5.31.2010

A Visit to the National World War II Museum on Memorial Day - And Best Wishes to a Friend of the Blog























My good friend Bob T of Wisconsin, a long-time friend of the blog, was in town this weekend, and we spent the afternoon down at the National World War II Museum here in New Orleans.  Before today, I've never had a chance to explore the museum and its many exhibits thoroughly.  And even after our visit today, more remains.

It was a moving experience and a solemn one - an orchestra played martial hymns in the main hall as we proceeded through the museum.  We focused mainly on the exhibits that chronicle the Normandy D-Day invasion.  The images and the artifacts get to you.  One photo in particular, which I'd never seen before, struck me.  It encompasses a slightly hazy shot of a single man on the Normandy beach close up against a cliff with the fighting raging off in the background on the shore and in the waves.  It left me almost numb - his eyes captured, more than any image of D-Day I've ever encountered, the sheer inhumanity, the horror, and the despair of war.

Hearing the Navy Hymn brought a great deal to mind.  I remembered the annual Memorial Day services in my hometown of Kiel, where for a few years I said the pledge of allegiance at a number of rural cemeteries before the main ceremony.  At each, a contingent of the Municipal Band would play the song for those gathered.  I recalled my ancestors who served in the Union army shortly after they arrived from overseas, my great grandfather who served aboard the USS Arizona before its demise, my grandfather who served in Korea, my friend Cully Goodrich who served aboard a ship in the Pacific in World War II, Ralph Meyer who was involved in Operation Market Garden, and most of all a man who was like a sort of third grandfather to me growing up, George Mathes, who landed in France immediately after D-Day and was part of the push toward Berlin.

* * *

Despite the gravity of the day, Bob, I'm glad to say, was most concerned during our visit about the strategy and tactics involved in the exhibits - the nature of Omaha Beach versus Sword Beach, for example.  He was looking for lessons, thinking critically about the wisdom of the plans involved.  A good military officer.

About an hour ago, he departed for Fort Polk, Louisiana where he recently concluded training to be a combat advisor.  He ships out for Afghanistan in a few days.

On behalf of everyone here at Letters in Bottles, I wish him the absolute best of luck as he heads overseas.  I'm confident he will succeed honorably in any mission he's tasked with, and I have no doubt he will bring his infectious enthusiasm to bear.  We wish you the best, Bob, and we'll be thinking about you.

"If other eyes grow dull, other hands slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain to us."

In honor of Memorial Day and all who have fallen in service to this great nation, please read the original Decoration Day proclamation by John Logan, Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic in 1868.
  1. The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet church-yard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit. We are organized, comrades, as our regulations tell us, for the purpose among other things, "of preserving and strengthening those kind and fraternal feelings which have bound together the soldiers, sailors, and marines who united to suppress the late rebellion." What can aid more to assure this result than cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead, who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foes? Their soldier lives were the reveille of freedom to a race in chains, and their deaths the tattoo of rebellious tyranny in arms. We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. All that the consecrated wealth and taste of the nation can add to their adornment and security is but a fitting tribute to the memory of her slain defenders. Let no wanton foot tread rudely on such hallowed grounds. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.
    If other eyes grow dull, other hands slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain to us.
    Let us, then, at the time appointed gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with the choicest flowers of spring-time; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from hishonor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us a sacred charge upon a nation's gratitude, the soldier's and sailor's widow and orphan.
  2. It is the purpose of the Commander-in-Chief to inaugurate this observance with the hope that it will be kept up from year to year, while a survivor of the war remains to honor the memory of his departed comrades. He earnestly desires the public press to lend its friendly aid in bringing to the notice of comrades in all parts of the country in time for simultaneous compliance therewith.
  3. Department commanders will use efforts to make this order effective.

5.30.2010

The Protest






Maritime Law and the Deepwater Horizon Incident

CNN had this caption up earlier the other day:


















It's interesting to follow the media allusions to maritime law in the Deepwater Horizon incident.  Most are rather tangential and some are downright incorrect.  I'll take a cursory look at some of the mentions myself, just to provide a better surface level understanding - not a full legal treatment by any means.

In the screenshot above, CNN was seemingly referring to the provisions of DOHSA, the Death on the High Seas Act.  Here's a concise summary of why family members of deceased victims would likely be barred from what would otherwise be considered "full" recovery on land.  But it's not even clear if DOHSA would be in play - it all depends on the status of the workers killed.

Whether a wrongful death action is available depends on whether the workers killed were nonmaritime workers covered by the general maritime law, longshore or harbor workers covered by the LHWCA, or seamen with a connection to the vessel covered by the Jones Act.  Some divergent results may stem from any differing legal statuses of the workers killed.  And another anomaly, as pointed out by my friend Ian T, may show its face: an injured worker (someone, say, unloading goods onto the rig that day) could pursue punitive damages - which likely wouldn't be available for any of the 11 workers that died.

There's also been discussion of BP's move to limit its liability in Houston - as opposed to New Orleans - under the 1851 Limitation of Liablity Act (U.S. shipowner limitation law differs from limitation law in the rest of the world - but I don't think it's the Times-Picayune reporter's place to call it "outmoded").  When a party moves to limit, the judge can form a "concursus" which brings together all the claims related to the underlying incident.  That's the danger, in the eyes of the New Orleans legal community, of filing for limitation in Houston - almost every legal claim involved would then, likely, go to Houston.

It's interesting to see one of the lead plaintiff's attorneys making forum non conveniens-like moves to remove the litigation to New Orleans:

For now, Bickford is arguing in court that the limitation of liability proceeding should be moved to Louisiana, because that's where all of the environmental and economic damage, witnesses, injured parties and evidence are.

The Tulane Maritime Law Journal just published a piece by my colleague Han Deng on the intersection of limitation of liability and forum non conveniens in its most recent edition, the final issue of my tenure, the Summer 2010 issue.  I'm not sure, however, if Bickford's arguments are based in venue or forum non conveniens (the latter usually involves different countries...but we are talking about Texas here).

Finally, the Times-Pic article is also inaccurate when it states "In maritime law, a rig is considered a vessel."  That's too unequivocal a statement.  An offshore oil rig can be considered a vessel - and it seems the Deepwater Horizon, as a "dynamically positioned" rig was one - but the determination is highly dependent upon the nature of the rig.  If the rig is completely stationary, attached to the sea-floor, then it is considered "land" in effect and is not a maritime situs.  So there's a gradient based on the characteristics of a particular rig apparatus - a jack up rig, for example, is mobile like a vessel...but can put down "legs."

It will be interesting to see how this plays out legally - and if the incident spurs any action by congress to change existing maritime law, whether in the areas of marine pollution, personal injury, or limitation of liability.

The Message Behind Today's Protest

As I noted earlier, there's a protest planned against BP for this afternoon in Jackson Square in the Quarter.

Here, at least based on the organizer's website, is what the protest is actually demanding.  It's...an interesting list - one that goes too far in a number of ways.

