Tuesday, November 30, 2004
On this day:

Gift Ideas

Can't seem to find the perfect gift for the leftist revolutionary in your family? Then head on down to the Burlington Coat Factory, where they'll make you a great deal on Che Guevara and Emiliano Zapata t-shirts. Unfortunately, there's no word yet on when the Mao shirts, Lenin pants, and Ho Chi Minh blazers will be available.

Update: The Guevara and Zapata t-shirts are available at the Burlington Coat Factory here in Huntsville.

Alabama Gets its Share of Federal Pork

This B'ham News editorial points out that Alabama stands to receive more than $205 million for special projects from the federal government due to Congress's recent passage of a $388 billion spending bill. Some of the projects funded in the state include $2 million for streetscape development in western Madison County, $1 million for catfish genomics research at Auburn University, $1 million for the American Village in Shelby County, $2 million for the conservative Alabama Policy Institute for the "National Fatherhood Initiative," $300,000 for street improvements in Midfield, $200,000 for a pedestrian walkway in Vestavia Hills, and $4 million for an "intelligent transportation system" on Hwy. 280 in Jefferson County.

This type of spending by the federal government is nothing new, but it raises a lot of questions. Chiefly, where does Congress find the constitutional authority to fund these types of pet projects? Secondly, wouldn't it make more sense for states and local governments to projects that benefit local communities and have very little relevance for the rest of the nation?

Republicans now control both Congress and the Presidency. They should take the opportunity to end the diversion of federal tax dollars to local projects. The Constitution doesn't authorize it, and the federal budget can't support it.

Kudzu Honey?

Figures from 2003 show 13,000 colonies in Alabama producing 1.1 million pounds of honey. Some "single-source" honeys (i.e. those produced when bees are placed in an area where there is a predominant or single source of nectar) are cotton, alfalfa, clover, and kudzu. Who knew?

Teacher Testing to Return to Alabama

It looks as though subject-matter testing for Alabama teachers will resume for the first time in 20 years. Testing was ended in 1985 as the result of a lawsuit contending that the tests were racially biased. The suit had been brought by a group of black Alabama State University students who complained that they passed the tests at lower rates than graduates of other state universities. In legal lingo, it was claimed that the tests had "disparate impact" on black teachers.

In settling that case, the State Department of Education agreed to develop new tests and to pay the plaintiffs $500,000. The settlement also required that any new test adopted by the state must ensure that the failure rate for blacks does not exceed that of whites by more than 5 percentage points. It's not clear to me yet whether this guarantee will be part of the final agreement to resume testing.


The defeat of the insurgency in Fallujah will will be studied by future generations of military historians as one of the most decisive battles of the Iraq war. The Army and Marines dispelled any doubt that they are capable of conducting urban warfare against a nonconventional force willing to fight to the death.

The victory in Fallujah will be of tremendous consequence. Even before the operation to clean out the terrorist cesspool there began, there were signs of strain within the insurgency - between the foreign fighters, the Saddam loyalists, and the local populace. The U.S. and Iraqi government victory there is undoubtedly causing leaders of the insurgency to rethink their strategies. And, if it is followed up by similar operations elsewhere, a growing number of everyday Iraqis will be emboldened to stand up for the emergence of a free and (relatively) democratic Iraq.

While we celebrate the victory in Fallujah, we need to remind ourselves that war is often accompanied by unspeakable horrors that live on in the memories of its survivors for the rest of their lives. This (long) report from the frontlines does a tremendous job of describing the undescribable. Read it. (Link from Andrew Sullivan.)

Monday, November 29, 2004
On this day:

Amendment 2 Recount Begins

An automatic recount of votes in the Nov. 2 referendum on Amendment 2 has begun. The proposed constitutional amendment failed by .13%. Alabama law provides for an automatic recount in any election in which the margin is less than 1%.

If the recount doesn't show that the amendment passed by a majority of votes, legislators have promised to submit it again, minus a provision that would have removed language stating that there is no right to a public education in Alabama.

Alabama Joins with Louisiana and Mississippi to Defend Federalism in Medical Marijuana Case

Alabama has joined with Louisiana and Mississippi to file a friend of the court briefing for the respondents in Ashcroft v. Raich, the medical marijuana case that will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court beginning today. The full brief can be viewed (in .pdf format) here. Here are some excerpts:

The Court should make no mistake: The States of Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi do not appear here to champion (or even to defend) the public policies underlying California's so-called "compassionate use" law. As a matter of drug-control policy, the amici States are basically with the Federal Government on this one.

From the amici States' perspective, however, this is not a case about drug-control policy or fundamental rights. This is a case about "our federalism," which "requires that Congress treat the States in a manner consistent with their status as residuary sovereigns and joint participants in the governance of the Nation." The Government apparently does not view the federalism issue in this case as a serious one. ("It is clear that Congress has the authority ...."). We respectfully disagree. And, just as individual States have intervened to challenge laudatory (and popular) congressional statutes on federalism grounds before, the amici States perceive a need to do so here.

While the amici States may not see eye to eye with some of their neighbors concerning the wisdom of decriminalizing marijuana possession and use in certain instances, they support their neighbors' prerogative in our federalist system to serve as "laboratories for experimentation." As Justice Brandeis famously remarked, "[i]t is one of the happy incidents of the federal system that a single courageous State may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country." Whether California and the other compassionate-use States are "courageous" – or instead profoundly misguided – is not the point. The point is that, as a sovereign member of the federal union, California is entitled to make for itself the tough policy choices that affect its citizens. By stepping in here, under the guise of regulating interstate commerce, to stymie California's "experiment[]," Congress crossed the constitutional line.

Well said. Alabama Attorney General Troy King and Solicitor General Kevin Newsom should be commended for standing with California on this one.

Alabama Supporting Medical Marijuana

Raich v. Ashcroft, the medical marijuana case under appeal from the 9th Circuit, reaches the Supreme Court today. Randy Barnett, who blogs over at the Volokh Conspiracy, has a post on the case here. Another good post with some good background info is here. The case rests on the Constitution's interstate commerce clause and whether Congress has exceeded its authority by regulating the sale and use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

According to Time magazine, Alabama has sided with California in the fight over medical marijuana. The issue is over who decides whether marijuana can be grown for personal use - the states or the federal government. According to Alabama's solicitor general, Kevin Newsom, "But this isn't about the drug war. It's about states' rights."

I hope this is accurate, although I haven't read about it anywhere else yet. It seems to me that marijuana should be treated like alcohol and tobacco, insofar as its localized use and sale should be regulated by the states. Congress's power comes into play as soon as the commerce crosses state lines.

This will be a very interesting case to watch, particularly in light of the Court's recent commerce clause decisions beginning with U.S. v. Lopez in 1994.

Finally Back

There's nothing like coming back home after Thanksgiving to make you realize just how much you need to go on a diet. To say that I've done nothing but eat and sleep for the past 4 days wouldn't be far from the truth. Somewhere along the way, I caught a nasty little cold, too. Still, it was nice to get away from Huntsville for a few days to visit with the family and relax a little. I was able to catch up on a little reading, see some friends I haven't seen in awhile, go deer hunting one day (no, I didn't kill anything), and avoid Christmas shopping. All in all, a pretty good Thanksgiving. I hope everyone else had a good one, too. It's just too bad we all have to go back to work tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004
On this day:

The Declaration of Independence: Censored

Principal Patricia Vidmar of Stevens Creek Elementary School, near San Francisco, has barred a fifth grade teacher from handing out copies of the Declaration of Independence and other historical documents to his students because of their references to God.

I just re-read the Declaration, and lo and behold, Principal Vidmar is right. Thomas Jefferson must have missed the Continental Congress's diversity training workshop, because right there in black and white are several objectionable phrases, which I have highlighted in the excerpts below.

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they areendowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among theseare Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

The Left has long sought to diminish the fact that our nation's founders appealed to a higher power when they set out to form a new nation. The truths of this nation's origins have become so inconvenient to them that they have used their power within the educational establishment to simply rewrite history to better accomodate their ideology.

