after the next round of graduations this spring.  Yet another cohort will hit the already barren job market with major debt.  From my conversations in law school circles, the only thing keeping some 3Ls from outright anxiety is the fact that so many other 3Ls are similarly situated. 

3.09.2010

Anyone skeptical of Paul Krugman

is a friend of mine.

Great column.

Losing the architecture war

A few weeks back, the New York Times was talking about the new American embassy in London. It's an article worth quoting at length:
Yet both Richard Meier and Thom Mayne of Morphosis turned in far more sophisticated designs. Mr. Meier’s, which breaks the building mass down into a Cubist composition of curves and planes, is one of his best in recent years; Mr. Mayne’s, a distorted horseshoe wrapped around a deconstructed version of the Capitol dome in Washington, packs the most symbolic punch. (If you want to dismiss them as “star architects,” be my guest, but the designs explain why they got their reputations.)

More vexing, though, is how few visions there were to choose from. Of 37 American firms that applied for the competition, only 4 were invited to propose detailed designs. (The New York firm Pei Cobb Freed & Partners also submitted a relatively conservative scheme.)

This is especially troubling at a time when American architecture has reached a state of crisis. A whole generation of talents has seen careers languish through lack of opportunity, while the reputations of their European counterparts have soared. Firms like Preston Scott Cohen, Daly Genik Architects and Greg Lynn Form, to name just a few, have been shut out of high-profile government commissions by a convoluted competition process that favors known quantities.

Who knows if they would have done better. But their inclusion would have made for a livelier, more informed debate, one that in itself would have been a step toward the democratic cultural identity the country is trying to promote.

Yesterday, Foreign Policy picked up on America's Shanghai World's Fair pavilion:
Despite nearly two decades of U.S. government inattention to Expos, some in the State Department and the U.S. Expo community had hopes that the United States might put on a better show in Shanghai. In November 2006, the State Department, which had taken over the role of managing U.S. participation at Expos from the USIA, published an official "request for proposal" (RFP) to design, build, and fund a U.S. pavilion in Shanghai. Among other provisions, it required a detailed plan for raising a hefty $75 million to $100 million even though most of the national pavilions at Expo 2010 cost less than $30 million and the eventual U.S. pavilion is budgeted at $61 million. Despite this high bar, several groups of designers, architects, and producers submitted detailed proposals, including a proposal that had Frank Gehry as an architect. But the State Department rejected them all, and according to correspondence shared between the department and the last rejected proposal group, the RFP ended in late 2007 without a team in place.
A year ago, the Washington Post felt hopeful enough to declare, "the age of the American embassy as architectural wasteland may finally be coming to an end." Sadly, that hope seems to be quite delayed.

Check (out) the boxes

From Article III, Section 2 of the Louisiana Republican Party platform (the Individual Liberty plank):

Our forefathers gave individuals four ways to protect themselves against the power of the state: (1) the soapbox (freedom of speech); (2) the ballot box (the right to vote); (3) the jury box (trial by peers); and (4) the cartridge box (right to bear arms). The Republican Party of Louisiana stands against efforts to erode these freedoms.