5.28.2010

Where Carville Heads Between CNN Appearances




































Friday Night Fights on Freret - tonight was the first installment held outdoors along the street.

Althouse asks what Obama is thinking

I'll give her the answer: He's not.

His communication and public relations offices, which should be pushing hard for the President to attend the Arlington ceremony, are so poorly run I'm pretty certain I could do a better job three sheets to the wind. It's not that I think Obama doesn't care, it's just that he's being stupid.

Despite liberal attacks, Johnson is very well-qualified for Senate

Once again we get to see the arrogance and elitism of the Left on display. The issue this time is the horror that Republican US Senate candidate Ron Johnson has never before run for political office. How dare someone who has worked and lived in the private sector their entire life think they can serve in public office.

First, Bill Christofferson shoots the messenger by complaining and condescending - yet again - about a "biased" poll result from Rasmussen that puts Johnson a mere two points behind Feingold.
Great news for Ron Johnson: No one's ever heard of him, he has only been a candidate for about a week, he hasn't spent a nickel on TV, and he's tied with Russ Feingold in the US Senate race.
If you believe that, see me about a deal on some hot Gulf Coast real estate.
Yes, our friends at Rasmussen Reports are back with another Republican-slanted poll. [UPDATE: The governor's race numbers are good for Republican Scott Walker, too.  Who would have expected it?  From Rasmussen, everyone.]...
Their latest poll says Ron Johnson, a guy who's never been in politics or in the public eye, has 67% name recognition after campaigning for one week, without every buying any television time. There must be a lot more people reading newspapers than we think.
What Xoff misses entirely is that Johnson has been in the news since at least April 15 when Thompson opted against a run and Johnson became a speculated candidate. Furthermore, up in northeastern Wisconsin - where Johnson lives and built his business - there was much more coverage than in southern Wisconsin. It's not just the numerous newspaper articles, but most TV news and radio programs up there mentioned Johnson's potential run at least once or twice a week.

Or it could have something to do with the overall anti-incumbent/anti-Democrat mood throughout the country and state. No, it must be that Rasmussen is a cheat. After all, Johnson's never been in politics!

Barry Orton takes a more direct and derisive route in his attack on Johnson:

So we're left with a guy who made lots of money in plastics and has never run for or held public office, but can spend lots of his cash on advertising trying to convince Wisconsin voters not to like Russ Feingold, and a guy who didn't make lots of money and has never run for or held public office, but dresses in a way that reminds voters of deer hunting.
I still like Russ Feingold, his record, and his chances for re-election. It's good that there won't be two inexperienced rich guys dumping money into absurd Feingold-bashing advertising in the primary; just one will be doing it in the general.
Essentially what Orton is doing here is saying that Johnson's never done anything worthy of being elected to the Senate. You see he has no record, no list of "accomplishments" in public office. He's just a rich guy trying to buy an election - funny, no one ever complains when Kohl does it - and that makes him bad.

It seems that to those on the left - and given their track record, I think Orton and Xoff are well within the mainstream of liberal thought in Wisconsin - candidates cannot just run for office without first proving themselves at other stages. Only someone with political experience can understand and solve the complex problems in Washington, you see. In order to be a Senator one needs to have learned how to "play the political game." Let's look at the respective records of Feingold and Johnson.

Feingold, after a sterling collegiate record that included UW-Madison, Oxford and Harvard. After graduating from Harvard Law in 1979, he was elected to the State Senate in 1982 (coincidentally, the year I was born) and served for 10 years before being elected to the US Senate in 1992. This isn't a bad record, or something to be ashamed of, but Feingold has spent his entire adult life in elected office.

Now let's look at Johnson. According to his website's bio page, he worked his way through college and earned an MBA at night school. He started Pacur, Inc. in 1979 with his brother. Over the last 30 years - and based on very quick internet research, so take it for what it's worth - the company has grown to employ between 75 and 100 people in the Fox Valley. Unfortunately, being a private company, the data is a little sparse given the time I actually spent looking for it. Any way you cut it, though, Ron Johnson is a very successful entrepreneur who has built a multimillion dollar business from scratch and employs a lot of people right here in Wisconsin. He's met payrolls, balanced budgets and created jobs.

That's real world experience. Johnson knows what business owners need in order to create jobs, pay their employees well and grow the economy. In a time of economic fragility I think we could use a few people in the Senate who have actually created jobs and run a successful business. But on the left, when the general reflex is that government action is the answer to every question, this isn't enough.

We may not know all of Johnson's positions yet. We're still learning about his political views and I am sure I'll have suggestions for him or even disagreements, but if you ask me, three decades of running a successful business more than qualifies Johnson for the US Senate.

The Korean Tension

Ok, so this seems to be real. 

It's always difficult to tell when North Korea is making threatening statements, but U.S. and South Korean forces are now mobilizing on a large scale, as the linked article indicates.  Three days ago, North Korea stated its abandonment of the armistice in place since 1953, so war is, from a legal standpoint, "on."

I am not thrilled at the prospect of U.S. involvement in a potential third land war in Asia.  Nor am I enthused by China's continuing failure to rein in North Korea to the extent that it could - although it seems to have shifted its position ever so slightly today.

I did not realize that North Korean forces have killed over 100 members of the U.S. military since the Korean Conflict came to a stalemate by armistice in 1953:

Since the end of the Korean War in 1953, almost 400 South Korean and 100 U.S. service personnel have been killed in encounters with North Korean infiltrators, according to the U.S. Strategic Digest published last year.

Nungesser Speaks

By now, you're probably familiar with Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser - you know, the hefty, plain-speaking guy who's been working ceaselessly in the wake of the oil spill to draw national attention to the plight of the marshes of South Louisiana.

He's worth following on Facebook:

"The President comes today. He is going to Grand Isle. Even though we weren't invited, Craig Taffaro- St. Bernard Parish President & I will taking a boat ride over there today to make sure we are heard. It's only a 25 minute ride from Myrtle Grove."

"To figure out what Mr Obama is about, it is necessary to watch what he does as well as what he says."

The Economist, noting that a gap has emerged between the two, cites the President's actions on the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay.  And the publication uses the insight to color its take on Obama's new National Security Strategy document.

I think the observation can be applied more generally though.  For example, I think the quote in the title is readily applicable to the Obama response to the Gulf oil spill - or lack thereof.

Obama's assertion yesterday that the federal government has been in control of the spill response since day one certainly rang hollow:

The president's direct language on being in charge of the spill response, which he repeated several times, marked a change in emphasis from earlier administration assertions that, while the government was overseeing the operation, BP had the expertise and equipment to make the decisions on how to stop the flow.

5.27.2010

Jumpology























Back in the day...and down in the Lower 9th Ward.

George Will Devotes a Full Column

...to Wisconsin Senate Candidate Ron Johnson - now running nearly neck and neck with Russ Feingold - who appears to draw a good deal of inspiration from Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged.

The Top Kill Ostensibly Works

For now.