I hope that the people of California will not allow this principal's asinine policy to stand. Principal Vidmar, whose surname seems oddly appropriate in this situation, should be ashamed. If the Reuters report is accurate (big if) and this is truly the outrage that it seems, the school district should take immediate and firm action to correct it.

The Stevens Creek Elementary School's telephone number is (408) 245-3312. Principal Vidmar can be reached at extension 110. Stevens Creek Elementary School is part of the Cupertino Union School District, which can be reached at (408) 252-3000. District Superintendent Bill Bragg can be reached via e-mail at mailto:bragg_bill@cupertino.k12.ca.us.

Abraham Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation (1863)

By the President of the United States of America.
A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.

I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

President George Washington's Thanksgiving Proclamation (1789)

WHEREAS, It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor;

WHEREAS, Both the houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me "to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted' for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have show kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

--George Washington - October 3, 1789

William Bradford's Thanksgiving Proclamation (1623)

Inasmuch as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest of Indian corn, wheat, peas, beans, squashes, and garden vegetables, and has made the forests to abound with game and the sea with fish and clams, and inasmuch as he has protected us from the ravages of the savages, has spared us from pestilence and disease, has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience.

Now I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and ye little ones, do gather at ye meeting house, on ye hill, between the hours of 9 and 12 in the day time, on Thursday, November 29th, of the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and twenty-three and the third year since ye Pilgrims landed on ye Pilgrim Rock, there to listen to ye pastor and render thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for all His blessings.

- William Bradford
Ye Governor of Ye Colony

Thanksgiving: Censored

We've got some work to do.
Maryland public school students are free to thank anyone they want while learning about the 17th century celebration of Thanksgiving - as long as it's not God.

And that is how it should be, administrators say.

Young students across the state read stories about the Pilgrims and Native Americans, simulate Mayflower voyages, hold mock feasts and learn about the famous meal that temporarily allied two very different groups.

But what teachers don't mention when they describe the feast is that the Pilgrims not only thanked the Native Americans for their peaceful three-day indulgence, but repeatedly thanked God.

...Or an Isolated Incident by a "Bad Apple"?


Deer Hunting Season in Wisconsin

Six hunters dead...a cultural misunderstanding?

See here...and here.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004
On this day:

Decisions, Decisions

Alabamians faced a tough decision this Iron Bowl weekend since it was also the opening day of deer season. But some folks found a way to do both...ah, the wonders of modern technology!

Monday, November 22, 2004
On this day:

PETA Protest Hits Huntsville

Other notable news from Saturday included a protest by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals at a Huntsville KFC. The protest was broken up by police within about 15 minutes. One of the protesters was 12-year old Kim Wood, a vegetarian who "wanted to take part, bolstered by what she had learned about free speech in social studies."

Note to self: Remember this the next time Huntsville voters are asked to approve a tax increase for education.

George Will on Alabama Football

One of my favorite columnists, George Will, wrote about Warren St. John's new book "Rammer Jammer Yellowhammer: A Journey into the Heart of Fan Mania." Read the whole column here, but here are the opening paragraphs:

Don Cole, aka the Heart Guy, was ailing and wore a beeper. He was a candidate for a heart transplant and was not supposed to ever be more than a two-hour drive from his Nashville hospital, in case it received a heart that could be transplanted. He said that if the hospital learned that he left the two-hour radius he would be removed from the list of recipients. So why, weekend after weekend, was he three and a half hours from Nashville, in Tuscaloosa, Ala.? "If I can't go to Alabama football games, what's the point in living?"

Then there is the couple whose huge RV resembles the fuselage of a Boeing 737. What sacrifices have they made for their devotion to Alabama football? "Let's see," muses the husband. "We missed our daughter's wedding. We told her, just don't get married on a game day and we'll be there, hundred percent, and she went off and picked the third Saturday in October which everybody knows is when Alabama plays Tennessee, so we told her, hey, we got a ballgame to go to. We made the reception — went there as soon as the game was over."


Congratulations to the Auburn Tigers for their victory in Saturday's Iron Bowl. I was disappointed that my team didn't win, but it was still a great game, living up to its reputation as the biggest rivalry in college football.

Little sister and I lucked out and got seats just off the 50 yard line, 46 rows up...best seats I've ever had for any Bama game, I think. It rained on and off throughout the game, but the stadium was still filled. And, thousands more people were in town watching from their tailgate spots or from Tuscaloosa watering-holes.

There were LOTS of Auburn fans, both in the "visitors" seats and scattered throughout the crowd. And why not? Auburn has racked up an 11-0 record and is (or at least should be) a contender for the national championship.

I certainly hope Auburn puts a whipping on Tennessee in the SEC championship game, both because it is good and right for Bama fans to hate UT and Fat Phil Fulmer this year, and because I'd like to see a team from Alabama and the SEC play for the national championship. I think a good number of Bama fans would agree with me here...after the game, amid the inevitable taunts and curses, you could hear chants of "SEC...SEC!" as fans came out of the stadium. So, now we can all be friends again...until next year.

Friday, November 19, 2004
On this day:

Iron Bowl Weekend

This weekend, Alabama and Auburn meet in Tuscaloosa to add another chapter in the history of college football's most intense rivalry.

Those who are not Alabama natives often have difficulty understanding the level of passion associated with the Iron Bowl. Sure, there are other rivalries in college football. Florida-Florida State, Michigan-Ohio State, UCLA-USC, Army-Navy, Oklahoma-Texas. But, none of those even come close to the Alabama-Auburn rivalry, no matter what some heretics may say.

You see, Alabama fans and Auburn fans have had the misfortune of living amidst and amongst each other, in closer proximity than is either necessary or proper. The Alabama-Auburn game has thus become Alabama's own Civil War. It pits brother against brother, husband against wife, friend against friend. But, instead of taking up arms and meeting on the battlefield, the fans have agreed that their differences will be settled on the gridiron.

For the non-native Alabamian, this is an essential point. The only way to be considered a "true" Alabamian is to declare allegiance to one team or the other. Even the Yankee-ist of Yankees can earn respect by simply making his stand. In this contest for braggin' rights, there ain't no middle ground.

So, be sure to watch the game Saturday. It will be televised on CBS - kickoff is at 2:30 CST. And please, don't be one of those weenies who goes to Wal-Mart during the game because you know no one will be there, or we'll deport you to Massachusetts.

By the way...



The media and some economists have jumped on Tuesday's report that the Producer Price Index jumped by 1.7% in October as evidence of a resurgence in inflation. The increase was the largest since 1990, and was due to large increases in energy and food.

"A period of pretty tranquil inflation has passed -- with a vengeance," said economist Ken Mayland, president of ClearView Economics.
It sounds like some people may be mistaking temporary price increases in certain sectors for overall inflation. The increase in the PPI is largely due to increases in energy and food costs, which can be attributed reduced supplies and uncertainty caused by global conflicts and recent hurricanes.

Inflation, according to Milton Friedman, is "everywhere and always a monetary phenomenon." That is, it is an increase in the money supply that unmatched by additional production of goods and services to "soak up" the excess money. To put it another way, true inflation is "too much money chasing too few goods."

As supplies in the energy and food sectors stabilize and economic growth continues to rebound, it is likely that the recent upsurge in "inflation" will take care of itself, particularly in light of recent Fed's moves to remove excess money by raising interest rates. When that happens, it'll be interesting to see if it makes the front pages of the nation's newspapers.

Thursday, November 18, 2004
On this day:

Economic Freedom in Alabama

Forbes and the Pacific Research Institute ranked Alabama 25th among the states in terms of economic freedom, falling from 11th in the 1999 study. In the study, states were ranked across 5 sectors - fiscal, regulatory, judicial, government size, and welfare spending. Alabama's rankings in each of these categories were (1 = most free, 50 = least free):

Fiscal - 1
Regulatory - 30
Judicial - 6
Government size - 46
Welfare spending - 31

So, we ranked high in the fiscal and judicial categories, but low in the regulatory, government size, and welfare spending categories. These rankings are curious, to say the least.

