4.30.2010

Names

I mentioned it in a roundup a few days back, but here's some interesting insight into the thinking that went into renaming the (former) Northwest Frontier Province:
The Taliban – which operate in the neighboring Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA), a largely ungoverned region bordering Afghanistan – have sought to supplant ethnic identity and power structures with pan-Islamist philosophy. In recent years they launched a campaign of beheading numerous tribal elders central to Pashtun culture. The radical religious views won some people over, bringing recruits into the militant group.

The renaming of NWFP, in a constitutional amendment passed by Parliament on April 19, is part of Islamabad’s efforts to devolve power to the provinces and increase people’s sense of ownership in governance – and turn them away from alternatives like the Taliban.
Federalism to the rescue? If we look at tsarist Russia, the first real example of major political terrorism we have, devolving power could have helped to quell the unrest -- and in fact, there was some effort to do exactly that in the late 1800s, until Alexander II was assassinated in 1881. So there is some real reason to be hopeful that this move in Pakistan could help turn a corner.

Cameras (Almost) In Camera

I'm quite firmly opposed to a measure moving through the U.S. Senate designed to permit and mandate video cameras in federal courtrooms, including the U.S. Supreme Court.

Unlike Althouse, I think the effects of cameras on the courts would be more detrimental than beneficial.  Especially at the U.S. Supreme Court level.  At that level, the change would likely push the court and advocates toward showy display - and might reduce the emphasis on substance at oral arguments.

The presence of cameras would also likely impact the pool of potential nominees a President would consider.  The old Nixon v. Kennedy superficial debate considerations would creep into the calculus.  Again, I think that might be a loss for the court and the country - great minds might have visages more appropriate "for radio than tv" - and that shouldn't subliminally bar them at the outset from being fully in consideration for a seat on the court.

Importantly, there's also not much to be gained from the presence of cameras.  Focusing again on the U.S. Supreme Court, we already have access to sketches and, more importantly, full transcripts, written and audio, of oral arguments.  And it's possible to go and sit in the courtroom itself.

Louisiana Shore Cleanup

If any New Orleans readers are done with exams or otherwise available, here's one central point for finding ways to help down in Plaquemines and St. Bernard parishes.

If you have any other channels into the effort, please post in the comments.

UPDATE: The animal clean up effort has apparently been set up at old Fort Jackson down in Plaquemines.   Here's a shot of the hulking 1820s brick structure from my 2007 visit.

4.29.2010

A few words on the Walker - Neumann race

I was listening to Charlie Sykes this morning and his interview with gubernatorial candidate Mark Neumann. The race has certainly gotten a little heated over the last couple of weeks, but I think everyone needs to take a deep breath and calm down.

First, let's go back to the "rumor" that was allegedly spread as a smear by Neumann's campaign. By the looks of it - and I'm going off of the reporting of Dan Bice in the Journal Sentinel - it was a stupid move by a young staffer. Apparently two individuals contacted the campaign and urged Mr. Neumann to run for Senate against Feingold and save the party from a tough and/or expensive primary. The staffer - either in an effort to be funny or a smart-ass - responded with this:
"We are increasingly hearing a rumor that because of Mark's recent and continued insurgence in the polls, and the mass defection of his donors to the Neumann campaign, Scott Walker is going to switch to the Lt. Governor ticket and support Mark Neumann for Governor. Since Mark has limited himself to two-terms, Walker will naturally run for the governorship in 2018."
Bad move? Yes. A vicious rumor? No. Given that this is in response to requests of his chosen candidate to drop out of the race, it seems pretty tame. Again, not smart, but not mean-spirited.

Let's fast forward now to the current brouhaha. Apparently, Neumann's campaign has been calling delegates to the state convention with a poll about their intentions to endorse a candidate in the race for governor. Walker's team, bloggers and radio personalities are calling this a "push poll." Based on the script the Neumann camp released then the term has lost all meaning. A push poll is not "what if polls showed our guy is just as strong as your guy?" A push poll is "what if you found out your guy beat his wife/dog/etc?" A push poll releases some scandalous or unreported piece of bad news that will reflect negatively on the other candidate. This is not it.

And the Walker team should know better. They don't need to look like they are scared of Mark Neumann. I don't know anyone who is seriously considering opposing Scott Walker anyway. He's destroying Neumann in every straw poll and is loved by the vast majority of the party faithful - sorry Mark, I just don't quite buy the polls. Getting ticked off because of this is crazy and looks petty. Okay, maybe some volunteers didn't say who paid for the calls, or said RPW did. If that's the case let the GAB look into it and let the media handle it. Volunteers screw up sometimes, that doesn't necessarily point to a concerted effort to deceive the public. We don't need to be looking like we're having a bloodbath if we want to win in November.

Which brings me to the final bit of drama on this. There are some rumors out there that Mark Neumann will run as an independent if he loses the primary and he has even told a member of our congressional delegation as much. This rumor has been repeated by one of Walker's campaign managers, Keith Gilkes, and is being offered as proof of Neumann's duplicity and willingness to win at all costs.

Neumann was on Charlie Sykes' show this morning and I don't think he could have been any more clear that he was running only as a Republican. If anything I think Charlie was a little over the top in asking him every possible way if he would consider an independent run. Have we really gotten so bad that we can't take people at their word?

I like Scott Walker. I think he's done a great job in Milwaukee County and he'll be a great governor. I support him and will volunteer and vote for him. That said, some of his supporters need to calm down and start acting like adults. Not everyone loves Scott. Some people prefer a different candidate. That happens, but acting like every little thing the Neumann campaign does is some nefarious plot is not helping. It turns people off and gives the impression that Scott is entitled to the job and cannot be questioned.

Neumann's campaign needs to tighten up it's message and make sure their volunteers and staff aren't embarrassing the candidate every two minutes.

Bottom line is that both men are qualified to be governor. Like I said, Walker is my choice, but let's not get personal here. Let's debate the issues and their visions for Wisconsin's future. That's good and healthy for a party. What is happening right now is petty and we need it to stop.

You can now smell oil in the air...

...here in New Orleans.

The First House Goes Down

Inside the Footprint.

4.28.2010

Multimedia message: Demolition gets underway in the footprint

Demo team at work

UPDATE: Here are some more of my photos from the salvage work that started today on the first two houses in the VA hospital footprint.

Demolitions Begin Inside the Footprint

I just received word.

Not Beat/ "Zen Moment - Menasha"

The song on the radio in the coffee shop I'm in right now has a weird call-and-response going on: "What's the word?" "Johannesburg!" The street outside is completely torn up, and has been for weeks; large diggers are mucking about on it. I'm studying (-ish; reading a list of news sites qualifies, right?) for the Foreign Service Exam. I'm not sure any of this means anything.

"Tony's Historical Parakeet Restaurant Bar & Lounge"

Nagin's top quotes - audio

Thank you, Times-Pic, for sharing these snippets.

4.27.2010

More on the Arizona Immigration Bill

After my initial cursory glance at the legislation the other day, I've been talking and thinking about the development in Arizona at length with a variety of people in the pockets of free time that pop up occasionally between finals.