Ant party!

One day last week I came home in the evening and went to the sink to wash my hands. An ant flash mob had appeared in the sink that day. The mote of food they engulfed had to have been chicken, which is weird. I didn't know they go after protein.

Great News for Mid-City

The story came out on Monday, but I thought I'd note it for its significance to the neighborhood - and the city.  The hulking Lindy Boggs Medical Center, abandoned since the storm, is finally about to get back online - as a nursing home facility.

5.26.2010

One certainly hopes so

The Christian Science Monitor wonders whether the don't-ask-don't-tell repeal has enough votes.

It's an idea whose time has very certainly come.

Hot, Bright, and Crowded













Nine streets with funny names...one for every muse.

"Carry them aloft spread edge to edge through the street in between the cortege of dead wildlife. Tarp bearers should wear tarp blue."

The Krewe of Dead Pelicans emerges in the wake of the spill and plans for a march in New Orleans:

"Coffin bearers will be needed. Dark suits or Victorian funereal costume preferred. Two to six persons needed. Please let me know if your group would like to do this. The Dead Pelicans umbrella bearers will form a double ( or more if needed) line as a cortege escort and walk in long rows behind the coffin, our oiled critters held aloft on sticks and umbrellas, unspooling our black crepe paper streamers to represent the still flowing oil spill."

Political "plagiarism" vs being a political hack

One really has to wonder some days how in the world Jack Craver got a job writing for the Isthmus. His latest piece is an attempt to hit candidate for Congress Chad Lee for "plagiarism" on his campaign website. Craver linked to a Journal-Sentinel piece as evidence, but the piece itself is desperately searching for a scandal where none exists.

If Lee's campaign did cut and paste a passage that he had "introduced" legislation, then he needs to fire the moron who did it and hire someone who knows what they are doing. In the end, though, how much of an issue is it? I'd love to see Baldwin beat, but even in this political environment I don't see it happening - especially with stupid mistakes like this. That's what it is. Stupidity, or more accurately, "sloppiness" that's worthy of derisive laughter and a story, but it is not indicative of a widespread "scandal."

And that's the problem with Craver's argument. He uses the notion that GOP candidates are plagiarizing one another to try and paint all of them as intellectually shallow and unoriginal. As evidence he uses the familiar pledge of term limits. Yes, Jack, many Republican challengers favor term limits - especially when taking on entrenched incumbents. I know, it's shocking, but maybe, just maybe, there are people who truly believe in term limits and serving the people. Something equally shocking - and Craver and other liberals like him may want to sit down for this one - is that members of the same political party often have similar views.

But why stop at term limits? If Craver were a real investigative journalist he'd have blown this wide open and exposed the similarities between candidates on taxes, spending, immigration, oil exploration, abortion, gay marriage, the list goes on and on.

Okay, enough with the sarcasm now. In reality, what is most irritating about the type of writing that Craver and so many other liberals engage in is that they seem to have only one mindset: everything a conservative does is a scandal. Or evil.

I'm fairly certain that if anyone really took the time to look at Democrat candidates' websites, they would find strikingly similar wording about immigration, abortion, taxes, stimulus spending, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, cap and trade, and a bunch of other issues. This isn't a scandal, it is a function of having strong and organized parties. It's a normal function of our political system.

I just guess no one told them that over at the Isthmus.

5.25.2010

A Hearty Congratulations

Boots and Sabers celebrates seven years.

Roundup: My only friend, the end edition

+Baku is running out of oil

+Europe is dead (?)

+North Korea cuts ties

+Leaving

+the UN is getting out of Africa

+a botched bombing kills a mediator

+endangered Kazakh antelope appear to have been poisoned in large numbers

BP, The Kraken


That's the vibe I'm getting from this poster I saw pop up on a telephone pole here in Nola.

Neat

I might have to get one.

Perhaps I can use the several hundred dollars I saved today by electing to take the bar by hand.

Wisconsin's Rainy Day Fund - Going Constitutional

I have to hand it to Wisconsin Assemblyman Mark Gottlieb. When there's a problem facing the state government, he's not afraid to step up to the plate with a proposal for a large-scale solution.  Even knowing it will no doubt spark controversy.  And there's usually some thought behind it.

That's the case with his most recent offering, put forward along with a number of other Republican representatives - a constitutional amendment to mandate a rainy day fund for the state of Wisconsin (not that the state didn't have one before...it just never kept anything meaningful in it).  Gottlieb's plan is about adding some extra legal firepower to enforce discipline in light of experience:

Had Gottlieb's proposal been in effect between the last two economic downturns — from 2003 to 2007 — there would have been $723.4 million in the rainy day fund, compared to the $122 million that was actually there. Because the fund was so low, Gottlieb told The Sheboygan Press editorial board, "We had to slash funding for schools and raise taxes to cover budget shortfalls."

The overall thesis is sound: save during the good times to keep from running off the rails in the hard times.  And set that scheme of fiscal responsibility behind several hurdles - beyond the whims of any given legislature or governor, unless a supermajority of the legislature sees fit.  Limit spending indirectly in the process.  Phil Montgomery gives a succinct overview of the mechanics of the amendment. Here's what the numbers would look like in the present context:

If the amendment were in effect for the fiscal year 2009-10, General Fund spending would be limited to $13.65 billion, based on 6.5 percent of the $210 billion in statewide personal income. The current 2009-10 budget has net General Fund appropriations of $12.9 billion, with a $65 million statutory balance. Net appropriations for 2010-11 has net General Fund appropriations of $18.8 billion, with a statutory balance of $65 million.

Ratification of the measure would certainly have the potential side effect of limiting spending, which is good. 

With any proposed constitutional amendment, though, we have to ask at the outset whether a constitutional amendment is truly the right tool to employ to accomplish the desired task.  It's a big hammer to bring out, so to speak - so is the nature of the problem faced such that it requires resort to the state constitution itself?


A Summer of Volatility

If you're watching the market - or you're in it, hold onto your hat.

Nola, dear Nola

You remain atop the charts.


And in this particular metric, that's still not a good thing.

5.24.2010

In the Alleys

SCOTUS Hands Down Six

Here.

I was very interested to see that Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha v. Regal-Beloit, a maritime cargo case, was not among the six.  To me, that indicates the Court is either taking its time trying to wrap its head around the complex issues involved (essentially which limitation of liability law to apply to the inland leg of a multimodal [over sea and land] cargo journey) - or it views the case as more significant than I would have thought.

"A love of autocracy often lurks beneath the liberal veneer."

Althouse ruminates on Thomas Friedman's desire for the U.S. to be China for a day.

Treme #7: Thoughts

I've been off my game a bit when it comes to sharing my observations about the show - finals prep, finals, graduation, and eight family visitors have kept me busy.  Bar review starts tomorrow, and I was sick in bed for most of yesterday.