46th in government size? What's up with that? Only Alaska, New Mexico, North Dakota, and New York ranked lower in that category, which doesn't seem to make any sense whatsoever. In the government size category, states were scored on 7 parameters:
  1. State and Local Total Expenditures as a Percent of GSP 1999
  2. State and Local Total Revenue as a Percent of GSP 1999
  3. Rate of State and Local Government FTE Employees 03/2001 (Per 10,000)
  4. Rate of FTE Local Government Employees as Percent of Rate of FTE State and Local Government Employees 2001
  5. Legislators Per Million Population 2003
  6. Total Number of Government Units 2002
  7. Ratio of Local to State Total Education Employees
(Note: GSP = Gross State Product, FTE = full-time equivalent)

It sounds like the kicker here may be that Alabama has a higher percentage of state and local government employees than other states (ranking 18th, according to the Census Bureau) and that of all government employees, more are employed by the state than by local governments. That's just a guess, but it would agree with what I would expect. Alabama relies on state funding of education to a greater extent than most other states, as opposed to local funding. In any event, it's debatable whether these 7 categories constitute the best measure of "government size."

More Dems Call on Party Head to Resign

Pressure is mounting on Redding Pitt to resign. I don't have a yellow dog in this fight, but it's sure entertaining to watch.

Some Europeans Wary of Rice as SecState

From Euroland:

PARIS - The appointment of Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state is bad news for the already fragile American-European relationship, European experts and commentators said Tuesday. Newspaper editorials and interviews with specialists in U.S.-European relations lamented the departure of Colin Powell and predicted more tension between the Bush administration and European countries as a result. In Spain, the newspaper El Pais said, "The White House has lost its moderate face," while the Kommersant newspaper in Russia went further: "Now the hawks will attack us."

"Among the most pessimistic conjectures made when George W. Bush gained re-election was that with a mandate, he'd keep Donald Rumsfeld at the Pentagon and nominate Rice to replace Powell," the French newspaper Le Monde said. "The second of those has now come true. ... It is bad news for European leaders."

...While Bush is broadly criticized in Europe, Powell was seen as an ally, or at least someone who understood Europe's position on issues such as Iraq and the Kyoto treaty on hydrocarbon emissions. Rice is considered a strong advocate of U.S. positions and unconcerned about European reactions.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004
On this day:

Pass Interference

The SEC admits that officials missed a pass interference call in last weekend's Alabama-LSU game. If the call would have been made, Bama would have had a first down at LSU's 2 yard line, and a probable touchdown. The play in question came at a crucial point in the game when Bama held a 10-6 lead. LSU ended up winning 26-10.

A Uniter, Not a Divider

Gov. Riley is to be commended for including the Alabama State Employees Association and the Alabama Education Association from the get-go in crafting his health insurance plan. He also insisted that the scope of the special session be limited to the 5 bills constituting his plan. As a result of the Governor's leadership, the legislature passed all 5 bills by large margins within 5 days, the minimum time required to pass legislation.

The Governor admits that this is only a first step in addressing exploding health insurance costs for state employees, but it should set the stage for future, more comprehensive reforms.

Another tidbit...with the bills' passage, Alabama becomes only the second state to require employees who are tobacco users to pay higher insurance premiums.
Under Riley's legislation, workers or retirees caught lying about smoking
face stiff financial penalties.

The governor, who lights up occasionally, was asked in an interview if
he would be among the group of state employees paying more.

"No. I'm going to quit," he said.

Legislature Approves Gov. Riley's Health Insurance Plan

From the AP:
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Gov. Bob Riley's plan to curb the rising costs for public employees' health insurance won overwhelming approval from the Legislature Tuesday, putting Alabama at the forefront of states mandating higher premiums for smokers.

The Senate and House gave final approval to Riley's five-bill legislative package, with each bill passing either unanimously or by lopsided votes. That wrapped up the special session that Riley called Nov. 8 to focus solely on health insurance costs, which are approaching $1 billion annually for public employees and retirees.

"It's the first fundamental reform of health care benefits in the history of the state," Riley said. But he added that more steps will be needed to control costs, possibly as early as next year.Riley's legislation, which he plans to sign into law Wednesday, will affect 340,000 state workers, education employees, retirees and family members — or nearly 8 percent of Alabama's population — covered by the state's two health insurance programs.

Alabama's health insurance costs have risen from $363 million in fiscal 1998 to $996 million this fiscal year. Riley estimates his plan will slow the rate of growth by $50 million in the next fiscal year and $300 million over five years.

Forbes: Alabama's "Economic Freedom" Declining

Alabama's "economic freedom" is on the decline, according to a study released today by "Forbes Magazine" and the Pacific Research Institute. The study, "U.S. Economic Freedom Index: 2004 Report," ranks Alabama as 25th among all states in economic freedom.

States were ranked based on 143 variables, including tax rates, state spending, occupational licensing, environmental regulations, income redistribution, right-to-work and prevailing-wage laws, tort laws and the number of government agencies. These were grouped into five sectors--fiscal, regulatory, judicial, size of government and social welfare. For each of the 143 variables, the states were ranked from 1 (most free) to 50 (least free), an average sector ranking was calculated. The rankings for each variable were then weighted and combined to get an overall score.

Rice to Stand High Among Alabamians

According to this B'ham News article, William Rufus King, who served as Vice President under Franklin Pierce, is the only Alabamian to have held a higher position in the executive branch.

Good News from Afghanistan

Arthur Chrenkoff summarizes the situation there in the Wall Street Journal. (Long article, and I haven't read it all yet.) Link via Instapundit.

Federalist Renaissance?

A libertarian pundit joins the federalist bandwagon, and suggests that "progressives" may be doing the same.

It seems that the trial lawyers have really caught the political imagination of the Left in America. Progressives, disaffected by the results of the most recent federal election, have hit upon a new strategy: forum shopping. Or, as it used to be called, federalism...

For the uninitiated, "forum shopping" is a strategy under which lawyers suing big companies (think, particularly, tobacco companies) scour the country for the perfect jury pools (poor and angry, uneducated and gullible) in order to secure the perfect verdicts and awards (guilty and large, respectively).

Now, the progressives want to move the forum of modern political debate from the federal level, where they've -- to put it charitably -- not done so well recently, to the states and cities. The twist is that they believe this way they can cater to the smarter set.

...progressives are beginning to realize that it's extraordinarily difficult to foist your values on other people -- and maybe they should just stop trying. Now, this isn't quite as good as recognizing that it's wrong to try to force your values on other people. But it's a start.

We don't have to read each other's newspapers, watch each other's cable news networks, go to each other's concerts, browse each other's Web sites or sit through each other's movies. So why should the outcome of every major political debate be binding for almost 300 million Americans spread out over a continent?

...With an open-ended, complicated and potentially catastrophic War on Terrorism to occupy the federal government for the foreseeable future, might this not be the perfect political coalition to start exploring: people on the right and left who just want people on the other side to leave them alone.

Let the federal government deal with what it's supposed to -- national security. Let the states and cities sweat the small stuff. It could be the beginning of a federalist renaissance.

Canadian Group Invites Ridicule

The web site www.canadianalternative.com says Canada might be the "perfect alternative for conscientious, forward-thinking Americans" distressed at the recent election results in the U.S. Here are the reasons they give, translated for those who don't understand Canuckese.

1. Canada has universal public health care.
Translation: If you want higher taxes and rationed health care, feel free to go to Canada. If you are rich enough to seek treatment in the U.S. when the Canada's government-run health care system can't meet your needs, go to Canada...their government needs your tax money.

2. Canada has no troops in Iraq.
Translation: If you are content to be the "little brother" of the free world, relying on others to send their sons and daughters to bleed and die for your freedom, go to Canada.

3. Canada signed the Kyoto Protocol environmental treaty.
Translation: If you believe that the best way to preserve the environment is to stifle technological innovation and impede economic progress, then go to Canada.

4. More than half of Canada's provinces allow same-sex marriage.
Translation: If you think that the "traditional family" is a thing of the past and you believe that certain passages in the Bible constitute "hate speech" that should be forbidden, then go to Canada.

5. The Canadian Senate recommends legalizing marijuana.
Translation: Go to Canada.

6. Canada has no law restricting abortion.
Translation: Canada has the same court-dictated policy on abortion as the U.S. has. But, if you're tired of dealing with nasty anti-abortion zealots and want your country's foreign policy to support a worldwide right to abortion, go to Canada.