I have to say, the rabid outrage displayed by so many opponents of the law immediately after it was signed into law immediately set me on guard.  The response seemed intemperate, reactionary, and not necessarily well-informed.  That's why I sounded an observant, somewhat skeptical note in my post on Saturday - skeptical both of the scope of the law and its chances in court, on one hand, and the hyperbolic, unthinking reactions by its detractors on the other.

In my conversations online and in real life, I experienced yet another round of having to articulate a thoughtful, overarching conservative perspective on the bill (because, while they're certainly quite possible, I haven't heard or read many) so I could consider both sides.

In the end, I predict that the law (which is severable) will be struck down in whole or in part by the courts.  And I support any limiting modifications that the courts impose.

I do so on very lukewarm, dispassionate - but foundational - grounds, however: immigration and border issues are more properly federal issues and responsibilities under the U.S. Constitution and our federalist form of government.

Getting to that final conclusion was quite an obstacle course in light of the principles and caveats involved, as I'll lay out below.  But when it comes down to it, I'm a fan of liberty.  An ordered liberty, crucially, but liberty nonetheless.

Strangely, while I've approached him a bit warily all along, I think Florida Senate candidate Marco Rubio comes to about the right conclusion.  

More of my thoughts below.

From space

The oil slick off the coast of Louisiana is visible.

Interesting take on the new Arizona law

George Will offers one of the best arguments for giving the benefit of the doubt to Arizona's legislators and citizens. I'm still not so sure it's a good idea, but this an excellent column.
Popularity makes no law invulnerable to invalidation. Americans accept judicial supervision of their democracy -- judicial review of popular but possibly unconstitutional statutes -- because they know that if the Constitution is truly to constitute the nation, it must trump some majority preferences. The Constitution, the Supreme Court has said, puts certain things "beyond the reach of majorities."
But Arizona's statute is not presumptively unconstitutional merely because it says that police officers are required to try to make "a reasonable attempt" to determine the status of a person "where reasonable suspicion exists" that the person is here illegally. The fact that the meaning of "reasonable" will not be obvious in many contexts does not make the law obviously too vague to stand. The Bill of Rights -- the Fourth Amendment -- proscribes "unreasonable searches and seizures." What "reasonable" means in practice is still being refined by case law -- as is that amendment's stipulation that no warrants shall be issued "but upon probable cause." There has also been careful case-by-case refinement of the familiar and indispensable concept of "reasonable suspicion."...
Probably 30 percent of Arizona's residents are Hispanics. Arizona police officers, like officers everywhere, have enough to do without being required to seek arrests by violating settled law with random stops of people who speak Spanish. In the practice of the complex and demanding craft of policing, good officers -- the vast majority -- routinely make nuanced judgments about when there is probable cause for acting on reasonable suspicions of illegality.
Arizona's law might give the nation information about whether judicious enforcement discourages illegality. If so, it is a worthwhile experiment in federalism.
It's worth reading the whole thing.

"During this recession, law school tuition has continued to go up. Think about that for a second"

Yes, do.

"a cacophony of silliness"

Manitowoc County "wins" the case brought against it by the Freedom from Religion Foundation over a creche display on the county courthouse grounds (after revising its policy and rendering the issue moot) at summary judgment:

Thus, it seems local governmental bodies that permit Nativity displays on government property as symbols of the Christmas holiday must choose between two alternatives. They can either surround the crèche with the more anodyne symbols of the Christmas holiday having no recognizable connection to the event the day commemorates . . . or open up their public spaces to a cacophony of silliness inspired by either bad taste or a desire to drown out or counter any possible religious message. This hardly seems reasonable.

The judge also opens the opinion with a rather overt religious reference...a bible quote...which is interesting...in an Endorsement case.

Just a tad chilling

Professor Volokh comments on a rather terribly-worded bill making its way through the Louisiana Legislature.

Goings-on lately: tension edition

+"[O]n April 22nd, Yonhap, South Korea’s news agency, reported that the government’s military-intelligence agency, using intelligence gathered jointly with America, had concluded the regime in North Korea had deliberately attacked and destroyed the 1,200-tonne warship."

+"Ukrainian nationalists led by Yulia Tymoshenko, the former prime minister, and Viktor Yushchenko, the former president, regard the base deal as a betrayal of Ukraine's national interests."

+"Top officials at the State Department in Washington are said to be 'fuming' with US Embassy personnel in Bishkek for supposedly failing to maintain strong ties with erstwhile opposition politicians who now are leading figures in the Kyrgyz provisional government."

+"Two days before Armenia commemorates Ottoman Turkey’s World War I-era slayings of ethnic Armenians, President Serzh Sargsyan on April 22 called on Armenia’s parliament to 'suspend' the process to ratify reconciliation protocols with Turkey."

+"The drive to give the NWFP a Pashto name was spearheaded by the Pashtun nationalist Awami National Party (ANP). The party has said that it does not oppose non-Pashto speakers in the province seeking their own separate territorial divisions, but that must be done by working through Pakistan's constitutional process."

And then there were two

How dew and frost can form

In reading the chapter on radiation for heat transfer I came across a brief section on the emissivity of the sky. A few days ago, I put the pieces together and answered a question I hadn't thought about in a while.

Dew and frost form when an object in contact with the air becomes cooler than the dew point of the air causing water vapor to condense. But since a tree or the grass is only in contact with the air and the ground, how can it become colder than the air? This would be like a warm glass of water making an ice cube grow.

Click for more, with tables!

4.26.2010

Appalling

The Weekly Standard would like to forsake the entire great, rich tradition of conservative intellectualism:
Why are A students so hateful? I’m sure up at Harvard, over at the New York Times, and inside the White House they think we just envy their smarts. Maybe we are resentful clods gawking with bitter incomprehension at the intellectual magnificence of our betters. If so, why are our betters spending so much time nervously insisting that they’re smarter than Sarah Palin and the Tea Party movement? They are. You can look it up (if you have a fancy education the way our betters do and know what the unabridged Oxford English Dictionary is). “Smart” has its root in the Old English word for being a pain. The adjective has eight other principal definitions ranging from “brisk” to “fashionable” to “neat.” Only two definitions indicate cleverness—smart as in “clever in talk” and smart as in “clever in looking after one’s own interests.” Don’t get smart with me.

The other objection to A students is what it takes to become one—toad-eating. A students must do what teachers and textbooks want and do it the way teachers and texts want it done. Neatness counts! A students are very busy.
Because who needs Goldwater? Or Buckley? Or Hayek? Let's just toss Mill straight out. We won't even get into Burke. Hell, let's go all the way back to Aquinas, if it would make the poor populists at the Weekly Standard feel a little better about skipping class.

This is absolutely disgusting.

Recovery or about to worsen?

According to this NYT article from yesterday, consumption is up and "malls are back."

But, check out these graphs of mortgages. There's this one starting in 2007 (we're in month 39) and this one, the same thing without previous years. It seems we're poised to enter the second wave of mortgage resets. Here's an article about it from January.

If the mortgages do start to go bad again, I imagine it would be worse. Two to three years ago, the economy had some padding which we used up. Since then we've not had any slack in the system since unemployment is already high and house prices have already been low.

An outside take on the U.S. Judiciary and Supreme Court

From Pakistan, as it discusses the role of the judiciary in a national government.