But nevertheless, here's my take on the seventh episode:

What I Liked:
 - The show really seemed to hit its stride in making an emotional connection with the viewer this time around, especially when the body is finally discovered in the makeshift morgue, as well as Ladonna's trauma and subsequent attempt to keep the news from her family over Carnivale.  The funeral scenes, too, with Antoine, were moving.
- The New Orleans references have been sublimated so they don't get in the way of the show.  John Besch, for example, meeting with the chef in his restaurant, August.
- Creighton, John Goodman, was hilarious in his agonized huffing and stupefied gazing as he fought writer's block.
- Jacque the sous chef - you scoundrel.  There was more there than met the eye.
- Toni, the civil rights lawyer, continues to do an amazing job of playing the real life Mary Howell.  As someone who knows Mary, the actress does a great job of capturing her spirit.
- The little old guy with the cornet at the airport - I saw him at The Spotted Cat with my brother last week.  He's great.

What I Didn't Like:
-  Davis dropping out because of a "get out of jail free" pass from a judge seems silly - he's raking in the dough.  Why would he go so easily?
- Why didn't Davis give the money earned by his cd sales to restart Desautels, the restaurant?
- Can the street musicians storyline get any more drawn out?  Clearly, Sonny is going to whack Annie or something along those lines.  I'm tired of the tension, though.  It's become boring.  Many are speculating they're going to represent the guy in the Quarter who killed and ate his girlfriend above the voodoo shop on S. Rampart.  I'm more interested in knowing what the guy Sonny brought back from Texas has to do with anything.
- Albert Lambreaux...while it's good to tie in the projects theme...where are you going with all this?


Really?:
- It was great to see some grilling and music out back at Bacchanal down in the Bywater...but I can guarantee you that it's never been that well-lighted at Bacchanal on a Sunday night.  For veracity, it should have been pitch black punctuated by a few torches with patrons stumbling around, tripping over sticks, and trying to find a seat without water pooled on it.  That - and the absolutely delicious food - is what makes Bacchanal great.

Another Perspective on Rand Paul and the Civil Rights Act

From Rick Esenberg.

"Rand Paul was wrong even on libertarian terms."

ADDED: And here's another interesting take.

5.22.2010

Brett Davis comes out ahead in Wisconsin GOP lieutenant governor polling...

...at the Wisconsin GOP Convention.  That's good to see.

While he didn't hit the magic 60% number necessary for an endorsement, Davis' consistent strength in a crowded field of four candidates, knocking two of them out in early rounds of voting, should help clear the field a bit moving forward.


Kevin Binversie kept tabs on the developments as they happened.

Steve E reports these unofficial results that have Davis on the brink of 50%:

Unofficial 3rd/final lt. gov. endorsement results (no endorsement) - Davis 48.98%, Ross 33.84%, no endorsement 17.18%.

Wispolitics is also blogging live from the convention.

Eleven Windows to a Side























Weather.com reports for Nola:

91° F
Feels Like: 99° F

Multimedia message

Bike 2nd line!

5.21.2010

A Dead Pelican

Washes ashore.

How sad.

At the outset of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, I was willing to give BP some leeway; as a nation, we're dependent on oil, and until that changes, the risk of environmental damage - no matter how strenuous the regulations - is going to be in the mix when drilling on the technological frontier of what's possible.  As someone familiar with maritime law and the oil and gas work that is so intertwined with it here in Louisiana, I understand that offshore hydrocarbon ventures are not simple matters - and that things inevitably go wrong on occasion.  I looked hopefully toward a number of the creative solutions proposed to stop the leak, though.

But the attempted solutions, a month later, have not stanched the flow, and oil is now washing up on beaches all along the Louisiana coast after bringing the region's commercial fishing industry to its knees (likely destroying some oyster beds for years - and killing off wetlands that will further endanger the Louisiana coast).  And, what's more, it appears that in addition to failures by the MMS in inspection and enforcement, far more oil has been flowing out of the well than BP revealed.

I think the suggestion by some that "this will be the end of offshore drilling" is preposterous, but BP wore out my patience some time ago.

This is getting ridiculous.

Some Silver Lining for Jindal?

One observer finds his oil spill response has the potential to revive his fortunes.

Friday music video



"No one does it like you" by the Department of Eagles, a parallel project by the lead singer of Grizzly Bear, to which I can't stop listening. I think this video makes me want some drugs and a game of Risk. Either way, both sides' tactics have terrible form, no wonder they're all shot.

5.20.2010

Talking Turkey on Brazil's nuclear negotiations

So what to make of the deal cut a few days ago? And where do we go from here?

Firstly, is this a blow to Obama? I'd say "yes" -- especially based on the fact that the Turkish-Brazilian deal is nearly identical to one offered by the US eight months ago. Iran pointedly spurned that advance, and equally pointedly accepted this one -- it's a direct snub: "we'll work with others, but not with you." There's that much squandered political capital now. But Turkey has taken an interesting position, claiming that Obama set the stage for the deal:
Turkey’s foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, however, credited Mr Obama’s policy of engaging with Tehran for Ankara’s success in pursuing a diplomatic solution. “[Obama] paved the way for this process,” Mr Davutoglu said during a news conference in Istanbul. Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, had been “encouraged” to pursue dialogue with Tehran by Mr Obama during a recent, high-level nuclear conference in New York...

Publicly, Ms Clinton, had taken an opposite approach. She phoned Mr Davutoglu last Friday, apparently seeking their intervention and later predicted that they would fail in their efforts to work out a deal.
But Obama's relationship with his Secretary of State has always been fraught, and I wonder what the real channels of communication were here.

Meanwhile, it seems not insignificant that Turkey has been in the limelight on the issue, with Brazil largely taking a back seat. Does that spell better relations with Europe? Turkey certainly appears to be angling to be seen as a Euro-style negotiator, and is positioning itself strongly within the context of European (not American) diplomatic history:
Throughout modern history, there has been a direct relationship between conflict and the emergence of new ways of arbitrating world affairs. Every major war since the 17th century was concluded by a treaty that led to the emergence of a new order, from the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 that followed the Thirty Years' War, to the Congress of Vienna of 1814-1815 that brought an end to the Napoleonic Wars, to the ill-fated Treaty of Versailles that concluded the first World War, to the agreement at Yalta that laid the groundwork for the establishment of the United Nations in 1945. Yet the Cold War, which could be regarded as a global-scale war, ended not with grand summitry, but with the fall of the Iron Curtain and the collapse of the Soviet Union. There was no official conclusion; one of the combatant sides just suddenly ceased to exist.

Two decades hence, no new international legal and political system has been formally created to meet the challenges of the new world order that emerged. Instead, a number of temporary, tactical, and conflict-specific agreements have been implemented. From the Nagorno-Karabakh region to Cyprus, and even the deadlocked Israeli-Palestinian dispute, a series of cease-fire arrangements have succeeded in ending bloodshed but have failed to establish comprehensive peace agreements. Overall, the current situation has quantitatively increased the diversification of international actors and qualitatively complicated the foreign-policy making process.
It is saddening that the US hasn't continued to act as the liberal arbiter of the new world order -- we've largely ceded leadership in the UN, and the EU has really picked up the brunt of multilateral negotiations and diplomacy. As we increasingly depend on military linkages with other nations, our diplomacy should be bulked up rather than pared down.