7. Canada has strict gun laws and relatively little violence.
Translation: If you believe in universal gun registration and that ideally, only the police and military would have the right to bear arms, then go to Canada.

8. The United Nations has ranked Canada the best country to live in for eight consecutive years.
Translation: If you think that an organization that places Libya, Cuba, Algeria, China, Zimbabwe, Sudan, and Vietnam on its "Human Rights Commission" is a good judge of what the "best country to live in" is, then go to Canada.

9. Canada abolished the death penalty in 1976.
Translation: If you believe that murderers and rapists have a right to life, but unborn children do not, then go to Canada.

10. Canada has not run a federal deficit since 1996-97.
Translation: If you believe that it is more important to confiscate the wealth of your citizens to preserve a paper surplus than it is to protect your nation's security, then you might consider going to Canada.

Source: AP

Disclaimer to emigrants: Do not be surprised if you find that your new neighbors up North are not as "enlightened" as you thought they would be. Many people in the western provinces are quite conservative, and would feel at home in red-state America. However, they are outnumbered by the more liberal populace in Ontario, Quebec, and other eastern provinces. If you are a distressed liberal American, I'd recommend moving to Ontario...or Quebec if you want to practice up on your French.

Alabama Native to Be Named Secretary of State

National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice will replace Colin Powell as Secretary of State. Rice was born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1954.

Monday, November 15, 2004
On this day:

Whither the Libertarians?

Mr. James Hines, Mobile district chairman of the Libertarian Party, is upset that a Fairhope police officer stopped him from putting campaign fliers for presidential candidate Michael Badnarik on car windshields. Fairhope police chief Chris Browning denies the accusation, saying "As long as what people are handing out isn't obscene, vulgar, pornographic or against the good name and character of Bear Bryant or Robert E. Lee, I don't care what they give out."

This little controversy reminds me of something I noticed on election day. The only Libertarian candidate on the ballot here in Huntspatch was for President. I seem to remember that in years past the Libertarians have had more candidates than that. At the very least, they've fielded candidates for Public Service Commission races...always running on a platform to abolish that very agency.

But, when I got to the voting booth this year, ready to cast my vote for the Libertarian in the PSC chairman race, I saw that Republican Jim Sullivan was unopposed. C'mon guys...get your act together.

World Hamburger Eating Champion Crowned

A 24-year old, 130-pound Japanese man ate 69 Krystals in 8 minutes to win the World Hamburger Eating Championship today in Chattanooga.

Why didn't I hear about this earlier? I'm sure I couldn't have won, but the contest was just up the road in Chattanooga, and I love me some Krystals.

In the Axis of Weevil

I'm happy to say that I'm the newest member of the Axis of Weevil*. It's an honor to be a part of such an esteemed group.

I've updated my blogroll with links to the other members. I think I may have missed a few, but I'll correct that ASAP.

(By the way, my links are down there


instead of over here ---->

If anyone knows how to fix this, please let me know.)

*For you fur'ners and Yankees...here's a tutorial on the boll weevil and its connection to Alabama.

Mach 10?

NASA will attempt a world-record Mach 10 flight today. (That's 7,000 miles per hour.) The X-43A pilotless aircraft that will make the flight uses an airbreathing scramjet engine.

Candidates Line Up to Run for Lt. Governor

As Lieutenant Governor Lucy Baxley sets her sights on the Governor's office (maybe), potential candidates in both parties are showing interest in running for her position.

Possible Republican candidates - Madison County Commissioner Mo Brooks, Labor Commissioner (and former Secretary of State) Jim Bennett of Montgomery, state Rep. Mike Hubbard of Auburn, former Supreme Court justice Terry Butts of Luverne, and former state Rep. Perry Hooper, Jr. of Montgomery.

Possible Democratic candidates - former State Auditor Susan Parker, Montgomery Julian McPhillips, House Majority Leader Ken Guin of Carbon Hill, Senate Majority Leader Zeb Little of Cullman, and state Sen. Wendell Mitchell of Luverne.

Why Didn't John Edwards Think of This?

Romanian President Ion Iliescu is under fire from the opposition Justice and Truth Alliance for getting a haircut on prime time television.
"The alliance considers that the haircut of President Ion Iliescu is not in
the public interest," a statement from the centrist Justice and Truth Alliance
said. "This news item is electoral campaigning and all it does is promote the
image of Iliescu at prime time."

Words of a Famous Alabamian Provide Hope

Another Iraqi blogger to consider the words of Helen Keller in building a better Iraq.

Happy Birthday to "Iraq the Model"

The blog Iraq the Model is one year old today. It is written by three brothers - Mohammed, Ali, and Omar.

Mohammed is a 35 year old dentist living in Samawa in southwestern Iraq. Ali is a 34 year old doctor who lives and works in Baghdad. Omar is a 24 year old dentist working in Basra.

Today, they wrote:

Today we celebrate the 1st anniversary of this blog. We sat together recalling the early moments in the life of Iraq the model, reliving the moments of happiness and grief and the huge magnitude of events we’ve been through in the past twelve months where tears mixed with smiles, anger and dreams....it’s been a long year.

Many people ask me why I started to write and how was the beginning and I today remember the time when we were sitting together, carrying our dreams, our ambitions and our hunger to communicate with the others; it felt like a sweet dream to find all the doors wide open for us and all the chains that restricted our minds simply gone.

I am free...And I need to tell the whole world what this means.I’d love to share this feeling with everyone, the feeling of being strong and capable of making miracles happen and that nothing can limit your dreams.My friends...my readers..

This wasn’t an action from one side, your have always been a rich source of inspiration to us.We have learned the meaning of being united together and we never felt alone in this; freedom lovers are everywhere.Reading your comments and e-mails made my cry many times and I wish I could remember all your names and I could feel everyone, even those who didn’t write to us.I wish I could embrace you all.

Together, you and us were, and will always be closer than brothers and sisters trying to stand against the powers of darkness and ignorance, doing our best to make our voice louder and louder and to make everyone see what our dream is.Sometimes I would despair but your words were always there to comfort me and encourage me to restore my strength and hope.

I used to watch the media presenting the false image all the time and then I would want to scream out loud:This is not the whole truth, this isn’t right . You’re overlooking a great deal of the truth and you’re not presenting the feelings of the love that exists; those feelings that are stronger than weapons and politics and are stronger than the hatred you’re trying to spread.

And this is the reason why we keep writing to you and we know that our love will find its way to you. No borders can stop it and no power on earth can stand between the love and the heart that opened its doors for the light.

My dearest..Thank you for your empathy and for walking through this tough road with us. I have no doubt that one day we will reach our destination and even if we stumble once or twice, we’ve got the determination now to try again and again and we will triumph at the end.We are so happy and we love you all.


What’s a blog and who’s going to read it? And is it important what we have to say? Such questions were on my minds when Omar started our blog and I couldn’t find an answer that convince me to write. However, and after my brothers published their first posts, my questions were answered. “So there are many people who actually read blogs, and it seems to be important what we write!”. after that I decided to join my brothers and post my thoughts and opinions.

What I’m trying to say is that it was the readers, our good friends who share with us this humble page who made me realize that I must write, I must tell people everywhere what I, being an Iraqi see in Iraq, what I think and what I want. I’ll be always grateful for the people who helped me and my brothers find our voices and encourage us to share our minds and hearts with as many people as possible from allover the world.

This simple web page has come to be an important part of my life for reasons that are much more than just expressing my point of view in politics and the situation in Iraq. It is my window to the world through which I greet my friends every morning from Australia to the USA. It’s not a one way road, as I feel I know each one of our regular readers, I worry about you just as you worry about us and I miss you when you’re gone for any reason. I learned from you a lot and the most important things I’ve learned were actually things I thought I knew very well before! This has motivated me to look more into the ‘facts’ and ‘basics’ I believed were unquestionable.