It's interesting to see this perspective on U.S. jurisprudence.  It seems as if the news piece is intended to provide leaders with comparative insights as the nation weighs changes to its own constitution and form of government.

Stop!

Rabbit-time!


Located in the bike park area next the the lab building on campus.

Who knew we already had a 'Frightened Rabbits' tag?

Leinie's [Insert beer-themed joke here] Senate Run

So, today we got our third candidate to try and take out Russ Feingold as US Senator in November. I'm not really sure what to make of it either. First, it says a lot about Feingold's perceived vulnerability that three candidates - and a rumored fourth in Oshkosh businessman Ron Johnson - want to take him on. It also says a lot about the perceived weakness of the two candidates already in the race - Terrence Wall and Dave Westlake - that a man who just spent 18 months in the Doyle administration thinks he can win.

That last point is what everyone will focus on. Leinenkugel absolutely needs to address it and minimize if he wants to win. He needs to point out areas of disagreement with Doyle and - if possible - provide proof that he did voice those disagreements behind the scenes. In his announcement in Janesville he talked about the fact that he joined the administration to serve the people and not any particular party. That sounds nice, but you better back that up with some evidence that you did. Unfortunately, that means he needs to show he didn't get along all that well with Governor Doyle.

On the Leinenkugel for Senate website, he lays out a fairly mainstream conservative platform. There's certainly nothing there that is offensive to GOP primary voters. But the giant elephant in the room is his time as Commerce Secretary and the question of "Why should we trust you now?" is bound to be raised.

Right now, I just don't know how he answers it. In his announcement he mentioned failures as Commerce Secretary. A lot can depend on how he defines those failures. The best way would be to define them as not standing up forcefully enough to bad ideas - like the massive tax increases in the last budget, or the not-so-high-speed rail line - from the Doyle administration. Or failure to prevent the massive job losses we have seen over the last year and a half. Or failure to get the manufacturing jobs from the Talgo deal for a Wisconsin based company rather than the Spanish firm. That would be a good first step.

The GOP field for Senate is wide open. No one is a favorite at this point and they all have problems. Anyone who has any political skill can conceive of a legitimate strategy in which Leinenkugel wins. He's got a very steep uphill climb, but it is possible.

It certainly will be an interesting summer.

4.25.2010

Revitalization Underway



Word on the street says this long-neglected home on Freret is being transformed into condos.

4.24.2010

Strange Fumes

Arizona's New Immigration Law

I don't have time to fully dissect Arizona's new law requiring police to question people if there's reason to suspect they're in the United States illegally.

But I will toss out this relevant legal factor that I haven't seen mentioned in the discussion: any arrest made under the Arizona law needs to comply with the Vienna Convention.  Specifically, if a foreign national is arrested, prudent law enforcement officials will read the arrestee his or her "Vienna Convention Warning," which essentially informs the person of a right to contact consular officials.

I think the chief hurdles the law will face in court will stem from its perceived overbreadth (is reasonable suspicion enough of a bulwark against potential civil liberties violations?  or is it too much discretion?) and from the federalist notion that the federal government generally supersedes when it comes to border and immigration issues.

And then there's a provision like this (*Added: see the explication of my thoughts on the following provision in the comments):

E.  A LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER, WITHOUT A WARRANT, MAY ARREST A PERSON IF THE OFFICER HAS PROBABLE CAUSE TO BELIEVE THAT THE PERSON HAS COMMITTED ANY PUBLIC OFFENSE THAT MAKES THE PERSON REMOVABLE FROM THE UNITED STATES.

I don't think the law is quite as draconian as some of its more outspoken critics make it out to be, but it does have some aspects that may be asking for trouble should they come before a court.  Still, as usual, I think a large portion of detractors have immediately painted the law as motivated wholly by racial animus, which clouds discussion and debate.  Regardless of race, if illegal aliens/undocumented persons are, for example, committing crime at a rate the state finds unacceptable and the federal government isn't enforcing the border adequately, I think the state has a rational basis for passing the law.

Speaking very broadly, I think any push toward national immigration reform (which seems to be the intended Democratic response to the Arizona bill) should reduce the hurdles - especially the lengthy timeline - to legal immigration to the United States.  But in doing so, we should also demand much more rigid adherence to the law (i.e., penalize and enforce provisions against illegal immigration all the more) once it's actually easier to enter the country in a legal manner.

South Park and censorship

I'm sure by now most people have heard about the uproar over South Park's 200th episode. What I don't understand is how Comedy Central could cave so quickly and pathetically. I watched the first episode and it was the customary offensive humor. When the issue of Muhammad even came up they went to great lengths not to show anything that even closely resembled what Muhammad might look like.

But here's the problem. In the episode the boys visit the "super best-friends" to talk to Muhammad and we see Buddha doing lines of cocaine, Jesus surfing the internet for porn and other religious prophets in offensive and blasphemous situations. So that's okay, because Christians, Buddhists, Jews, and Hindus don't threaten violence or death. Doesn't anyone else see the stupidity here?

There was absolutely no offensive act that Muhammad was doing. Everyone was extremely polite and careful about referring to him and when he did "appear" it was in a bear costume (which turned out to actually be Santa inside - don't ask). For this there are vague death threats and Comedy Central caves.

Sure, it's a stupid cartoon show on basic cable. No one under the age of 18 should even really be allowed to watch it because it is highly offensive, but this is getting out of hand. Countless times South Park has mocked and ridiculed Christians - particularly Catholics and Mormons - and every single episode they ridicule Jews in some way. This time though, they were actually making a point. It's okay to show Buddha snorting coke and Jesus looking at porn, but they can't even talk about Muhammad without getting death threats.

What is worse is that the network caved. You don't cave to fear and intimidation. Islam is not special. It is not - or should not be - immune to the jokes and ridicule that every other religion must endure. I don't like the Christian jokes; they are deeply offensive to me, but in our country they have the right to do it. I also have the right to call it tasteless and not watch it - which is exactly what most people who are offended by it do.

I'm not saying that is should be open season on tasteless jokes about Islam or any other religion. What I am saying is that you don't get to use death threats and intimidation because you can't take a joke.

Bailouts

What Barack Obama says.

What NPR says the experts say about what Obama says.

4.23.2010

The Point


















"My mother always used to say people went out there to 'watch the submarine races....'"

"and the speed with which it is building blue-water capabilities has surprised foreign military officials."

It doesn't surprise me one bit.

And while the U.S. has been distracted with wars on terrorism, a fiscally disastrous year-long health care canard, and more, it has failed to heed the real concerns.

"Great powers can be defeated only by other great powers—not by nonstate terrorists or by minor powers. The U.S. needs to be careful not to pay more attention to Islamic terrorists than to emerging great powers. Here the Obama administration and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates are getting it wrong." (ht/IF)

Quoth The Raven

Nevermore.

Yes, that's right, T.J. Quills is apparently returning from the dead on Maple Street.

Friday music video

Beep boop. Here's a recent cover of a song by Thom Yorke, the Radiohead frontman, that I happened across recently.

"Let them fail."