Finally, whither sanctions? It would be fair to argue that given this newfound Iranian amenability, threats of sanctions can now be dropped. Of course, that assumes Tehran is being honest in its dealings -- a suspect supposition regardless. But the US is apparently arguing that this deal really isn't all that important:
Susan Rice, US ambassador to the UN, said Wednesday that the sanctions resolution “has nothing to do with” the proposed fuel-swap deal, which she compared to a “confidence-building measure” that the US and other powers proposed to Iran last fall.

In a statement on a telephone conversation Wednesday between President Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the White House said the president “acknowledged the efforts of Turkey and Brazil.” But Mr. Obama also informed the prime minister that negotiations on the new resolution “will continue” because of “concerns about Iran’s overall nuclear program” and its continuing failure to meet its “international obligations.”

The new tack amounts to an argument in favor of additional sanctions, some nuclear experts say, because it is saying that it’s the heat from all sides that is forcing Iran to respond to the international community.

In the Hall of the Mountain King

Don't Shoot the Messenger

But...David L over at U&S explains in depth why he supports the revised Arizona immigration law.

"bombs, nuclear bombs, torpedoes"

"At least 15 times a day we get something about exploding the well..."

I did not get this crazy idea in to BP for consideration along with the 10,000 ideas submitted by the public...but, since nothing else seems to be working...what about inducing magma into the oil cavern whether by drilling or munitions?

I'm curious as to the thickness of the oceanic crust under the Gulf and the nature of the uppermost mantle beneath the site.  The oil chamber itself has already been reached by pipe several miles beneath the ocean floor - and I thought the mantle starts not much farther than that (oceanic crust, to my knowledge, is thinner than continental crust).  Perhaps we don't even have the technology to cause such an event.  Perhaps such a move would instead increase the pressure forcing the oil out.  I'll defer to any input by our resident engineer, Mike F.

It sounds ridiculous.  But so does drilling 5000 feet below the surface of the Gulf.  And drilling down 18000 feet beyond that.  And using a dynamically positioned drilling platform that's gyroscopically held in place with thrusters.  And placing a giant coffer dam on the leak.  Or placing a mile-long tube on the blowout preventer.  It's a Jules Verne-meets-Ray Bradbury thought for a problem of similarly fantastic proportions.

Gov 2.0

It's good to see technology put to good use in government, and I think this program is a great move toward that end.

(I mean really, mohair subsidies?)

Rand Paul, Althouse, the Civil Rights Act and Private Property

A quick preface: I like Rand Paul a lot more than I do his father. I don't think he's as out there as Ron Paul and I'm a heck of a lot more supportive of a staunch Libertarian as a member of the Senate than sitting in the Oval Office. Just my opinion, take it for what it's worth (probably not much).

I find this debate over what Rand Paul told NPR about the Civil Rights Act, and what it means about his position on race, absolutely fascinating. I think Paul's statements are entirely defensible, but are extremely difficult to explain. Not surprisingly, I think Althouse's analysis is pretty good:
He likens private property rights to free speech rights. If you care about free speech rights, you defend even the people who say horrible things — Nazis, the KKK, etc. That's standard constitutional law doctrine. In Rand's view — and in the view of many libertarians — property rights work the same way. So you could have this horrible racist restauranteur who excluded black people, and the government would have to leave him alone, just as the government couldn't do anything about it if a white person had a dinner party at his house and only invited his white friends.
One can certainly disagree with Paul and many people do, but what fascinates me about this debate is the connection that Althouse makes. Most of us will vigorously defend the right of individuals and groups to say idiotic, hateful and twisted things. We may use our own speech to denounce those people, but we will not try to silence them through government action. However, how many of us would go that far in terms of private property rights?

Those rights are also protected by the Constitution and just because it isn't the "First" amendment does not make it any less important to defend - though at times you get the impression from the legal treatment of the 10th Amendment, but I digress. We here at LiB have been fairly consistent in defending the rights of property owners when it comes to smoking bans and other government regulations. Brad's work on development at Inside the Footprint is excellent and makes private property rights the centerpiece of his mission. I have even defended Augusta National for their membership policies, which are facially neutral.

But would any of us stand up and defend the right of a business owner to refuse to serve Blacks or Hispanics? Gays or Lesbians? Jews or Muslims? To be honest, I don't know the answer.

I've grown up in an era where the Civil Rights Act is settled law and Affirmative Action is an accepted fact. When others make a big deal about the "first-minority-this" or "first-minority-that" I am often left wondering two things: 1) Really, it took this long? and 2) That's nice, but is it that big of a deal?

This is not to say that I do not feel some pride when we pass some of these barriers, but I have a difficult time seeing things in that way. I don't see President Obama as a Black man, I see him as a President. Same goes for Colin Powell or Clarence Thomas, I see them as a great general and a Supreme Court Justice. I know it sounds like I'm bragging or compensating or whatever, but it really is the truth.

So back to the issue raised by Rand Paul and Althouse. I can't imagine any business owner barring a specific group of people from their business, but I can't really imagine saying the things that Neo-Nazis and KKK members say and think either. If it is a private business, does the owner have that right?

It is a painfully difficult issue when you think about it. Speech is easy to defend in this context. The property rights issue involves someone taking action to exclude and discriminate against a specific group which makes it more tangible and more painful. It's harder to ignore. It also reminds us of one of the worst eras of our nation's history and the one sin for which our nation paid with a bloody Civil War and a bloody Civil Rights Movement that secured equal rights for all Americans. After all that how could anyone defend someone who would still discriminate like that?

Unfortunately, as Rand Paul points out, Freedom is a tricky thing. It's tough and it will test your patience and commitment every single day. If Liberty and Freedom are worth fighting and dying for - as I believe they are - then do we have to protect the right of others to abuse them? That's a tough question and I'm not sure I have the right answer. Is Rand Paul a case of courageous adherence to principle, or is he a "closet" racist?

5.19.2010

Denizen

Louisiana Law Clinics Bill Thwarted

The measure has been shelved.

A blow to Milk and Personal Freedom

I've commented before that I think raw milk is perfectly fine and really no danger to consumers. I still think that it has far more to do with personal freedom and choice than it does public health and safety. I was happy when the legislature passed a bill allowing its sale and even more happy when I read stories like these that Gov. Doyle was going to sign the legislation.

Silly me. I took Gov. Doyle at his word.

Today, the Governor vetoed SB 434, the Raw Milk bill. In his veto message he cites public health concerns and caves to the dairy industry and public health "advocates." Funny thing is that Gov. Doyle had previously stated that "Unless there is something that's going to surprise me when I really get into the bill, I would assume I will sign it." He also made statements that the he believed the public health protections in the bill seemed to balance the concerns of both sides of the issue. It would be nice to know what "surprised him."