In the end I just want to clarify one thing. This blog was not a propaganda tool and will never be. Our unlimited joy with our new found freedom that we still enjoy its sweetness is too precious to be lost or sold no matter what the price. I know that many people look at our writings with suspicion and disbelieve sometimes. Most of these people are misguided by the huge flow of lies or half-truths from the MSM and I don’t blame them, as how can anyone know what’s happening thousands of miles away without depending on the media!? actually they’re the people we are trying to reach because we know that most people are smart and honest enough to distinguish the truth from propaganda. But again there are those who were born free and don’t appreciate the gift they have received and the slaves who have come to love the walls of their prison and can’t see life in a different light. These are the people who simply can’t understand our joy and enthusiasm, and the only logical explanation to them would be that we, and people like us are propaganda tool. We long for the day when these people can appreciate freedom, and then we will be brothers and sisters again.

We have faith in ourselves, our people and the good people everywhere, and all we are doing is trying to share this faith and hope for a better future for Iraq and the world with the others. What good would it do us to complain and whine about how difficult life is? And why does anyone expect things to be perfect after such a drastic change as the one happened in Iraq, and when they’re not, they start to attack the people who made the change possible?

We have certainly have made many mistakes and said some foolish things over this year and we beg your forgiveness and promise you that we’ll try to remain faithful to ourselves and to keep examining what we write and correct our course when we drift away.Happy anniversary to all of you, as this is your blog and I’m not exaggerating when I say that you have put into it more than we have.

- Ali

This is a big day for me but I don’t think I can express my feelings well as I’m overwhelmed with emotions. As a matter of fact, this occasion is more important to me than my own birthday.Thinking of what we’ve done together on this blog makes me feel proud and gives me hop for the future.

Now we strongly believe that being optimistic in the darkest times is not something to be ashamed of. It can help us override the obstacles we’re facing no matter how huge they may seem and doesn’t mean that we’re dreamers because our optimism is based on beliefs and facts that do exist but are unfortunately not recognized by the MSM and many governments and parties that are either ignorant or have a similar agenda to that of the tyrant we lived under for decades.

The most important thing we achieved in the past year is building trust and understanding among us, failing the evil attempts of those who want us to think of each other as enemies.I believe that we’ve all learned so many things from each other and to some extent, we’ve succeeded in bridging even if a small fraction of the gap that separates our different cultures, at least in the way of thinking about solutions for our problems because we’re facing similar challenges and above all, we share a common goal; freedom for all mankind.

I truly feel privileged by the enormous numbers of comments and e-mails we received from you and we benefitted from reading them all; the ones that supported our points of view encouraged us to work harder and keep defending our just cause while the ones that disagreed with our points of view taught us to look at different issues from different angles and broadened our horizons.

“Iraq the model” wouldn’t have reached this far without your contributions and ideas my friends.Thanks to all of you and thanks to our colleagues in this huge, ever growing family (the blogosphere) who have supported us and spread the word about this blog to help us in our struggle to show the world the hidden parts of the fact in our country.By the way, it's a nice coincidence that today is also the 1st day of Al Fitr Eid! So there's more than one reason to party, and even if it's early for some of you, it is beer o'clock somewhere!

- Omar

Frenchman Dreams of Life in Red State America

Yes, there are conservatives in France. One of them, Fred Gion, wants to move to Texas, and writes about it in today's Dallas News. Registration is required for the link, so here's what Mr. Gion had to say:

Since the re-election of President Bush, I've been reading on American blogs and newspaper Web sites that lots of you, particularly in the Blue States, are talking about leaving your country for more culturally hospitable nations, like Canada, or even my native France.

Well, I can be of assistance. I can even help one of you would-be expatriates relocate here to Paris. My apartment is on the market, because I don't like it here anymore! I want to immigrate to Red State America...

I mean it. I've just filled an entry form for the annual diversity visa lottery administered by the U.S. government. I've done it for the fifth time, and now the odds are on my side.

I'm not in a rush. I'm not running from anything. I've got a comfortable life here. It's just that someday, I want to marry and have a family, and I don't want to raise my kids in France, or in Europe. The hope of the future, as I see it, is in America.

See, I want my green card because I need smiles, not the constant pouting we live with in France. I want to live where people are happy with their lives and confident about what's to come. I want to live among people like those I saw at the Republican convention, which I stayed up late to watch on CNN International. Those folks looked like they were fun to be with. They looked optimistic, pleased to be there, none more than that successful European immigrant, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

I have a strong faith, but I'm not exactly what you'd call religious. What scares me about French society today, though, are the consequences of total faithlessness. The French are sarcastic, cynical, greedy – and miserable. Is this despair the price of throwing away our religious traditions?

My family and I will be safer in America. Aside from Tony Blair, I don't think European leaders really understand the stakes in this war on Islamic terrorism. President Bush does. I deeply respected Sen. John Kerry, but I am reassured by Mr. Bush's re-election.

I can't take anymore the arguments with my countrymen every time I say I support Mr. Bush. I'm sick of the smug, condescending responses I get, as if it were impossible to consider that maybe, just maybe, Mr. Bush is right. France is paralyzed by what we call la pensée unique – this idea that there is only one way to think about issues. It's killing all forms of discussion.

A huge majority of the French people doesn't want to know what Mr. Bush's program really is about. They just want to insult him by calling him a cowboy. But a cowboy is what I want to be! (Well, maybe only on weekends.) That's why, to be perfectly honest, I want to settle down in Texas.

Yes, Texas, which strikes the cool and the connected in Paris and New York as horribly unfashionable. Hey, sounds good to me! I want my kids to learn how to ride a horse instead of a moped. I want a simpler life, closer to nature and closer to my neighbors. The people whose attitude exhausts me look down their noses at Texas – which is an argument this Lone Star wannabe finds persuasive.

In the end, I want to move to Red America because I know I'll belong. I don't know what happened to the French joie de vivre, and I'm tired of looking for it. But I cast my gaze across the Atlantic, and the values I see in the American character are a beacon calling me ... home.

So, if I'm lucky enough to win a visa in the lottery, I have everything planned. I won't fly to America – too fast, too modern. I'll take the boat, like my great-great uncles did at the beginning of the 20th century. I want to see the Statue of Liberty from the deck, my beautiful French cousin welcoming me at the threshold of my new life. Then, I'll drive all the way from New York City to Texas, to slowly shake off the alien in me.

Yes, this is only a dream, but it's my American dream, and I hope it comes true. To Americans dreaming about leaving your country, good luck and bon voyage. Don't forget to leave the light on. I wasn't born in Texas, but I'm getting there as fast as I can.

Sunday, November 14, 2004
On this day:

Alabama Republicans Set Agenda

Last week, Republicans in the state legislature announced an agenda for 2005 that includes:

Enacting a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage

Stopping the Revenue Department's plan to convert every county to annual property reappraisals. Property would instead be reappraised every four years, as it was prior to an order by the Riley administration.

Combining the two boards that oversee the health insurance programs for state workers and education employees and no longer allowing active and retired employees to control a majority of the seats on the board.

Giving new power to the Alabama Commission on Higher Education to close colleges.

Setting a cap on how much the Legislature can appropriate each year by not letting it exceed the average of the revenue estimates by the Executive Budget Office and the Legislative Fiscal Office.

Banning "pass-through pork" projects.

Banning the transfer of money between political action committees.

Strengthening the state's open meetings law and increase the fines for a violation.

Placing public school administrators and assistant administrators on contracts rather than being given tenure.

Friday, November 12, 2004
On this day:

The Marines in Fallujah

Semper Fi.

And, the U.S. is getting help from their Iraqi "brothers in arms."

"They are our brothers in arms and they are the future of this country...the respect and camaraderie between the U.S. and Iraqi forces is something to behold."

Say a prayer for our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines, as well as the brave Iraqis who have taken up arms to fight for freedom.

In Other Solar System News

"Mars is experiencing global warming and we don't know why." (Link via the Corner via Speculist and Instapundit.) "...the planet's south polar cap of dry ice is losing weight."

Better send at team of environmentalists there to find out!

Seriously, though, this is interesting. Many scientists and enviro-weenies have told us that the Earth's climate has warmed up recently. Now, there is evidence that the climate of the most Earth-like planet in the Solar System is undergoing a similar trend.

Note to scientists: form some hypotheses, test them out, and report the results in a way that even Al Gore can understand.