Jumping off of Brad's analysis of the President's Wall Street speech - and in particular this line: "the fact that institutions know that regardless of who's in office, there's a very high likelihood of bailout leaves me concerned" - I'd like to point out an excellent op-ed in today's Washington Post.
The trouble with Wall Street isn't that too many bankers get rich in the booms. The trouble, rather, is that too few get poor -- really, suitably poor -- in the busts. To the titans of finance go the upside. To we, the people, nowadays, goes the downside. How much better it would be if the bankers took the losses just as they do the profits....
The substitution of collective responsibility for individual responsibility is the fatal story line of modern American finance. Bank shareholders used to bear the cost of failure, even as they enjoyed the fruits of success. If the bank in which shareholders invested went broke, a court-appointed receiver dunned them for money with which to compensate the depositors, among other creditors. This system was in place for 75 years, until the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. pushed it aside in the early 1930s. One can imagine just how welcome was a receiver's demand for a check from a shareholder who by then ardently wished that he or she had never heard of the bank in which it was his or her misfortune to invest....
Like one of those notorious exploding collateralized debt obligations, the American financial system is built as if to break down. The combination of socialized risk and privatized profit all but guarantees it. And when the inevitable happens? Congress and the regulators dream up yet more ways to try to outsmart the people who have made it their business in life not to be outsmarted. And so it is again in today's debate over financial reform. From the administration and from both sides of the congressional aisle come proposals to micromanage the business of lending, borrowing and market-making: new accounting rules (foolproof this time, they say), higher capital standards, more onerous taxes. If piling on new federal rules was the answer, we'd long ago have been in the promised land.
I realize that this approach sounds harsh to a lot of people, but it does work. Often times we talk about the greater the risk, the greater the reward. This is no longer true. If the bailouts are likely there is no risk and only reward. If you bet it all on one roll of the dice and lose, that's it. You lose. Now, we seem to say go ahead and bet it all, but if you lose you don't really lose it all, you just don't win.

That's not the way to prevent this type of crash in the future. This is: The job before Congress is to bring the fear of God back to Wall Street. Not to stifle enterprise but quite the opposite: to restore real capitalism. By all means, let the bankers savor the sweets of their success. But let them, and their stockholders, pay dearly for their failures. Fair's fair.

Obama's Wall Street Speech

On the whole, having read the entire speech, I'm largely unimpressed.

The President barely describes what the reforms will actually consist of...and there's a healthy dose of class warfare populism, along with all sorts of inconsistencies (in part because there's also a healthy dose of corporatism).  There's a lot of narrative, and very few specifics.  While it's a complex topic that might be difficult to present in a speech, I think Obama oversimplifies and ends up vilifying as he does so.

Looking at the matter from 30,000 feet, my main problem with the Obama view on the financial crisis and state involvement in the markets is the irony that his attempts to push the state into the mix to buffer consumers, investors, and financial institutions detaches them even further from risk that, history tells us, cannot be eliminated entirely.  That impacts decision-making for those participants.  And I think that's the type of moral hazard that ultimately results in bailouts. 

While I need to dig into the financial reform bill's text to see whether Republican claims about institutionalizing bailouts are fully accurate, the fact that institutions know that regardless of who's in office, there's a very high likelihood of bailout leaves me concerned.  And it leads to this twisted Obama approach, for example:

Now, Americans don't begrudge anybody for success when that success is earned. But when we read in the past about enormous executive bonuses at firms even as they were relying on assistance from taxpayers, it offended our fundamental values.

Well, Mr. President, the one aspect of that scenario the government should control is whether or not a bailout is given.  Instead of drawing a line in the sand on bailouts, which would at least force firms toward addressing fundamental flaws in their approaches, you attack executive pay (which is, admittedly, the easier route to take).

The speech was a fine example, even with its caveats, of what has very aptly been called Obama's rhetorical tendency "to vilify his opponents in personal terms and assail their arguments as dishonest, illegitimate or motivated by bad faith."

4.22.2010

Like the Buzzards of Braithwaite




 They're here.

Non-zero

Some thinking on complete disarmament:
I've interviewed Tertrais a few times, and he's got a mind that's 99 parts iron, with one part carbon thrown in for good measure. His thinking, like this article, is precise, orderly, logical and thorough. In some ways, the choice he presents, at least in the current global environment, is that between eliminating war and eliminating nuclear weapons. If you really do hope for the latter, it's worth challenging your arguments against those raised by Tertrais. They might wind up dead, but if not, they'll certainly emerge stronger.

Champaign County Courthouse


Is in Urbana.

Urbana was the original town but when the railroad came, it went a few miles west of the city and West Urbana sprung up around the railroad station. It was eventually renamed and became the larger of the two.

4.21.2010

Troubling

Pakistani intelligence agents are still missing:
Two former agents of Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) -- high-profile figures who often publicly defended the Taliban -- are reportedly being held by an extremist group in the western tribal regions of Pakistan.

Sultan Amir Tarar, commonly known as Colonel Imam, had often boasted that he mentored the reclusive Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar -- along with tens of thousands of Afghan extremists during the 1980s and '90s.

Khalid Khawaja, another former ISI agent who has gone missing with Imam, recently petitioned a Pakistani court to prevent the government from extraditing Taliban operational chief Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar to Afghanistan. Baradar was arrested in a joint U.S-Pakistani raid in the southwestern port city of Karachi in February.

In late March, the two accompanied British-Pakistani documentary maker Asad Qureshi to the Taliban's Waziristan stronghold. But all now appear to have been abducted by a little known extremist group called Asian Tigers.

Out of the great blur, then, we arrived...

...suddenly, greatly bewildered, at the final day of law school classes.

There was some joy, much exhaustion, more trepidation than usual, and a touch of studying for exams on the side.

4.20.2010

Werhan O'er the 'waves


Was he being interviewed earlier about...this?

I don't see anything posted yet.

Terri at the Tea Party: A review of "What Sex is a Republican?"

Bloggers are in the opinion business, with no apparent ethics or professionalism required. Often, bloggers vent from the shadows and attack others for sheer enjoyment. On rare occasions, you may find a blogger who has credible things to say, but overall, stick with Reuters or the Wall Street Journal as credible news sources.
An odd collection of political books stands in one corner of my bookshelf. There is Joe Trippi's The Revolution Will Not Be Televised -- in which he told us all how to win elections using the Internet, fresh off of Dean's implosion. Best is a signed copy Robert Burrows's The Great American Parade, attained at a College Democrats state convention I attended. So my curiosity was piqued when Terri McCormick's publisher sent me an e-mail asking if I'd review her book, What Sex is a Republican?

Spoiler alert: The political gender referred to in What Sex is a Republican? has no biological or anatomical designation. Rather, it refers to a silent coup -- a class warfare unlike any others. If you enjoy that mangling of the English language, read on!