My biggest complaint remains that this is pointless regulation. There are literally thousands of people throughout the state who were raised on raw milk with no ill-effects. While the overwhelming majority of people in the state will continue to consume regular, pasteurized milk, there is no compelling reason to deny the few consumers who prefer raw milk to use it. I strongly suspect that those people already producing and consuming it will continue to do so, regardless of the Governor's veto. That being the case, the Governor (using his own logic) has placed raw milk consumers in greater danger because the production sites will not be subject to regular inspections such as the kind that would have occurred under the bill.

But I guess that really doesn't matter. We need the state to save us from ourselves.

A few Quick Hits

~ In Kentucky, Rand Paul proves he's more than just the "Tea Party candidate" with a huge win.

~ George Will smacks the Ninth Circuit several times - and asks the Supreme Court to do the same - for missing the point about judicial precedents.

~ The House passes the single most important bill of the year: a resolution supporting "the goals and ideals of American Craft Beer Week."

~ The least surprising headline of the day: Next year's budget is sinking in deep red ink

~ Runner-up for least surprising headline of the day: Al Gore gives a depressing commencement speech.

More Thoughts on the Comstock Case

The recent SCOTUS Eighth Amendment opinion in Graham has largely overshadowed what I view as a more important case - the Comstock opinion that I noted the other day, a case about the federal government's power under the Necessary and Proper Clause.

It's not as dramatic as a matter weighing life sentences for minors.  It's also not nearly as straightforward.  But in the end, the court's decision in Comstock has the potential to permit the exercise of a greater sum of total federal power over individuals than before.

As the dissent points out, the majority opinion rewrites the Necessary and Proper analysis in favor of the federal government and further undermines any pretenses of a limited federal government of enumerated powers.  Because the Necessary and Proper clause, Article I, Section 8, is not an individual grant of power, it cannot be used in isolation - it requires another enumerated power working in conjunction to be activated.

The majority opinion must perform some gymnastics to find that other enumerated basis that would make it necessary and proper for the federal government to continue to detain "sexually dangerous" persons beyond the completion of their sentences.  Unfortunately, the majority permits the federal government to take actions that are too attenuated from a power grant, that do not tie back clearly enough to some second enumerated power.

Chicago

As far as the big cities go, my allegiance lies with Chicago.

I don't think I've posted this one.

C ? F ? Certainly not an A...

I know we've been chatting about it, so how would you grade Facebook's privacy policies?

5.18.2010

Pink Tents No More


















The Lower 9th Ward, construction by Brad Pitt's Make it Right Foundation ongoing, begins to take on its own distinctive new sense of place.  The house on the right...has a hull.

Did Walker flip-flop, or was it a clarification?

Apparently - at least according to liberals and the AP - we have our first major flip-flop in the race for governor. This one is courtesy of Scott Walker and his stance on the Arizona illegal immigration law. A quick review shows that in an AP story, Walker "says in a statement that he has serious concerns about the Arizona law empowering police to question and arrest anyone they suspect is in the U.S. illegally." Not exactly a controversial position and one that I've expressed on this blog and to many friends.

Yesterday we got a follow-up story from the AP detailing the flip (this is the entire story as posted):
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Republican candidate for governor Scott Walker reversed himself on Arizona's controversial immigration law over the weekend, first condemning it then saying he would be comfortable signing it into law.
The flip came after Walker was barraged with negative comments on his Facebook page following an Associated Press story reporting on his concerns about the law that critics say could lead to racial profiling.
Walker issued a statement Saturday afternoon saying he spoke with the state senator who introduced the Arizona law and he was now comfortable that the rights of citizens would be protected.
Walker's comments on immigration drew hundreds of Facebook comments, with several people saying they were disappointed and no longer supported him.
Now, talk show host Jerry Bader has a fuller statement from the Walker campaign. It reads in part:
After speaking this morning with the author of the new law in Arizona, State Senator Russell Pearce, I'm satisfied that the amended bill provides adequate protections against racial profiling and discrimination. A police officer may only inquire about the immigration status of persons they have stopped, detained or arrested for other reasons....
In addition, earlier decisions by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals satisfy my concern about any conflicts with the 10th Amendment. If I were Governor of Arizona, I too would sign the Arizona immigration bill."
Is this really a flip-flop? The two statements are not necessarily at odds. It is quite likely that Walker had some serious concerns about the Arizona law, but that after further reflection and consultation with the law's author, came to the conclusion that those concerns had been satisfied. This is not an unreasonable thought process and one that I think Walker can explain easily enough. If inquiries about a person's immigration status can only be made in the course of normal police interactions, then I see nothing terribly wrong with the bill or Walker's statements.

Unfortunately for team Walker, that is not how this looks. It looks like he made a perfectly reasonable statement, got a whole bunch of supporters mad at him and then promptly back-flipped like a Russian gymnast. Whether that is how Walker's decision-making process actually worked is irrelevant. Perception is everything in politics. Had I been advising Walker and his campaign I would have issued a statement yesterday highlighting the legitimate concerns over the Arizona law and the potential 10th Amendment issues, and stating that the County Executive would be talking to Gov. Brewer and Sen. Pearce - as well as local civil rights activists and law enforcement officials - about the law and its intent.

After talking more about the concerns he had - or possibly has - with the law, Walker could then talk about his thought process and why Sen. Pearce's reassurances were enough to calm his fears. Given the noise coming from the right, Walker could have easily garnered his own op-ed in the Journal Sentinel or the State Journal where he could have thoughtfully laid out his position. This could have been a huge PR victory for the Walker campaign. Unfortunately, it now just looks like he caved. I hope that the campaign learns from this mistake because once the election hits full swing, DPW and the Barrett campaign will make him pay for things like this.

Which President said this?

Seem like pretty good words to live by...
In a free republic a great government is the product of a great people. They will look to themselves rather than government for success. The destiny, the greatness of America lies around the hearthstone. If thrift and industry are taught there, and the example of self-sacrifice oft appears, if honor abide there, and high ideals, if there the building of fortune be subordinate to the building of character, America will live in security, rejoicing in an abundant prosperity and good government at home and in peace, respect, and confidence abroad. If these virtues be absent there is no power that can supply these blessings. Look well then to the hearthstone, therein all hope for America lies.

5.17.2010

Federalism Fail

SCOTUS hands down an opinion that..."adopts the highly deferential 'rational basis' test for assessing assertions of power under the Necessary and Proper Clause."

When almost any federal action can be deemed necessary and proper, government is not limited.

Such a move should give us pause.

I'm free!

I permanently checked out of Facebook after scorched-earthing my profile, deleting all information, photos, and friends. I wanted to eliminate as much information as possible in case they don't wipe deleted profiles off their servers.

In short, the Facebook of today is not the site I reluctantly joined five years ago. I certainly would not join the site now and had only become part of it by being dragged along as it morphed.