Note to the enviro-weenies: chill out for a second while the guys who know what they are doing check things out.

Thursday, November 11, 2004
On this day:

Spaced Out

This weekend, the Huntsville Alabama L5 chapter of the National Space Society is hosting a conference on "Exploring and Privateering Space" here in Huntsville.

Here's the official conference web site.

Here's today's Huntsville Times article.

Here's another article from the Valley Planet.

Conference Topics — Friday, Nov. 12: Space Propulsion, Launch Vehicles; Saturday, Nov. 13: Going for X-Prize, Lunar Exploration, Space Tourism, Moon, Mars and Beyond; Sunday, Nov. 14: NSS in Action, Space Stations and Settlement, Huntsville Projects, Space Science and Education.

Speakers will include Konrad Dannenberg, the propulsion engineer of Wernher von Braun's rocket team, and George Whitesides, executive director for the National Space Society. Dannenberg will speak on the history of the Saturn V rocket. Whitesides will speak on "Next Steps for Ensuring Human Space Exploration."

The convention is Friday through Sunday at the Airport Sheraton Hotel. Cost is $30 at the door for all three days or $15 per day. (Advance tickets are also available.)

For real geeks, the Huntsville-Madison County Public Library is hosting a "Star Trek" night Friday from 6 to 9 PM. It will feature "Star Trek: The Next Generation" speechwriter Lee Shackleford and a "Star Trek" trivia game. There will also be "Space Jeopardy" or "Family Feud" Friday night from 10 PM to midnight. (Huntsville Times)

The Closing of the (Liberal) American Mind

This op-ed by Ted Rall is pretty tough on those of us who voted for President Bush. He says that coastal liberals are the intellectual superiors to those of us from "inland backwaters" and that the results of the election support that view. However, he proceeds to prove something entirely different.

Mr. Rall denounces the closed-mindedness and conformity of "red-state" America, yet his entire diatribe is an exhibition in ideological rigidity. This puts him in a bit of a dilemma. He must either admit his own fallibility or conclude that those who disagree with him do so out of either ignorance or stupidity. The choice he makes is all too revealing.

...living in the sticks doesn't make you more American...But if militant Christianist Republicans from inland backwaters believe that secular liberal Democrats from the big coastal cities look upon them with disdain, there's a reason. We do, and all the more so after this election.

I spent my childhood in fly-over country, in a decidedly Republican town in southwest Ohio...Folks were nice, but depressingly closed-minded...My suburb was racially insular, culturally bland and intellectually unstimulating. Its people were knee-jerk conformists. Faced with the prospect of spending my life underemployed, bored and soused, I did what anyone with a bit of ambition would do. I went to college in a big city and stayed there.

Mine is a common story. Every day in America, hundreds of our most talented young men and women flee the suburbs and rural communities for big cities, especially those on the West and East Coasts. Their youthful vigor fuels these metropolises--the cultural capitals of the blue states. These oases of liberal thinking--New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Boston--are homes to our best-educated people, most vibrant popular culture and most innovative and productive businesses. There are exceptions--some smart people move from cities to the countryside--but the best and brightest gravitate to places where liberalism rules.

Maps showing Kerry's blue states appended to the "United States of Canada" separated from Bush's red "Jesusland" are circulating by email. Though there is a religious component to the election results, the biggest red-blue divide is intellectual. "How can 59,054,087 people be so DUMB?" asked the headline of the Daily Mirror in Great Britain, and the underlying assumption is undeniable. By any objective standard, you had to be spectacularly stupid to support Bush.

...Would Bush's supporters have voted for him even if they had known he was a serial liar? Perhaps their hatred of homosexuals and slutty abortion vixens would have prompted them to make the same choice--an idiotic perversion of priorities. As things stand, they cast their ballots relying on assumptions that were demonstrably false.

Educational achievement doesn't necessarily equal intelligence. After all, Bush holds a Harvard MBA. Still, it bears noting that Democrats are better educated than Republicans. You are 25 percent more likely to hold a college degree if you live in the Democratic northeast than in the red state south. Blue state voters are 25 percent more likely, therefore, to understand the historical and cultural ramifications of Bush's brand of bull-in-a-china-shop foreign policy.

Inland Americans face a bigger challenge than coastal "cultural elitists" when it comes to finding high-quality news coverage. The best newspapers, which routinely win prizes for their in-depth local and national reporting and staffers overseas, line the coasts. So do the cable TV networks with the broadest offerings and most independent radio stations. Bush Country makes do with Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity syndicated on one cookie-cutter AM outlet after another. Citizens of the blue states read lackluster dailies stuffed with generic stories cut and pasted from wire services. Given their dismal access to high-quality media, it's a minor miracle that 40 percent of Mississippians turned out for Kerry.

So our guy lost the election. Why shouldn't those of us on the coasts feel superior? We eat better, travel more, dress better, watch cooler movies, earn better salaries, meet more interesting people, listen to better music and know more about what's going on in the world. If you voted for Bush, we accept that we have to share the country with you. We're adjusting to the possibility that there may be more of you than there are of us. But don't demand our respect. You lost it on November 2.

"Generosity Index" Rates Alabama Highly

Alabama is ranked as the 5th most generous state by the Catalogue for Philanthropy.

Of the 50 states, Alabama taxpayers rank 38th in average adjusted gross income, but report the 7th largest average itemized charitable contributions.

According to the Catalogue for Philanthropy's formula, the top ten "most generous" states are Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Alabama, Tennessee, South Dakota, Utah, South Carolina, and Idaho.

The bottom ten are New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Connecticut, Colorado, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

From the technical notes:
The Generosity Index, with its "catchy" name, publicizes that fact and provides a way to monitor progress against the problem. We arrive at it by ranking each state's Average Adjusted Gross Income (AAGI) and Average Itemized Charitable Contribution (AICD or AICC), then subtracting the second rank from the first to get a single plus or minus number for each state indicating the favorable or unfavorable gap separating the ranks, and then ranking those numbers. Thus:

AAGI rank - AICD rank = Gap; Rank of Gap = Generosity

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

- John McCrae (1915)

For All We Have and Are

For all we have and are,
For all our children's fate,
Stand up and meet the war.
The Hun is at the gate!
Our world has passed away
In wantonness o'erthrown.
There is nothing left to-day
But steel and fire and stone.

Though all we knew depart,
The old commandments stand:
"In courage keep your heart,
In strength lift up your hand."

Once more we hear the word
That sickened earth of old:
"No law except the sword
Unsheathed and uncontrolled,"
Once more it knits mankind,
Once more the nations go
To meet and break and bind
A crazed and driven foe.

Comfort, content, delight --
The ages' slow-bought gain --
They shrivelled in a night,
Only ourselves remain
To face the naked days
In silent fortitude,
Through perils and dismays
Renewd and re-renewed.

Though all we made depart,
The old commandments stand:
"In patience keep your heart,
In strength lift up your hand."

No easy hopes or lies
Shall bring us to our goal,
But iron sacrifice
Of body, will, and soul.
There is but one task for all --
For each one life to give.
Who stands if freedom fall?
Who dies if England live?

- Rudyard Kipling (1914)

A Hymn for Veterans' Day

The Battle Hymn of the Republic
Julia Ward Howe (1861)

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of his terrible swift word;
His truth is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! His truth is marching on.

I have seen him in the watch fires of a hundred circling camps;
They have builded him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read his righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps;
His day is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! His day is marching on.

I have read a fiery Gospel writ in burnished rows of steel;
“As ye deal with My contemners, so with you My grace shall deal”;
Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with His heel,
Since God is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Since God is marching on.

He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment seat;
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! be jubilant, my feet;
Our God is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Our God is marching on.

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free;
While God is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! While God is marching on.

He is coming like the glory of the morning on the wave,
He is wisdom to the mighty, He is honor to the brave;
So the world shall be His footstool, and the soul of wrong His slave,
Our God is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Our God is marching on.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004
On this day:

Law Enforcement - Alabama Style

From today's Huntsville Times:

A 30-year old man was charged with robbery Tuesday night when a shoplifting incident escalated into robbery, police said. The man left the T.J. Maxx store on Old Monrovia Road without paying for cologne. Three store employees chased the man, who pulled a box cutter on the employees when they tried to stop him from getting into a car. The employees took the box cutter away from the man and held him in the store office until police arrived.