*full disclaimer: I did not read the appendices, and make no assumptions as to the quality thereof.*


Day's End

The Journal Sentinel Editorial Board almost got it, or the Beginning of a Debate on Tax Policy

In an op-ed yesterday, the Journal Sentinel Editorial Board came tantalizingly close to understanding the problems with Wisconsin's excessive taxation and budget woes.
As state government hopscotches from one fiscal crisis to the next, it's hard for legislators to look beyond the next budget cliff. But look they must: Wisconsin is about to fall over.
Simply put, the state relies way too much on personal income taxes and the property tax to plug budgets. And these revenue streams will begin drying up as the state's population ages. Acting now to reform the tax system will make the transition easier....
The challenges are coming into sharp relief. Hardly any other state hits the middle class harder with property and state income taxes, Umhoefer reported.
A two-parent family of three earning $75,000 a year and living in a median-priced home in Milwaukee would pay about $7,500 in local property and state income taxes, he found. In Chicago, they would pay $5,300; in Des Moines, $5,000.
Yes, the state's overall tax burden does appear to be lighter than in the past. Wisconsin now ranks 14th in total tax burden, a big decline from just a few years ago. But the state's tax system is loaded with inequities.
While homeowners are socked with one of the highest property taxes in the nation, industrial property owners generally rank in the bottom half, sometimes the bottom third, nationally. With personal income essentially flat-lining in Wisconsin, this is burdensome and unfair.
The editorial is great until this point. The property tax disparity between our neighbors is dangerous economically. Our overall tax ranking has dropped not because our taxes have been cut, but because other states have raised their taxes faster and higher than us.

The Journal Sentinel is right to point out inequities but the solutions they eventually point to are a mixed bag at best. (After the break I offer my take on their solutions, for what it's worth.)

"bricklaying, float making, stone masonry, bowling pin setting and embalming"

A little bit about that happy, happy New Orleans music man, Uncle Lionel Batiste.

4.19.2010

Time suck

I think the bulk of the rest of my week will be spent following every link at this Metafilter post, if you need to find me. And if you enjoy music, you should probably be doing the same!

Salon: right, wrong (or, attack of teh ghey)

Salon takes on the Tea Party (again) today, sort of sticking up for Lindsey Graham in the process:
He continued, "Look, I’m a tolerant person. I don’t care about your private life, Lindsey. But as our U.S. senator, I need to figure out why you’re trying to sell out your own countrymen, I need to make sure you being gay isn’t it." (Video is at bottom.)

What's interesting here is the thought obviously running through the speaker's head: that something about the personal features of a politician like Barney Frank or Lindsey Graham explains their otherwise disagreeable behavior. The argument isn't that Frank and, supposedly, Graham, are horrible liberal traitors, and gay to boot. It’s that they are, or might be, horrible liberal traitors because they're gay.

And once you notice this type of argument here, you realize that it's everywhere. This is the basic case against President Obama as well. It's not just that his policies are bad. It's that he is somehow not one of us, doesn't understand our country and its traditions, and so is in fact working for the other side. The "he's a foreigner" line of attack also featured at the rally, when former GOP presidential candidate Tom Tancredo asked, "If his wife says Kenya is his homeland, why don't we just send him back?"
Salon is right to go after this attack -- it's utterly stupid to conflate sexuality with politics. But they've got the wrong theory. This has nothing to do with the Birther right, a movement that doesn't hold much, if any, sway in Tea Party circles (indeed, they aren't connected at all, I'd argue, except insofar as the Limbaugh-Beck axis bridges the two camps) from what I've seen.

Instead, this attack is hearkening back to an older, and I'd argue more insidious, argument -- that used by, for example, the FBI in the 1950s: gays, because they have some awful, shameful secret which they can never ever reveal or face the derision of the entire right-thinking world, can easily be blackmailed into working for sinister interests. Our Tea Party speaker, here, is pushing a not-uncommon Tea Party line: that our government is essentially hostage to corrupt forces that are taking us down a wrong path; and that Graham is being blackmailed into following along. I's an odious, obnoxious argument to make, but it does not conflate the Tea Partiers with the Birthers, and Salon should be ashamed of itself for making the connection.

Super Quick Thoughts on Treme #2

Critical Thoughts (again, despite David Simon's admonition):
+ The musicians didn't play on the left side of the door as you entered at the Spotted Cat before 2009.  At least in my experience, they played on the cramped right side of the door until the past year when new owners took over and changed the interior around a bit.  And the place is never ever as well-lighted as it was in the scene - I didn't even recognize it at first (and I like the Spotted Cat a lot).
+ The Urquhart Street sign - it made Gigi's seem like it was downriver somewhere, but I thought I saw the big stucco steeple of a Central City church off in the background...?  Not that that's crippling - the Mardi Gras Indian tavern building is actually located in Central City too - not far from Simon Bolivar Avenue.

What I Liked:
+ Coco Robichaux's music - damn, that's good stuff to open with - straight out of The Apple Barrel.
+ The female attorney role - I've worked with Mary Howell, the civil rights lawyer she's based on - she channels Mary Howell quite well.
+ The Steve Zahn character got slightly more tolerable this time around.
+ The arrest on Frenchman was solid - compared to the activity that went unpunished outside Vaughn's in last weeks episode, it seems arbitrary.  That's rather accurate as far as NOPD enforcement goes.
+ The show seemed to get in its rut as far as moving forward as a show this time.
+ The references are gradually getting a tad bit more subtle: Finn McCools and Dirty Coast t-shirts, CC's coffee - all nice touches that weren't quite as forced.
+ The flaws in Wendell Pierce's character that promise more complexity.
+ John Goodman's rant about Tulane cutting majors.

What I Didn't Like:
+ Steve Zahn's character was still annoying (and again, almost painful, especially during the Coco chicken sacrifice scene).
+ The overplayed stereotypes in the busker scene with the visitors from Wisconsin (I guess I could have been part of that group in my first visit to the city in 2003) made me cringe a bit.  Why did they have to play "Saints Go Marching"...?
+ There still hasn't been a mention about how bad the streets are here - and it's a fact of daily life that permeates everything.  They are positively third world in many places.

4.18.2010

Read the New York Times with me

+Can the aroma, fragrance and taste of beans from the droppings of a caged civet ever be as tasty as those from its wild cousin?

+"Say me and a rock was a friend," he said. "It would be different, because a rock can’t move. And it can’t look around."

+"Whether it’s tomorrow or the day after tomorrow, whether he dies of natural causes in the woods or in a cave, whether he is blown up or shot up, or if he is caught and locked away in a death cell," Mr. Yevkurov said. "If he is still alive and walking around, that does not simply mean he has managed to survive. The Almighty is giving him the chance to find the strength to acknowledge the evil he has brought to people."

+"They’re very secure," he says of the three. "They have no ego. They’re not worried about how things appear, or who gets the credit."

+"To talk about making money on short-term transactions with the TARP while you have this huge cost to the nation is incongruous."

To Algiers!


Algiers, New Orleans, that is...for a study break to see the city's oldest active jazz musician live...at 98.

Planning for the next paradigm...and getting there with food?

Here's why New Orleans needs to figure out how to sustain its revival...when it can no longer count on the succor of the federal government.

* * *

But...if restaurants are any indicator, though, the city is on a healthy economic trajectory.  Here are the brand new establishments I've stumbled on in the past few days:

SukhoThai Uptown

Courtyard Grill on Magazine

This one's been open for about a year, but I just ate there for the first time recently - and it was fantastic.

Plus, the tv news reports that two new restaurants are slated to open in the near future on Freret. 

If you're looking for lunch - and, more properly, a coffee shop that serves Starbucks coffee...try Liberty's Kitchen on Broad just off Tulane - it's basically the Cafe Reconcile of coffeeshops.