It's not much of a surprise that Facebook is designed to be as much of a one-way street as possible. What goes into facebook, stays in facebook. It's pretty obvious once one realizes there's no way to back up any of the data in it such as a list of friends or their contact information.

You have to delete things page by page--there isn't even a list with checkboxes. Altogether it took about an hour. From there, the website leads you to deactivate your account, which only just puts it in hibernation, or you can click this link to find how to terminate your account.

It's not just the site that makes it hard to leave. Maybe it's a human thing, or perhaps just me, but there was a hesitation that perhaps in the future it'd be useful to be able to quickly contact people I knew or went to school or worked with at some point. However, as I was culling the fold, one by one, it became obvious that my list had expanded to being full of people I'll most likely never interact with again.

It was a fun bit of nostalgia to see all the bits of crap from other times on other people's profiles. I remembered the weirdness when when 'gifts', icons people paid for(!?), were introduced. Or even when status updates were originally just 3 or 4 selectable options like "is sleeping" instead of the twitter scroll at present. Or heck, the beginning of the end when 'applications' started appearing.

It's an extrovert's world.

5.16.2010

Multimedia message

St charles ave

Today I learned...

  • 95% of the United States' ginseng production comes from Wisconsin.
  • During the Blitz, Oxford wasn't bombed so that Hitler could make it his British capital. For that matter, the Blitz killed 43,000 British civilians all before the US got involved in the war.
  • The economy of all of Africa is about the same size as each of France, the UK, Italy, or 1.4 Californias.
  • The Dogger Bank has neither dogs nor money. Nor land for that matter.
  • What rush hour in the Utrecht looks like.

5.15.2010

Law School Done

Run!

Graduating in New Orleans...might involve getting a bit wet.

Multimedia message

Diplomas soon!

Multimedia message

Live @ the super dome for tulane graduation

5.14.2010

Does the Constitution matter anymore?

Between the schizophrenic policy of when and where to read Miranda rights, the possibility of stripping citizenship of terror suspects, and the general let's-make-it-up-as-we-go approach to fighting terrorism and Islamic radicalism, this story in the NY Times makes me shudder.

Now, I have absolutely no sympathy for al-Awlaki. He is a despicable traitor to his country and deserves to be punished severely, but he is an American citizen. He deserves the protections of due process and trial by jury. This is why Treason is defined in the Constitution. Those are the rules by which our society is governed.

I'm a supporter of drone strikes against Taliban and al-Qaeda leaders in Pakistan and Afghanistan. I think they are a legitimate and effective use of military power. But you can't just issue a death warrant for a United States citizen without any legal proceeding.

I want al-Awlaki dead. I want to stop him from recruiting more terrorists and radicals to attack the United States and our allies, but I don't see how green-lighting the assassination of an American citizen is a good thing for anyone.

"Couageous Restraint?"

This is a horrible idea.

One step forward, two back?

This week the University selected a new president! Hurray!

They gave the position a 50% raise to $620k per year, and a $225k bonus if he's here 5 years! Ehh...

They're raising tuition 9.5% starting with the incoming class. Um...

On top of that, the university just had a paid retirement purge.

On the heels of last year's clout scandal, the last thing the university needs now is additional controversy. It certainly doesn't look good that the new president is getting a raise with the state out of money, causing them to have to raise tuition and shrink the faculty, not to mention the pain in the state and economy in general.

5.13.2010

See Life




My brother has arrived in town.

5.12.2010

Finely adjusting the planet

Yesterday there was an article about how a researcher thinks farmers may be slightly changing the weather in Chicago at the end of the summer. With technology, farmers have been able to increase the density of crops in fields in the Midwest and more plants put additional water vapor into the air. Over the decades, late summer weather in Chicago has been less hot but more humid.

Also recently there was an article about Bill Gates funding research into equipment that would spray ocean water up into the sky to make whiter clouds, reflecting more sun light.

I'm a fan of making dark surfaces lighter in color, which would reflect energy away. Making a roof white instead of black, for example, is the easiest and most passive thing to do. It'll also decrease summer cooling costs, which is great because that's when the demand for energy is the highest. Steven Chu, the US Energy Secretary, is also pushing for this.

Roundabout or Fair Play?

So, the White House made it's own interview of Elena Kagan.  And Kagan isn't doing interviews with the press.  Much, apparently, to the consternation of reporters.

I think the White House effort - throw up a few softballs, introduce the nominee as personable, and get it up on the web where the electorate can view her directly - is a smart move.  It avoids both the pesky questions of the press (especially for a nominee we know so little about from the text of opinions) and the traditional silence or at least reticence by the nominee between nomination and confirmation hearings (usually a lost opportunity, a time when lines of opposition grow and extend).  It's a new tack, and I think it will be effective - it will be the fodder for chatter over the next week and help set the public image of the nominee.

That said, I think turnabout is fair play.  Sometimes the Executive doing things well..."getting around the press"...should be of concern to us, even if it does so by "going directly to us" (Obama's Organizing for America comes to mind).  If the White House wants to take what CBS says is an unprecedented step in having a nominee go public in an "interview" - essentially presenting a helpful "direct examination" of the nominee, then I think the mainstream press should get a chance to "cross examine" and bring some skepticism to bear on behalf of the people.  I understand the Senate will serve a similar function inside the confirmation hearing.  I understand the press should be cross examining already on its pages, sites, and broadcasts.  And I know the blogosphere, etc. will critique the White House video.

But I guess I'm not surprised that the White House press corps is up in arms.  And even if it doesn't wrest any concession from the White House, I hope the development inspires some serious reporting.

5.11.2010

Georgianian

Tbilisi has big plans:
The current mayor – Gigi Ugulava, one of the regime’s star figures who is campaigning to have his tenure renewed during the mayoral elections which are to be held in May 2010 – has emerged with a surprising programme entitled “Old Tbilisi’s New Life”, which aims not at preserving old architectural monuments but instead at launching a real estate building boom in the old city’s heart. As part of this programme, city hall is purchasing houses in the Old Town by buying them back from their owners (who thus look for housing elsewhere) in order to resell them. These houses can then be freely knocked down, and new ones can be built in their stead.
It seems Georgia is bent on pursuing the Azerbaijani strategy of erecting as many atrociously ugly buildings as possible while completely ignoring the real charm and uniqueness of its historical architecture. The two countries' styles are different, but serve the same function of blending and creativity in bringing together styles from wildly different areas. It would be a real loss to lose Tbilisi's Old Town.

Below the fold, some photos from the day I spent walking around the capital city.


"Apparently her main accomplishment as dean at Harvard was raising a lot of money, which, given that it's the Harvard Law School, sounds roughly as impressive as managing to sell a lot of pot at a Grateful Dead concert."

Okay, that's a bit harsh but I also found it very amusing and is but one of the critiques of Elena Kagan in this article by University of Colorado law professor Paul Campos. He rather provocatively suggests that Kagan may be the next Harriet Miers, but he puts forward a reasonable argument as to why that could be the case.