Lots of details were left out of this story, giving me hope that there was some serious ass-whooping involved.

A Liberal Case for States' Rights

Instead of talking about radical measures like secession, the Left should rediscover that a large federal republic like the United States is uniquely suited to alleviating the divisions that stem from regional cultural differences. Here's a good argument for restoring federalism that I hope liberals will listen to. "We all fly the same flag, but there's a reason there are 50 stars on it."

Reagan Stamp Unveiled

Former First Lady Nancy Reagan joins Postmaster General John E. Potter (left) and Frederick J. Ryan, Jr., president, chief operating officer and vice chairman of Allbritton Communications Company, at the unveiling of the President Ronald Reagan commemorative postage stamp at the Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, Calif. Ryan served as Chief of Staff to President Reagan from 1989 until 1995. Photo: Gerald Merna, U.S. Postal Service.

It's fitting that the unveiling happened yesterday, on the 15th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

I'm looking forward to sending out Christmas cards this year.

The Tyrants of Brussels

I certainly don't know much about Belgian politics, but banning a popular mainstream political party is unconscionable in a nation that calls itself a democracy. In saner times, a tyrannical act of this sort would be grounds for a rebellion. I certainly hope the U.S. State Department registers its "concern" with the Belgian government.

Fidel Has a Friend

Flanders Flag (Courtesy Flagspot)

Fidel Castro and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez met yesterday in Havana.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004
On this day:

A New Wall Goes Up in Belgium

Flanders Flag (Courtesy Flagspot)

"Exactly 15 years after the Berlin Wall came down and the people of East Germany and eastern Europe regained their freedom, it was confirmed today that in the Belgian state, democracy and freedom of speech are under threat."

-Frank Vanhecke, leader of the Belgian political party Vlaams Blok

The ban one of Belgium's most popular political parties, the Vlaams Blok, was upheld by the Belgian Supreme Court today. The ruling held that Vlaams Blok was guilty of violating anti-racism and anti-discrimination laws.

Vlaams Blok is a right-wing party that won 24% of the vote in Flemish regional elections earlier this year. It advocates secession of Flanders from Belgium, free market economic reforms, and strict immigration policies. Party leader Frank Vanhecke issued a defiant statement today in response to the court's ruling, in which he said.

I thank those who founded our party in 1977 and all who have supported it in the past 27 years. They have fought the good fight. I thank our one million voters. They deserve a democracy. Belgium does not want to grant them one; we will. Today, our party has been killed, not by the electorate but by the judges. We will establish a new party. This one Belgium will not be able to bury; it will bury Belgium.
On a side note...Flemings make up 60% of the Belgian population; 29% are Walloons, and 1% are Germans. The Flemish speak Dutch; the Walloons speak French.

Berlin Wall Fell 15 Years Ago

Today, Germany and the world celebrates the 15th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Here is a fitting remembrance of this event that transformed the world.

Liberals on Religion and Politics

Garry Wills:
Can a people that believes more fervently in the Virgin Birth than in evolution still be called an Enlightened nation?
Paul Krugman:

President Bush isn't a conservative. He's a radical - the leader of a coalition that deeply dislikes America as it is. Part of that coalition wants to tear down the legacy of Franklin Roosevelt, eviscerating Social Security and, eventually, Medicare. Another part wants to break down the barriers between church and state. And thanks to a heavy turnout by evangelical Christians, Mr. Bush has four more years to advance that radical agenda.

Maureen Dowd:
W.'s presidency rushes backward, stifling possibilities, stirring intolerance, confusing church with state, blowing off the world, replacing science with religion, and facts with faith. We're entering another dark age, more creationist than cutting edge, more premodern than postmodern.

Thomas Friedman:
My problem with the Christian fundamentalists supporting Mr. Bush is not their spiritual energy or the fact that I am of a different faith. It is the way in which he and they have used that religious energy to promote divisions and intolerance at home and abroad. I respect that moral energy, but wish that Democrats could find a way to tap it for different ends.
Margaret Carlson:
For Bush, going for those 4 million evangelicals was worth alienating those who were told they were evil for supporting stem cell research and abortion rights and for not seeing Clarence Thomas as the model for the next chief justice.

Alabama Dems Maintain a Sense of Humor (Sort of)

From the Mobile Register:

Quote of the Week

"Where are we going? And why am I in a handbasket?" -- From a Wednesday e-mail exchange of several Alabama Democratic Party activists.

Monday, November 08, 2004
On this day:

Algore to Use Environmental Expertise to Create Fund

Al Gore confirms once again that he is a few carbon molecules short of an actual life form.

Al Gore, the former US vice-president, is to put his expertise in global sustainability issues into practice with the launch today of a fund management firm...

Gore said, "Transparency, eco-efficiency, nurturing employees and managing long-term risks are among the integral parts of a company's enduring capability to create value. You can't properly value automobile stocks without considering long-term issues such as carbon intensity."

As if Al Gore has "expertise" in anything other than being a Washington politician. Whatever.

Divide and Conquer

This is what I like to see...Democrats fighting amongst themselves.

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) -- Four of Alabama's top Democratic leaders called Monday night for the replacement of state Democratic Party Chairman Redding Pitt with someone who would be a stronger voice for the party in the 2006 elections.

Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley, Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks, House Speaker Seth Hammett and Senate President Pro Tem Lowell Barron signed a statement calling for the move.

Pitt, whose election as party Chairman was supported by Gov. Don Siegelmen, says he won't step down. In the wake of last Tuesday's losses in state elections, fellow Democrats are upset that Pitt "spent too much time focusing on the John Kerry presidential campaign this fall and too little helping state and local Democratic candidates."

Why on Earth Democrats would have spent any time at all campaigning for Kerry-Edwards in Alabama is beyond me. Sounds like these gripes are well-founded.

Alabama Legislature in Special Session

The special session called by Gov. Riley began today. The purpose is to address the rising costs of providing health benefits to state employees. The package of reforms has broad support, due largely to the Governor's leadership in building a consensus among conerned parties, and is expected to pass. (One interesting note: a Special Session costs the state about $100,000 per week.)

Health insurance costs for education employees and state workers have risen from $320 million to $970 million in the past six years. That price tag is expected to hit $1 billion in the current budget year, which began Oct. 1.

"The day these reforms become law, we begin saving taxpayers' money," Riley said.

One proposal would require smokers and tobacco users to pay more toward their health insurance. Employees who retire before serving 25 years with the state also would have to pay more.

Another reform measure would give the state boards that oversee health insurance programs for public workers the authority to raise the premium rates by a two-thirds vote of the board.

Health insurance reforms would also provide for a penalty for employees who submit false or misleading information.

Penalties could include repayment of claims -- plus interest -- and the potential loss of the employer's contribution.

Roy Moore Speaks to "Extremist" Group

...and as always, the Southern Poverty Law Center is on the case.

Moore spoke in Greenwood, Ind., to the 20th Annual Unregistered Baptist Fellowship Conference, an association of pastors, evangelists, missionaries and laymen.

The conference was hosted by leaders of the Indianapolis Baptist Temple, which the government seized in 2001 because of a $6 million tax debt. The debt accumulated over several years when the church challenged the authority of the Internal Revenue Service and stopped withholding federal income and Social Security taxes from employee paychecks.

The Southern Poverty Law Center lists the Indianapolis Baptist Center as a "Patriot" group.

Riley-Appointed Highway Director Stresses Accountability and Ethics

This article in the Birmingham News provides encouraging news about one Riley appointee and ethics in the administration. In order to help make the highway department respond quickly and apolitically to Alabama's transportation needs, Transportation Director Joe McInnes instituted an ethics policy that prohibits department employees from accepting anything of value over $25 and has told legislators that there would be no road projects for political favors. He says that when he first took office, "I had offers to fly out of the country on expense-paid trips, to go to the Final Four in basketball. Everybody was trying to get my attention." Other members of the Governor's cabinet, and the Governor himself, have adopted McInnes's policy.

You have to say one thing about this Governor...he's an honest man and demands it of those who work for him.

Barkley for Governor?

Charles Barkley said on ESPN last week that he'd run for Governor of Alabama if John Kerry lost the presidential election. (Last I heard, Barkley called himself a Republican.)

Earth Rumbles in Celebration of Tide Win

Following Saturday night's 30-14 Bama victory over Mississippi State, an earthquake measuring 4.0 on the Richter Scale shook parts of west Alabama. The quake's epicenter was near Union in Greene County, about 25 miles southwest of Tuscaloosa. It occurred at around 5:30 Sunday morning.

I was in Tuscaloosa at the time...I was asleep...I didn't feel any earthquake.

Bill Pryor for U.S. Attorney General?

Various news organizations have mentioned former Alabama AG Bill Pryor as a potential candidate to replace John Ashfroft. Pryor is currently serving on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, following a recess appointment by President Bush earlier this year.

Bob Barker Gives $1 Million to UCLA Law School for Study of Animal Rights Law

Television personality Bob Barker donated $1 million to the UCLA School of Law to create theBob Barker Endowment Fund for the Study of Animal Rights Law. The UCLA endowment fund will support teaching, research, seminars and lectures at the law school in the emerging field of animal rights law.

"Animal exploitation happens throughout this country and elsewhere," Barker said. "Animals need all the protection we can give them. We intend to introduce a growing number of law students to this area of the law in hopes that they will ultimately lead a national effort to make it illegal to brutalize and exploit these helpless creatures."

He should have sent that money to Alabama. It would pay for one hell of a barbecue.

Big Ben, Parliament...Big Ben, Parliament

Huntsville has a new roundabout, and it's creating tons of confusion. I haven't driven on this one yet, but in light of some unpleasant experiences with roundabouts in D.C. and Boston, I'm not very openminded on the subject. I've also seen one in tiny Whitesburg, Georgia that seems to work pretty well, although come to think of it, I can't recall ever seeing any traffic in it.

One fellow who drove through the new roundabout has a pretty strong opinion of the matter: "I've never seen anything like this. This is stupid. Ain't no telling what they've spent. They could have put up a $1,000 traffic light, and it'd beat the hell out of this $100,000 circle."

Actually, it turns out that they are cheaper than signalized intersections, but nonetheless, I agree with this guy's general sentiment. Roundabouts are Yankees and Englishmen. If anyone wants to drive on them, they can go North or take a trip across the ocean.

Friday, November 05, 2004
On this day:

Football Weekend

Heading down to my old H.S. tonight. Then, over to T'town tomorrow for the Bama-Miss State game. Roll Tide!

The Campaign Rhapsody

You gotta click on this one...if you haven't already seen it.

Amendment 2 Fails

Amendment 2 failed narrowly on Tuesday. GOP legislators are living up to their promise to resubmit the "clean" version

Thursday, November 04, 2004
On this day:

Values of the Common Man

This column by New York Times writer Nicholas Kristof illustrates a few mistaken assumptions liberals have about working-class Americans and the considerations that inform their vote. Kristof essentially says that the working poor just don't know what is best for them.

I'm writing this on tenterhooks on Tuesday, without knowing the election results. But whether John Kerry's supporters are now celebrating or seeking asylum abroad, they should be feeling wretched about the millions of farmers, factory workers and waitresses who ended up voting - utterly against their own interests - for Republican candidates.

One of the Republican Party's major successes over the last few decades has been to persuade many of the working poor to vote for tax breaks for billionaires. Democrats are still effective on bread-and-butter issues like health care, but they come across in much of America as arrogant and out of touch the moment the discussion shifts to values...

"The Republicans are smarter," mused Oregon's governor, Ted Kulongoski, a Democrat.

"They've created ... these social issues to get the public to stop looking at what's happening to them economically."

"What we once thought - that people would vote in their economic self-interest - is not true, and we Democrats haven't figured out how to deal with that."

The false assumption here is that social issues and economic issues can somehow be separated.

For example, a liberal could try to convince me that its in my interest for the federal government to cut me a check for $10,000 or to provide me with a lifetime supply of beer. Both of those things would conceivably be in my economic interests, so why wouldn't I want to vote for a candidate who promised them to me? The easy answer is that I don't really want to live in a country where wealth can be so easily transferred out of the hands of those who earned it legitimately to those who have no just claim to it.

Mr. Kristof and other liberals don't seem to understand this deep-seated moral aversion to Robin Hood economics. Maybe respect for other people's property doesn't mesh with their concept of social justice. Maybe they don't pay much attention to the Tenth Commandment, which forbids covetousness. By failing to address their own ignorance, they'll go on believing that their condescension is justified as they face the blank stares of working-class Americans.

"Unmitigated Disaster" for Southern Democrats

This story from the Birmingham News points out the huge losses incurred by Democrats here in Alabama and throughout the South:
In the South, five formerly Democratic U.S. Senate seats were up for grabs. Republicans swept them all.

On Capitol Hill, Republicans have fattened their Senate majority to at least 55 with a batch of young conservatives likely to be deeply loyal to President Bush and his agenda.

Of the 22 Senate seats located in the states of the Old Confederacy, Republicans will now hold a historically unprecedented 18.

On Tuesday's ballot, the re-election of U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa, to a fourth six-year term was no surprise. But Democrats lost all three state Supreme Court races, meaning that the high court will be entirely Republican for the first time since Reconstruction. Democrats also didn't come close to regaining any of the five congressional seats held by GOP officeholders.

President Bush carried some predominantly white rural counties, such as Choctaw, Colbert and Jackson, that have remained Democratic strongholds in the state Legislature.

With the exception of 1998, the state Democratic Party has now given up ground in every election in the last decade.

The demise of the Democratic Party in the South is not necessarily something to be welcomed by conservatives. Lively, constructive competition between two mainstream political parties is healthy for democracy. It ensures that divergent points of view are debated openly, reduces the potential for corruption, and inspires greater confidence in the political system. While the Republican Party is far from reaching the level of dominance that the Democrats enjoyed for decades in the South, present trends could soon make it impossible for Southern Democrats to reverse their fortunes.

Democrats in the South and other "red states" need to do some serious soul-searching and develop a realistic plan to remain viable. They should take this plan to the national party, quietly but firmly engaging the leadership in a discussion about the party's direction.

The Democrats' internal deliberations should focus on the issues that most deeply divide the party and the nation, primarily social issues, foreign policy, and defense. There are a few obvious things that the Democrats could do to ensure that they remain a national party and to enhance their competetiveness with Republicans.
  1. In order to defuse tensions surrounding the social issues that so deeply divide the party and the nation, Democrats should adopt policies that would allow those matters to be resolved by the states. In addition to restoring the federal principles of the Constitution, this would effectively counter Republican efforts to nationalize those issues to the detriment of red-state Democrats. It would also alleviate regional divisions over abortion, same-sex marriage, embryonic stem-cell research, and control of illicit drugs.
  2. To address the party's "soft" image on defense and foreign policy issues, it should defer to its moderates, conservatives, and "responsible" liberals to forge a consensus with the administration and Republicans in Congress in dealing with Iraq and the broader war on terror. Democrats can best contribute to a "smarter, more effective war on terror" by lending their support and advice to the administration.
  3. Democrats have always billed themselves as the party of the "common man." They should come to grips with the reality that the definition of "common man" has changed over the years. Today, he owns his own home and has an automobile or two, a home computer, access to the internet, and is likely to invest in a 401(k) through his employer. In recognition of that new reality, Democrats should embrace what the President has called the "ownership society." They can begin to do this by contributing to Social Security reform in a meaningful way. They don't necessarily have to adopt the administration's approach, but should come up with credible alternatives. Otherwise, they will be left out in the cold on what may well be the most far-reaching domestic issue that the Bush administration addresses in this term.
If the Democrats are to survive as a national party, they have to give the moderates and conservatives in their ranks room to breathe. Commitment to a renewal of federalism, a responsible foreign and defense policy, and to using the opportunities of our "ownership society" to improve the lot of the common man would do just that. It would also return the party to the good old days when it was more of an incubator of ideas than a coffin.