Clearly, restaurants alone can't comprise the entire economic engine of the city, but they are certainly an encouraging sign of a willingness to invest in and place faith in the future of New Orleans.

A Matter of Habit

4.17.2010

In a candid moment

Two days ago at a tea party rally the mayor of Champaign said that Obama isn't an American. Particularly unfortunately for him, it's on video.

Some of the city council are calling for his resignation.

That he'd say something like this is surprisingly untactful, even for a mayor.

Interesting Tidbits

Here are a few things I'd be digging into if I wasn't trying to wrap up the school year:

1.  The SEC action against Goldman Sachs.  And some of the insights from SEC officials at the Tulane Corporate Law Institute that just wrapped up here in NOLA.

2.  Obama's "request" memo to HHS trying to get them to use Medicare and Medicaid as federal tentacles to force social change.  What about the enabling acts HHS has to comply with...you know, the law?  I don't really have any problem with the end result - I'm just concerned with the process.

3.  Volokh's running smackdown of Dahlia Lithwick's logic on Supreme Court nominations.

4.16.2010

The Hullabaloo Surprises

The student paper covers/breaks the news that TLS is considering barring law students from earning their mandatory pro bono hours by assisting other students via volunteer positions with TULAP.

TLS students should be able to meet the pro bono requirement with TULAP service.  A number of other approved pro bono placements do not require that all those who benefit from a student volunteer's work be indigent, so it would be somewhat odd to apply such a strict requirement to this one placement.

4.15.2010

Under Eyjafjallajökull


As the volcanic eruption in Iceland shuts down air traffic in northern and western Europe, I recall my visit last summer to a valley along the sea on the south coast of Iceland...just below the swirling mist that clung to the glacier... that sits atop the volcano itself.



The water of a small pool in the valley  at Seljavallalaug was heated naturally by the geothermal activity - the hot water dripped down a lush rock face into the basin as we swam in it, a reminder of the volcanism just under the surface.

Another Tulane Law Grad Running for Congress

This time, it's not a Democrat in Illinois...but a Republican in Arkansas.

Hey, I saw that!

I was momentarily freaked out by what I now find out was a meteoric fireball late last night:
James Lattis, head of the UW-Madison Space Place, said meteors are common – but many are not as bright as the one seen last night. The National Weather Service says there’s no word on what caused the fireball. But there’s currently a meteor shower called the "Gamma Virginids."

Found Things - Tabs left open

1.  Tulane gets a sizable grant to study hydrokinetic energy on the Mississippi.

2.   When Ben says it's time to get serious on the deficits, it's probably been time to get serious for some time.

3.  I disagree with Geoffrey Stone's take on the constitution and judging in a number of ways.

4.  China flexes its navy regionally a bit more than usual.

5.  Yes, I'll take an EVIL camera.

If you're thinking about law school

You should read this post: The Hubris of Would-be Lawyers

Landscape

A puzzle

On campus there's a block with several of these signs on either side:


 Its neighbor, a clue?


Some of the text is written for mirrors--car mirrors? Are these rendezvous points for some kind of perennial meeting?

Aha! The solution.

4.14.2010

A couple of useful cave drawings

Lance Burri, aka the TrogloPundit, has two posts on some staggering tax statistics that are indicative of the reason why we're facing the frightening fiscal future that Chairman Bernanke testified about earlier today.

First, only 47 percent of Americans will pay taxes this year. Lance - in responding to David Leonhardt - addresses the problem of nearly half the electorate being subsidized by the other half:
No, that’s not what it’s “shorthand” for. That’s not the “notion.”
The “notion” is: when nearly half of Americans are paying no income taxes, nearly half of Americans – close to an electoral majority – have an interest in keeping it that way. They have interest in the benefits of government that exceed their interest in paying for those benefits. And that’s troublesome. As the saying goes:
A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury…
Second, the per household spending by the federal government is $31,406 but it will only take in $18,276 per household in taxes.
Forty-two percent of federal spending is deficit spending this year. Wow.
But even that’s not the important part. Here it is: does your household pay $18,276 in federal taxes? Mine doesn’t. Not even close. That means my neighbors are, after a fashion, subsidizing my existence. Others are paying more than 18 grand because I’m paying less.
Oh, am I crying for the poor downtrodden rich? No, I’m not. Should I be? How should I react? When somebody else is paying more so I can pay less: should I be grateful, or indifferent, or should I be angry that my neighbors aren’t picking up even more of the tab?
What Lance is getting at isn't that we should be paying more in taxes, but rather that spending has gotten so far out of control, that we no longer have the ability to pay for what we have now. The solution is a combination of drastically cutting spending, and having a more even distribution of taxes. I have no problem with a graduated income tax, but at the same time we cannot afford to punish success and wealth. Right now, when so many don't pay taxes and a small minority pay the vast majority of taxes, that is exactly what we are doing.

What do you think about those stats?

How's Obama's nuclear agenda going?

The BBC assesses.

That bad, huh?

All the more reason we should see the information, even if “member banks are very concerned about real-time disclosure of information that could cause a run on the banks."

Continued legal appeals will delay or block the first public look at details of the central bank’s $2 trillion in emergency lending during the 2008 financial crisis. The Clearing House Association LLC, a group that includes Bank of America Corp. and JPMorgan Chase & Co., joined the Fed in defense of a lawsuit brought by Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News, seeking release of records related to four Fed lending programs.

I've been following this obfuscation since early on - see here and here and here, and I'm going to congratulate Bloomberg LP once again for its fight to obtain the information.

"Piracy; White House Issues Executive Ordering Making Payment Of Ransom Illegal"

That's the subject line from an email sent out today by the head of the Maritime Law Association of the United States.

I'll need to take a closer look at Obama's executive order text to get a better sense of precisely what it does.  At first glance, I don't think any of the news agencies out there are viewing the document as having the preclusive effect on ransoms.

Instead, they're viewing this, understandably, as a measure designed to freeze assets linked to al-Qaeda in Somalia.

But I think, after my cursory glance at the text, that the measure could quite easily be construed as barring ransoms paid to pirates.  Ransoms would essentially be deemed financial support to those whose assets are blocked by the measure. 

If ransoms are now in fact off the table when it comes to U.S. companies, vessels, and persons, it may change the dynamic relative to the Somali pirate situation.  While other nations may not follow suit, when it comes to U.S. involvement in the Horn of Africa region, if ransoms are not an option - or they are at least legally questionable - companies will pretty much have to resort to defending their vessels forcibly in some manner. 

And I'm fine with that result.

UPDATE:

Bloomberg caught the possible implication on ransoms later in the evening yesterday.

“That’s one small amount to save, one giant leap backwards for mankind.”

Elliot, over at From Where I Sit, makes a great point about the backlash from American pioneers against President Obama's decision to gut NASA.
More seriously, as a friend and I were saying on the anniversary of the Apollo 13 flight, kids used to dream of exploring the stars, now they just dream of being one.

Are we better off for it?

I don’t think so.

Interview with Scott Feldt, Candidate for State Treasurer

This year promises to be an exciting election year. There are a ton of candidates running across the state headlined by an open governor's race and perhaps the toughest election for Russ Feingold in 12 years. But there are other statewide races too, and one of them is for the State Treasurer. Republican candidate Scott Feldt, a former aid to former State Treasurer Jack Voight and Rock County Board member was kind enough to answer a few questions for us about this important, yet often overlooked office.

LiB: What made you decide to run for State Treasurer?
Scott Feldt, Candidate for Treasurer: I am running for State Treasurer because I see the office going in the wrong direction. I read the stories about the State Treasurer's office involved in questionable hiring practices involving the state's college savings program, the Treasurer attending a conference while thousands of unclaimed property requests are left unprocessed, and the hiring of family members.  These stories have proven to me that the current State Treasurer does not possess the skills needed to run the office. This is not about partisanship.  This is about effectiveness.  The office has important duties that need someone with the necessary skills and experience. The State Treasurer's office administers programs that involve BILLIONS of dollars.  The citizens deserve a Treasurer with the skills and experience needed to run the office properly. Again, this is not about partisanship. This is about effectiveness.

LiB: The obvious question you need to answer for voters is: Why are you the best candidate?
SF: I am the most qualified candidate for State Treasurer because I have the right mix of skills and experience that the office needs. First, I know how the office operates.  I was the Executive Assistant to the former State Treasurer for over 7 years. This is why former State Treasurers Jack Voight and Cate Zeuske endorse me and my campaign. I can run the office on day one. Second, I understand budgets and the need for fiscal responsibility. I was a county board supervisor for 7 years.  As Vice Chair of the Finance Committee in Rock County, I helped shape and approve budgets that totaled over $100 million each of those 7 years.  Third, I know how the State Treasurer can help promote economic development.  For the last 5 years I have worked as an economic developer who has helped recruit and retain businesses in three different states.

LiB: The State Treasurer is not what you would call a "high-profile" job. How do you plan to raise the profile of the office?
SF: The best way to raise the profile of the office is to run it effectively. I need to bring respect back to the office.  In addition, I intend to educate the public about the various duties of the State Treasurer. The Treasurer deals with local governments through the Local Government Investment Pool, environmental issues as a Commissioner of Public Lands, funding libraries through the State Trust Fund Loan program the college savings (EdVest) program, and the return of unclaimed funds to their rightful owners.  These are just some of the issues the State Treasurer is involved in.

I also believe the State Treasurer should be involved in educating the public about state financial and economic issues.  The Treasurer can provide WI taxpayers information on topics like the state budget process, how the state issues debt, and how the state invests your money.

The professor is a busy guy

His company is doing well. In fact, a week and a half ago Illinois' elected senator stopped by.

4.13.2010

The Times-Picayune publishes my letter

Today. 

I wrote in opposition to the proposed destruction of Lower Mid-City here in New Orleans.  While the version that appears is significantly pared down from what I submitted, it does get my chief concerns across.  Interestingly, it doesn't include my original final sentences expressing hope that more historic structures could still be saved.

The final finals approach

Joe Leibham Gets it Right

As the Wisconsin State Senate passed a bill banning texting while driving, three voices stood against the measure, which I've railed against before for its illogic.  I'm glad to see Leibham, for whom I once worked, was one of the three:

Some opponents of the ban said a change is unnecessary because there is already a law on the books for inattentive driving, with fines of $20 to $400.

"If you want to deal with inattentive driving you should do just that," said Sen. Joe Leibham (R-Sheboygan).

Although the final measure passed contained a number of exceptions compared to the version I objected to earlier, it is just as redundant.  And the exemption for texting while the vehicle is stopped will no doubt lead to enforcement difficulties and problems of proof.

ADDED:  The Senate also passed the mascot ban that I opposed vigorously as well, by a vote of 17-16 with Senator Tim Carpenter joining the Republicans in opposition.

I hope someone out there files a complaint about some random, seemingly innocuous mascot saying it offends them - a case would likely show a court just how poorly the statute was drafted and how overbroadly it reaches.

Delicate diplomacy

With everything going on in the international sphere lately, it's been saddening -- if completely understandable -- to watch Obama focus almost exclusively on domestic issues. That's why Obama's calling Georgia's Mikheil Saakashvili is very good news:
Kyrgyzstan is much less important for Georgia than Ukraine is, but the symbolism is very negative. The results of two out of the three "color revolutions" that shook the region in 2003-05 now appear to have been reversed. Some radical Georgian opposition leaders immediately vowed to repeat the Bishkek scenario soon in Tbilisi. Coincidentally, they are the very political figures who recently changed their views, withdrawing support for Georgia's NATO aspirations and instead engaging in friendship with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

The Turkish-Armenian rapprochement that could create positive dynamics toward Europeanizing the region is now stalled. So far, the most unpleasant by-product of this effort is the further alienation of Azerbaijan from both Turkey and the United States. This by default strengthens Russia's hand in the region.

Given the apparent Russian involvement in the Kyrgyz uprising last week, showing support to our allies in the region -- especially those allies who have done a good job of working toward building democracy. Georgia was not invited to the nuclear summit in Washington this week, and that is disappointing, but not entirely a snub. Indeed, there isn't exactly a reason to invite Georgia -- it would appear more of a provocation than necessary.

The phone call was a good diplomatic move: it was subtle, it came at no cost, and it sent the right message. We will continue to support our allies and work toward democracy across the world, and Russia should not be granted a completely free hand in the former Soviet Bloc -- there are international standards to be upheld.

Althouse makes a great point about the coming Supreme Court battle

"You can't say let's stop noticing how political it is now, when I've got the political power." The point being, that we all know that elections matter and the President gets to choose nominees who are ideologically similar. The catch has usually been that the nominees be "highly qualified." Which is why in so many Republicans voted for Ginsberg and Breyer and so many Democrats voted for Rehnquist and Scalia.

The problem is that even though the general consensus was that Roberts was equally qualified to those other justices, he was demonized and the current President and Vice President voted against him for being to far "outside the mainstream" of legal thought. The same happened with Alito. Now, I'm not arguing that turnabout is fair play but if President Obama sends another nominee as liberal as Roberts is conservative, there should rightly be some fireworks.

As Althouse writes:
And, of course, conservatives are always up — or should always be up — for a debate about how their approach to constitutional interpretation is properly and neutrally judicial and it's only the the liberal's approach that is political. That's not quite true, but the general public is immensely receptive, and the liberals know it. That's why, when their nominee comes before the Senate Judiciary Committee, regardless of the reason why she was picked — e.g., her empathy with the poor and the unfortunate — she is not going to open up and defend liberal constitutional jurisprudence. She is going to do her best imitation of John Roberts.

And that's why Bill Kristol is crushingly right: "A big debate on the Constitution, a serious debate" will benefit Republicans.

I'd suggest exactly the opposite is true

The Economist says:
The FCC was a reluctant regulator to begin with.

The expanding U.S. military role in Pakistan

Why?

I understand the theory of rendering the frontier provinces inhospitable to the Taliban forces the U.S. is pursuing in Afghanistan.

But it seems like a very big can of worms to open wide.  A can we've already opened with drone strikes across the border.

I've thought this approach, while perhaps perfectly sensible from a military or strategic standpoint, needs to account for the geopolitical gravity of such moves.  Barack Obama's atempt, in the 2008 debates, both to outdo Clinton and to one-up McCain on belligerence by saying he would cross the Pakistani border with impunity struck me as naive because it didn't pay any heed to that need. 
 
U.S. military moves in Pakistan, while they may be fundamentally entwined with activities in Afghanistan on the border, are a distinct series of military acts that need to be discussed forthwrightly by the President, in his role as commander in chief, and Congress, given its control of the purse.  The fact that U.S. forces are now spilling over into engaging inside yet another nation in the broader Middle East/South-Central Asia region, especially when tensions remain with Iran, is a significant development.  It's an expansion in scope that should not simply slip by unnoticed.
 
It concerns me that the U.S. is distracted and increasingly fiscally reckless at home while overextending its military ventures abroad in a delicate and complex region.  That's a bad recipe.

4.12.2010

TLS hosts Mayor Landrieu's Crime Task Force

Interesting, in the wake of the Canal Street shooting:
 
According to a Landrieu spokesman, the task force gathered at a closed door meeting at Tulane Law School all afternoon Monday to meet with federal officials and come up with a plan on how to coordinate resources better in the city's crime fight.

An odd timeline

Edit: looking back at the timestamp on the State Department tweet, it now posts as 2.03 pm on April 10; Ms Otunbayeva's (whose name I've corrected below as well) post appears as 12.20 pm on April 9th -- it now appears that Ms Albright contacted the acting leader of Kyrgyzstan nearly a full day before the State Department!

Watching US involvement in Kyrgyzstan, I was a bit confused recently; the timeline of contacts didn't quite add up to me.

In the early afternoon yesterday, Roza Otunbayeva, the acting leader of the country, tweeted:
Felt really warm to receive a phone call from long time friend Madeleine Albright! Briefed her on the latest situation.
The timestamp on that is 2.20 pm.

The State Department then tweeted, "#SecClinton spoke to Ms. Roza Otunbayeva to support efforts of #Kyrgyz administration to resolve #Kyrgyzstan's current political problems." That timestamp lists "six hours ago," which would put it at about 3.30 pm as I write this at 9.40.

Did a former Secretary of State contact Ms Bayeva before the current Secretary?

originally posted 9.45 pm 4/10

Stevens in Retrospect

Richard Epstein looks - thoroughly - at Justice Stevens' record.

I agree especially with his take on Stevens' failure in Kelo.

Animals

the Geological Survey Laboratory

Absurd Legislation

A Louisiana state lawmaker, Rickey Hardy (D-Lafayette), has introduced a constitutional amendment to bar people older than 70 from seeking and holding elective office.

That's one of the worst - and frankly, scariest - ideas I've heard come up through the legislative pipeline in some time.

It's so bad, in fact, that I'm going to post his email here for you to contact him and let him know, if you choose: hardyr@legis.state.la.us

Ideas like this need to be swatted down.

4.11.2010

Thoughts on the Treme Premiere

Overall, pretty well done.

David Simon's letter in the Times-Pic aside, a few comments on verisimilitude:  1) the Abita Jockamo's IPA neon in the window at Vaughn's is out of place because Abita didn't introduce that beer until after the storm, from what I recall, and 2) the big green style of parking meter in the foreground on St. Peter didn't come until post storm either, to my knowledge.

Critical thoughts generally on the show:  1) I can't stand Steve Zahn's character.  He's somewhat accurate as far as a certain type of New Orleanian goes...but painful.  2) A K-Ville-like danger emerged as nearly too much classic music was packed into the first show.  Or maybe even too many stereotypical Nola things.  A second line and a jazz funeral in the premiere?  3) While Clarke Peters' single-minded determination on his return was probably the most powerful thing on the screen tonight, aside from the joy of the opening second line, I felt like the audience's first encounter with a Mardi Gras Indian seemed goofy or silly and out of place.  I've only felt something akin to a sense of majesty, awe, and amazement in the presence of the Mardi Gras Indians on Super Sunday.  Perhaps a contrast will emerge given the rebirth trajectory the show will likely take.  But it still struck as being wrong somehow.

Things I liked: 1) The John Goodman scene with the Judge Seeber Bridge in the background - his f-bomb laden tirade evoked Nola blogger Ashley Morris' famous post-Katrina tirade [and...it turns out... the famed blog post inspired it].  2) Gigi's Lounge seemed like an authentic New Orleans corner bar establishment.  3) The character of Jacque, the sous chef.  He barely said a word, which means there's far more to learn.

"It just feels fake; it feels like smoke and mirrors. I feel like music doesn't have to be like that. It can be something that's very normal and very accessible."

I scream, you scream, we all scream for...



...Pomplamoose!

"If you can't just do ... the production, the instruments and everything all by yourself, then you do need help. That's something that labels are really good at," Dawn says. "If, for example, you're somebody who writes songs, like Lady Gaga, and you need everything that's gonna make you Lady Gaga, YouTube's not gonna be able to do that. You need a big fat label. But if you're just a band, I don't think we're in an era anymore where you need that sort of major backing."

Lionheart

"At one point, while sick from scurvy, Richard is said to have picked off guards on the walls with a crossbow, while being carried on a stretcher."

Springtime on the Quad

We had a few chilly days after two weeks of warmth, but the nice weather is back now.

Today's Tunes

A long and relaxing set in the headphones.

It's Treme Day


Here are a few of my shots and memories of the storied neighborhood from the archives (although I don't know that many or any of these have appeared on the blog before).  I'm excited to see what David Simon cooks up on HBO.

4.10.2010

Salvaging a Paper on Salvage

For me, this Saturday afternoon is largely about a paper on the civil law history of the law of maritime salvage.  Now that must sound absolutely dusty and irrelevant.

But in tracing the peculiar legal concept back to its Rhodian roots from about 900 B.C., it's interesting to note that part of U.S. law stems not from a Common Law heritage, but from an ancient, preexisting body of law that a distinct set of English courts adopted, encapsulated, modified slightly, and passed on to the colonial courts.  It's law that continued to appear in various legal codes over time...it's more properly considered civil law steeped in a Roman or Continental legal tradition.  That notion applies to a good deal of U.S. admiralty and maritime - that's why the U.S. Constitution granted courts a separate, distinct jurisdiction in these areas.

Here's a provision from the Rhodian Sea Codes, later adopted by the Romans and obviously translated into English:

Article XLV: "If a ship be surprised at sea with whirlwinds, or be shipwrecked, any person saving anything of the wreck, shall have one-fifth of what he saves."

Briefly, the concept of "pure salvage" remains in U.S. law today, administered by federal judges under the 1989 International Convention on Salvage (or at least that's the decisional law that should control, theoretically) and likely informed by existing U.S. case law.  The principle of salvage rewards voluntary action by a salvor to save imperiled marine property, such as a vessel, and compensation for a successful effort is based on a number of factors largely focused on the difficulty and risk of the salvage operation.  This principle, in alignment with the Roman concept of negotiorum gestio, stands at odds with much of our common law legal heritage, which generally does not grant compensation from the owner to reward voluntary, unbidden behavior by another party.

If you're still interested, somehow, here's a bit more on marine salvage.

Otherwise Thoughtful People

A few are seemingly trying to peel the Doyle decal from the Leinenkugel canoe.

I can see where this is going - they make a few objectively sound speculations, but I'm still wary.