Now, I'm going to take the highly courageous stand of waiting to see how Kagan handles the committee hearings and other public appearances before I take a firm position on her qualifications, but I am beginning to think this is less of a slam dunk than everyone thinks it is. For me, it has nothing to do with her lack of experience as a judge. Chief Justice Rehnquist was, after all, never a judge and that worked out fine. No, it has to do with the almost gushing adoration over her legal mind and her brilliant academic work and then the strangely small amount of actual academic publication.

I don't claim to know how much scholarly work is appropriate, and I understand that being Dean of Harvard Law is a full-time job. Still, I'm amazed that in this list of academic work there is nothing on the Patriot Act or detainee rights or presidential war powers. One would think that given the last nine years of the War on Terror would prompt the Dean of the most prestigious law school in the world to write something, anything, about executive power.

Maybe I'm expecting too much - and for those readers with greater expertise in this area, please let me know - but there just seems to be a lot less there than I thought would, and should, be. It could be that the hype is just too much to live up to, but I don't think that is the case. Elena Kagan is the former Dean of Harvard Law. She is the Solicitor General of the United States, one would expect her to be one of the top minds of her generation. How does her scholarly work compare with that of the last Solicitor General, Ted Olson or that of previous SCOTUS nominees?

Couple this with Althouse's skeptical view of Kagan's performance before the Court and I'm beginning to wonder if this was just a super-safe pick by President Obama. An effort to avoid any real controversy. There are certainly a lot of questions yet to be answered.

Tulane and Broad

5.10.2010

Kagan Nomination: Open Thread

Thoughts?

I'm still educating myself on the President's nominee, even though she has been the presumptive nominee for some time now.  At this point, I'm somewhat concerned about her views of executive power.

I'm not as concerned in the main about Kagan's lack of experience as a judge as some conservative commentators...except that it bars us from having any fleshed out sort of record to use in assessing her as a nominee.

As far as the confirmation process goes, I hope it's exhaustive and rigorous.  While I acknowledge that a President certainly sets the field with his like-minded nominee, as I noted during the 2008 campaign, Barack Obama should expect vehement opposition and scrutiny - less deference overall.  I would have been more likely to have encouraged Republicans to keep the gloves on in this instance if Obama had voted for the clearly qualified John Roberts.  But unlike John McCain's example in voting for Breyer and Ginsburg, Obama didn't act in good faith in opposing Roberts.

Indeed, Obama's vote against Roberts (wreathed in all sorts of hand-wringing that was supposed to make us think he was thoughtful), is one of his revealing political moves that prevents me from accepting his judicial nominees at face value - or even at a "normal" level of scrutiny.  The hurdle should be a high one this time around.

Handicapping the 7th Congressional Race

Okay, so all the cool kids are doing it, and I'd like to offer my own two cents on who may or may not get into the race to replace retiring Congressman Dave Obey. First, there will be no new entries into the Republican primary. Sean Duffy has a huge advantage now and most GOP state legislators are looking forward to being back in the majority.

As for DPW chairman Mike Tate's pipe-dream of an uncontested primary, well, it's a pipe-dream. This is an amazing opportunity for Democratic legislators and aspiring politicians for which many have waited a lifetime. No one, particularly Mike Tate, is going to stop someone who has been waiting for this day for years.

So, of the nearly 20 state legislative districts in the 7th CD, which politicians are most likely to run? Well, I've got it narrowed down to 3 state senators and only 1 state representative. Unfortunately for DPW, most of the representatives in the 7th are either too inexperienced to be a serious threat or too old to run against a young, energetic DA with a huge, attractive family. Yes, I realize that seems shallow and insensitive, but sadly, in politics, those visuals matter.

So, we're left with the typical list that includes Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker, Senator Pat Kreitlow, Senator Julie Lassa, and Representative Amy Sue Vruwink. (I know, not very original, so sue me.) Will any of them run? Yes. And here's why:
  • Russ Decker is widely believed to have been the heir-apparent to Dave Obey. They are cut from the same ideological cloth and I believe that even though Obey claims to be "dog tired" he would campaign hard for Decker. Of course, his time as Senate Majority Leader will put him in a position to defend some unpopular provisions within the state budget. Still, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
  • Pat Kreitlow faces a very tough reelection fight this year, but he does have a lot of name ID from his time as a TV news anchor. He has a much shorter and less controversial record than Decker and if he wants to be a congressman someday, it is better to run for an open seat than challenge incumbent Sean Duffy.
  • Julie Lassa has been in the legislature for nearly 12 years and in the senate for 7 of those years. She is a relatively low-key, but popular Senator. In both 2004 and 2008, Lassa received 67% of the vote, but for President the district was more evenly split. Bush garnered 48% of the vote in 2004. Plus, Lassa has the added bonus of not being up for reelection until 2012. It's a free shot for her.
  • Amy Sue Vruwink may be the dark horse candidate here. She represents a largely rural district, but does have the city of Marshfield - home of the Marshfield Clinic. Since her first election in 2002, she has received anywhere from 63% to nearly 70% of the vote. Though it would mean a loss of her assembly seat, the potential reward is massive and it is not inconceivable that the district will remain Democratic in 2010. If no one else steps up, look for her to take the banner and run with it.
So, where does this leave the state of the race? I'd be willing to bet that Lassa and Decker are the most likely to run. I can't believe that Decker would pass up the chance to run and remember, it's easier to run for an open seat rather than against an incumbent. For Lassa, it's a free shot at becoming a member of congress. If Kreitlow sees his senate race going south, it's entirely possible to go out on his own terms. Better to lose moving up to a congressional race than get beaten for reelection. We also have to acknowledge that personal ambition and ego are going to play a huge role in the decision-making process. In that realm, nothing anyone else says is going to matter and only they know if they see themselves as a congressman in waiting.

Why not take a shot at the big time? I don't see anyone stepping aside simply to avoid a primary battle. Mike Tate may hate the idea, but if any of the possible candidates feel that the state legislature is lost, there is no incentive to not run for congress. Obey has a huge warchest that will almost certainly go to the nominee so fundraising isn't necessarily an issue. And memo to conservatives: this is no sure thing. Duffy is now the front-runner, but only because there is no other candidate. After all, the district did send Obey to Washington for 41 years. It's still a Democratic district until we prove otherwise.

The next week or so will tell us where this is going. In addition to the 4 people I've mentioned, there will also be a local official, or private citizen announce. Bottom-line is, there will be a fun primary and general election in the 7th this year.

A Treme Life

I didn't catch the latest episode of Treme last night on HBO for two reasons.  First, our fine host family was out of town.  Second, we didn't need to - we got a full dose of the real Treme in the flesh.

Driving home from a delicious lunch down at the relatively new Cake Cafe and Bakery - which I would prefer to shorten to "The Cakery" - traffic came to a standstill on Esplanade just before the I-10.  And...a sea of humanity surged around the corner in full second lining form.  Dave J weaseled the car to a parking spot and we got out: